IJ Army Air Service

Nakajima Ki-43-I-Hei “Fubuki” Oscar Fighter

The Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon) Oscar was the standard Japanese Army fighter during WWII. First flying in January 1939, the Ki-43 prototype was an initial disappointment to the Japanese test pilots. They complained that it was not maneuverable enough and not significantly faster than existing types. Development continued through a series of designs until 1940 when a final version was developed. The initial production version began to come off the assembly line in April 1941. Production continued until the end of the war through several upgraded versions. Total production of all versions amounted to 5,919 aircraft. The Ki-43 had the typical faults and virtues of most Japanese aircraft. It was very maneuverable and had a good rate of climb, but it lacked armor protection and self sealing fuel tanks making it very vulnerable to allied fighter planes. In spite of its faults the Ki-43 was a very effective fighter plane particularly in the first years of the war. However, even at the end of the war the Oscar's excellent maneuverability could still give it an advantage over inattentive Allied pilots. Almost all JAAF fighter aces claimed victories with the Hayabusa at some time during their career. The top Hayabusa ace was Sergeant Satoshi Anabuki with 39 confirmed victories, almost all of them scored with the Ki-43. At the very end of the war most Oscars were converted to kamikaze planes. The Ki-43-I-Hei Hayabusa was armed with 2 12.7 mm Ho-103 machineguns. This model shows a Nakajima Ki-43-I-Hei "Fubuki" flying with the 3rd chutai, 50th sentai flown by Sgt Anabuki Satoshi (51 victories) in Burma in 1943.

Nakajima Ki-43 II Oscar Army Fighter

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Kawasaki Ki-48 Lilly Light Bomber

The Kawasaki Ki-48 Lilly light bomber was developed in 1937 for the Imperial Japanese Army as a high speed bomber. The design requirement was prompted by Japanese encounters with the Soviet Tupolev SB-2 light bomber over China. The Ki-48 was produced from 1939 to 1944 under the Army designation Army Type 99 Twin Engined Light Bomber Model 1A with 1,977 built. The Lilly was a typical Japanese design with good maneuverability and speed when introduced but suffering from poor defensive armament and a lack of self sealing fuel tanks and armor. The Lilly served in China from late 1940 and was widely used in the Philippines, Malaya, Burma, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the Dutch East Indies. By 1942 the Ki-48 was obsolete, but production continued until 1944 because there really was no replacement available. The Lilly continued in service until the Battle of Okinawa during April 1945, when many were converted into kamikaze aircraft armed with a 1,760 lb. bomb. Armament consisted of a trainable 7.7 mm Type 89 machinegun in the nose, dorsal and ventral positions and a payload of 1,764 lbs. of bombs.

Kawasaki Ki-48-I Lily Army Medium Bomber

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Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien Tony Fighter

Design work on the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien "flying swallow" (Tony) began in late 1939 in response to a request to build a new fighter around the German Daimler-Benz DB 601Aa engine. This is the same engine that powered the ME-109, ME-110, ME-210, HE-100, Macchi C.202 and Reggiane Re.2001. The first prototype flew in December 1941. While the test pilots liked the new plane the senior officers were skeptical. To address this Kawasaki staged a fly off between the Ki-61, the Nakajima Ki-43-I, a Nakajima Ki-44-I, a Soviet LaGG-3, a Messerschmitt ME-109E-3 and a Curtiss P-40 E Warhawk. The Ki-61 proved the fastest of all the aircraft and was inferior to only the Ki-43 in maneuverability. In service the major flaw of the aircraft was the engine. Japanese industry was not up to producing an engine that required the high manufacturing standards of the DB 601. This resulted in serious reliability problems. The Ki-61 looked so different compared to the normal radial engine Japanese fighters that the Allies at first believed it to a German or Italian plane. The Allied code name of Tony was given because the Ki-61 looked like an Italian aircraft. The prototypes flew emergency defense missions during the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942. The Ki-61 entered combat for first time in early 1943 during the New Guinea campaign. Reliability problems continued to plague the plane with the 78th squadron losing 18 of its 30 Ki-61s planes on the transit flight to New Guinea. In spite of the problems the Ki-61 proved to be an effective fighter with General George Kenney finding that the Curtiss P-40 was completely outclassed and he urgently requested more P-38 Lightnings to counter the Ki-61. The Ki-61 also fought in Southeast Asia, Okinawa, China and as an interceptor during US bombing raids over the Japanese home islands. As the war went on the Ki-61 became increasingly obsolete abut continued to be used till the end of the war. By the end of the war the Ki-61 was used as a kamikaze plane and in August 1944 as a ramming plane against the B-29 Superfortress. About 3,000 Ki-61s were produced and three still exist. The Ki-61 was armed with two 20 mm Ho-5 cannons and two .50 cal. Ho-103 machineguns. It could carry two 551 lb. bombs. This model shows a Ki-61 flying with the 244th Sentai near Tokyo in late 1945.

Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien Tony Army Fighter

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