“Singapore design” today conjures up images of porcelain plates and nostalgia-inspired souvenirs, but few would think of guns, tanks and naval ships.
As early as 1966, the newly independent Singapore established the Chartered Industries of Singapore (CIS) to develop a local armament industry. Its first products were manufacturing 5.56 mm ammunition for the Colt AR-15, which was then the standard rifle for the Singapore Armed Forces, as well as minting Singapore coins. Over the decades, the defence company grew to assemble larger equipment, eventually developing the first locally-designed artillery in 1988, the Field Howitzer 88 (FH-88). This 155 mm/39-calibre towed gun came about because of the low reliability and high cost of servicing existing Israeli-designed and developed guns. Its success led CIS to later create the FH-2000 and Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer 1 (SSPH 1) Primus.
By the late 1980s, Singapore’s defence industry had grown considerably with over 16 companies serving in areas such as aerospace, marine and even food. The Singapore Defence Industries Charter was drawn up by the Ministry of Defence in 1987 to push these companies towards exporting their services, leading to these advertisements published in the monthly military magazine, International Defence Review. In 1989, the Singapore Technologies (ST) group was formed as the umbrella corporation for the many local defence companies including CIS.
Known today as ST Engineering, the country’s sole arms manufacturer was the only firm from Southeast Asia to listed as one of the world's top 100 defence manufacturers by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) in 2012.