The Type 74 was considered outdated even before it entered service. The Type 90 was to have replaced it outright, but with the end of the Cold War, these plans were scaled back.
The Type 74, the main battle tank of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force, is one of the best designs of its time, placing it in the same class as the American M60 Patton or the Leopard 1. It was built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries as a supplement to the earlier Type 61. Approximately 893 were produced from 1975–1988, and are still in service with the Japanese ground forces. Each tank costs an estimated $3.2 – 3.6 Million.
The JGSDF began studies on new tank designs with Mitsubishi in 1962, after the Type 61 had been shown to be outmatched by new Soviet tanks such as the T-62. Features from several designs were incorporated, including the controllable suspension of the US-German MBT-70 project, the hull of the Leopard 1, and a similar 105mm gun.
Type 74 has a weight of about 38 tons, a length of 9.41 m, a width of 3.18 m, and a height of 2.25 m. This MBT has a crew of four, including commander, gunner, loader and driver. Power was supplied by a single Mitsubishi 10ZF Model 21 10-cylinder diesel engine delivering 750 horsepower. This supplied the tank with a top speed of 38 miles per hour and an operational range nearing 250 miles. The Tank has an all-welded hull. It fitted with NBC protection and automatic fire suppression systems.
Fire control system of this main battle tank was very advanced. For the first time in the world a tank was fitted with advanced computer for ballistic calculations. It also had a laser rangefinder. In service tanks were later upgraded with infra-red imagers. Secondary armament consists of coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun and a roof-mounted 12.7 mm heavy machine gun.
Instead of composite armour, the Type 74 adopted welded steel plates for hull construction, with sloped armour extensively used to defeat armour-piercing shells and other kinetic energy penetrators. It has frontal hull armor of 80 mm with an effective armor thickness of up to 189 mm for the upper glacis and 139 mm for lower glacis. Side armor is 35 mm, while rear armor is 25 mm thick. The cast steel turret has an estimated 195 mm of armor. When compared to other second-generation MBTs, the Type 74 has more armour than a Leopard 1 (with 122mm and 140mm), but less than comparable Soviet vehicles such as the T62 (with 174mm and 204mm).
The Type 74 was considered outdated even before it entered service. The Type 90 was to have replaced it outright, but with the end of the Cold War, these plans were scaled back. In 1993 four Type 74s were improved to the new Type 74 Kai standard, adding a passive infrared camera and side skirts. The upgrade proved to be extremely expensive, and the program was abandoned.