Profile Publications No. 105 The Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu

A Ki-45 o f the 53rd Sentai inflight over Japan in 1945 the white background o f the national markings indicates an aircraft o f a Home Defence unit. (Unless otherwise stated, all the photographs appearing in this Profile are from the author's collection) The Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu by Rene J. Francillon Ph.D. By the mid-thirties, unnoticed to foreign observers and military attaches, Japanese aircraft designers had attained parity with their Western counterparts and such original designs as the Navy Type 96 Attack Bomber (Mitsubishi G3M, Nell), Navy Type 96 Carrier Fighter (Mitsubishi A5M, Claude), Navy Type 97 Carrier Attack Bomber (Nakajima B5N, Kate), Army Type 97 Fighter (Nakajima Ki-27, Nate) and Army Type 97 Heavy Bomber (Mitsubishi Ki-21, Sally) brought Japan amongst the leading countries in aviation development. Whilst Japanese aircraft manufacturers progressed from the production of licence-built foreign types and of aircraft designed in Japan by foreign engineers to the production of original aeroplanes, they kept a close watch on current developments in the Western Hemisphere. Endeavouring to support the domestic aircraft industry in obtaining useful competitive data and to provide a yardstick by which to measure the effec­tiveness of Japanese aircraft, the Imperial Japanese Navy and Army kept importing the most modern aircraft they could obtain either by direct purchase or through the intermediary of trading companies and air­lines (Japan Air Transport Co., International AirLines Co., and Manchurian AirLines Co.). One development which did not escape the attention of both the Japanese military staff and the Japanese aircraft manufacturers was the sudden enthusiasm for twin-engined long-range fighters generated by specifications simultaneously issued in France and Germany in late 1934. Faced with long overwater flights in the eventuality of war operations in the Southwest Pacific and with the immensity of South­east Asia, the Japanese Air Forces were naturally inclined to view with more than a passing interest the appearance of new aircraft types potentially capable of solving the range deficiency of the contemporary single-engine fighters. However, some thirty months passed without any concrete action and, in March 1937, when the Imperial Japanese Army issued its specifications for a twin-engined long-range fighter, the French, German and Dutch were already test flying similar aircraft (Potez 630, Messerschmitt Bf 110 and Fokker G.I). Unable to agree on the relative importance to be given to speed, manoeuvrability and armament in the design of a twin-engined heavy fighter, the Army Aeronautical Research Institute at Tachikawa (Riku- gun Kokugijutsu Kenkyujo) prepared remarkably simple specifications devoid of stringent requirements, thus easing the manufacturers’ task whilst reserving for itself the possibility of influencing at a later date the final design of the aircraft. In March 1937 Kawasaki Kokuki K. K. (Kawasaki Aircraft Co., Ltd.), Mitsubishi Jukogyo K. K. (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Co., Ltd.) and Nakajim a Hikoki K. K. (Nakajima Aircraft Co., Ltd.) were instructed to initiate design studies in compliance with these specifications. However, the Mitsubishi Ki-39 and the Nakajima Ki-37 designs were discontinued early in the programme owing to a shortage of experienced design personnel in these two companies. The initial Kawasaki Ki-38 proposal, the work of a team led by Isamu Imashi, called for the use of a pair of 12- cylinder liquid-cooled engines mounted on awing of elliptical planform. Preliminary design work pro­gressed rapidly during the summer of 1937 but by the following October, just as Kawasaki was completing a detailed mock-up, the Imperial Japanese Army decided to cancel further development. This decision was not reflecting any disapproval on Kawasaki’s effort but had been dictated by the necessity to smooth away the dissension existing amongst J.A.A.F. officers as to the relative merits of various perfor­mances of the proposed aircraft and to prepare detailed specifications. EARLY CON FIG U RAT ION In the middle of December 1937 an agreement was reached between members of the Air Headquarters (Koku Hombu) and the Army Aeronautical Research Institute and anew specification calling for a twin- engined two-seat fighter was presented to Kawasaki. This manufacturer was instructed to initiate work on the Ki-45, as the new project was designated, by updating and revising its Ki-38 data to meet the following requirements: (1) Maximum speed: 540 km/h. (335-5 m.p.h.) at 3,500 m. (11,480 ft.) (2) Operating altitude: 2,000 m. (6,560 ft.) to 5,000 in. (16,405 ft.) 3
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