On May 18, 2020, the Japan’s Ministry of Defense (Bōei-shō) publicly unveiled the newest Howa Type 20 assault rifle, designed to replace the 5.56x45mm Howa Type 89 that was adopted 30 years ago. Howa Machinery Ltd. in Aichi Prefecture, which made the Type 89 one generation ago, also manufactures the Type 20. One rifle costs about USD 2,606 (280,000 yen). The Japan’s Defense Ministry will spend about 900 million yen to purchase about 3,000 of the weapons in the fiscal year 2020. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force currently has around 150,000 active personnel, so the rifle requirement will be substantial.
The design of the Type 20 has been compared to the FN SCAR, CZ 805 BREN and Heckler & Koch HK433; with some observers believing the rifle possesses similar dimensions and functionality to the SCAR. The Howa Type 20 was designed to be more resistant to water and corrosion, improving its use in amphibious operations on the remote island chain, which stretches about 1,200 kilometers from the Osumi islands in Kagoshima Prefecture to Yonagunijima island in Okinawa Prefecture. It was also announced that the Type 20 will first be issued to soldiers in the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade on the Nansei Islands, reportedly in response to increased naval actions by China in the island chain.
One key difference it has over the Type 89 is the addition of multiple rails; making it the first Japanese rifle to have this feature as a standard design. The magazine is also believed to be STANAG compatible. The rifle features a telescoping stock, an ambidextrous safety selector, and appears to operate via short-stroke piston. The barrel length has been shortened slightly and the hand guard has been redesigned to feature an M-LOK rail design. The side rails have been extended, fold-able iron sights were added and the stock features a shoulder pad similarly seen on the HK416. A full range of accessories can be mounted on the top receiver as Red dot sight or scopes. According to a Ministry of Defense press conference, the rifle can be used with the Beretta GLX-160 grenade launcher.