MELBOURNE, Australia — Japan is conducting trials of locally built wheeled armored vehicles in hopes of developing a family of vehicles using a common platform.
The Defense Ministry confirmed to Defense News that some photos and videos of the vehicles published on social media last week were prototypes developed under its Common Tactical Wheeled Vehicle program.
The ministry also confirmed the vehicles are based on the chassis of the eight-wheel drive Type 16 Maneuver Combat Vehicle built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The platforms include an infantry combat vehicle, a reconnaissance combat vehicle and a motorized mortar vehicle.
The online media seen by Defense News showed two vehicles accompanied by Japan Ground Self-Defense Force trucks traveling on public roads in the northern part of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s three main islands.
One of these featured a mounted turret with an cannon, believed to be the Bushmaster 30mm automatic weapon based on the weapon’s fluted barrel and muzzle brake. Another vehicle had a flat roof over its rear compartment.
Based on schematics previously released by the Defense Ministry, one of the vehicles seen in Kyushu appears to be the infantry combat vehicle variant, while the second is likely the mortar carrier.
The ministry had awarded Mitsubishi a $16.2 million contract in May 2020 to produce prototypes of each variant, with delivery planned for March 2022.
In previously released specifications, the infantry combat vehicle was to be capable of carrying eight dismounted infantrymen along with three crew, while it was reported the mortar variant was to feature a 120mm weapon.
Mitsubishi is also competing against Finland’s Patria AMV XP for a separate program to replace Japan’s Type 96 wheeled armored personnel carrier. The Japanese company is proposing its Mitsubishi Armored Vehicle, which is also based on the Type 16 chassis. Those competitors’ respective vehicles are currently undergoing evaluation in Japan.
A common chassis across various vehicles would enable Japan to achieve better economies of scale and simplify logistics. Japan has regularly faced issues with the high cost of domestically developed defense equipment due to its bespoke requirements and small production runs.
The Type 16 Maneuver Combat Vehicle is currently in service with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force as a rapid deployment asset, acting in the role of a tank destroyer with its 105mm main gun.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.