The Armalite AR-15 assault rifle was already in circulation with the Singapore Armed Forces throughout the latter half of the 1960s. However, procuring them in the quantities required and at the desired cost proved a challenge as these rifles would have to be directly shipped from Colt in the United States proper - and this after approval by the US State Department. As a result, the Singapore government entered into an agreement with Colt (with US State Department approval) to locally-produce the venerable M16 service rifle under license as the "M16S1". However, there still lay issues in restrictive foreign export sales of the locally-produced version of the rifle and this prompted the Singaporean government to fund an indigenous effort to design, develop and adopt an in-house assault rifle worthy of its army. The new weapon would be built upon the experiences earned through the use and production of the American weapons and be available at much lower local costs - no longer requiring the Singaporean Army to rely on foreign suppliers for its critical war-making goods.
In late 1970s, Chartered Industries of Singapore (CIS) took on some foreign assistance in their endeavor when it teamed with British concern Sterling Armaments Ltd to engineer a new automatic service rifle. The design essentially became a modified form of the American AR-18 which played well with Singapore's recent history in utilizing American-originated small arms to date. In 1978, a prototype was unveiled to which testing then ensued. Serial production began in 1980 and, in 1984, the development was officially adopted by the Singapore Armed Forces under the designation of "SAR-80" ("Singapore Assault Rifle 80"). The SAR-80 was intended to replace the aging M16S1 series though operational evaluations were not favorable, leaving the M16S1 as the standard Singaporean Army assault rifle for the near future - the Singapore Army still preferred its more expensive though proven M16-derivatives instead. This is not to say that the SAR-80 was without recommendation - it was certainly less expensive to produce in the large numbers that would be required of it and its internal function was just as robust as that of the original Colt product. Control during full-automatic fire was noteworthy thanks to the largely inline internal makeup and maintenance was relatively easy, requiring the operator to simply hinge the lower receiver open to access the internal function. Nevertheless, the SAR-80 lived on only in limited numbers with local production totaling perhaps no more than 20,000 units before the endeavor subsided. A few other manufactured batches were known sold on the overseas market to customers Croatia, Slovenia, Somalia and Sri Lanka but the weapon never acquired a large footprint in firearms history. A folding butt variant was also developed, this intended as a selling point to paratroopers and other battlefield elements requiring the facilities of a more compact assault rifle but even this initiative fell to little notoriety.
Outwardly, the SAR-80 mimicked much of the shape of the original AR-18 and all of its function. It sported a gas-operated action with a rotating bolt feature while chambered for the widely-accepted 5.56x45mm NATO standard cartridge firing from a 30-round curved magazine. The SAR-80 could accepted the same STANAG type magazines as used by the M16 series of rifles which made logistical sense for the Singaporean Army. The SAR-80 featured a solid plastic stock with a rather large-area receiver. The pistol grip was ergonomically angled rearwards while the thin trigger assembly sat within a rectangular ring guard. The magazine feed was conventionally set ahead of the pistol grip. The forend was unique to the SAR-80, ergonomically ribbed and tapered towards the muzzle end. The forend also acted as a shroud over the top-mounted gas cylinder and the bottom-mounted barrel assembly. The barrel protruded a short distance ahead of the forend and was capped by a slotted flash hider. The barrel' flash hider was designed to accept rifle grenades. A large rear sight was fitted atop the receiver which a forward post sight was seen ahead of the forend. The ejection port was set to the right side of the body. A fire selector switch allowed for single- or full-automatic fire modes. Slings for a shoulder strap were present at the base of the stock and the underside of the barrel, the latter ahead of the forward post sight. An optional bipod could be fitted ahead of the forend to which the service rifle could be used as an ad hoc suppression weapon at the squad level.
The upcoming SR-88A became an "indirect" improvement of the original SAR-80. These versions were noted by their folding butts, integrated carrying handles over the receiver and M203 40mm grenade launcher support. A shortened carbine form - essentially sporting a shorter barrel - was also released.
In 1999, the Singapore Army selected the CIS "SAR-21" bullpup assault rifle to replace their aged M16S1 line as the standard assault rifle in inventory. CIS is now known under the brand label of "ST Kinetics" (since 2000).