Singapore AMX 13 - VCU and the 'Camels'
The "Camels" laid the foundations for the build-up of the Armoured formation...
On 20 Nov 1968, the first Armour-related unit , led by Maj Seah Peng Yong, was formed at Keat Hong Camp. The unit was then known as the "Vehicle Commando Unit" or VCU in short. The unit was initially made up of 36 officers who were posted there for preliminary training on signal, driving, basic mechanics and vehicle maintenance. Barely two months later, on 31 Dec 1968, the 36 young officers were sent to Israel to undergo intensive training in the AMX-13 tanks which the SAF planned to procure. Training was conducted on inhospitable desert terrain and in harsh climatic conditions, under the supervision of strict Israeli instructors. Live firing was also conducted using wrecks from the 1967 six-day war. On 30 April 1969, these officers pass out from their training.
Upon their return in May 1969, this group of officers, nicknamed the "Camels", was tasked to compile what they had learnt, and translated these knowledge into doctrines, training syllabi and training formats for the new arm of the SAF. To adapt their newly acquired knowledge for practical use, they conducted their own continuation training under local conditions. The small VCU of yesteryear eventually evolved to became the sophisticated Armoured Formation of today.
Delivery of the first AMX-13s
18 AMX-13s were unloaded from their delivery vessel at Jurong Wharf under the cover of darkness in July 1969.Their presence was to be kept secret until the National Day Parade on 9 August.
AMX 13 SM1 Light Tank
Right from the start the SAF did not think large Main Battle Tanks (MBT) had a major role in its Order of Battle (ORBAT). Main reason being lack of open terrain in the region and so MBT battle of the type that occurred in Europe, Middle East and Africa is unlikely. Also soft muddy soil conditions is wide spread in the region with most roads and bridges not constructed to support heavy vehicles. Coupled with the fact that other nations in the region did not operate MBTs as well lend support to SAF not using MBTs. Consequently the AMX-13 was selected and Singapore is the largest operator of this light tank in the world today. These tanks comes mostly from India and Israel. There are about 350 such tanks in the SAF inventory.
AMX -13 originates from France in 1946. It had a number of new ideas at the time, one of which is called the oscillating turret. An oscillating turret consists of two parts, the lower part being mounted on the turrent ring and has two trunnions. The gun is fixed to the upper part of the turret, and elevates as a complete unit. This arrangement makes for a relatively heavier turret making gun elevation a lot more demanding as it involves moving the total mass of gun plus upper turret and autoloader. Consequently stabilisation of the gun becomes more difficult to be implemented and so the AMX-13_SM1 cannot fire on the move.
The gun is fed from an automatic loader with two revolving, 6-round magazine. This reduces the crew to 3; Commander, Driver and Gunner. The magazines can only be loaded from outside the tank! Empty cartridge cases are ejected through a hatch at the rear of the turret. Besides HE and HEAT rounds, APFSDS rounds are used too.
The main part of the upgrade programme, was the replacement of the power pack a with new water cooled, turbocharged Detroit Diesel 6V-53T engine, fully automotive transmission, electrical system and hydro-pneumatic suspension system. These improvements along with others made the AMX-13 SM1 more reliable with increased operational range, speed, acceleration and cross-country mobility. The turret has also been converted into an all electric drive turret cutting out all the hydraulics in the old system. A stabilised day and night sight from Avimo is included into the turret. This sight incorporates a laser range finder increasing the accuracy of the weapon. Provision has been made for additional armour to be added to the hull increasing combat survivability.
(Copyright to Singapore Mindef)
The first production vehicles were handed over to the SAF in June 1988 with the official designation of AMX-13 SM1. The AMX-13 SM1 tank is still the favourite vehicle among the tankees. Many drivers talked fondly of the smooth ride and power that the vehicle displays even when compared with the Bionix. This vehicle is very popular within the Armour formation and will be sadly missed when it is replaced.
Comparison of Light Tanks
Technical Specifications SM 1 M8 AGS (Level II) Scorpion
Country of origin France USA UK
Main Gun Caliber(mm) 75 (34rds) 105 (30rds) 76(40)
Types of Ammo HEAT,HE,APFSDS,CAN - HEAT,HE,APFSDS,CAN -
Chassis length(m) 4.88 5.3 4.79
Width(m) 2.51 2.67 2.1
Height(m) 2.28 2.53 2.1
Combat weight(tons) 16.5 22.25 8.9
Engine Type 275 hp Diesel 550 hp Diesel 200 hp Petrol
Power to Weight Ratio(hp/ton) ~20 ~25.7 ~22
Ground Pressure(kg/sqcm) 0.74 ~0.67 0.36
Max Speed (km/h) >60 72 80
Cruising Range(km) 500 451 405
Co-Axial Weapon Type 7.62mm MG 7.62mm MG
AMX-13 / SM1 Light Tank
The original AMX-13 was designed by the Atelier de Construction d'lssy-les-Moulineaux (AMX); the first prototype being completed in 1948. Initial production was at the Atelier de construction Roanne from 1952 until early 1960s. The tank remained in production with the Creusot-Loire plant at Chalons-sur-Saone until the late 1980s.
The hull is of all-welded steel construction having a maximum thickness of 40mm. The driver sits at the left front of the hull, with the engine located to his right. The turrent is located at the rear of the hull, with the commander on the left and gunner on the right. The turrent consist of two parts, the lower part being mounted on the turrent ring and has two trunnions. The gun is mounted fixed to the upper part, which elevates as a complete unit. The gun is fed from two revolving, 6-round magazine by an automatic loader and once the 12 rounds are expended, the crew must dismount the vehicle to reload the magazines. Empty cartridge cases are ejected through a hatch at the rear of the turrent.
The Singapore Army is currently operating the largest fleet of this light tank. The Singapore Technologies Automotive (STA), previously known as Singapore Automotive Engineering (SAE), has been responsible for the overhauling and refurbishment of these light tanks.
As part of the chassis refurbishment programme, the STA has given a complete automotive refit with new water cooled, turbocharged Detroit Diesel 6V-53T engine, new ZF5WG-180 fully automotive transmission, new electrical system and SAE Dunlostrut hydro-pneumatic suspension system. Other improvement include new instruments for the driver, a new radio harness and a new cooling system produced by UK company Gallay. These improvement not only make the AMX-13 SM1 more reliable but also give it’s operational range, speed, acceleration and cross-country mobility a quantum leap.
The first production vehicles were handed over to the SAF in June 1988 with the official designation of AMX-13 SM1. The SAF carries an inventory of about 350 such light tanks.
· 75 mm gun with 7.62 mm co-axial machine gun
· one roof-mounted 7.62 mm machine gun
· two smoke-dischargers on each side of the turrent
· main gun uses HE and HEAT (capable of penetrating 170mm of armour)