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Singapore Armed Forces has new digital armour

Image credit: dsta.gov.sg/DSTA

The recent National Day Parade saw the display of the Singapore Armed Force’s (SAF) weapons and machinery. One of its highlights was the Hunter – the army’s first fully digitalised Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV).

SAF had collaborated with two other government agencies- the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and ST Engineering to develop this vehicle.

This vehicle has been designed with the aim of creating machinery which contains more firepower, protection, mobility and situational awareness for enhanced operations.

The technology behind this vehicle is supported by the Army Tactical Engagement and Information System (Artemis).

The vehicle weighs 29.5 tonnes and can carry three crew members and eight other soldiers.

The Hunter’s movements are controlled via a drive-by-wire design. Previous vehicles required the use of rods and pistons attached to the driver’s pedals for driving.

Inside the vehicle, there is an integrated combat cockpit which has been designed such that every crew member will have close accessibility to all controls.

The vehicle commander and gunner, who will both be stationed in the vehicle, will share a common console which uses touchscreens for operating the vehicle and accessing mission data.

The parade display saw the roof hatches of the vehicle shut and no crew present. This was to emphasise on the vehicle’s operational functions of being an unmanned vehicle and of being able to fight with the hatches closed.

While AFVs, in general, can fight with their hatches closed, it reduces the crew’s vision of their surroundings. Also, the periscopes placed on the outer surface of AFVs block the view of the crew, thus posing a threat when surrounded by dense vegetation or enclosed in cluttered places.

In contrast, the Hunter comes with cameras that provide an all-round view of the vehicle. The driver will have an integrated driving display panel before them which will give access to camera streams and provide information on any safety hazards in the premise.

The vehicle also comes with an unmanned weapon that can aim and fire without any need of manoeuvring it.

It holds a secure data link that will indicate the positions of surrounding friendly and hostile neighbours, in real-time. It can identify targets even in absolute darkness, by picking up on their body or vehicle temperature. It will mark their location by boxing around the moving targets on the screen.

A three-dimensional digital map is also incorporated within the system to showcase the field of view, as seen from an enemy’s position, revealing blind spot locations for the Hunter to move into without being detected.

This remote controlling of the vehicle is made possible via the implementation of the three-click design philosophy in the designing of the user interface. This means that all functions of the vehicle can be reached within three clicks.

A Health and Utilisation Monitoring System has been incorporated in the vehicle to provide real-time fault diagnosis and step-by-step troubleshooting instructions. This will also enable the collection of data for applying analytics for fault trend analysis and for making maintenance recommendations.

The Hunter comes with functions such as being able to show the crew different possible routes for getting to a specific place. This is made possible with the combination of map and satellite data.

It took 13 years for SAF, DSTA and ST Engineering to collaboratively develop this vehicle.

Looking into the future

Artemis is looking at future innovation paths such as using artificial intelligence algorithms for choosing directions and AFVs driving completely by itself.

Combat action is another area of focus. This area of focus will be a challenge, however, as there will be a need to look out for civilians when engaging in friendly fire. It will be very dangerous for implementing automatic target engagement on land as compared at sea.

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