Ki-27 “Nate”, Japanese Fighter

Photograph of Ki-27

Wikimedia Commons

Three-view diagram of Ki-27 "Nate"

FM 30-30

Nakajima Ki-27 “Nate”




37’1” by 24’9” by 9’2”
11.31m by 7.53m by 3.25m


2403-3638 lbs
1110-1790 kg
Wing area 200 square feet
18.56 square meters

Maximum speed      

286 mph 11,480 feet
460 km/h at 3500 meters
Cruise speed 217 mph at 11,480 feet
349 km/h at 3500 meters

Climb rate

49 feet per second
14.9 meters per second

Service ceiling     

34,400 feet
10,500 meters

Power plant

One 710 hp (529 kW) Nakajima Ha-1b nine-cylinder radial engine diving a variable pitch two bladed propeller.


2 Type 89 0.303 machine guns in fuselage

External stores

4 55 lb (25 kg) bombs on wing racks or 2 28.6 gallon (108 liter) drop tanks


Normal 389 miles (626 km)
Maximum 1060 miles (1710 km)
156 gallons


A total of 3,399 aircraft were produced as follows:
Nakajima (Ota):

13 prototype and pre-production aircraft
2005 Ki-27a and Ki-27b production aircraft (1937-6 to 1937-12)
2 prototype Ki-27 KAI aircraft

Mansyu (Harbin):

1379 Ki-27a and Ki-27b production aircraft

"Nate" was the standard Japanese Army fighter at the time of Pearl Harbor, though it was slated to be replaced by the Oscar. It was the chief fighter in use in China and Burma early in the war. The Allies in Burma initially gave it the code name "Abdul" before it was realized that this was the same aircraft.

The design came out of a failed bid by Nakajima to fill an Army requirement in 1934. Nakajima decided to take their data from the competition and design an advanced monoplane fighter as a private venture. (There were rumors that the Army  tipped the company off to an upcoming call for designs and provided them with the specification requirements.) The prototype first flew on 15 October 1936 and did well in competitive Army trials. When the Japanese Army Air Force found itself lagging behind the Navy at the start of the "China Incident" in 1937, the opportunity was taken to put the "Nate" into immediate production. The aircraft entered combat in March 1938 and quickly won air superiority over northern China. It did less well at Nomonhan, where it proved superior to the Russian I-15 but not the I-16.

A peculiarity of the design was that the guns were mounted in the cockpit floor and fired from beneath the engine. The Aldis gun sight was awkward to use and hindered the pilot's situational awareness.

Though possibly the most maneuverable fighter ever built, "Nate" was not particularly fast, was grossly undergunned, and was as fragile as most other Japanese fighters. It was particularly prone to vibration, engine stalling, and even breaking up if dove too steeply for too long. This made it relatively easy prey for Chennault’s Flying Tigers, who flew P-40Es and had been trained in hit-and-run tactics. The aircraft was relegated to second-line and training duty as quickly as it could be replaced by better designs, such as the Ki-43 "Oscar", but production continued in Manchuria for the puppet air force. Second-line Nates of 5 Air Regiment were the chief air defense against the Doolittle raid, but were unable to inflict significant damage on the raiders.

Photo Gallery

Ki-27 "Nate" front view


Ki-27 "Nates" at Nomonhan


Ki-27 "Nate" rear view in flight



Francillon (1979)

"Handbook on Japanese Military Forces" (1944-9-15; accessed 2012-11-23)

Millman (2013)

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