The Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced it is to start procuring two new types of small arms for the infantry units of the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGSDF) in FY2023.

The MoD has selected the FN Herstal Minimi Mk3 squad support weapon, as the Minimi (B), to fill the shortfall in procurement of the 5.56 mm Minimi Mk1 currently produced under licence by Sumitomo Heavy Industries (SHI) and will procure 514 such weapons for JPY 920 M over the next financial year. Additionally, anti-heat bags for spare barrels (to allow the weapon crew to reposition while carrying hot barrels), and dustproof carrier bags (which were not adopted for the Mk1), will be included in the purchase.

Apart from the Minimi Mk3, other candidates for this requirement were the MG4 from Heckler & Koch (H&K) and a new machine gun from SHI, but the latter option disappeared when the company decided to withdraw from machine gun production. An advantage in selecting the Mk3, industry sources noted, is that it shares the same barrel as the Minimi Mk1. With SHI withdrawing from machine gun production, the Minimi Mk3 is being procured directly from FN in Belgium.

The JGSDF is importing the 5.56 mm Minimi Mk3 directly from Belgium to make up for shortfall in procurement of locally produced Minimi Mk1s. (Photo: FN Herstal)

Japan’s Ground Staff Office has announced it will procure 3,100 Minimi Mk3s, at a unit cost of approximately JPY 1.9 M (USD 14,316) each, and a life-cycle cost of approximately JPY 14.9 Bn (USD 112.2 M). This means the Ground Staff Office considers the Mk3 to be a complete replacement for the JGSDF’s Mk1s.

The Ground Staff Office will also procure 182 G28E2 7.62 mm semi-automatic rifles from Germany’s Heckler & Koch (H&K) to replace the JGSDF’s current sniper rifle, the Remington M24A2 bolt-action rifle, at a cost of JPY 1.13 Bn in FY2023. The system includes optical sights, bipods and vertical grips.

The new sniper rifle is being adopted “because the Ground Staff Office’s procurement plan was not thoughtful and the M24A2 stock ran out. That is why the procurement was hastily decided,” a source within the JGSDF sniper community explained. The Ground Staff Office has a total requirement for 900 G28E2s, to be procured at a unit cost of JPY 7 Bn (USD 52,744) each, and a life cycle cost of around JPY 9.3 Bn (USD 70 M).

Meanwhile, 8,577 Type 20 rifles, adopted in 2020 as the successor to the 5.56 mm Type 89 rifle, will be procured at a cost of JPY 3.3 Bn (USD 24.9 M) in FY2023. In addition, Beretta’s GLX160 under-barrel 40 mm grenade launcher was selected for the Type 20, although this procurement has been delayed due to the priority given to acquiring the Type 20 rifle and is expected to be requested in the FY2024 budget.

Currently, the JGSDF is not equipped with an infantry-portable 40 mm grenade launcher and instead uses the Type 06 rifle grenade, which was adopted in 2006.

Shinichi Kiyotani