Thursday, July 18, 2019

Singapore unveils unmanned Hunter Armoured Fighting Vehicle AFV

Light of day: Infographic that explains some of the additional sensors fitted to the unmanned Hunter AFV overlaid on a screenshot of a MINDEF Singapore video. This is a pre-production prototype Hunter that has some design differences compared to the 88000 MID series Hunters.  

I am your father: Meet Project Ulysses. This unmanned M-113 served as the testbed for technology and concepts that led to Singapore's unmanned Hunter. Project Ulysses was led by DSTA Land Systems and done in partnership with the GINTIC Institute of Manufacturing Technology. Note how the LIDAR sensor has been considerably miniaturised, thanks to 20 years of tech development.

Twenty years ago, Singapore's Defence Science & Technology Agency (DSTA) Land Systems department led a project, codenamed Ulysses, to develop an unmanned armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) testbed. A highly modified M-113 armoured personnel carrier was used for the 1999-2004 field trials.

Named after the legendary traveler from Greek mythology, Project Ulysses lived up to is name and brought Singapore's defence science community into the new and uncharted area of unmanned ground vehicle technology. Apart from cameras and external sensors that festooned its hull, the M-113 was fitted with a drive-by-wire kit, an e-stop and a position/orientation sensor. If these features sound familiar, take a look at the Hunter AFV specifications released last month.

The robo M-113 was declassified in late 2016 for an exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of Singapore's Defence Technology Community (DTC). This was the SGDefence Exhibition and it was held from 4 to 8 November 2016 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

As the M-113 carried technology that dated from the turn of the century, the state-of-the-art looked admittedly dated and bulky in an era where most visitors carried smart phones. Those not in the know made comments about how antiquated it looked, how sensors would not stand up to the rigors of combat and so on without fully understanding that the testbed had been in cold storage for some 15 years. Moreover, the M-113 served as a concept demonstrator that allowed DSTA and GINTIC engineers to test and validate their ideas. It was akin to showing your handphone or desktop computer from 2004 at a 2016 exhibition.

The practice of showcasing old stuff to hint, signal or suggest extant capabilities is not new. Singapore did the same with a TV-guided glide bomb in 2004, with the testbed munition unveiled decades after it was tested in the 1980s from an A-4 Skyhawk. Defence cognoscenti should be able to join the dots and figure things out for themselves. The general public and skeptics will learn when the time is right.

For Singapore's unmanned AFV, the curtain was lifted yesterday.

Weeks after Singapore's Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen commissioned the Hunter AFV, the minister released a new easter egg. It appears in the video of his visit to ST Engineering yesterday as an innocuous text overlay which video editors call a super.

I read the super a few times - slowly and carefully - to see that it was not taken out of context before tweeting about it last night. Am happy to see that the unmanned Hunter AFV has been finally declassified.

Armour fans may recognise that this development opens up a whole new ball game in terms of tactics, techniques and procedures for armoured vehicle operations. It's quite exciting to read about, don't you think?  ;-)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Hunter infographic from ST Engineering

If you know nothing about the Singapore Army's Hunter AFV, this infographic from ST Engineering will will quickly bring you up to speed.