Upon Singapore’s independence in 1965, the government immediately saw the utmost need to build up her armed forces to protect the small island state. The urgency grew when in 1968, the British decided to withdraw all of their presence East of the Suez Canal by 1971. Cash strapped Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) started their journey of self sufficient and prudent military procurement.
With only two infantry regiments, SAF further established with the help of the Israeli Defense Force, whom also have to quickly muster and organise a capable fighting army upon their independence in 1948. Studying the the Fall of Singapore in 1942, and how the British were defeated by Japanese tanks, the Israeli recommended the procurement of armored vehicles, in this case the AMX-13.
The first batch of AMX-13 were delivered from surplus Israeli stocks, about 40-75 of them (different sources varies in numbers) and made their first appearance in the 1969 National Day. At that time, it was the most heavily armed vehicle in the Malaysian Peninsular, with 75mm gun and 40mm armour. Its light weight and narrow width allow the tank to be easily maneuvered in the South East Asian jungle and cross combat bridges available then. Further 150 AMX-13 were transferred from ex Indian stocks in 1973 and the remaining 150 from Switzerland in 1981. The tanks underwent a major refitted in 1988, and were then re-designated the AMX-13 SM-1. The original petrol engines were replaced with a turbocharged Detroit Diesel Model 6V-53T engines, electronic automatic transmissions, new electrical systems and hydropneumatic suspension system replacing the old torsion system. It remained the most numerous and heavily armed tank in the Peninsular until the arrival of the Malaysian PT-91 MBT in 2007. In the same year, the AMX-13 SM-1 was replaced by the Leopard 2 A4 after 39 years of services.
30 V100 were introduced in 1969 and the lengthened V-200s in 1970 as APCs, which were followed by 40 V-150 in 1975. Variants includes 20mm Oerlikon gun, mortar carrier and 90mm gun. With the introduction of the M113 in the 70s, most V-100/150 were put into storage and V200s transferred to the Air Force for base defense. RSAF variants of the V-200 are fitted with the RBS-70 missile system, and was last seen in the National Day parade in 2010. With the procurement of the Terrex 8×8 vehicle, the current and future status of the V-200 is unknown.
Two batches of Ex-US M113A1 and A2 were acquired in 1972 and 1988 respectively to replace the V150s as APC. Standard mountings include the 7.62 GPMG on a cupola. In 1993, ST Kinetics were awarded the contract to upgrade the M113 with improved armour, 25mm Overhead Weapon System , and some with 40/50 Cupola, in this case the 40mm GL and 50 cal MG. This upgrade was designated M113 Ultra. The Ultra remained to be the SAF’s AFC workhorse until the introduction of the Bionix IFV in 1999, ending their 21 years in the SAF with gradual phasing out of the type. Only the Mechanized Igla System, a 4xIgla SAM system is still in service with the RSAF.
Leopard 2 A4
The AMX-13’s replacement was announced in 2006 as the Leopard 2 A4. Although it was reveal that 66 with 30 spares will be acquired, UN arms transfers info stated 182 were transferred from Ex-German Army surplus. Most of the Leopard 2A4 are of the early model variant, some built between 1985-1992. SAF’s Leopards are fitted with Advanced Modular Armour Protection upgrades, with obvious composite armour at the business end of the tank and slat armour at the rear. These were first seen in the 2010 National Day Parade.
The less colourful land service of the SAF is partly due to the enormous numbers the platform were bought, and not to mentioned the different variants the vehicles are capable of fitting out with. The infant SAF in the 60s and 70s could only buy what they could afford, while at the same time, experimenting with them with fighting doctrines. As you can see above, almost all the pioneers of land forces are replaced with or complemented with locally designed vehicles, Bionix, Terrex, Primus etc. suited for urban and the South East Asian jungles. While there are some short lived purchases, the French LG-1 howitzer and AMX-10s, not more than 15 years in service, they are again replaced by another locally built gun, ie the Pegasus, although an amphibious armored carrier is not in the works yet. At the same time, the deliveries of equipment is highly dependent of the military ambience in the region. For example, despite the extreme old age of the AMX-13 and other failed light tank candidates, Singapore refused to announce and deliver the Leopards until the arrival of the Malaysian PT-91. Similarly, the urban myth of the Ex-Indian Tempest Centurion MBT never saw Singapore soil since its delivery in 1975.
From the chart above, on average, land vehicles would serve the country for about 20 years, but it is still uncertain how long the new vehicles would fare. The end of Cold War has also led to the stagnation of armor development, and it is likely we will see the Leopard 2SG serving till the late 2020s, and probably alongside ST Kinetics’ new developments beyond the Bionix and Primus.