22 years ago, 2 NSFs killed in New Zealand due to chamber explosion in 155mm Gun Howitzer

Information about incident getting shared two decades later due to social media.

Tanya Ong | February 3, 06:35 pm


Two national servicemen were killed during artillery training in Waiouru, New Zealand in 1997.

Awareness of this training accident has gained more widespread currency some two decades after it happened due to the advent of social media.

The MINDEF press release from 1997 has been shared among chat groups and the case has been re-written about recently.

Explosion took place in 1997

Some 22 years ago on March 9, 1997, a 155mm artillery round exploded in the barrel of a FH2000 howitzer during a live firing exercise in New Zealand.

The FH2000. Photo via Wikipedia.

This was the aftermath of the weapon’s damage:

This caused the death of two full-time national servicemen, Third Sergeant Ronnie Tan Han Chong and Lance Corporal Low Yin Tit.

Besides the casualties, 12 others were also injured during this incident.

COI convened

Following investigations by the Committee of Inquiry, it was discovered that the personnel involved were not at fault as “correct procedures had been strictly followed by the artillery unit involved” and there was “no breach of any SAF training safety regulations”.

Instead, the accident was attributed to a China-made defective fuze attached to the 155mm shell.

This resulted in the premature explosion when the 155mm shell was loaded into the gun howitzer.

Based on the COI findings, the defective fuze was acquired by MINDEF as a result of an opaque weapons manufacturing supply chain.

The fuze was supposed to be produced in the United States, but it turned out to be manufactured in China — without the US supplier informing MINDEF about it.

This accident resulted in a overhaul of the acceptance testing of ammunition and fuzes subsequently.

SSPH been in operation for last 15 years

The latest high-profile training accident that killed actor and national serviceman Aloysius Pang involved a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH).

He succumbed to his injuries while performing repairs on a SSPH in Waiouru, New Zealand.

The SSPH has only been in operation since 2003.

It had been used by more than 1,000 servicemen since.

A recent MINDEF statement also revealed that there has not been any reported injury of servicemen due to the gun lowering for maintenance, operating in or firing of the SSPH for the last 15 years.

The 1997 press release:

No other soldier before Aloysius Pang injured operating Howitzer: MINDEF

Top photo via Cyberpioneer & Wikipedia

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