Thursday, October 14, 2010

Singapore Army's SAR-21 5.56mm assault rifles pack more punch

Singapore Army soldiers are being armed with variants of the Singapore-made SAR-21 assault rifle which allow warfighters to gun down targets round corners and shoot with greater accuracy.

And more precision firepower is on the way as the 9th Division/Headquarters Infantry sharpens the ability of Singaporean soldiers to reach out and touch battlefield targets with powerful small arms.

Show-and-tell: Captain Alan Lee from the Singapore Army's School of Infantry Weapons updates NSmen on small arms developments spearheaded by the 9th Division/Headquarters Infantry. The NSmen were part of a larger group of defence buffs who were engaged by the Singapore Army's social media outreach effort. (Picture by Milnut xtemujin)

These updates were shared by 9 DIV's School of Infantry Weapons (SIW) this afternoon when it hosted a group of defence buffs who are Operationally-Ready National Servicemen.

On its last legs: M-16 5.56mm rifles with M-203 40mm grenade launchers.

Newly in service: SAR-21 5.56mm assault rifles mated with the M-203 grenade launchers.

A souped-up SAR-21 variant is on the way along with a new Ultimax 100 Mark III Plus.

According to SIW, the SAR-21 with a Round Corner Firing device (one per seven-man infantry section, or as mission requirements dictate) is the weapon to have in urban shootouts.

The iPhone-size device device is the peeping tom's ultimate toy. It allows the viewer to check a blind spot - be it a pile or rubble, a wall or trench lip - while keeping under cover.

The Singapore-made device works by piping the image captured by a camera mounted on the SAR-21's optical sight to a lightweight and rugged liquid crystal display. This allows the soldier to poke his gun barrel around a blind spot to deliver an accurate burst of gunfire, which is a better option than the spray-and-pray tactics used by infantry during urban shootouts.

Tests are also underway to introduce a lighter variant of the rifle while enhancing its factory-zeroed optical sights. Dubbed the SAR-21 Modular Mounting System, this variant will give soldiers the flexibility of adding night sights or powerful scopes to the assault rifle.

First introduced in 1999, the SAR-21 was designed with the citizen army's specific operational requirements in mind. Refinements that SIW shared may be viewed as a mid-life update that gives the 10-year old weapon more punch.

SIW instructors said the new SAR-21 variants, made by Singapore arms maker Singapore Technologies Kinetics, will be complemented by a new variant of the Ultimax 100 SAW (section automatic weapon) with a Picatinny-rail. This ladder of notches is simply a place on the light machinegun where optical sights/laser aiming devices can be fitted to further improve the accuracy of the combat-proven weapon.

One Ultimax 100 variant will be redesigned to make it compatible with infantry who deploy and fight on, and from, armoured vehicles.

It is important to remember that the optical sights on SAR-21s are more than just sighting aids which enable soldiers to deliver swift, precise and lethal small arms fires.

They allow the Singapore Army to rapidly recall, arm and deploy hundreds of thousands of citizen soldiers with an assault rifle than every soldier can use without first setting the calibrating the weapon for each firer - a process known as zeroing the weapon. This process change represents a significant boost to the SAF's defence readiness because less time is needed to mobilise its forces for battle.

At a live fire shoot hosted by SIW, NSmen who had never fired a SAR-21 before did well during a familiarisation shoot at Nee Soon Camp. The NSmen had been trained on the M-16 5.56mm assault rifle. They came from assorted NS battalions from Armour, Infantry, Combat Engineers, Guards (heli-borne infantry) and included one NSman from the Navy and a Police Coast Guard NSman. Some had long hung up their army fatigues as they had completed their NS service.

Less than a hour's instruction and tests was all it took to introduce the NSmen to the SAR-21. They learned how to field strip the assault rifle into its basic components, assembled the weapon and practised immediate action drills which saw them remedy weapon faults ranging from a jammed weapon to a rifle which had emptied its magazine.

Satisfied the NSmen could wield the weapon safely, the NSmen were trooped to the Individual Marksmanship Trainer (IMT) - an airconditioned electronic range which faithfully replicated what the shooters would see beyond their gun barrels later at the 100 metre range.

Think: a shooting game on steroids.

But this one had a serious purpose. The IMT takes the guesswork out of where bullets landed or where soldiers thought their shots had hit, or even if the target had been hit at all. Each "rifle" was an exact replica of a SAR-21 assault rifle, down to the working magazine catch and cocking handle.

The indoor range allowed citizen soldiers to concentrate on the fundamentals of good shooting, without the monkey antics of lesser-equipped armies where range sessions were prime opportunities for sadistic instructors to vent off steam on their hapless charges.

Rain or shine, day and night, a day (or night) at the firing range can take place. Firing sessions from foxholes and from prone position can be repeated till instructors are satisfied the Singaporean soldiers can shoot to kill. As no bullets are fired, cost is saved on bullets expended and from wear and tear on rifle barrels.

As instructors from Certis Cisco fussed over each firer with avuncular attention, with their expert eyes picking out wrong firing stances (snappy fingers, incorrect cradling of the rifle, posture etc), the computer calculated where each shot would have landed with a tell tale red dot on the target. These scores were enlarged and flashed on the screen for all to gawk at.

Test scores were flashed for everyone to see. It was a moment of pride for better shooters and one of embarassment for the cock-eyed, not that the NSmen needed peer pressure to get their act together.

The SAR-21 assault rifles used for the shoot had been warmed up by Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel from earlier firing details. A detail is a group of shooters who occupy firing lanes at the range and and engage targets together.

The NSmen started with two magazines of three 5.56mm rounds and four magazines each loaded with six 5.56mm rounds. Firing stances included engaging a Figure 12 target from a foxhole supported, Fig 15 from foxhole supported and Figs 12 and 15 from prone position unsupported.

The three rounds allowed firers to "warm up" before the actual shoot where scores were kept. This practice run using live ammunition was a valuable opportunity for NSmen to line up the cross hairs of their rifle with the targets and gauge where rounds would land.

As the NSmen added more brass to the grass and the mute targets died, lived and died again, the electronic range tallied up the scores of the assorted bunch of NSmen.

Some did well enough to qualify as marksmen, which indicates they missed four out of 24 shots fired at targets 100 metres away.

Not bad for an hour's weapons class for two scratch-together sections of citizen soldiers who, earlier today, were SAR-21 virgins.

Acknowledgements: Senang Diri is grateful to the School of Infantry Weapons for staging the interesting class this afternoon and instructors from Certis Cisco for sharpening dormant combat skills at Nee Soon Camp. More details on the weapon enhancements will be shared when convenient.


FIVE-TWO said...

I am guessing the IMT rifles are standard rifles with a laser fitted into the barrel centre line, probably in the chamber itself judging from where the big bundle of cable was coming out of the rifle.

Anonymous said...

Hi David, thanks for the very informative write up here and on Mil-Nuts, since many of the M-16/M-203s are still relatively new, these are likely to be passed down to other units which didn't have these weapons previously (e.g. CSS). Also the new version of the SAW is probably the initial version submitted for the USMC IAR trials, was there any information on the types of expected optics used (EoTech, ACOG, ELCAN Specter)?

- KF

Anonymous said...

Smoking in army camps? Please do an article on this.

Ben Choong said...

The IMT rifles all had the manufacturer's rifle numbers stamped on their sides. My guess is that they were once perfectly fine weapons, but somehow so badly damaged that they can only operate as a 'shell' of its former self.

Anonymous said...

One more comment to make is that I question the omission of bayonet mountings on current infantry weapons, even as the capabilities improve, combatives should still remain in the training cirriculum. The argument as explained to me by several regulars that a shorter bullpup weapon doesn't work well in bayonet fighting doesn't really hold water when the UK army has had great success with bayonet combat with the L85/L86 weapons (in urban combat, no less).

- KF

Anonymous said...

I second Anonymous.

Hand-to-hand combat, while more remote, is still a plausible scenario in urban operations or otherwise. At least soldiers ought to be trained in wielding a bayonet.

Given that bayonet fighting is no longer a component of training, what is taught in lieu to handle scenarios whereby previously would dictate a bayonet charge or bayonet fighting?

My S0.02's worth.


David Boey said...

Hi KF,
No word on the add-on sights, though SIW did say the SAR-21 MMS and updated SAW will use the same/similar sights.

Anonymous said...

".. when the UK army has had great success with bayonet combat with the L85/L86 weapons (in urban combat, no less)."

Source please.

Anonymous said...

British officer wins two gallantry awards for fending off Taliban attack with bayonet

Anonymous said...

I like Night Sights with Tritium Lamps.I think it give us five times greater night fire accuracy than its competitors.Great product!