While the U.S. Army is pegging its future on the ambitious future combat systems—a
family of manned and unmanned vehicles and aircraft—a partly government-owned
Singaporean company also is looking at a series of concepts to deploy faster
and lighter forces.
Singapore Technologies Kinetics made headlines during this year’s Asian
Aerospace show for signing a memorandum of understanding with Lockheed Martin
to work on the development of the Mule, a 2.5-ton vehicle meant for reconnaissance
or transport missions under the FCS architecture. Lockheed Martin works as a
sub-contractor to the lead systems integrator team of Boeing and SAIC.
ST Kinetics, is the land systems arm of the Singapore Technologies conglomerate
that is made up of a series of other companies working in the aerospace, electronics
and marine sectors.
Many of the concepts that the company is working on are based on the philosophy
that the answer to making forces lighter and more easily deployable is the development
of technologies that can be linked together.
One of ST Kinetics’ recent developments is a light strike vehicle, called
the Spider. The Spider is a line-of-sight, semi-autonomous vehicle, which can
be used both as a troop carrier and as a robot to detect ordinance or hidden
“Imagine a situation where the crew of a Spider comes to a bridge, for
example, and then they suspect that somebody is hiding under it,” Patrick
Choy, head of marketing, told National Defense. “The soldiers can get
out and then operate the vehicle by remote control.”
The vehicle can fit six people and has a collapsible roll cage frame that allows
the vehicles to be stacked in C-130 cargo aircraft. According to the company,
six Spiders can fit into one C-130.
When switching to the robotic controls, the vehicle has a range of 500 meters,
“enough to keep you out of a blast area,” Choy said. In the future,
the vehicle will be outfitted with a global positioning system to become fully
autonomous, said Choy.
The Spider is propelled by a 130-horse power engine and can handle rugged conditions,
said the company. The Spider is built out of tubes, an approach that makes the
vehicle light, said Choy. Because it is light, the vehicle also can be dropped
into the field from helicopters, he added.
“What we are also doing, is putting a protection suite around the vehicle,”
said Choy. The suite can be applied without adding significant weight to the
vehicle, or sacrificing its payload, Choy pointed out. “Today, composite
materials are so good, I can put protection around the cabin and protection
beneath it to take the blast,” he added. The armor would only offer protection
against small arms firing up to 7.62 mm rounds.
The Spider also can be used as a decoy in certain operations, said Choy, fooling
enemy forces into thinking the vehicle is occupied, while it’s, in fact,
To enhance survivability and reduce deployment time, the company has developed
a concept for linking robots to manned vehicles. The technology that allows
that to happen is called articulation, which allows parts of a vehicle, or two
vehicles to attach and detach quickly. In the concept developed by ST Kinetics,
the rear cabin, when detached, can be used as a semi-autonomous robot.
“Articulation gives us a way to compensate when we forward-deploy the
forces,” Choy said. “I can send the vehicle in two parts into the
battlefield, and link them up.” The goal behind articulation is to have
platforms transported into pieces onto C-130s or vertical take-off and landing
aircraft, such as the V-22 Osprey.
Articulation is not a Singaporean innovation—it comes from countries
such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, which have to brave snow and mountainous
terrain. Choy noted that the company’s idea of articulation was based
on a Russian variation.
People may think articulation looks “clumsy,” but he argues that
articulated vehicles have fairly good mobility. ST Kinetics used its already
existing all-terrain vehicle, the Bronco, to demonstrate the concept, said Choy.
However, some problems with articulation do exist, he said. One is that the
articulated vehicle cannot be decoupled quickly enough. Another problem is that
once detached from the front part, which contains the engine, the rear remains
without power or steering capability, Choy said.
To solve the shortcomings, ST Kinetics is trying to come up with a concept
called “active articulation,” said Choy. That kind of articulation
would allow the vehicle to be linked together or detached quickly. However,
the challenges in doing that are many, he added.
“Both decoupled parts need to move as independent vehicles. If I can
bring my robotic ability and put it into the rear cabin, then I have the capability
of sending a platform out with the crew,” he said.
The Spider itself can be outfitted with active articulation. If it were made
smaller, it could be flown in a Chinook, together with a power trailer holding
weapons and ammunition. Once on the ground, the Spider and the trailer could
The company also is working on entirely unmanned systems, including one designed
for urban combat. At the squad-level, ST Kinetics is working on an improved
remote attack vehicle, for short I-RAV. The vehicle is a remotely controlled
robot on tracks.
“I-RAV is a proof of concept,” said Choy, and can be sent to detect
explosive ordnance, especially in urban and populated areas. The robot carries
a camera and can show the troops outside if a room, for example, “is friendly
or hostile,” he said.
Another piece of equipment designed for urban warfare is the dual-caliber squad
support weapon. While the idea of a dual caliber is not new, the squad weapon
has a fire control system that allows it to shoot 40 mm air-bursting munition
from a handheld system.
With a full load of 40 mm or 5.7 mm rounds—for individual defense—the
squad weapon weighs six kilograms, light enough for soldiers to carry, said
the company. The weapon can engage targets at ranges of up to 200 meters, according
to the company.
“The squad support weapon allows us to bring an air-bursting capability,
which today is only available on crew-served weapons,” said Choy. “I
want to bring that into the hands of the individual soldier. If you dominate
rooftops, you have good control.”