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?  ;-)


potatoe said...

Israeli Guardium, Russian Udar, etc already in-use or produced since 2016. Would be better if its autonomous than unmanned to reduce backend manpower. Best to incorporate AI to recognise combatant vs civilian and autonomously engage enemy and use cabin space for more fuel and ammo, maybe self-destruct to incur collateral infrastructure damage when it runs out of fuel or ammo.

Locke said...


I believe that people here are not fully cognisant how far the leap from an unmanned GV or UGV is to an unmanned AFV or UAFV.

In essence in the long line of SG developed weapons systems. This is in many ways a world first. Well leaving aside the FH 88, 2000 and the 40mm ABS systems, the complexity required of this system is a qualitative leap in both engineering , integration and armoured doctrine innovation None as far as I know None of its nearest competitors in terms of comparable AFVs in its weight class have even come close to a UAFV status.

UAV are now so common that we forget its hunble begainnings and its adoption in fits and starts by Israel. That its success in 1982 led to a whole series of new and better UAV concepts in the decade which followed but that the initial adoption and tactical innovation in its use was the hardest.

We have in this area gone beyond being an early adopter to a ground breaking innovater and Tal perhaps will have something to learn from Singapore instead of the reverse. The students now having something new to share with the master.

Jinn said...

Talk about collaborations, I wonder if there is any benefit for us to team up with the Poles with their medium stealth tank project.

Both Poland and Singapore are comparatively small markets so coming together may benefit both sides and the work done by the Poles looks useful in accelerating development on our end.

Plus not wholly convinced by some of the turret systems rumoured to be in consideration at the moment and the selection of a 105.

IMO 120 may be the better way to go both for commonality (like our artillery) with the MBT and for lethality.

The other turret that looks interesting is the MGS (again I believe its based around a 120 calibre)

There's plenty of plantation ground still in surrounding environment to recommend the use of smaller platforms to MBT but with the way tank size is going upwards in the neighbourhood, we should be a bit more far sighted and prepare with a stronger weapon in mind.

tragickingdom said...

Side track- the Royal Thai Navy ought to be persuaded to buy another LST from ST Marine to join its sister RTMS Ang Thong, instead of looking for the Chinese to build one for them. The RTN is reportedly very pleased with the RTMS Ang Thong, but dissuaded by the big price tag of getting a sister ship from ST Marine. Perhaps a government-to-government deal can be brokered where an existing RSN LST is refurbished and offered to the RTN, while the RSN gets a new-build or larger LST in replacement?

Playtime said...

The thai lst is configured differently from the rsn one. They may prefer a similar configuration vessel for commonality.?

tragickingdom said...

It is relatively straightforward to strip our LST of combat systems before delivery of the hull, propulsion and lift machinery to the Thais. The removed parts can be retained as spares for the remaining RSN LSTs. RTN may opt to retain the accommodation/stores configuration.