Cold War Japanese Armour
About 5,000 armoured vehicles 1947-90.
From the ashes to the soviet threat
Japan emerged from world war two as from a cataclysm, in a devastated and occupied country. Mac Arthur’s decision to keep Emperor HiroHito in place helped the country keep a link to its past, culture, and honour, while at the same the International Military Tribunal for the Far East judged war the criminals that does not committed Seppuku after the surrender. Prime minister Shigeru Yoshida accepted military bases on Japanese soil, now a strategic asset, facing USSR, while retaining a neutral position on foreign affairs, and with a primary objective of economic growth.
It was argued that the success of radical changes in Japan were helped by the desperate situation at home, a situation that reflected the German rebirth, under new democratic principles. In 1947, a de facto alliance with USA saw a new constitution signed on May 3, 1947, a diet with universal suffrage elected members was established, and a the Treaty of Peace with Japan was signed internationally in September 1951, ratified by the congress next year, and by the Japanese diet in 1953. Full sovereignty was recognised on April 28, 1952. Left and right wing political parties were formed in 1955, but the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) remain in majority during the 1950s and 1960s, placing economic growth as the number one priority. Until the 1980s, Japan will enjoy a post-war economic miracle.
Foundation of the JSDF
Rearming Japan, like Germany, was a logical step in the communism containment doctrine defined in USA. In the context of the Korean war, Japan became the number one supplier of US and allied forces in the area, while retaining a neutral position. But rearming, although encouraged by the USA was not an easy step to take. General public opinion sentiments were strongly oriented towards pacifism, while the constitution of 1947 itself stated (art.9) that Japan “forever renounces war as an instrument for settling international disputes and declares that Japan will never again maintain land, sea, or air forces or other war potential”.
Along the peace treaty, the Mutual Security Assistance Pact between Japan and the U.S. ratified in 1952, the latter was responsible for the defence of the archipelago, in land, sea and air. That allow Japan to maintain only a National Police Reserve (expanded to 110,000 men), the National Safety Forces, and a coast guard force equipped with ex-US navy ships, destroyers and destroyer escorts.
US supplies with Japan however decreased after the Korean war, and at the same time the soviet threat concerns pushed the new government to extend the defensive forced in 1954 split between the three traditional arms, land, air and sea. in 1960, revision of the Japan-United States Mutual Security Assistance Pact was contested and US military presence decreased to the only occupation on Okinawa, which ended in 1972 at the end of the Vietnam war.
The JSDGF military destricts.
The Japanese Self Defence Ground Forces (陸上自衛隊; Rikujō Jieitai) was founded in july 1954. Its main original goal were to maintain internal security in Japan and counter a possible Soviet invasion of Hokkaido. JSDGF General Headquarters are based in Ichigaya, Tokyo. It is a small, but professional, well trained and well-equipped army of 148 000 men (now 170 000). NCOs came from four universities and were formed at the National Defence Academy at Yokosuka and a youth cadet program is instituted. Due to the nature of the landscape and urban density, training grounds are few in numbers, but counted in command post exercises, map manoeuvres, simulation, and overseas training at the Yakima Training Center in the United States.
The JSDGF was until now divided into five military regions subdivided into fourteen districts, the Northern Army, headquartered in Sapporo, Hokkaido, the North Eastern Army, headquartered in Sendai, Miyagi, the Eastern Army, headquartered in Nerima, Tokyo, the Central Army, headquartered in Itami, Hyōgo, and the Western Army, headquartered at Kumamoto, Kumamoto. Reserves are divided into the rapid-reaction component and the main reserve. The first has a 30-days yearly training, while the second had five days of training a year. As of 2007 these counted respectively 8,425 and 22,404 men.
Japanese M41A3 Walker Bulldog. 141 were operated in the 1960s, up to the 1990s.
Mitsubishi Type 62. The M47 Patton was evaluated. M24 Chaffee and M41 Walker Bulldog were also in service in Japan. The Type 62 was the first Japanese tank built postwar, a proper design which took various influences and was armed with the same 90 mm gun developed for the M26/46/47s. Production stopped in 1975 (560 machines) and all were decommissioned in 2000 after 39 years of service. Type 67 AVLB and Type 70 ARV are still in service in some military schools for instruction.
Mitsubishi Type 74 Nana-Yon, designed to answer the soviet T-54/55 and T-62. A proper Japanese design, with bits of inspiration in the US M608 Patton and German Leopard I, it was produced 891 machines (280 in active service today, vs 700 in 2006) and used extensively thanks to modernization campaigns.
The last generation of Japanese coldwar tanks, and today’s MBT of the JSDGF. The Kyū-maru was defined to defeat the T-72 back in 1975 and first tests with the TK-X MBT began in 1976/1977. Development continued with two series of new prototypes in 1982-84 and 86-88, before the acceptance in service in 1990. This tank was produced to 341 units until 2009, but modernization was curtailed to not hamper the Type 10 development.
The Type 60 APC, developed in the 1950s and produced in the 1960s by Mitsubishi and Komatsu until 1972 (428 vehicles) taking some inspiration from the M59 and M75 APCs, it was fast and well-armoured. Now all are discarded, replaced by the Type 73.
The Type 73 is today’s the main Japanese tracked APC. Developed as a replacement for the Type 60 it had an aluminium hull and a mid-engined layout. Production stopped after the 338th vehicle in 2012, with a possible extra production if needed.
Komatsu’s Type 82 wheeled Command & Communication vehicle (1982), production stopped recently, after 231 vehicles.
Type 87 SPAAG. This 1987 vehicle was developed on the Type 74 chassis (the development started in 1982), using components similar to the German Flakpanzer Gepard (52 built) with a twin 2 × 35 mm KDA autocannon.
155 mm self-propelled howitzer M110A2, built under licence in the 1960s by Japan Steel Works and Komatsu (91 in service).
IHI Aerospace licence-built version of the M270 self-propelled multiple rocket launcher (99 built).
Hitachi’s tracked ammunition supplier.
Latest Cold War tanks
- Churchill Toad, FV3902 Flail Tank
- AMX 10 RC & RCR
- AMX-13 DCA
- M56 Scorpion SPAT
- Leopard I
- AVGP Grizzly
- Type 87 Wheeled AFV
Cold War Tanks