Japan, a country renowned for its technological expertise and precise engineering, has a rich heritage in tank development. Throughout the years, the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF) has introduced a series of formidable armoured vehicles that exemplify the nation’s evolving defence requirements and technological advancements. This article will delve into the JGSDF’s top five tanks: the Type 90, Type 10, Type 74, Type 61, and the Type 16 Manoeuvre Combat Vehicle (MCV). Each of these tanks signifies a significant era in Japan’s military history, highlighting the country’s remarkable ability to adapt and innovate in response to changing battlefield dynamics.
Top 5 Tanks
The Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF) developed the Type 90 tank in collaboration with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and TRDI (Japan Defence Agency’s Technology Research and Development Institute). The project, initially named TK-X MBT, commenced in 1976-1977 to create an indigenous tank design that could outmatch the Soviet T-72. By 1982, the prototype was completed and underwent testing. Subsequently, the second prototype was finalized by June 1985. From October 1983 to October 1986, extensive testing and design modifications were carried out. Building upon the lessons learned from the first two prototypes, a second series of four prototypes was constructed between 1986 and 1988. The Type 90 tank officially entered service with the JGSDF in 1990, serving as a replacement for the Type 61 and complementing the existing fleet of Type 74 tanks. Notable features of the Type 90 tank include a Rheinmetall 120 mm smoothbore gun, a hybrid hydropneumatic suspension system, modular ceramic/steel composite armour, and a Mitsubishi 10ZG 10-cylinder, two-stroke cycle, 1,500 hp/2,400 rpm diesel engine. With an operational range of 350 km and a maximum speed of 70 km/h, the Type 90 tank demonstrates impressive capabilities.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries produced the Type 10, a fourth-generation main battle tank, for the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force. The project, named TK-X/MBT-X, began in the 1990s to replace or supplement the existing Type 74 and Type 90 main battle tanks in service with the Japan Ground Self Defence Force. The Type 10 was unveiled on February 13, 2008, at the Technology Research and Development Institute (TRDI) in Sagamihara. The tank was designed with a strong emphasis on C4I capabilities (Command, Control, Communication, Computing, and Intelligence), as well as performance, firepower, protection, and mobility. The Type 10 was put into service in 2012 and is equipped with a Japan Steel Works 120 mm 44 calibre smoothbore cannon with an automatic loader. The tank can use all compatible NATO 120 mm rounds, as well as the standard 120 mm rounds used by the JGSDF. The Type 10 APFSDS (Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding-Sabot) round is unique to the tank and can only be fired by this specific gun. The tank has a crew of three, with the commander and gunner in the turret and the driver in the hull. The tank has an operational range of 500 km and a maximum speed of 70 km/h.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries developed the Type 74, a main battle tank (MBT) for the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF), as a successor to the Type 61. The Type 74 was designed to counter the latest generation of Soviet tanks, specifically the T-62 series, which was beyond the capabilities of the existing Type 61. The design was completed in 1964, and two pilot vehicles were constructed by September 1969 for evaluation trials. The prototypes, designated STB-1, were conventional systems comparable to contemporary designs, featuring an adjustable hydropneumatic suspension system and a 105mm L7 rifled main gun tied to an automatic loader. The Type 74 was armed with a 360-degree traversing turret assembly and a 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun system that could be remotely operated from within the vehicle. The design did not enter widespread use until 1980, and it was eventually replaced by the heavier Type 90. Both the Type 74 and Type 90 will be replaced by the new-generation Type 10 tank.
The Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF) utilized the Type 61 tank as their main battle tank, which was developed and constructed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Its development began in 1955 and it was first put into service in April 1961, with the type number indicating the year of deployment. A total of 560 Type 61s were produced between 1961 and 1975. After Japan’s surrender, all armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) development and construction came to a halt, resulting in a loss of tank-building technology. However, due to the Korean War, Japan was ordered to re-militarize and form an armed police force, which was provided with M4A3E8 Sherman medium tanks and M24 Chaffee light tanks. These tanks had been heavily used during World War II and required significant mechanical overhauls within a few years of being handed over to Japan.
In 1955, the Director General of the Defence Agency ordered the Technical Research and Development Institute to develop a new domestic tank based on this experience. During the Korean War, it became clear that new Japanese tanks would require 90mm main guns, and there were two design plans proposed by the tank officers of the JGSDF. One was a 25-ton tank, suitable for Japan’s difficult terrain with paddy fields and weak ground, while the other was a 35-ton tank, capable of carrying a 90mm gun.
The Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF) utilizes the Type 16 manoeuvre combat vehicle (MCV), a wheeled armoured fighting vehicle. Developed by the Technical Research & Development Institute of Japan’s Ministry of Defence, this MCV is specifically designed for easy deployment and swift movement in narrow roads and built-up areas. Despite its compact size and light armour, it possesses the capability to effectively engage larger armoured fighting vehicles and personnel with its formidable large calibre gun. Manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the development of the Type 16 MCV incurred a total cost of 17.9 billion Yen (183 million US Dollars), with each vehicle estimated to cost 735 Million Yen (Approx. US$6.6 Million). One of the key objectives for the Type 16 was to maintain affordability, and in comparison, to the individual cost of the Type 10 Main Battle Tank at 954 Million Yen (US$8.4 Million), it stands as an impressively cost-effective vehicle considering its potential capabilities.