Singapore’s ACMS represents the most advanced Soldier Modernisation Programme (SMP)
in Asia, and is moving closer to fielding after a series of successful company trials
|In terms of C4I, information flow improved significantly with the
introduction of ACMS, with new intelligence information flowing to
users almost twice as quickly, down from 13 to seven minutes.
The Advanced Combat Man System (ACMS) project
dates back to 1998 when a Technology Exploration
and Demonstration initiative was launched. At that
point in time, a single set of equipment was used to
explore capability and integration issues. This was
succeeded in 2002 by a three-year Technology
Consolidation and Development effort. This used a
seven-strong equipment set solution to better
understand ACMS within a section context with a
secondary view to spin off technologies and
equipment for early adoption by the Singapore
Armed Forces (SAF). After a successful conclusion,
this work was taken forward in 2006 to company
level trials, with funding allocated for ACMS’
Integrated Concept Development and Demonstration
stage which provided for the acquisition of 60 ACMS
sets and two CCIS equipped AFV platforms. The
programme is led by the Singapore Army and is
supported by the Defence Science and Technology
Agency (DSTA) and industrially by ST Electronics.
“We are currently at Spiral 3, the Integrated Concept
Development stage – basically making sure you have an
integrated solution, make sure what you provide to the
soldier is able to work with the integrated force,” explained
Sunil Sadanandan, Programme Manager Land Systems
Division, now Programme Manager Urban Fighting
Systems, DSTA. “[We are] giving the soldier the technology
to be a smarter more effective [combatant] and also to
give him ergonomically suitable equipment to enable him to
use it. The ACMS programme is a platform for C2 systems
integration to achieve this multiplier effect for the
networked soldier and networked forces.”
Lieutenant Colonel Kong Kam Yean, Head Plans
Branch HQ 9 Division Infantry said, “We are doing a
concept demonstration, a seeing a company’s worth of
systems and we have also developed two platforms for
CCIS… as a network command platform.”
Trials have continued. After their conclusion Lt. Col.
Kong said, “We will be ready to go to a full scale system.”
A decision on how to move ahead is due in 2008.
ACMS is currently working on the assumption of three
modular variants; the Basic Fighting System focussed on
fighting capabilities and the Full Fighting System, equipping
the Commander and building on the Basic Fighting System,
but adding significant C2 capabilities. These will be
complemented by a third, the Hand Held System which
works with the Full Fighting System. This is carried by a
commander’s aide, providing notebook hosted capabilities,
which in trials used a Panasonic Toughbook, for use in
stationary mission planning tasks, where greater screen size
is necessary and a more complex input device can be used.
Across ACMS, there are certain key capabilities
common to all configurations for the trials including;
GPS/DRM navigation, Blue Force Tracking, red force
marking, ‘Medic’ Alert, ‘Contact’ Alert, text messaging,
reception of video from remote sensors and round
“Our system overview will be quite familiar to people doing
soldier modernisation,” Lt. Col. Kong explained.
In terms of C4I he commented, “Blue Force Tracking
will be the basic capability.” Discussing the CCIS post,
based in a Bionix AFV, “We know in an urban environment
that it is very important for a commander to have his own
command post.” Onboard, C2 capabilities are more
advanced that on the dismounted Full Fighting System, “At
the platform level we wanted a more sophisticated system.
We wanted a 3D version so we can create battlefield
awareness in an urban background where you can see the
height in the whole system.”
In terms of ISR the goal said Lt. Col Kong, is to
enable the user to, “see one block away”, via a virtual
presence. The ACMS trials have used a Worn Array Sniper
Detection Systems and a Round Corner Firing attachment.
The latter is integrated on the SAR 21 assault rifle allowing
aiming through the weapon’s optical sight via a camera,
with the display having multiple positions for viewing. The
camera is designed to flip sideways with just one hand
action, back to a normal weapon sight configuration.
Tracked and wheeled, low cost small Unmanned
Ground Vehicle (UGV) and Micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
(UAV) have also been trialled with ACMS. The integration of
tactical sensors has been factored into the architecture
from the start to cope with bandwidth and power consumption considerations, although the major concern in
this area has been how to manage costs.
Describing the system’s call for fire capability Lt. Col.
Kong said, “We think it is very important to say ‘I see you
shoot’,” allowing the section to call upon systems that
aren’t held at the section level to engage specific targets
they do not have the capability to engage effectively.
The SAR 21 assault rifle is the basis for ACMS trooper lethality. A Round Corner Firing
attachment has been integrated on the weapon
allowing aiming through the weapon's
optical sight via a camera, with the display having multiple positions for viewing. The
designed to flip sideways with just one hand action, back to a normal weapon
sight configuration. © DoD
One of the major findings from the trials is the saving in
time ACMS has provided, relative to the Current Equipment
set field by the SAF. In trials to measure reaction time to
enemy contact while en route, time dropped from 20
minutes to less than six.
Looking at the impact ACMS has had on reducing
casualties in red on blue actions has also been trialled.
Only minimal differences in casualty levels was found
when ACMS was issued to all troops in the section as
opposed to limiting issue of the full capability just to
section leaders and above. In some combinations,
issuing the full C4I set to all troops actually marginally
increased the probability of casualties. As a
consequence, the current Proposed Equipping Scale for
ACMS consists of the section commander and above
being equipped with the Full Fighting System, with team
leaders and below being given beacon systems with
In other casualty related work a vignette was trialled
where medics used positional data produced by the ACMS
ensemble from three casualties to locate them. This took
less than three minutes. This was a four fold saving in time
over the same scenario, but with medics locating
casualties using the current capability set, which does not
provide networked positional data.
In terms of C4I, information flow improved
significantly with the introduction of ACMS, with new
intelligence information flowing to users almost twice as
quickly, down from 13 to seven minutes. Effective
distribution of the information was also found to have
improved. Amongst users equipped with the current
capability, 40 percent received the wrong information, 32
percent got no information at all and just 28 percent got
the right information. When ACMS was used, 83 percent
of users got the correct information. The trials however,
concluded that there was no significant difference
between ACMS implementations down to all troopers or
just section commanders.
At a strategic level, issues such as architecture and
integration have provided challenges for ACMS. “There are
so many programmes running parallel that it is very
difficult to pin down architecture,” said Sadanandan.
The need to balance power with capability has also
caught up with ACMS, “On the one hand there is demand
for more and more computational power from all the added
features that we have put into the system. [The resulting}
power [requirement] increases the weight the soldier has to
carry.” Sadanandan who said that as part of the goal to
embrace improved dynamic power management, the team
were looking at more intelligent ways of using power,
turning it on and off when necessary.
ACMS is based around a Windows XP platform.
Sadanandan however said that in the trials COTS hardware
items in ACMS had encountered problems dealing with very
harsh environments and there had been issues with
overheating and systems overload.
The trials also found that ACMS users found that the
Helmet Mounted Displays (HMD) hindered movement and
aiming. A number of options were being looked at,
including see through HMD, alternative display location and
a recent technology – membrane displays. In the trials 96
percent of users found that the HMD hindered dismounted
movement at night and 78.3 percent found this to be the
case during daylight and a clear majority found it adversely
affected aiming throughout the day. ■
Lt. Col. Kong Kam Yean and Sunil Sadanandan were
speaking at Soldier Tech.