Three contenders for replacement of Japanese Type 96 APC

On September 10, the Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) under the Japanese Ministry of Defense announced that it had selected the three final contenders in a competition to replace the country’s aging fleet of Type 96 8×8 wheeled armored personnel carriers.

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Japanese Type 96, the ageing APC to be replaced (Picture source: Army Recognition)

According to the statement, the Japanese government will now move forward over the course of the coming year to assess the feasibility of acquiring the Armored Modular Vehicle XP (AMVXP) provided by Finnish defense contractor Patria, the Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) 6.0 from General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS,) or an unspecified 8×8 APC model designed and manufactured locally by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The admission of foreign contenders beside a local one is a novelty that fits in the more and more openness to new external roles the Japanese forces might play, no longer restricted to defending the national territory, a forward stipulated in the 1947 Constitution.

In the 2010s, the Ministry of Defense decided the Type 96 needed to be replaced, and it subsequently launched the Wheeled Armored Vehicle (Improved) program in 2014. In January 2017, the first prototype of the Wheeled Armored Vehicle (Improved) was unveiled to the public. Let’s pass over the difficult story of the programme development cost, leading to its collapse and now to its re-launch.

Each of the three vehicles now shortlisted by the MoD aim at fulfilling urgent strategic requirements within budgetary constraints… and remaining institutional preference for locally manufactured products. Let’s notice that ARTEC’s Boxer is not included in the final selection process.

It remains uncertain as to what procurement model the Japanese MoD would choose to pursue in the event that the competition selects an option other than that on offer by MHI, with options ranging from wholesale importation to licensed-production arrangements, or some combination of both options, defense analyst Thomas Dolzall wrote.

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Patria AMVPX (Picture source: Army Recognition)

In Patria’s statement regarding the AMVXP’s selection for the competition, the company emphasized its willingness to establish a local production line and technology-transfer arrangement in the event of its vehicle’s selection, a strategy already demonstrated throughout several sales to foreign countries. GDLS’s LAV series and its many variants have likewise attained a strong market position over the past 15 years. Relatively less is known regarding the option put on offer by MHI for the competition. It is likely a more mature version of the 8×8 APC that the company revealed at Eurosatory 2014 defense exhibition. MHI also produces the GSDF’s 8×8 Type 16 wheeled tank destroyer, and the APC design is apparently derived from this basis.

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Mitsubishi Type 16 (Picture source: Mitsubishi)