Several years ago, it became known about the plans of the Japanese Ministry of Defense in terms of modernizing the fleet of equipment of the Ground Self-Defense Forces. Among other things, these plans provide for the gradual decommissioning of old types of main battle tanks with their simultaneous replacement with modern technology in the form of a Type 16 wheeled armored vehicle. The latter has already gone into series and is entering the troops.
A promising program
The Type 16 or Maneuver Combat Vehicle (MCV) is a “wheeled tank” designed with the new plans of the Self-Defense Forces in mind. The main requirements for the “Type 16” concerned fighting qualities and mobility. It was necessary to provide combat qualities not lower than the old Type 74 MBT, as well as improved mobility and the ability to transport by air with existing and future military transport aircraft.
The development of the future MCV was carried out by the Technical Research & Development Institute; production of experimental and serial equipment was entrusted to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Development work has been carried out since 2007, and soon the first prototype was submitted for testing. State tests took place in 2014-15, after which the “Type 16” received a recommendation for adoption.
Taking into account the requirements presented, a machine weighing 26 tons was created on a four-axle all-wheel drive chassis with a diesel engine with a power of 570 hp. The armor protects against fire from small-caliber cannons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Armament in the form of a 105-mm rifled cannon and two machine guns of different calibers is mounted on a three-man turret. The car develops a speed of up to 100 km / h and has a cruising range of 400 km.
Prototype machine MCV, 2013
Orders and deliveries
The first order for the mass production of MCV wheeled tanks appeared in 2016. It provided for the supply of 36 armored vehicles over the next few years. In FY16. Mitsubishi carried out part of the work required, but did not hand over the finished equipment to the customer until the end of the year. Deliveries began in 2017, and this year, almost all ordered vehicles were delivered – 33 units out of 36.
In the same 2017, the Ministry of Defense placed a new order for 33 pieces of equipment. In 2018, the order was limited to only 18. The production period of 2018 began with the completion of the last part of the order from 2016, after which the equipment contracted in 2017 went into production. In total, the year before last, 36 wheeled tanks were delivered, which made it possible to close all previous orders.
In 2019, serial production continued, but at a slower pace. According to The Military Balance 2020, at least 15 armored vehicles were built – half as many as in previous years. However, this almost completely covered the 2018 contract.Also, a new order for 29 pieces of equipment appeared last year. Its implementation is underway right now, and the Self-Defense Forces regularly receive ready-made MCVs.
Recently in foreign media there was news about the possible appearance of another order. FY2020 Defense Current Budget provides for the purchase of another 33 Type 16 armored vehicles with a total value of 23.7 billion yen (about 2.2 billion US dollars). Possible delivery times for finished equipment under such a contract are not specified.
At the same time, it is clear that such an order will not take long to complete. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and its subcontractors have already proven themselves to be reliable performers. It can be assumed that when the necessary papers are signed this year, the finished equipment will enter the troops no later than 2021-22.
Thus, to date, 116 Type 16 wheeled tanks have been contracted. Another order for 33 units. will appear soon. The industry has manufactured and has already handed over to the customer at least 85-90 armored vehicles. A certain amount of equipment is at various stages of construction and will be commissioned in the near future.
According to the announced plans, MCV production will continue until 2026. For this, new orders for equipment may appear in the coming years. The total number of combat vehicles should reach the level of 250-300 units, which will allow all the planned rearmament measures to be carried out.
Deployment in troops
The first serial “Type 16” MCVs entered the units of the Ground Self-Defense Forces in 2017. Sufficiently high production rates made it possible in the shortest possible time to form several units fully equipped with such equipment. To date, MCVs, despite their still limited numbers, have become fairly widespread and are used in all major strategic areas.
It is known about the deployment of new wheeled tanks in five units practically throughout Japan. As part of the Northern Army, the 10th Rapid Reaction Regiment of the 11th Ground Forces Brigade received such equipment. In the North-Eastern Army “Type 16” is already operating the 22nd Rapid Reaction Regiment of the 6th Division. In the Central Army – the 15th regiment of the 14th brigade. In the Western Army, two formations have already received equipment – the 42nd Regiment of the 8th Division and the 4th Reconnaissance Battalion of the 4th Division.
In the near future, it is expected to create new or reorganize existing rapid reaction regiments as part of different brigades and divisions. These units will be armed with newly produced wheeled tanks. To date, the Self-Defense Forces have managed to receive less than half of the planned number of “Type 16”, which may indicate the future rearmament of a number of units.
Tank instead of tank
The main goal of the current processes is to change the structure of the Ground Self-Defense Forces in accordance with modern requirements and replace their outdated equipment. With the help of promising MCV wheeled tanks, it is proposed to replace both the old Type 74 MBT and the newer Type 90, which do not fully suit the command.
Currently, 200 old Type 74 tanks, 341 later Type 90 tanks and 76 modern Type 10 tanks are serving in Japanese tank units. The total number of the park is 617 units. Taking into account the recently delivered wheeled armored vehicles – over 700 units. By 2025-26 the command plans to reduce the number of main tanks in favor of modern wheeled armored vehicles. It was reported about the intention to reduce their number to 300 units.
Serial vehicle “Type 16” in the army, 2017
According to various estimates, the planned modernization of armored units provides for a complete rejection of the obsolete Type 74 MBT. Also, a significant number of Type 90s will be withdrawn (or written off) into the reserve, although most of them will continue to serve.
Thus, since the middle of this decade, the basis of armored units, incl. rapid response units will be the main tanks “Type 90” (about 200 units) and a similar number of wheeled “Type 16”. Modern MBT “Type 10” can not yet lay claim to numerical superiority. Nevertheless, they remain in the series, and in the future they can supplant older predecessors.
It is curious that replacing the outdated Type 74 MBT with a modern Type 16 wheeled vehicle is unlikely to have negative consequences in the context of combat capabilities. While losing defensively, the Type 16 has similar or better firepower. In addition, the wheeled tank is distinguished by modern equipment for various purposes, which simplifies the conduct of combat and increases its effectiveness.
However, the main advantages of the “Type 16” are related precisely to the weight and the wheeled chassis. Such a technique is able to quickly get to the specified area on its own along the highways. The limited weight allows it to be transported by aircraft of various types, incl. the newest transporter Kawasaki C-2. In terms of tactical and strategic mobility, the MCV is superior to “traditional” tanks. “
All current work on the construction of new armored vehicles and rearmament of units is directly related to the program for creating rapid reaction formations. Such regiments and battalions require armored combat vehicles with sufficient firepower and high mobility. Old MBTs do not correspond to such a concept, which is why it is proposed to abandon them.
It is proposed to keep the rapid response regiments on constant alert and, if necessary, move to the desired area. With their help, it is planned to quickly and efficiently organize or strengthen defense in the necessary directions in Japan, incl. on numerous small islands. In addition, they can find application in foreign peacekeeping operations.
Thus, the Self-Defense Forces developed a new concept for the development of the ground forces and promising equipment for its requirements, and then proceeded to implement the plans and have already received quite real results. The current processes will end in the middle of the decade, and as a result, the Ground Self-Defense Forces will receive a modern and effective tool for solving existing problems in the characteristic conditions of an island state.