A reader sent us this photo showing three Japan Self-Defense Force members (they are not called soldiers for political reasons) with Modernized Howa Type 89 rifles (ignore the “sniper” mannequin on the right who is holding a Bushmaster ACR airsoft gun). The Modernized Howa is part of Japan’s Future Solider program (Advanced Combat Infantry Equipment System).
The stock appears to be either an original Bushmaster/Remington ACR folding stock or a replica of it. The barrel looks to be about 14″ in length, down from the 16.5″ barrel of the original Type 89. The flat top receiver, full length top rail and quad rail forend is a significant improvement over the original rifle. The rail can carry electrical signals allowing the day/night scope to be controlled from the foregrip. For comparison, here is the standard issue Type 89 …
The Modernized Type 89 would be the newest variant of Eugene Stoner’s famous AR-18. Unlike newer carbines inspired by the AR-18, the Type 89 is an actual version of the AR-18 originally produced under license from Armalite, not a clone or copy (although I suspect the patents have long expired and Howa no longer has to pay royalties).
Overall the Modernized Type 89 looks like a pretty decent carbine. I am not so sure about the complicated optics and electronics package. Despite just about every country with a future solider program, even Sudan, producing their own take on this idea, none of them have proved the concept in the real world.