Howa 5.56 – the assault rifle of the Japanese army shrouded in mystery

This post was published in Tehnowar. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


PANAGYURISHTE, (BM)“Will there be any sequel to the Howa Type 89 rifle?” Here is a question that quite unexpectedly surfaced after the publication on “VO” of the article “Howa Type 89. Own” alien “rifle”.

Indeed, the rifle has been in service for quite a long time and, if not physically, then morally, it is certainly outdated. And since it is outdated, then it must be replaced. And for what? But, fortunately, in one of the comments there was information that “This year’s budget allocated about $ 9,000,000 for the purchase of 3283 HOWA 5.56 rifles.”

It’s just a pity that there is practically no information about this rifle. It is only known that she won the competition against SCAR-L FN HERSTAL and HK416. And then, of course, this rifle was developed for the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces by Howa and that it is the successor to the Howa Type 89 rifle.

Nevertheless, information about this new and rather curious sample was still found. In particular, as it turned out, back in August 2014, it was reported that the JGSDF (Japanese Self-Defense Forces) were looking for a new rifle to replace the old Type 89. The initial candidates for replacement were the Heckler & Koch G36, Heckler & Koch HK416, Steyr AUG, FN SCAR rifles and a new rifle developed by Howa itself.

In 2015, the Japanese Ministry of Defense purchased various foreign-made rifles for testing and contracted Howa to test its rifle as a comparison. All test samples were indexed by letter. “Type S”, 516 and 716 “are SIG516 and SIG716,” Type G, V “are G36V,” Type HK “is, of course, HK416 or HK417, and” Type SC, H and L “are rifles SCAR -H and SCAR-L.

At the same time, Howa applied for a patent on the design of its rifle on May 15, 2015. In addition, its design was patented under the Japan Design Law (Section 14), which allows the design to be kept secret for up to three years.

The characteristic design features of the rifle were also later patented under the same law on September 25, 2015. So the design of the assemblies, and even the very appearance of the new model of the Howa rifle today are subject to strict patent law, and it will be valid for three years!

This means that all this time it will be very problematic to get her photographs, unless someone will be able to make them … not quite, let’s say, legally and will post it on the Internet at his own peril and risk.

How these tests ended was not reported. But it was reported that in 2018, the Japanese Ministry of Defense purchased another batch of small arms for further testing. Something, apparently, was not immediately clear, additional tests were needed, including directly in the armed forces.

As a result, the military took away the HOWA 5.56, HK416 and SCAR-L rifles. And after that, on December 6, 2019, it was reported that the HOWA 5.56 was selected among two other rifles as a new rifle for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. A subsequent report indicated that in 2018 it was measured against two important sets of dimensions.

According to the first, the main focus was on identifying its weapon characteristics on land, including such important indicators as effective range and accuracy. The second assessment compared the performance, logistics and cost of the weapon with two other rifles. Since all three rifles met the requirements of the Self-Defense Forces, the main question became, as is the case with weapons very, very often, the question of money, that is, the cost of weapons on the scale of their mass production.

And HOWA 5.56 was chosen precisely because it received the highest score for this indicator. The unit price for mass production was determined to be 280,000 yen, including maintenance and operating costs. Well, the estimated life cycle cost in the event that 150,000 rifles are ordered will be 43.9 billion yen! Well, she also has her own creators. These are Nwa engineers Kazuhiro Kuroda and Koji Iwata.

The first batch of rifles (3283 units) was purchased for 900 million yen based on the 2020 defense budget.

Japanese experts claim that the Howa 5.56 has better durability, firepower and manufacturability compared to the 89 type. Also, the HOWA 5.56 has Picatinny rails compared to the 89 type. Moreover, this is the first Japanese rifle, which received them as a standard structural element.

The stores are also considered compatible with M16 stores. And this makes sense, since Japanese soldiers, for example, have already participated with American soldiers on a military mission in Iraq. The rifle is equipped with a dual mode selector and appears to have a short stroke automatic.

The modern design of the HOWA 5.56 practically does not differ from the design of other modern automatic rifles and has only a few notable changes. So, the length of the barrel was slightly reduced, and its protective casing was changed in such a way as to extend the Picatinny rail as far forward as possible. In addition, there is more than one such bar on it. There are four of them: one on top, one on the bottom and two on the sides.

The rifle was also equipped with folding iron sights, and a shoulder pad was installed on the butt, similar to that of the HK416. As for the tactical characteristics, the new rifle refused to fire with a cutoff of three shots, considering such a regime to be irrational. So now it has only two fire modes: single shots and automatic fire.

Since Japan has experience in acquiring and using a number of foreign rifles, it is believed that the design of the HOWA 5.56 was compared with the FN SCAR, CZ 805 BREN and Heckler & Koch HK433 rifles, with some experts suggesting that the rifle has the same dimensions and functionality as and a SCAR rifle. And, of course, we must not forget about manufacturability: here the experience gained by Howa in the development and production of the Type 89 is more than enough.

The new rifle will most likely be designated as “Type 19” or 20, although there is no confirmation of this, and besides, it may well be considered an updated version of the old “Type 89” rifle.


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