Ground Warfare

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Decommissions Type 74 Main Battle Tanks

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Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Decommissions Type 74 Main Battle Tanks

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Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Decommissions Type 74 Main Battle Tanks
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Decommissions Type 74 Main Battle Tanks

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) has officially decommissioned its fleet of Type 74 main battle tanks (MBTs). This decision marks the end of an era for a vehicle that has been a stalwart of Japan’s armored forces for over four decades. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has not only retired the Type 74 tanks but has also disbanded the units that operated them. This includes the JGSDF 9th Tank Battalion in Iwate, the 10th Tank Battalion in Imazu, and the 13th Tank Troop. The reorganization, completed by the end of the Japanese financial year 2023, resulted in the disposal of approximately 90 Type 74 tanks. With the decommissioning of the remaining Type 74 units in March 2024, the personnel from these units are being reassigned primarily to combat reconnaissance battalions.

Developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the Type 74 was designed to address the evolving needs of the JGSDF and to supplement the earlier Type 61. Inspired by the best features of contemporary Western designs such as the US M60 Patton and the German Leopard 1, the Type 74 featured a rifled 105 mm M68 gun and entered service in 1980. However, by this time, many Western nations had already moved on to more advanced designs. The Type 74 was eventually succeeded by the heavier and more capable Type 90, and more recently, the cutting-edge Type 10 tank. Despite these advancements, the Type 74 remained a key component of Japan’s armored forces, known for its balance of firepower, mobility, and armor.

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Type 74 Main Battle Tank
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Type 74 Main Battle Tank. (Photo by Japan Ministry of Defense)

The Type 74’s main armament, the M68 105mm cannon, was licensed from NATO but featured several indigenous modifications including the gun mantlet, breech, and recoil system. This cannon, with a length of 5,592 mm and a weight of 2,800 kg, was originally equipped to fire APDS (Armour-Piercing Discarding Sabot) and HEP (High Explosive Plastic) rounds. Later modifications allowed it to utilize more advanced munitions such as APFSDS (Armour-Piercing Fin-Stabilized Discarding Sabot) and HEAT-MP (High-Explosive Anti-Tank Multi-Purpose) shells. Secondary armament included a 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun with 660 rounds and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun with 4,500 rounds, providing robust defensive capabilities.

Powered by the Mitsubishi 10ZF Model 21 10-cylinder two-stroke cycle diesel engine, the Type 74 offered 750 hp, delivering a power-to-weight ratio of 19 hp/tonne. This allowed the tank to achieve road speeds of up to 53 km/h, with some reports indicating speeds of at least 60 km/h. In terms of protection, the Type 74 utilized welded steel plates with sloped armor to enhance its defensive capabilities against kinetic energy penetrators. The frontal hull armor was up to 189 mm thick on the upper glacis and 139 mm on the lower glacis, while side and rear armor measured 35 mm and 25 mm respectively. The cast steel turret featured an estimated armor thickness of 195 mm, making it comparable to other second-generation main battle tanks.

Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Type 74 Main Battle Tank
Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Type 74 Main Battle Tank. (Photo by Japan Ministry of Defense)

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