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Colt IAR for Singapore

The Singapore Armed Forces, after comparative trials, have chosen the 5.56-mm Colt IAR as their new section automatic weapon. It will replace the STE Ultimax 100 model, which has been in use since the early 1980s.

The Singapore Ministry of Defence has announced that after exhaustive comparative trials, it has chosen a 5.56 mm x 45 NATO automatic rifle. As part of the NSAW (New Section Automatic Weapon) program, the weapon supplied by the Czech company Colt CZ Group was selected.

However, it was not disclosed when the decision was made to choose the weapon manufactured in the United States, how many rifles were ordered, or what the contract value will be. It is also unknown whether the new design will be produced locally.

Interestingly, the New Section Automatic Weapon program was not previously publicly announced. Its existence was revealed on April 14, 2023, when the ministry posted a video on social media summarizing the department’s work over the past year. The video showed firing from a weapon called the NSAW.

The new design that will be in the hands of Singaporean soldiers is the Colt IAR (Infantry Automatic Rifle), previously known as the IAR6940. It will replace the Ultimax 100—a locally produced weapon introduced in 1982 into the armament of the local armed forces as the Section Automatic Weapon (SAW).

Interestingly, the Colt IAR won the competition not only against the local design but also against the German HK416/M27 rifle. In 2009, it was the latter weapon that was chosen by the United States Marine Corps (USMC), with the Ultimax 100 Mk 4 and Colt IAR6940 being the unsuccessful contenders.

The Colt IAR is an automatic rifle with a weight of 4.32 kg, equipped with a 409 mm (16.1 inch) barrel with a 178 mm twist rate. The weapon is capable of both semi-automatic and automatic fire. The theoretical rate of fire is 700-1000 rounds per minute.

The section automatic weapon supplied by the Czech company is fed from interchangeable magazines from the M16/M4. It has an identical magazine well, meaning it will not only fit the typical 30-round box magazines but also the 100- and 150-round C-Beta Mag and Armatac SAW-MAG double-drum magazines.

The Colt IAR operation involves gas being diverted through a side port in the barrel and directed through a gas tube into the bolt carrier, which also serves as the expansion chamber, with its rear wall acting as the piston. It operates on the same principle as the M16 and M4 rifles.

The automatic rifle has a monolithic upper receiver with a continuous accessory rail on top and two shorter rail sections on the sides. The lower receiver is interchangeable with that of the M4 rifle. It includes the same H3 buffer mechanism, identical bolt carrier, and bolt.

A distinctive feature of the Colt IAR is the large heat sink placed on the barrel, hidden under the extended handguard with a lower accessory rail. The use of the radiator is intended to maintain a high rate of fire, thereby providing support weapon capabilities to the unit without the need for a quick-change barrel.

The Colt IAR is not a widely popular design, but it is used by the armed forces of Mexico. It has been deployed to naval infantry units, which are used to support the police in operations against organized crime.

It is surprising that the Colt IAR won against the locally manufactured model. The Ultimax 100 is a light machine gun designed for the Singaporean manufacturer Chartered Industries of Singapore (CIS, now ST Engineering Land Systems, as part of ST Kinetics) by L. James Sullivan, an American designer, known for his work on modifying the AR-10 rifle into the AR-15 model.

The Singapore Armed Forces have so far used variants of the Ultimax 100 Mk 2 (with a fixed 508 mm barrel) and Mk 3 (with an interchangeable barrel of 508 or 330 mm). The weapon is fed from a 100-round drum magazine or modified M16 magazines. The empty weight of the Ultimax 100 Mk 2 is 4.75 kg, and the Mk 3 is 4.90 kg (6.80 kg with a 100-round drum).

It is worth mentioning that Singapore has a long history of cooperation with Colt. In 1967, the first CIS M16S1 assault rifles (licensed versions of the Colt M16A1) were introduced into service, and it was only from 1999 that they began to be replaced by the locally manufactured SAR-21.

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