Type 61 Main Battle Tank (Japan)

When the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force was formed in 1950, one of it's first requirements was for tanks. To meet its immediate needs, the USA supplied Japan with numbers of Sherman and M24 Chaffee tanks. A few American M 47 tanks were supplied for trials but, as was soon found out, they had one principal drawback. There are not designed with the small stature of the Japanese in mind. Additionally, their bulk and weight make them unsuitable for transportation across many parts of Japan. In 1954, design work on the first Japanese post-war tank began under the direction of the Ground Armaments Directorate, at the Technical Research and Development Headquarters of the Japanese Self-Defence Force. The first four prototypes were completed in 1957 and comprised two model ST-A1s and two model ST-A2s. These four prototypes were then followed by two ST-A3 and ten ST-A4 tanks, which were actually almost identical to the final production tank. The tank was designated the Type 61 Main Battle Tank and the first production vehicles were completed in 1962 at the Maruko works of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Initial production was very low with 10 tanks being produced in 1962, another 10 in 1963, 20 in 1964, 30 in 1965 and another 30 in 1966. By late 1970, 250 tanks had been completed and it is believed that total production has amounted to some 560 units. The tank is still in service with the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force but is being phased out of service and replaced by the Type 74 Main Battle Tank, which is also manufactured by Mitsubishi.

The hull of the Type 61 is of all-welded steel construction. The driver is seated at the front of the hull on the right hand side and is provided with a single piece hatch that has three periscopes mounted forward of it. The turret is made of cast steel with an overhanging bustle similar to that of the US M47 medium tank and has a light sheet steel stowage box at the very rear. The turret is of conventional layout with the commander and gunner seated on the right hand side and the loader on the left. The commander has a domed-shaped cupola that can be rotated through 360 degrees and has a single piece hatch and four vision blocs. The commander is also provided with a periscope sight that has a magnification of x 7 mounted in the forward part of the cupola roof. The gunner is seated forward of the commander and has a telescopic sight with a magnification of x 6 and a periscope with a magnification of x 4. The loader is seated on the left-hand side of the turret and has a single piece hatch and has a single periscope mounted in the turret roof. The engine is a Mitsubishi Type 12 HM 21 12-cylinder diesel (600hp) coupled to a Mitsubishi mechanical manual transmission. The suspension is of a torsion bar type, with six dual rubber tired road wheels, drive wheel at the rear, idler at the front and three track return rollers. The first, second fifth and sixth road wheels have hydraulic shock absorbers. The main armament is a Type 61 90mm rifled tank gun, which is manufactured by the Japan Steel Works and is considered by many to be seriously undergunned. Mounted coaxially with the main armament is a 7.62mm Browning M1919A4 machine gun, while a 12.7mm (0.5) Browning M2 HB machine gun is mounted on the commander's cupola. The latter can be aimed and fired from within the tank. The Type 61 has no NBC system or deep wading equipment. Some models have been fitted with an infrared searchlight to the left of the main armament as well as infrared driving lights. Variants include the Type 67 Armoured Vehicle-Launched Bridge, Type 67 Armoured Engineer Vehicle, Type 70 Armoured Recovery Vehicle and the Type 61 training tank.

Hull length: 6.3m. Hull width: 2.95m. Height: 2.49m. Crew: 4. Ground Clearance: 0.4m. Weight: 35,000kg (combat) Ground pressure: 0.65kg/sq.cm Max speed: 45km/h. Max range (internal fuel): 200km on road. Armament: 90mm Type 61 90mm rifled gun, 1 x 7.62mm Browning M1919A4 machine gun coaxial, 1 x 12.7mm (0.5) Browning M2 HB machine gun on commander's cupola.

Illustrated Encyclopaedia of the World's Tanks and Fighting Vehicles, Foss, Christopher, Salamander Books, London, 1977.
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Foss, Christopher. Jane's Main Battle Tanks, 2nd Edition, Jane's Publishing Company, London, 1986.
Foss, Christopher. Jane's Tank Recognition Guide, HarperCollins Publishers, Glasgow, 1996.
Gelbart, Marsh. Tanks: Main Battle and Light Tanks, Brassey's (UK) Ltd, London, 1996.
Bonds, Ray. Modern Tanks and Fighting Vehicles, Salamander Books, London, 1980.
How to cite this article: Antill, P. (1 June 2001), Type 61 Main Battle Tank, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_type61japan.html

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