The Singapore Army has unveiled its latest armoured fighting vehicle, which boasts greater firepower, survivability and mobility.
Called the Hunter to reflect the predatory spirit to sense, track and pursue its prey, the vehicle was commissioned at the armour formation's 50th anniversary parade yesterday.
Locally designed and developed by the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) with ST Engineering and the army, the Hunter will progressively replace the army's fleet of Ultra M113 armoured fighting vehicles, which have been in service since the 1970s.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen reviewed the parade and commissioned the Hunter at Sungei Gedong Camp.
Referring to armour pioneers in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Singapore's Bicentennial this year, Dr Ng said: "Just as the Pioneer Generation... did half a century ago, I hope Singaporeans will draw strength from the SAF's armour formation (and be) united as one people to defend our home together."
He also said the armour formation has gone from strength to strength in the past five decades, emulating the "steely resolve" of its pioneers.
He cited how it has beefed up its capabilities, like the first locally made armoured vehicle, called the Bionix, to fight alongside the M113.
In 2008, the Leopard 2SG main battle tanks were bought and overhauled substantially in Singapore, with better command and control networked systems, targeting and precision fires, said Dr Ng.
He added that in any military, it is the armour formation that intimidates would-be aggressors with its formidable steel and firepower.
"If not to deter, then to sue for peace or at least agree to a stalemate. This remains true today in modern warfare despite advances in technology and new platforms in air, land and sea," he said.
For instance, infantry soldiers find great comfort behind solid armour vehicles to push their advances or shield their tactical retreats.
"Soldiers cheer when armour vehicles roll in. And for good reason, because when armour arrives, both chances of your survival and mission success have gone up considerably," he added.
The parade was attended by Chief of Defence Force Melvyn Ong, Chief of Army Goh Si Hou, DSTA chief executive Tan Peng Yam, armour pioneers and senior officials from the Defence Ministry and the SAF.
Chief Armour Officer Yew Chee Leung, 42, said the Hunter is the army's first fully digitalised vehicle, incorporating smart digital technologies that cater to modern-day soldiers.
A digital steering system, called drive-by-wire, lets the vehicle commander take over the driving if needed. Its weapons can be controlled via a touchscreen interface.
"So, the way we drive and the way we fight have been fully digitalised. That is what we mean when we say it is a fully digitalised platform," said Brigadier-General Yew.
The Hunter is armed with a 30mm cannon, a 7.62mm machine gun, eight 76mm smoke grenade launchers and two anti-tank guided missiles - the first time the missiles have been integrated into an armoured fighting vehicle.
Work to conceptualise the vehicle began in 2006.
It is operated by a crew of three - the vehicle commander, gunner and the driver - in an integrated combat cockpit in the vehicle.
The Hunter is the army's first armoured fighting vehicle to have such a cockpit, which allows the commander and gunner to operate a common set of controls.
The closed-hatch design minimises the crew's exposure to threats, especially in an urban environment.
BG Yew said the formation will train a core group of regulars and instructors this year, before training full-time national servicemen and rolling out the vehicle for the 42nd Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment, next year.
Algorithms can be used for predictive maintenance, increasing the efficiency of vehicle maintenance and management.
The Hunter crew can mobilise unmanned aerial and ground vehicles to gather reconnaissance and surveillance information remotely.
Mr William Peh, 34, the Hunter programme director (land systems) at DSTA, said it was designed to be user-centric, with intuitive interfaces and process automation.
"We have also designed the Hunter for growth, by establishing an open and modular vehicle electronic architecture, to facilitate future tech insertions," he added.