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Japan Plans To Buy More Wheeled Tank Destroyers

May 5, 2020

Via Wikimedia Commons.

Japan is committed to defending its outlying islands from external threats and one particular vehicle is at the forefront of this mission. In the defense ministry’s Defense Programs and Budget of Japan – Overview of FY2020 Budget Request (available for download here) a comprehensive breakdown of programs and recommendations include additional equipment for a rapid reaction marine unit who can deploy and defend a remote location. The defense ministry (MOD) expects this force to number more than 3,000 men and women accompanied by wheeled combat vehicles such as the Type 16.

First unveiled in 2013 as the “Maneuver Combat Vehicle” or MCV the 8×8 platform boasts a turret armed with a 105mm gun that can engage enemy armor or fortified structures.

The MOD listed a requirement for 33 Type 16’s worth $2.2 billion (based on the current exchange rate) and once the acquisition is approved the JGSDF can expect a total of 55 wheeled gun systems. The Type 16’s appeal, according to the MOD, is being suited for transport by air and sea. But their adoption has been slow with just 22 in service to date after the MOD specified it wanted more than a hundred several vehicles years ago. The value of the Type 16 is for hypothetical territorial disputes that involve combat operations. They can accompany at least a battalion flown in theater and assume either defensive or offensive roles faster than the Type 10 MBT.

If the Type 16’s looks familiar it’s because of its origins as a joint venture between the Technical Research and Development Institute (TRDI) and foreign partners. The turret is actually a modified Leonardo HitFist with enhanced armor protection and even an early warning system to alert the crew of incoming projectiles. The HitFist is the same turret used by the Italian army’s Centauro and Centauro II that has enjoyed some export success. The advantage of having wheeled gun systems is they weigh less than tanks and don’t require large trailers for moving them over great distances. Their reduced dimensions are another bonus since they can be shipped to a beach or shoreline and then driven offboard with ease.

The Type 16’s layout isn’t too surprising although the intricacies of its suspension system remain unexamined till now. Its four crew members ascend to their stations via small ladders suspended between the wheels with the driver seated beside the engine compartment located on the left side of the hull. There’s also an access door at the back of the Type 16 whose specific use isn’t explained although it’s probably meant for replenishing the vehicle’s ammunition supply. The rest of the crew are ensconced in the turret whose secondary weapons include a coaxial light machine gun and a .50 Browning above the commander’s hatch. Why the Type 16 doesn’t have a remote weapon station for its heavy machine gun looks like a bit of an oversight.

The 105mm main gun on the Type 16 is hard to ignore. Depending on the ammunition types it carries enemy main battle tanks are at risk when targeted by a kinetic energy penetrator round that could burn through composite armor at ranges up to 2.5 kilometers. It’s no wonder wheeled gun systems have swept East Asian militaries in the past decade. The Type 16’s closest rival is the Chinese ST1 manufactured by Norinco. The ST1 is an export designation for an 8×8 APC modified to support a small turret with a 105mm main gun–it’s now in service with the PLA. The military industries of South Korea and Taiwan have also developed similar vehicles. An early attempt by South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem was ambitious but short-lived since its 120mm main gun failed to inspire orders. Another Korean manufacturer Hanwha offers an 8×8 Tigon APC with a John Cockerill turret. Taiwan’s attempt at the same isn’t far behind and the army’s 8×8 APC is being modified to support a large caliber gun turret as well.

Japan’s MOD has no authority to export the Type 16.

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