The Howa Type 89 Assault Rifle (89式アサルトライフル, hachi-kyū-shiki-asaruto-raifuru), referred to as the "type89 5.56mm rifle" (89式5.56mm小銃, hachi-kyūshiki-go-ten-go-roku-miri-syōjū), is a Japanese assault rifle used by the Japan Self-Defense Forces, the Japan Coast Guard's Special Security Team units, and the Special Assault Team. It was never exported outside of Japan due to its strict anti-hardware export policy. It is known in J.G.S.D.F service as Buddy.
It has replaced the Howa Type 64 battle rifle in frontline units.
During the Vietnam War, the United States military replaced the M14 with the M16 for a variety of reasons, one of the most important being the advantage of increased rate of fire, light weight, and lower recoil of the 5.56x45mm NATO round over the larger 7.62x51mm NATO round. Despite the fact that this shortened the effective range of the average infantryman during a firefight, the 5.56x45mm round (SS109) eventually became the standard of ammunition type for all NATO member assault rifles. In accordance with this, the Japanese Defense Agency began development on their next generation assault rifle to replace the 7.62x51mm Type 64 assault rifle after its 25-year span of service.
Development was handled primarily by Howa since it was already licensed to produce the AR-180 version of the Armalite AR-18 rifle for commercial purposes. In order to determine suitability of the rifle, it was issued in limited numbers to the Japan Self-Defense Forces for field testing purposes. After the data collected from the field testing stage of the AR-18 was examined, formal development of the next-generation assault rifle began with its designation as the HR-16 (HR1604). The HR-15 was the first version of the experimental rifle that would eventually become the Type 89, but was developed concurrently with the HR-10, HR-11 and HR-13 by 1989.
One of the most advantageous features of the Type 89 rifle over the Type 64 was the ability to ease the load on the individual soldier in relation to the amount of ammunition that he could carry. Also, due to the use of aluminum and thermoset plastic as opposed to the steel and wood construction of the Type 64 rifle, the speed with which a soldier could react to a threat was increased. The fixed stock version of the rifle contains a storage space covered by a rubberized cap that may be accessed by pulling the cap away from the body for the rifle and rotating it in either direction. Although the typical issue model is equipped with a fixed stock, a small number of the steel tubing folding stock version were produced for AFV crews and paratroopers.