Singapore gains toehold in world arms industry

Among the equipment on display at last month's Singapore Airshow was a new version of the Bronco, an armoured all-terrain troop carrier used by British forces in Afghanistan.

SINGAPORE - Singapore, better known for its clean-cut image and electronics exports, is seeking a place in the global arms industry by exploiting technological expertise honed on its own amply funded military.

From armoured personnel carriers used by British forces in Afghanistan to ammunition and firearms, the city-state is trying to enlarge the overseas market for its homegrown weapons and defence systems.

Its arms exports were in the limelight recently when India's defence ministry banned six weapons manufacturers for alleged involvement in a 2009 bribery case -- one of them a relatively little-known company from Singapore.

ST Kinetics, part of the multibillion-dollar ST Engineering industrial group, swiftly and vigorously denied the accusation but the mere mention of the firm underscored Singapore's growing ambitions in the world arms market.

Singapore's Straits Times newspaper said ST Kinetics was bidding for a contract to supply India with howitzers when the process was put on hold over the bribery allegations.

Its parent ST Engineering, with revenues of S$5.99 billion in 2011, was the only Southeast Asian firm on the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's list of the world's top 100 defence manufacturers released last month.

Partly owned by state investment agency Temasek Holdings, ST Engineering dominates the defence industry in Singapore. It says it is one of the world's top suppliers of 40mm ammunition as well as portable weapons like its CIS 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher.

The company was the biggest exhibitor at last month's Singapore Airshow where among the equipment on display was a new version of the Bronco, an armoured all-terrain troop carrier used by British forces in Afghanistan.

"Our things are battle-proven. If you need something special, we can also customise to give you an edge over other people," Patrick Choy, executive vice-president for international marketing at ST Engineering, told AFP at the show.

The hardware
Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: AFP)

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