From the ST archives: Used SAF launcher sold at Aussie recycling centre

The Matador light anti-tank weapon can be fired from a confined space without harming the firer with the rocket's back blast, making it suitable for use in urban operations.

THE Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) wants to find out how a used anti-tank rocket launcher - the type used by its troops training in Australia - ended up being sold for A$2 (S$2.40) at an Australian recycling centre.

It launched its investigation after a report last Wednesday in several Australian newspapers related events surrounding the incident.

The launcher tube and its enclosed 90mm rocket is called the Matador light anti-tank weapon. Once the unguided rocket is fired, the tube, made of aluminium reinforced with composite fibre, is discarded.

It is the 2.6kg rocket which comprises a warhead with explosives, a rocket motor and stabiliser fins, that is deadly.

What was sold in the recycling centre was the empty launcher which, while ostensibly harmless, is still a piece of military equipment.

The metre-long launcher was bought by Mr James Maloney from the recycling centre near the town of Rockhampton in the state of Queensland, close to the training area used by Singapore troops.

"I work in the local theatre restaurant and wanted to use it as a stage prop," he had said in an interview with the local media.

An Australian paper, The Age, then reported that Mr Maloney, after reading in a local paper about the Australian Army misplacing rocket launchers, passed the launcher to a reporter from Rockhampton's The Morning Bulletin.

It did not say when Mr Maloney bought the launcher. The reporter kept it for several days to photograph it and write a story.

"The police rang me earlier this evening and they told me they didn't know where it was, so I redirected them back to the reporter," Mr Maloney said last Tuesday, adding that the last time he saw the launcher was in the back seat of the reporter's car.

Over in Singapore, Colonel Benedict Lim, director of public affairs at the Ministry of Defence, confirmed the launcher was used during SAF training at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, near Rockhampton.

"The rocket launcher now contains no explosives and hence poses no threat," Col Lim told The Straits Times.

Mindef's investigation so far showed that the used launcher belonged to a batch that was formally handed over to the local Australian contractor, Private Industries (Queensland) Private Limited.

Col Lim said the company "was engaged by the SAF to carry out the proper disposal of used military items in compliance with Australian regulations and laws".

He said equipment to be disposed "would have been crushed or cut up, to ensure the original shape is not retained, before being transported out of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area for disposal".

He added: "The SAF takes a serious view of the fact that there was a failure to ensure proper disposal in this instance. We are also reviewing and tightening up the system to ensure that the materials used in training are properly disposed of by our contractor, in line with our requirements as well as with Australian regulations."

This article was first published on Jan 10, 2007.
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