Profile Publications No. 118 The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien

A Hien with the striking tail markings o f the 37th Sentai (Photo: via R. Ward) serschmitt Bf 109 and Macchi C.202. Furthermore, Dr. Richard Vogt, who during the war was heading up the design team of the German aircraft concern Blohm und Voss, had been Kawasaki’s chief aircraft design engineer from 1923 to 1933 and had left a lasting influence on his Japanese pupils who later on were to design aircraft bearing a close affinity to their European contemporaries. A WALLS O WIS HATCHED As related above Dr. Vogt had headed up the design group of Kawasaki for a ten-year period ending in 1933. During that time Kawasaki produced many important aircraft powered by the German BMW-6, a V-12 liquid-cooled engine built under licence by Kawasaki, including the Army Type 88 Recon­naissance plane (total production: 710 machines between 1927 and 1931), the Army Type 88 Light Bomber (407 aircraft between 1929 and 1932) and the Army Type 92 Fighter (385 aircraft between 1930 and 1933). Following Dr. Vogt's return to Germany, Kawasaki kept producing aircraft bearing the influence of this famous designer and continued to favour liquid-cooled inline engines at a time when all other Japanese manufacturers favoured radial engines. Aircraft of this period worth mentioning are the Kawasaki Ki-10, Perry, or Army Type 95 Fighter (588 built between 1935 and 1938) and the Army Type 98 Light Bomber or Ki-32 (854 aircraft manu­factured between 1937 and 1940). However, in 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army showed its preference for lightly protected fighters with radial engines and possessing the traditional high manoeuvrability associ­ated with Nipponese aircraft) when it selected the Nakajima Ki-27 over the European inspired, higher performing, Kawasaki Ki-28 (one V-12 liquid-cooled Kawasaki Ha-9-1 la) to replace the ageing Kawasaki Ki-10. Despite this reversal Kawasaki kept its faith in the liquid-cooled engine as a powerplant for high per­formance aircraft and in March, 1938 it acquired from Daimler Benz the manufacturing rights for the series of high-power inline engines then underdevelopment by this German concern. In April, 1940, a Kawasaki technical team visited Daimler Benz in Stuttgart and brought back to Japan the blueprints for the DB 601A as well as a certain number of assembled engines to serve as production patterns. Immediately upon returning to Akashi, where Kawasaki had its engine plant, these engineers set about modifying the DB 601A to meet Japanese requirements and pro­duction techniques. In this process they boosted the take-off power to 1,175 h.p. and managed to reduce the weight slightly. In July, 1941, the first Japanese built DB 601 A, designated Ha-40 by the Imperial Japanese Army, was completed and in November of the same year it had successfully passed all ground tests and was placed in production as the 1,100 h.p. Army Type 2 Engine. Whilst Kawasaki was working on the DB 601 /Ha-40 engine the Koku Hombu (Air Headquarters) of the Imperial Japanese Army followed with considerable interest the development of high-performance, liquid- cooled-enginc powered fighter aircraft in England, Germany, the U.S.A., the U.S.S.R. and France. Following the start of the hostilities in Europe some staff officers of the Koku Hombu became somewhat reluctant about the established policy of sacrificing speed, armour and armament to improve manoeuvr­ ability and of favouring radial engines over inline motors. With the forthcoming availability of the Japanese version of the DB 601 it was decided to try Two captured Miens in Chinese colours. The Ho-5 cannon can he seen in the owing f the uncamouflaged Ki-61-I K AIc below. (Photos: via R. Ward ,the author) 4
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