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The Japanese Ministry of Defence (MoD) has unveiled a new type of 5.56 mm ammunition known as J3 High-Power Ammunition, it emerged at DSEI Japan, held in Toko from 15 to 17 March 2023.

The ammunition is suitable for Japan’s new Type 20 rifle, which will replace the Type 89 rifle in Japan Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF) service.

The Type 89 rifle uses Type 89 5.56 mm ball ammunition (5.56×45 mm), but the barrel length of the Type 20 is 330 mm: 90 mm shorter than the Type 89’s 420 mm barrel. For this reason, if the Type 89 5.56 mm ball ammunition is used in the Type 20, its muzzle velocity and thus its penetration performance is lowered.

Japan’s new Type 20 rifle, which will replace the Type 89 rifle in JGSDF service, will fire new 5.56 mm J3 High-Power Ammunition. (Photo: S Kiyotani)

J3 High-Power Ammunition uses the same cartridge and gunpowder as that fired by the Type 89, but the new bullet swaps the Type 89 ammunition’s two-piece steel and iron core to a single-piece steel core to prevent deformation of the bullet during impact and to increase penetration performance. The bullet is also lead free.

Tests will be conducted to ensure compatibility with the JGSDF’s 5.56 mm Minimi Mk1 and newly introduced Minimi Mk3 machine guns.

Meanwhile, accessories for the Type 20 rifle were also unveiled at DSEI Japan. The rifle’s dot sight is the Aim Point compM5, while the ×8 scopes are supplied by Howa Machinery but developed and manufactured by Deon Optical Design as the original equipment manufacturer. The Type 20’s tactical lights are Surefire’s M300 series, while Steiner’s OTAL-C Tactical Aiming Laser has also been adopted.

The Type 20’s 40 mm grenade launcher is a Beretta GLX160, which has been modified by Howa to fit the Type 20.

These accessories are supplied according to a unit’s given mission.

Shinichi Kiyotani