Singapore Shifts UAV Focus Back Home
By WENDELL MINNICK
SINGAPORE — Most of Singapore’s unmanned vehicles were made in Israel, but the general attitude at the Defense Technology Asia (DTA) show is that its next purchases will likely be made at home.
Singapore Technologies Engineering Group, a private company, is developing autonomous UAVs, including the fixed-wing Skyblade III and IV and the FanTail 5000, a 6.5-kilogram UAV that takes off and lands vertically, company spokeswoman Audrey Tan said.
The FanTail 5000 can be pulled from a backpack and launched in 30 minutes. It can fly up to 90 knots on missions out to 8 kilometers and hover in strong winds up to 30 minutes, she said.
The 5-kilogram Skyblade III can be deployed within 30 minutes with a preplanned route that can be altered in flights of up to one hour and up to 1,500 feet. It can operate day or night, fly at 70 knots and operate up to 8 kilometers away.
The 50-kilogram Skyblade IV has a modular design that allows for more payload options, including ones to handle reconnaissance, battlefield surveillance, search and rescue, artillery fire support, target tracking, and maritime and coastal patrol. Slated for flight early next year, it is launched by catapult and lands under a parachute, Tan said. It can fly as far as 100 kilometers, up to 15,000 feet high, at speeds up to 80 knots for up to 12 hours. The Skyblade IV has been compared to the EMIT Aviation Sparrow UAV.
ST Aerospace, part of ST Engineering Group, is working on a MAV-1 low-observable tactical UAV, part of a new Smart Warfighting ARray of configurable Modules (SWARM) research program, also run by ST Aerospace. Few details have emerged about it.
Singapore is one of the few countries in Asia with its own UAV command under the Air Force.
In May 2007, the Singapore Air Force opened its UAV command at Murai Camp as part of a restructuring meant to help create a “3rd generation force.” The command’s 116 Squadron operates an unknown number of Israeli Elbit Hermes 450LEs; the 128 Squadron operates 40 Israel Aircraft Industries Searchers procured in 1998 to replace 14-year-old IAI Scout remotely piloted vehicles.
Navy’s Unmanned Plans
In May, Rear Adm. Chew Men Leong said the Singapore Navy was looking at unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) and unmanned surface vehicles (USV).
The Singapore Navy has two Hydroid Remus 100 autonomous UUVs, which can dive to 120 meters for 22-hour hydrographic measurement operations in the waters around Singapore. Sources at the DTA show, May 22-23, have said the Navy is looking at the Remus 600, which can dive to 1,500 to 3,000 meters for missions of up to 70 hours.
The Navy also operates the Israeli-built Rafael Protector USV, a 30-foot rigid-hull inflatable boat that can handle force protection, anti-terrorism, surveillance and reconnaissance missions at 40 knots with a Mini Typhoon Stabilized Gun. The Navy used the Predator off Iraq for force protection during peacekeeping missions in 2005.
Since 2002, the Singapore Navy has worked with the U.S. Navy on the development of the Spartan Scout USV — a 7- to 11-meter rigidhull inflatable boat that can operate by remote control as a modular, reconfigurable, high-speed, semi-autonomous craft — for mine countermeasures, anti-surface warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance, and anti-submarine missions.