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On 8 December 2022, the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) selected Finnish company Patria’s AMV as the replacement for Self-Defence Force’s (JGSDF) Type 96 8×8 armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs). However, the path which had led to this point was not the most straightforward.

The Type 96 successor programme was initially named the ‘Improved Wheeled Armoured Personnel Carrier’ with successors proposed by Komatsu and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI). Komatsu proposed a vehicle developed based on their 8×8 ‘NBC Reconnaissance Vehicle’, while MHI proposed a ‘Mobile Armoured Vehicle’ (MAV) based on their 8×8 Type 16 Mobile Combat Vehicle, with prototypes being developed between Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 and FY 2016, and various technical and practical demonstrations conducted between FY 2016 and FY 2018.

Following initial testing, the Komatsu proposal was adopted. However, in June 2018, it was announced that the development would be discontinued due to problems with the performance of the armour and other issues uncovered in subsequent tests.

The MoD therefore went back to selecting a replacement for the Type 96, as the new ‘next generation armoured vehicle’ in FY2022. The bids comprised MHI offering the MAV, NTK International and Patria offering the AMV, and Sojitz Aerospace and General Dynamics Land Systems Canada (GDLS-C) offering the LAV 6.0.

The LAV 6.0 (Photo: MoD Japan)

The MAV had already been selected under a separate eight-wheeled armoured vehicle procurement programme named, the ‘Common Tactical Wheeled Vehicle’ (CTWV) and was selected for testing. However, the LAV 6.0 offer was dropped because the test vehicle could not be delivered in time for the end of FY2022.

This led to a one-on-one battle between the MAV and the AMV, with the AMV ranked superior in the basic performance required by the MoD, both vehicles equal in terms of logistics support and production infrastructure, and the AMV superior in terms of cost. Consequently, the AMV was selected as the next Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) for armoured personnel carriers.

Despite being selected for Japan’s CTWV programme, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ MAV did not make the final cut to replace the Type 96. (Credit: Japanese MoD)

However, the AMV is to be produced under licence in Japan, which is currently being coordinated by Patria, and the Japanese company in charge of production has yet to be decided.

At an 8 December 2022 briefing on this matter, in response to ESD’s questions, the MoD explained that if a licence production company is not decided, or if the conditions are not met, such as an increase in the unit procurement cost, there is the possibility that the contract may be cancelled. However, the MoD has already requested JPY 23.2 Bn for 29 AMV in the 2023 budget, with deliveries of this first tranche slated for completion in 2026.

Japan plans to procure a family of vehicles based on the AMV, which is set to include armoured personnel carrier (APC), command and control (C2), ambulance, logistics support, and engineer variants. However, at present the Japanese MoD has not revealed the final details of the number of vehicles to be procured or the total value.

The Patria AMV was selected as the eventual winner of Japan’s Type 96 replacement programme. (Credit: Japanese MoD)

As mentioned above, the MAV has been adopted by the CTWV programme, and development is underway for an infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) with a Mk44 Bushmaster II 30 mm automatic cannon and Mk52 Bushmaster 7.62 mm machine gun mounted in an unmanned turret, as well as a reconnaissance variant with the same weaponry albeit using a manned turret provided with a sensor mast, and a mortar carrier variant armed with Thales’s 120 mm Rifled Recoiled Mounted Mortar (2R2M).

The CTWV programme has faced some challenges. So far each variant has seen system integration failures and consequently development has been delayed. As such, the ultimate future of both the CTWV programme and Type 96 replacement programme is still not fully secure, and care will be required to ensure their success.

Shinichi Kiyotani