In 1976, Chartered Industries of Singapore (CIS, now Singapore Technologies Kinetics), began to develop its own assault rifle with the aim to supply these rifles for the SAF and for foreign countries. To save time CIS invited some engineers from a British company, Sterling Armament, who used to manufacture US-designed Armalite AR-18 assault rifles. As a result the then new Singapore rifle closely resembled the original AR-18 design.
First prototypes came out in 1978 and the final design was approved by the SAF in 1984 under the name of SAR-80. This rifle was used to some extent by Singapore Army and was also exported to some countries, including Sri Lanka, Somalia and Croatia.
The SAR-80 is a gas operated, selective fire weapon of simple construction. It uses short stroke gas piston that pushes the massive bolt carrier with rotating bolt. The bolt carrier rides on two guide rods. Each rod has a recoil spring around it, gas piston rod has its own return spring. The receiver is made from steel stampings. Pistol grip, handguards and buttstock are made from plastic. Ammo is fed using M16-style magazines. Gas drive has gas regulator that can be cut off completely to safely launch rifle grenades from the muzzle.
It has been mistakenly reported in many foreign articles (including Jane's Guns Recognition Guide) that this weapon is the standard assault rifle of the Singapore Army.
Although consideration was given to replace the M-16S1 with the SAR-80 due to its lower manufacturing costs and reliability, it was not well received because it was less user friendly and heavier. As a result, the M16S1 was still the mainstay of the Singapore Armed Forces and only 20,000 were bought by Singapore and most have been phased out in favour of the newer SAR-21. As of 2000, an undisclosed number are still being stored in Singapore Police armouries and used in Army logistics units.