Forces: February 22, 2005

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:   Singapore is probably most famous for its quick capture by the Japanese in early 1942. At the time, Singapore was thought to be impregnable. This tiny country is almost akin to the old city-states. It is primarily urban (only 1.6 percent of its land is suitable for farming), and relies on external delivery of fresh water (this was the reason the Japanese quickly took Singapore the defenders simply had no water). The country is small, about 250 percent larger than Washington D.C. It also is in a prime piece of strategic real state. Singapore sits near one of the worlds major maritime chokepoints, the Strait of Malacca. The result, is that this country of roughly 4.4 million needs to have a very strong military for its size.

Singapores military, for the most part, fits that requirement. The military has a total active force of 54,000. This force accepts volunteers 16 or older, although Singapore also uses conscripts older than 18 (about 40 percent of the force consists of conscripts). These conscripts are in service for 24 months (this is a reduction from 30 that was effective as of December 2004). Singapore spends about $4.5 billion a year on defense. Much of this is spent on modern equipment (mostly air and naval units).

The Republic of Singapore Army consists of three divisions (the 3rd, 9th, and 6th), plus two Peoples Defense Force units (in essence a reserve force) that traces its origins to the Singapore Volunteer Corps during the time Singapore was a British colony. The armed forces run on a Total Defense concept in which every person in Singapore is involved. The Peoples Defense Force is a militia, similar to the systems used in Israel, Switzerland, and Sweden.

Singapore does not offer much in the way of terrain suitable for armored warfare, so Singapores best tank is the AMX-13SM1 light tank. The AMX-13 is a French design, carrying a 75mm gun with 32 rounds. The Singaporean versions have been rebuilt with a new transmission, and boast a top speed of 60 km per hour, with a range of 450 kilometers. Singapore also uses the M113 armored personnel carrier. The baseline versions are familiar, having been in American service for a while. However, Singapore has upgraded this old, but versatile system with a combined 40mm grenade launcher and .50-caliber machinegun (the CIS 40/50 Twin Weapon Station). Singapore also has the Bionix 40/50, a more modern APC with a top speed of 70 kilometers per hour.

Singapore is also in the process of replacing license-built M16A1s (the M16S1, a 5.56mm rifle with a 30-round magazine) with the SAR-21. The SAR-21 is a bullpup design firing a 5.56mm round and has a 30-round magazine. Singapore has also designed the Ultimax 100, a 5.56mm squad automatic weapon with a 100-round drum magazine. Singapore also manufactured the SAR-80 (a licensed copy of the AR-18) and the SR-88 (which often found its way to the export market).

Singapores infantry have a mix of anti-tank weapons: The Armbrust, a disposable one-shot weapon similar to the American LAW, is their light anti-tank weapon. The RSA also uses the Milan a wire-guided French anti-tank missile with a range of two kilometers and a speed of 720 kilometers per hour. The Milan is arguably one of the premier weapons systems, having been exported to numerous countries (including many in NATO). Singapores heavy anti-tank missile is the Israeli SPIKE, a missile system that has also been acquired by Poland. SPIKE has a range of four kilometers on a clear day, and a range of three kilometers in bad weather. SPIKE uses fiber-optic guidance, and is able to demolish many tanks.

Ultimately, Singapores Army and militia are the forces in that countrys military that serve as the last line of defense. If Singapores Army is fighting, this small country is probably in serious trouble. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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