The Howa Type 20 assault rifle (20式小銃), was announced officially in May of 2020 as the next model of standard issue infantry rifle for the Japanese Ground Self-defense Forces. Its development was initiated by a request issued in 2014 from the JGSDF for a new, more modern 5.56mm rifle. This rifle is intended to replace the older Howa Type 89 Rifle, still in JGSDF service.
Developed by the Howa Machinery Company, the Type 20 assault rifle appears to be an amalgam of many modern weapons. Some of which it has been tested against, such as the FN SCAR-16, SIG 516 or HK 416, with hardly any original features to distinguish it. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Typical requirements for a military weapon tend to include reliability, durability, ease of maintenance and combat effectiveness. However, “original design” is not normally high on the list. Only a protracted period of use in the field can prove if this new rifle is up to the task.
According to news sources, the first batch of rifles ordered for the JGSDF numbers around 3 000 guns, and the total number of new rifles on order may be as high as 150 000, but it will be a process over several years to procure them.
The Howa Type 20 Assault Rifle is a gas operated, select-fire weapon. It uses a short stroke gas piston system and rotary bolt locking. The gas block features a manually adjustable gas regulator. The upper and lower receivers appear to be made from aluminum alloy, and are interconnected with two cross-pins. This gun sports ambidextrous controls, and so the charging handle can be set up on either side of the rifle. The top of the receiver and forend are provided with an integrated Picatinny rail.
The forend also features M-LOK system slots at 3-, 6- and 9- o’clock positions. Ammunition is fed from M16-compatible magazines. this rifle can be fitted with any type of day or night optical sight, and also with back-up iron sights on folding bases. The shoulder stock is plastic and can be adjusted for length of pull. It also has an adjustable cheek rest. However, it does not fold to the side. According to the press, the Type 20 rifle will be issued with a 1-8X variable power telescope sight as its primary sighting option. It also can be fitted with optional 40mm GLX 160 underbarrel grenade launcher, made in Italy by Beretta.