HIGHER CALIBRE
Asian Military Review|April/May 2021
Western manufacturers are now seeing increasingly successful small arms designs emerging from Asia.
Stephen W. Miller

The weapon carried by every soldier not only impacts on their effectiveness in combat but also makes a statement becoming a part of the overall identity of a country’s military. The selection of that weapon can also be a matter of national pride with the development, production, and fielding of an indigenous design to equip one’s military. There is also a constant push to stay current with the latest technology and weapon design trends. In addition, the level of modernisation of a country’s individual weapons can be viewed as a reflection of the efficiency and indication of the combat capabilities of its military. As a result, significant attention can given to the arming of the soldier, as well as to the procurement or local development of state-of-the-art modern weapons. This trend has been equally true by nations in the Asian-Pacific region with a number of this designing and fielding their own world-class weapons. The region is today not only a market for advanced weapons but an exporter of individual arms in their own right.

Given the national prestige associated with having local small arms and the specific requirements of military it is not surprising that some facilities are government-supported and even government-owned or affiliated. Yet, many of their designs have come to reflect state-of-the-art designs utilising current material technologies. Their configurations reflect and draw upon the latest trends and design approaches including the bullpup, AR, AK, SCAR, as well as combinations of various proven features. Rather than replicating other weapon designs these are often incorporated into their own wellthought-out innovative features. The ability of these facilities to manufacture and offer their weapons at highly competitive prices has positioned them as an attractive weapon source for many world armies.

Singapore

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) enjoy the continued support of ST Engineering in addressing many of its needs. This has been particularly the case with its small arms. The company began with license production of the M16, referred to as the M16S1, as well as the SAR80 which was licensed for export. However, around 1995 the company began its own development. The resulting SAR-21 (Singapore Assault Rifle - 21st Century) was fielded by its army in 1999 and remains in service. The SAR-21 is a bullpup design utilising 5.56x45 caliber with a Stoner operating system, a high-impact polymer body, and a translucent magazine. It is compact at 805mm (31.7 inches) length in the assault rifle version and 640mm (25.2in) in the carbine facilitating its handling in tight situations such as urban areas, jungles, and inside vehicles. The original design incorporated an integral 1.5 power optical sight (or 3x) and battery-powered laser aiming device, but it has subsequently been provided with a Picatinny mounting rail. A lighter 3.2 kilogram (7lb) SAR21A model was introduced in 2006. In addition to the SAF, the SAR21 has been adopted by seven militaries especially special forces units.

In 2018 ST Engineering debuted the production design of its BMCR (Bull-pup Multirole Combat Rifle) subsequently designated the BR18, developed to replace the SAR21. A company spokesperson shared, “BM18 builds off the SAR21incorporating lessons learned and user inputs on the earlier weapon.” The receiver incorporates both an upper and lower Picatinny Rail, with the later able to mount a forward grip while the transparent magazine is retained. Overall, the weapon is an even more compact package with the assault model having a length of only 640mm (25in) and 2.9kg (6lb) weight. These characteristics make the BR18 a suitable choice for infantry, mechanised troops, paratroopers, or Special Forces without the need for significant modifications.

Indonesia

PT Pindad (Perindustrian Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Darat (Indonesian Army Industries) has been manufacturing weapons since 1808 and began the licensed production of the FN FNC rifle which was adopted by the Indonesian military in 1994 as the SS1. A number of variants of the 5.56mm rifle have been designed and fielded including the SS1-V5 with a 252mm barrel, 3.37kg (7.4lb) weight, and foldable butt for use by artillery, rear-echelon troops, and special forces. The M Versions are used by the Indonesian Marine Corps with a special coating process to protect against saltwater corrosion. In 2005 the company introduced its SS2 which improves on the SS1 design. It includes a folding stock and Picatinny Rail and like the SS1 is offered in a number of variants.

Australia

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