Armor: New Japanese Wheels

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November 6, 2022: Japan is developing a new series of wheeled armored combat vehicles to replace those built locally in the late 1990s in small quantities. Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi, which designed and built the new 8x8 26-ton wheeled Type 16 tank, wants to use the Type 16 chassis as the basis for the new wheeled IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle) as well as a recon vehicle and mortar carrier. The Type 16 tank entered service in 2016 and production continues. Using a common chassis for all four (tank, IFV, recon, mortar) vehicles would reduce costs and simplify training and maintenance. This would also be an attractive export item. The government is also testing the Finnish firm Patria AMV XP for just the Japanese IFV contract. The government won’t decide on the Mitsubishi proposal until 2023. Tests of all the competing vehicles are taking place in 2022. Mitsubishi has already built prototypes of the IFV, recon and mortar carrier versions for the competition.

In 2010, after more than two decades of lobbying, Japan changed its laws to allow weapons exports. There were still some restrictions that were not lifted until early 2022. The original bans were part of post-World War II reforms and reaction to the military government that got Japan into World War II, with disastrous results. The post war constitution forbade Japan from possessing offensive military forces. Japanese armed forces were called the "Self Defense Forces." It was decades before Japan could even bring itself to build major weapons itself. But by the late 1980s, Japanese companies found that they were quite good at it. At that point, an international marketing survey indicated that, if Japan were allowed to export weapons, they would eventually capture up to 45 percent of the world tank and self-propelled artillery market, 40 percent of military electronic sales, and 60 percent of warship construction. That seemed optimistic, but there was no doubt that the Japanese could produce world class weapons.

Throughout the 1990s, Japanese manufacturers produced nearly $7 billion worth of weapons and military equipment a year, just for the self-defense force. These locally manufactured weapons were more expensive because they were produced in small quantities and could not be exported. Japan noted that even tiny Israel manages to export $4 billion worth of weapons a year. Japan sees itself as well suited to grab a sizable chunk of the world arms market. After the 1990s, the escalating price of oil (driven largely by increased demand from China and India), sent international arms sales from $29 billion in 2003, to over $60 billion now. Oil rich countries, particularly those in the Persian Gulf, are eager to buy more weapons, with which to defend their assets. Neighbor Taiwan is also seeking such armored vehicles. These countries have been buying all sorts of Japanese high-tech items for decades, so it's easy for Japan to find buyers for its weapons as well.

 


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