ST Engineering Broadens Global Role
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — As Singapore’s premier defense manufacturer, Singapore Technology (ST) Engineering has been pushing further into the international market, securing sales to the United Kingdom of the new Warthog Bronco All Terrain Tracked Carrier, and is in discussions with Mideast and South Asian countries for armored vehicles, artillery and other equipment.
This is a departure from ST Engineering’s traditional exports of ammunition and small arms, demonstrating a bolder and more sophisticated approach to its product line and as a service provider.
ST Engineering is actually divided into four sectors: ST Aerospace, ST Electronics, ST Land Systems (also called ST Kinetics) and ST Marine. Company officials have said there are continuing efforts to improve communication and cooperation at all levels among the four units to improve products and services.
The company is increasing its emphasis on boosting combat mobility and survivability, said Letticia Fong, manager of ST Engineering Corporate Communications.
“It continues to evolve, innovate and customize new technological capabilities and solutions to meet the transformational needs of the modern armed forces,” she said. “Some of the new advanced indigenous platforms and systems which we design, develop and integrate include the Bronco Fire Support Vehicle, 40mm munitions and unmanned aerial vehicles.”
ST Engineering, which moved up five spots in the Defense News Top 100, secured its first armored vehicle sale from a NATO member country in December 2008, when ST Kinetics won a $250 million contract with the U.K. military for 100 Warthog Broncos. Also dubbed “the Beast,” the vehicle was selected in response to a British urgent operational requirement for Afghanistan.
“In many ways, ST Engineering is itself a product of the Singaporean defense acquisition process in which defense contractors are subject to an exacting evaluation and selection process where cost-effectiveness is the sine qua non,” said Weichong Ong, a fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, here.
The development of the Warthog for the British Army is a case in point of how ST Engineering has been able to successfully deliver a combat platform customized to the specific needs of the end-user, he said.
“In short, ST Engineering has built upon its significant expertise in the niche customization of combat systems, upgrades and solutions for the Singapore Armed Forces into a successful export,” he said.
However, despite ST Engineering’s success at securing the U.K. Bronco deal, not all are convinced the company is ready for top-tier status as an international arms exporter.
“The aphorism ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ comes immediately to mind,” said Tim Huxley, executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, suggesting ST Engineering will have to do more than secure one armored vehicle sale before it can safely be dubbed a “tier one” exporter.
“One question is whether the U.K. deal was part of a broader package with the implicit or explicit promise of the U.K. having a better chance of securing SAF [Singapore Armed Forces] contracts,” Huxley said. “It’s conceivable that this sale to the U.K. might help ST Engineering enter other developed-country markets, but this might also be a quid pro quo for sales to the Singapore Armed Forces.”
ST Engineering is competing in India with the FH 2000 155mm 52-caliber towed howitzer and the Pegasus 155mm 39-caliber lightweight howitzer for two separate howitzer competitions. ST Kinetics is also exploring the sale of the SAR 21 assault rifle to India.
However, the company is not shying away from showcasing its latest arms. ST Engineering unveiled a new variant of the Bronco at Eurosatory 2010 in mid-June, Fong said.
“Designated the Bronco Fire Support Vehicle, it is fitted with the world’s first dual Remote Control Weapon System to provide outstanding fire support to improve war-fighters’ lethality, while ensuring survivability,” Fong said.
Other products the company exhibited at Eurosatory included the CIS 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher, 40mm Soldier Parachute Aerial Reconnaissance Camera System, and the Advanced Combat Man System that enables network-centric warfare at the infantry soldier level. At Eurosatory, the company introduced the all-new 40mm Low Velocity Extended Range (LVER) ammunition.
“The 40mm LVER round is the latest addition to our 40mm munitions family and is specifically designed for the urban battlefield,” Fong said, with a flatter trajectory and 30 percent shorter flight time.
ST Engineering has a long history of producing 40mm ammunition, including high- and low-velocity rounds that include high explosive, enhanced blast, self-destruct, air bursting, surveillance, insensitive and less-than-lethal rounds.
“More than 1 million 40mm rounds are sold annually, with over 3,000 automatic grenade launchers sold internationally to more than 20 countries,” Fong said.
Indigenously developed UAVs are also an area of interest.
The FanTail UAV system comprises a set of FanTail 5000 air vehicles, a ground control station and a data-link system. The FanTail is suited for urban and military field environments where a combination of high transit speed and a vertical takeoff and landing capability allows for over-the-hill, around-thecorner, and over-the-next building surveillance and reconnaissance, she said.
Jointly developed with Singaporebased DSO National Laboratories, the latest versions of the fixed-wing Skyblade III and Skyblade IV UAV systems are designed for rapid deployment in both military and civilian applications.
Export sales are a priority for ST Engineering, but indigenous sales remain its stable revenue source.
“The most important factors in making ST Engineering successful are surely that it has a large and guaranteed revenue stream from the SAF, and that the government sees it [like other governmentlinked companies] as a strategic asset that must be preserved and protected,” Huxley said.