MELBOURNE, Australia – Japan shortlisted three potential suppliers for a new wheeled armored vehicle, pressing forward with a program that had been held up following the decision by the previous contractor to exit the armored vehicle business.

The Ministry of Defense’s Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics Agency, or ATLA, said in an announcement posted on its website on Sept. 10 that the General Dynamics Land Systems LAV 6.0, the AMV by Finland’s Patria and an entrant from Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, or MHI, will be evaluated to be the potential replacement for the Type 96 8x8 armored personnel carrier or APC.

This follows the announcement by ATLA in July 2018 that development of the Wheeled Armoured Vehicle (Improved) by Japanese company Komatsu had been discontinued over what ATLA said was issues with the quality of the armor.

Komatsu subsequently announced in February that it would end its involvement in the development and manufacturing of armored vehicles entirely, save for the continued production of nuclear, biological and chemical reconnaissance vehicles already on contract.

The company cited slim profit margins for the sector as the reason for its decision, although it had also been encountering difficulties developing a new light armored vehicle for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force or JGSDF, with costs and the use of foreign components reportedly being some of the sticking points.

“Our LAV 6.0 is a tried, tested and trusted vehicle that has been extensively used on operations and fielded in multiple configurations to meet the user’s specific mission-role requirements," said Kevin Connell, General Dynamics Land Systems vice president and general manager for Australia and Indo-Pacific. "We appreciate this opportunity to demonstrate its capabilities to our friends in Japan.”

It is unclear what MHI would be offering for this program. The company is already supplying the JGSDF with the Type 16 maneuver combat vehicle, an 8x8 wheeled armored vehicle equipped with a 105m main gun used in the tank destroyer role. A development using the Type 16 chassis and components would appear to be the most logical choice.

MHI had also previously displayed a scale model of an 8x8 APC at defense shows, although there have so far been no takers both domestically or internationally.

The JGSDF currently has over 360 Type 96s APCs in its inventory. The vehicle is also built by Komatsu, and the oldest vehicles entered service with Japan in 1996.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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