The Japanese Type 61 Tank Background
Like all Axis powers, Japan was striped of its ability to develop and build tanks after its defeat at the end of World War 2, with security provided by the occupying American Forces. In the 1950’s Japan was allowed to re-arm and form The Japan Ground Self-Defence Force and with this came the opportunity to develop its own tanks again. The US had supplied Japan with tanks, but they proved unsuitable for the crews due to physical restraints and being outclassed by Russian tanks appearing the Pacific theatre.
Japan is a cluster of nearly 7000 islands! And about 70% to 80% of the country is forested, mountainous and unsuitable for agricultural, industrial, or residential use. This means any Japanese tank needs a good rate of mobility, which causes problems in that the armour couldn’t be heavy. Also the infrastructure was being rebuilt, which included the transportation network. Again this meant that the new tank would have to be light.
The Japanese Type 61 Tank Production & Service
Development started in 1955 and the vehicle entered service in April 1961, hence the 61 in its designation. A total of 560 Type 61 were produced between 1961 to 1975, when production ended. It remained in service until 2000. It was gradually retired from the 1990’s onwards as The Type 74 was in service and as the Type 90 Tank was gradually entering service. Production was completed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as a very slow rate, hence the 15 years of production.
It weighted in at 35 tonne with 64mm thick steel armour over the frontal arc. It was equipped with a 90mm main gun (un-stabilized so couldn’t fire on the move), with a coaxial 7.62mm and commanders 12.7mm MG. It used a Mitsubishi 12HM21WT 12 cylinder vertical air cooled diesel, which generated 570 hp and gave a top road speed of 45km/h and range of 200km.
The Japanese Type 61 Tank Spec’s
Weight 35 tonnes
Length 6.03 m
Width 2.95 m
Height 2.49 m