Japanese ground forces get new small arms

The new 5.56mm Howa5.56 assault rifle.

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) has unveiled its new service-issue assault rifle and automatic pistol during a recorded event held at the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in Tokyo on 18 May.

Howa5.56 assault rifle

The new 5.56mm Howa5.56 assault rifle has been designated Type 20, denoting its entry into service in the year 2020, and is being manufactured by the Kiyosu-based Howa Machinery. The company also manufactures the in-service 7.62mm Type 64 and and 5.56mm Type 89 assault rifles, which were respectively introduced in 1964 and 1989.

The Howa5.56 was selected in December 2019 over the German-made Heckler & Koch HK416 and Belgian FN Herstal SCAR-L assault rifles.

The JGSDF has also selected the Heckler & Koch SFP9 9mm automatic pistol over two other candidates: the Italian Beretta APX and the Austrian Glock 17 pistols.

The service had earlier requested around $9 million for fiscal year 2020 to purchase 3,283 new rifles. It also requested around $279,000 for 323 new pistols.

The JGSDF said the Howa5.56 is more robust and has been specifically designed to operate more reliably in austere environments. The rifle also features an adjustable stock and cheek rest for improved ergonomics, as well as accessory rails to accommodate additional equipment such as rifle scopes and fore-grips. In contrast, the Type 89 has a fixed buttstock and iron sights.

SFP-9 automatic pistol

The new SFP-9 automatic pistol also offers an adjustable grip, a feature absent on the in-service Minebea P9 9mm pistol introduced in fiscal year (FY) 1982.

The JGSDF plans to introduce the Type 20 rifle in FY 2021 and will initially distribute the weapon to the Ground Component Command (GCC), including the newly formed Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigades (ARDB) and the Rapid Deployment Regiments.

The new personal weapons come as the JGSDF steps up its island defence operations amid China’s growing assertiveness near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. It recently deployed anti-air and anti-ship missile batteries as well as around 340 troops to Miyakojima Island in the southern Okinawa Prefecture.

by Jr Ng