Here's What You Need to Remember: Given that it took fourteen years to develop, it is not surprising that the Type 74 was essentially obsolete by the time it entered service. Some 893 of the tanks were produced, and while it was due to be replaced by the more modern Type 90, with the end of the Cold War the 700 Type 74s remained in service until at least 2006.
As an island nation that hasn’t taken part in a major conflict since the Second World War, Japan developed a rather impressive main battle tank (MBT) with its Type 10. This is also notable as Japan produced what can only be described as exceptionally poor tanks during World War II.
During the Cold War the Japanese military developed new tanks, which were a serious step in the right direction from the underwhelming Type 97 “Chi-Ha” medium tanks, but still fell short of anything the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) might have faced in an invasion from the Soviet Union.
Among those was the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries produced Type 74, which was developed as supplement to the earlier Type 61. It features innovations from other tanks of the era including the American M60 and German Leopard 1, but the biggest problem was that while it was developed in the 1960s by the time it entered widespread use in the 1980s it was clearly a generation behind.
Development of the tank was slowed because the designers sought to introduce innovations that proved to be too complex. One of those was an autoloader, which proved to be unreliable for use in combat. A remote-controlled anti-aircraft gun was also designed, but eliminated by the time the Type 74 entered production. The turret shape, which was similar to the French AMX-30 turret, was also refined to accommodate the extra loader—a fact that further delayed the production.
The Type 74 tank’s main armament was the NATO standard British Royal Ordnance L7 105mm cannon, with the barrel produced under license while the mantlet, breech and recoil system were developed at Mitsubishi. The gun initially could only handle armor-piercing discarding sabot (APDS) and high explosive plastic (HEP) rounds, but it was later modified to fire armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) and high-explosive anti-tank multi-purpose (HEAT-EMP) rounds. A total of fifty rounds could be carried for the main run, with fourteen stored in the turret bustle and ready for use. Secondary armament consisted of a 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun along with a 7.62 co-axial machine gun.
The Type 74 was powered by Mitsubishi 10ZF Model 22 air-cooled turbocharged diesel engine, developing 750 hp. This provided a top speed of just over 60 km/h, and the tank could be equipped with a snorkel to ford rivers to a depth of three to four meters.
Given that it took fourteen years to develop, it is not surprising that the Type 74 was essentially obsolete by the time it entered service. Some 893 of the tanks were produced, and while it was due to be replaced by the more modern Type 90, with the end of the Cold War the 700 Type 74s remained in service until at least 2006.
More recently the JGSDF has shifted gears and while the Type 90 and the newer Type 11 tanks remain in service, the country has focused more energy on its Type 16 Mobile Combat Systems (MCS), a more affordable anti-tank platform. Perhaps such a move should have been made while the Type 74 was in development.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. This article first appeared last year and is being republished due to reader interest.