From the ST archives: New light and lethal Matador does job of two

From the ST archives: New light and lethal Matador does job of two

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and its defence industry partners have achieved a breakthrough with a shoulder-fired rocket that can destroy tanks or bust through brick walls with a single warhead.

The SAF's new single-shot, light anti-tank weapon, called Matador, does a job that normally requires two different types of rocket. Matador's dual-purpose warhead helps the SAF streamline the types of weapon soldiers carry into combat.

Colonel Mark Tan, head of plans at the 9th Singapore Division/Infantry Formation, said Matador's ability to destroy a wider range of battlefield targets means the army can 'choose to give every soldier this weapon in a special environment'.

The public will get a chance to handle Matador - its name stands for 'man-portable anti-tank anti-door and wall' - for the first time after it is unveiled at the Army Open House this morning by Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean.

The short-range weapon was developed by weapons officers from the army, the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and Germany-based weapons maker Dynamit Nobel Defence.

Col Tan said Matador is due to replace the Armbrust range of light anti-tank weapons in about two years, when existing stocks are used up.

Matador is the result of the army's worldwide survey of light anti-tank weapons, carried out in 1999, to find a replacement for the Armbrust, or 'crossbow' in German.

On its wish list was a disposable lightweight weapon which can destroy armoured vehicles and penetrate walls, and have a high chance of hitting its target.

No less important was the need for simplicity, so soldiers can be trained to fire one with minimal fuss.

The army also wanted a weapon that can be fired in an enclosed space - a key requirement for urban combat.

Col Tan said the SAF's experience with the Armbrust - developed in Germany and made in Singapore since 1988 - demonstrated the value of arming soldiers with an anti-armour weapon that can be fired in an enclosed space.

However, the warhead in Armbrust rockets is designed to kill only lightly armoured vehicles.

Mr See Wee Young, who led the DSTA Matador programme team, said trials of the weapon were extensive. He noted that more than 1,000 rockets were fired to finetune the weapon's design and validate its performance during trials held from 2001 to this year.

Early test versions showed the rocket could penetrate brick walls at a range no closer than 50m, but this was not good enough for the army.

'Fifty metres was not suitable because we can't fire at a wall across the road,' said Major Terry Tan, a 9th Division weapons officer who helped develop Matador.

So Mr See and engineers from the German company went back to the drawing board. He said: 'It took us a lot of testing to ensure a soldier will not be harmed when the rocket is fired at a target 20m away and detonates.'

The secret of Matador's dual-purpose capability lies in a probe at the tip of the warhead. This is pulled out for armoured targets so the warhead acts like an explosive jet on impact, allowing it to penetrate armour.

The probe is not extended for softer targets, such as brick walls.

However, the effects are just as devastating with either type of target.

Said Mr See: 'The hole is big enough for a soldier to step through.

'It doesn't just create a hole. It also has a lethal effect on anyone behind the wall.'

This article was first published on Sept 4, 2004.
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