Friday, February 21, 2020

A fresh look at the Singapore Technologies Engineering BR18 5.56mm assault rifle

See no touch: Singapore Technology Engineering's BR18 5.56mm bullpup assault rifle displayed at the Singapore Airshow 2020. Note the health advisory, which is a result of heightened vigilance after the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in the city-state. The BR18 traces its roots to the SAR-21 rifle (below). The SAR-21 MMS variant is shown here for comparison.

Singapore's BR18 (Bullpup Rifle 2018) 5.56mm rifle that was first shown at the Singapore Airshow 2018 did not spawn a "BR20" at last week's Singapore Airshow (SA 2020).

The Singapore Technologies Engineering BR18 that was displayed at SA 2020 was similar to the rifle we saw at the air show two years back. One very very minor difference was the lack of the name embossed onto the rifle butt, which was visible on the 2018 version. The rest of the furniture and firing mechanism was the same.

The BR18 is a development of the BMCR (Bullpup Multirole Combat Rifle), which was first seen at the 2014 edition of the Singapore Airshow along with the Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) CMCR (Conventional Multirole Combat Rifle). Click here for our 2014 blog post on these Singapore designed firearms. The BMCR was refined into the BR18, ditching the finger snapping cover plate at the butt which concealed the firing mechanism. The CMCR has since disappeared from view and development of this weapon is understood to have been suspended. 

We understand the BR18 has yet to find a launch customer. With foreign armies moving back to assault rifles of conventional layout, as seen in the popularity of the FN SCAR and the H&K 416 series, it remains to be seen how the Singapore Army's SAR-21 successor would evolve. Thus far, the SAR-21 5.56mm assault rifle appears firmly entrenched as the principal firearm for Singaporean soldiers, with variants such as the SAR-21 MMS (Modular Mounting System) augmenting units with the original SAR-21 variants.

And while the SAR-21 family expands, it's worth remembering that the M-16S1 continues to arm a number of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) units, particularly rear area units like those that guard air and naval bases.

One noteworthy development to the SAR-21 involved the modification of the rifle foregrip as a control console for a palm-sized micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). The modification is intended to allow infantry to launch and direct their own UAVs to scout round street corners or peek over the roof of nearby buildings or terrain features. Here's a video that shows how the foregrip is detached from the SAR-21 MMS.
I Can See Too: This is the micro UAV controlled using the detachable foregrip of the modified SAR-21 MMS.
The BR18 seen at SA 2020 compared to the BR18 first shown at SA 2018 (top). Broadly similar with the BR18 displayed in 2018 that was stamped with a name plate on the rifle butt.

You may also like:
1. A look at the Singapore Technologies Kinetics BR18 rifle (2018 blog post). Click here

2. Singapore's BMCR rifle - the world's shortest bullpup rifle (2014 blog post). Click here


D-Boy said...

Thanks for sharing, David.

I'm still not convinced that the bullpup design's the way to go. I know it's a timeless (and endless) debate but having used both, I still believe that the conventional layout is more versatile and possibly more reliable. A piston-action, AR-type rifle design for enhanced reliability possibly?

The weapon which really needs to be replaced is the Ultimax though. Even the Mk3 is getting old. Any chatter on a replacement?

sepecatgr1a said...

Agree with D-boy. Having shot both AR15s and SAR21, my personal preferance is for conventional rifles with the AR15 type fire controls. Ergonomics
in my opinion are very much better in AR15 type rifles.

The piston driven AR15 type rifles are back in vogue with many armies.

See the latest iteration of the Ultimax 100 in

I have carried & fired the Ultimax 100 Mk.3. In my opinion a good LMG which is light & accurate. But it is fragile and the biggest cause of problems are
the drum / modified AR 15 magazines.

don Duan said...

Never point a barrel at a person, treat every weapon as loaded, happened before at a defence expo in Singapore a civilian died in a weapon relayed accident . Why was that guy fixing the whatever gadget to the forearm of the weapon standing opposite the barrel, should be standing on the side.People never learned. Unprofessional.

dtay said...

It would be difficult to challenge the IWI Tavor (x95/ SAR) in export sales.
It is even more difficult to challenge the AR/M16 platform (includes the HK 416, SIG 516,...)

Some observations
Having the piston on the side is interesting - most have the piston/ gas tube on the top (AK/ AR/ M16 / Tavor/...) or bottom (m14/ m1a/ m1 grand).
The main advantage over the x95 is the reduced height over bore. Most are familiar with the standard AR height over bore.
There are no m-lok / picatinny rail sections on the sides of the fore end for the attachment of lights/ laser pointers

Forward ejection is a novelty since it adds complexity and obscures the view of the bolt which is essential in the diagnosis of malfunctions(AR/ M-16 platform, x95, ...).

After market triggers are readily available for the AR platform and Tavor

The AR/ M16 platform has the advantage in that the upper can be swapped out/ replaced.

In CQB/ CQC a bullpup will have certain advantages over a standard rifle
1. Shorter front end making it easier to snap onto target, less likely for an opponent to wrest the weapon away.
2. The Tavor x95/ SAR is weighted towards the back (no lights/ laser pointer on the front), so it's really easy to maintain a C clamp grip on the fore end
3. The rounds will have a higher muzzle velocity than a M4 carbine with a 10.5" barrel.

However bullpups don't work so well when firing from an unconventional position where the ejection port is facing the ground. Just due to the location of the port and proximity to the ground, it is more likely to have the ejected cartridge casing bounce right back.

Observations between a Tavor x95 and AR platform
Magazine changes for the x95 is no slower than for a AR/ M16. It actually is faster after familiarization.

The Tavor has a higher height over bore than the AR (DI or piston) due to the piston system.

A piston driven AR (eg - LWRCI/ LMT) is cleaner than the x95 (which is closer to the AK system)

Recoil impulse of the AR can be lower than the x95.

Final note
Agreed that the short video clip was rather unsettling as it demonstrates the lack of weapon handling care