In keeping with developments in the West, the island nation of Japan moved to adopt a modern Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) for its Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF). Work on a new vehicle began in 1980 to which four prototypes were delivered by 1984. Testing continued into 1986 and the requisite trials for the JGSDF followed, resulting in the design being adopted in 1989 as the "Type 89". While approximately 300 vehicles formed the original requirement, actual needs and budget have allowed for some 68 vehicles to be produced in all. Manufacture is headed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and supported by Komatsu.
As a whole, the Type 89 borrows much of the form and function of what has made the various notable Western-designed IFVs successful in modern combat. It features a shallow profile with low-set superstructure promoting a broad, nearly horizontal glacis plate at the front. The upper portions of the hull side are slightly angled inwards for some ballistics protection. The hull roof is flat which allows for additional external storage areas, passenger access hatches and unobstructed traversal from the two-man powered turret. The turret is centrally located along the hull roof with excellent views about the entire vehicle.
As an infantry fighting vehicle, the Type 89 is designed to ferry combat-ready personnel to the frontlines and, once the infantry has been disembarked, continue the fight in a supporting role (hence some vehicles of the class referred to as "infantry combat vehicles"). As such, the design incorporates good road speeds as well as cross-country performance. The Type 89 provides its occupants with firing ports along the vehicle's sides allowing them to engage enemies with personal weapons in defense of the vehicle. The onboard crew is made up of three - the driver, commander and gunner. The driver is seated at the front-right of the hull with the engine to his right and the commander and gunner reside in the turret. An NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection kit is standard as is night vision equipment for fighting in low-light/dark settings. The passenger cabin is accessed through a pair of entry doors located at the rear of the hull. In this way, the vehicle's bulk and armor protects outgoing infantry. Armor protection is of steel.
Primary armament is the 35mm Oerlikon autocannon fitted to the turret. This is supplemented by an anti-infantry 7.62mm Type 74 machine gun in a coaxial mounting (alongside the main gun in the turret). To counter the threat of enemy armor, the vehicle is outfitted with 2 x Anti-Tank, Guided Missile (ATGM) launchers (of the Type 79 Jyu-MAT series). A launcher is fitted to each turret side. The vehicle can enact it own smokescreen to cover its movement or retreat by way of 2 x 4 smoke grenade dischargers. The dischargers are seated in two banks of four grenades to either turret side.
The Type 89 design relies on power from the Mitsubishi Type 6SY31 WA diesel-fueled, liquid-cooled engine developing 600 horsepower. The engine, powerpack and track arrangement allow for a maximum road speed of 70 kmh with a road range out to 400 kilometers. These performance qualities allow the Type 89 to keep pace with modern combat tanks and similar tracked or wheeled armored vehicles. A torsion bar suspension system provides the needed cross-country capabilities. The track-and-wheel arrangement is made up of six double-tired road wheels to a hull side with a front-mounted drive sprocket and rear-mounted track idler. Some protection along the hull sides is provided through bolt-on skirt armor panels. The vehicle exhibits an overall weight of 27,000 kilograms, a length of 6.7 meters, a height to turret top of 2.75 meters and a width of 3.2 meters.
As of November 2013, the Type 89 maintains an active presence in the modern JGSDF inventory. Heading into 2015, some 120 have been delivered.