New SAF Hunter armoured fighting vehicle commissioned as Armour Formation turns 50

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) - The Hunter will progressively replace the army's fleet of Ultra M113 armoured fighting vehicles, which have been in service since the 1970s.

The Singapore Army has unveiled its latest armoured fighting vehicle (AFV), which boasts greater firepower, survivability and mobility.

Hailed as a centrepiece of the next-generation army, the vehicle - called the Hunter to represent the predatory spirit to sense, track, and pursue its prey - was commissioned at the Armour formation's 50th anniversary parade on Tuesday (June 11).

Locally designed and developed by the Defence Science and Technology Agency with the Singapore Army and ST Engineering, 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 commissioned the Hunter at Sungei Gedong Camp.

Chief Armour Officer, Brigadier-General Yew Chee Leung, 42, said the Hunter is the army's first fully-digitalised vehicle, incorporating smart digital technologies catered to modern-day soldiers.

A digital steering system, called drive-by-wire, allows the vehicle commander to take over the driving function 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's what we mean when we say it is a fully-digitalised platform," said BG 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.

Conceptualisation of the vehicle began in 2006. It is operated by a crew of three, namely the vehicle commander, gunner and the driver, in an integrated combat cockpit within 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, and the closed hatch design minimises the crew's exposure to threats, especially in urban environments.

BG Yew said that the formation will train a core group of regulars and instructors this year, before starting training for full-time national servicemen and rolling out the vehicle for the 42nd Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment next year.

"Not only do we see an enhanced capability and lethality in the Hunter AFV, we see enhancements to our operations and maintenance. Especially so when the vehicle is able to actively track and monitor its own status," said Major Brandon Lim, 33, a weapon staff officer involved in the Hunter programme.

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, with obvious advantages for stealth manoeuvres and its own protection.

The first locally developed armoured fighting vehicle, the Bionix, was rolled out in 1999.

Other senior military officers at the parade included Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong, and Chief of Army, Major-General Goh Si Hou.

DSTA chief executive Tan Peng Yam, as well as the first batch of armour pioneers and early batches of national servicemen from the formation, were also present.