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Ki-61 “Tony”, Japanese Fighter


Photograph of Ki-61 "Tony"

U.S. Navy. Via Francillon (1979)

3-view digram of Ki-61 Tony

U.S. Army. Via ibiblio.org



Kawasaki Ki-61-Ib Hien ("Swallow") “Tony”


Specifications:


Crew

1

Dimensions

39’4” x 29’4” x 12’2”
12m by 8.75m by 3.7m
Wing area 215 square feet
20 square meters

Weights

4872-7165 lbs
2210-3250 kg

Maximum speed      

368 mph at 15,945 feet
592 km/h at 4860 meters
Cruising speed
249 mph at 13,125 feet
400 km/h at 4000 meters

Climb rate

50 feet per second
15.2 meters per second

Ceiling

37,730 feet
11,600 meters

Power plant

1 1100 hp (820 kW) Kawasaki Ha-40 inverted-vee 12 liquid-cooled engine driving a constant speed three bladed metal propeller.

Armament

2 12.7mm Type 1 machine guns in wings
2 12.7mm Type 1 machine guns above engine

Range

373 miles (600 km) normal
684 miles (1100 km) maximum

Production

A total of 2,803 Ki-61s at Kawasaki Kokuki K.K. (Kagamigahara):
  12 Ki-61 prototypes (1941-1942)
  1,380 Ki-61-I (1942-8 to 1944-7)
  1,274 Ki-61-I KAI (1944-1 to 1945-1)
  8 Ki-61-II prototypes (1943-8 to 1944-1)
  30 Ki-61-II KAI prototypes (1944-5 to 1944-9)
  99 Ki-61-II KAI (1944-9 to 1945-8)

Variants

A number of Ia and Ib were armed with two Mauser MG151 20mm cannon in the wings.

The Ic could carry 2 550lb (250 kg) bombs.

The Id upgraded the wing guns to 30mm cannon.

The II introduced a 1450hp Kawasaki Ha-140 engine and was armed with four 20mm Ho-5 cannon in wings and fuselage


The Ki-61 Hien (Swallow) was fast and maneuverable, and it was the first Japanese Army aircraft equipped with self-sealing fuel tanks and armor. It also had a good dive rate, which made it an unpleasant surprise to Allied pilots in New Guinea who were accustomed to shaking Japanese fighters off their tails with a steep turning dive. It would have been a good aircraft in which to practice hit-and-run tactics against the Allies, but the Japanese seem never to have made the jump in tactics. As it was, "Tony" was the only Japanese fighter in service during the mid-war years that was a decent match for the second-generation Allied fighters.

"Tony" was about the only fighter with a liquid-cooled engine that the Japanese Army produced, and it was often mistaken for a German or Italian fighter by Allied airmen.  Indeed, the Allied code name "Tony" was selected on the belief that the aircraft had Italian origins. In fact, the Ha-40 engine used by the aircraft was essentially the German DB-601A built under license. Many of the early production aircraft also used a German electrically-fired 20mm cannon, but ammunition was limited and the German gun was replaced with the Japanese Ho-5.

The Japanese had acquired manufacturing rights to the DB-601A in April 1940 and manufacture of the Japanese version began in July 1941. A specification for aircraft built around the new engine had already been issued, in February 1940, when Kawasaki was instructed to develop both light and heavy fighter designs. The light fighter was given priority after December 1940, and the design team, led by Doi Takeo and Owada Shin, completed a prototype a year later. Preparations had already begun by then for quantity production, which commenced in August 1942.

The operational history of the "Tony" illustrates the weaknesses of the Japanese aircraft industry and of Japanese logistics. The aircraft was difficult to produce, averaging just 50 planes a month in the crucial mid-1943 time period. Many of these failed inspection and had to be returned to the factory for repair. Those already deployed to the Southwest Pacific and needing an engine change had to go clear back to Clark Field.

The Ki-61-II was designed specifically for improved high-altitude performance, but the Ha-140 engine had serious teething problems and only 99 production aircraft were completed. The destruction of the Akashi engine works by a B-29 Superfortress raid on 19 January 1945 left 275 Ki-61-II airframes without engines. These aircraft were modified to use the Ha-112 engine and became the prototypes and first production run of the Ki-100.

Photo Gallery

Ki-61 Tony

Wikimedia Commons

Ki-61 Tony side view

U.S. Navy

Ki-61 Tony in flight

U.S. Navy

References

Bergerud (2000)

Francillon (1979)


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