Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Type-90 tank... Only available in Hokkaido

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Type-90 tank... Only available in Hokkaido (Source: MHI)

On the morning of November 6th (Sunday), Type-90 tanks will take Hokkaido’s public roads from Camp Higashi-Chitose to Tomakomai Port on their way to take part in a major exercise in Hijyudai, Oita Prefecture, in Kyushu. The event was previously discussed here on JSW last month, but it is interesting to see that the movement received some attention from the local press, namely the Tomakomaiminpo which reported in some detail today.

The tanks from the GSDF North Army’s 7th Division will depart Higashi-Chitose at 9 p.m. and travel along municipal roads and national highways to Tomakomai’s West Port, around 30 km away, assembling in the early hours of the 7th. They will use the Yufutsu Quay and board a civilian ferry which will take them to Oita for the start of the exercise on November 10th. They will take the Higashi-Odori municipal road and travel via the Shukubai Municipal Road, Route 337, Route 36, Shizugawa-Mizawa Prefectural Road, Route 234, Kamiatsu-Tomakomai Prefectural Road, and arrive around 12:50 a.m. on November 7th. The approximate route is shown below:

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Making the journey are four Type-90 tanks, ten Type-89 Infantry Fighting Vehicles, two Type-96 120mm Self-Propelled Howitzers, two Type-87 Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Guns and two tracked recovery vehicles. They will be traveling at fixed intervals with escorts, making a total of 63 vehicles.

The reason the 30 km journey will take so long has to do with 7th Division’s noise and vibration countermeasures: 10 km/h through residential areas and 20 km per hour through the suburbs. The tracked vehicles will be equipped with rubber pads, and at 8 passing points along the national and prefectural roads, noise measurements will be taken. At a further 27 passing points within Chitose and Tomakomai’s city limits, SDF members will form checkpoints and guide traffic.

The exercise in Hijyudai will see around 5,400 service members, 1,500 vehicles and 30 aircraft training in island defense and other key scenarios for the dynamic defense concept. The 7th Division in Hokkaido is sending around 410 members and 120 vehicles from the 11th Infantry and 73rd Tank Regiments. Alongside these 7th Division units, the 1st Airborne and 1st Helicopter Brigades of the Central Readiness Force will be in attendance as guests of the hosts, the GSDF’s Western Army.

The exercise will be the Type-90′s first venture into Kyushu and the development comes as part of the larger realignment of forces towards Japan’s south as stipulated by last year’s National Defense Program Guidelines.

The motion is not without its critics: the Chitose Peace Committee, Action Committee for the Prevention of Tomakomai Port Becoming A Military Port, and the Hokkaido Action Committee for Tearing Up The US-Japan Security Treaty are planning to protest the use of public roads, alongside the Hokkaido Peace Movement Forum.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch