Nakajima Ki-44-IIb Tojo
FIREPOWER
3
MANEUVERABILITY
5
CLIMB RATE
8
DURABILITY
5
SPEED
7
GROUND ATTACK
3

Crew
1
Primary Guns
2 x 12.7mm Type 1 (Ho-103) machine guns with 250 rpg in cowlю
Secondary Guns
2 x 12.7mm Type 1 (Ho-103) machine guns with 250 rpg in wings.
Defensive Guns
Ordnance
2 x 110 lb (50 kg) or 2 x 220 lb (100 kg) bombs or 2 x 207 lb (94 kg) drop tanks under wings.
Engine(s)
1 x Army Type 2 (Nakajima Ha.109) air-cooled radial rated for 1,520 hp for takeoff and 1,320 hp at 17,220 ft (5250 m).
Int Fuel Capacity
802 lbs (364 kg).
Ext Fuel Capacity
415 lbs (188 kg) in 2 drop tanks under wings.
Maximum Speeds
376 mph (605 kph) at 17,060 ft (5200 m), 383 mph (616 kph) with WEP at 17,400 ft (5300 m)
Climb Rate
3,833 ft per minute (1168 m/min) at sea level, 4,220 ft per minute (1286 m/min) at 7,000 ft (2130 m), 4.3 min to 16,400 ft (5000 m).
Service Ceiling
36,745 ft (11200 m).
Range
805 – 1,056 miles (1300 – 1700 km).
Wingspan
31 ft 0 in (9.45 m).
Length
28 ft 9.9 in (8.78 m).
Height
10 ft 8 in (3.25 m).
Loaded Weight
6,110 lbs (2770 kg).
Wing Area
161.5 sq ft (15.0 sq m).
Wing Loading
37.8 lbs/sq ft (184.7 kg/sq m).

History

Faced with an increase in B-29 raids from China and the Marianas, the Japanese Army issued specifications for a high-speed, high-altitude fighter capable of intercepting the American bombers. Unlike other design specifications issued by the Japanese armed forces, this one emphasized speed and climb rate over all other considerations.

Nakajima decided to base the new design around their own Ha-41 engine, a large fourteen-cylinder engine used primarily on bombers. The new design featured a streamlined cowl and a broad fuselage side and large tail fin to provide for a more stable gun platform. Performance trials of the new design proved disappointing. The plane failed to meet the required speed and time to altitude trials and along with difficulties in the Ki-43 project, Nakajima was in trouble. Back in the factory numerous changes were made to the cowl in an effort to improve streamlining and coax some more speed out of the design. After installing a new firewall for improved cooling, five cooling vents on the side of the cowl were able to be covered over and with the reduced drag, the Ki-44 was able to exceed the performance requirements specified by the Army.

By September 1942 all trials and tests had been completed satisfactorily and the Army accepted the plane into service. The initial version, which had been in production since January and known as the Ki-44-Ia, was fitted with a pair of 7.7mm machine guns in the cowl and a 12.7mm machine gun in each wing. The next variant, the Ki-44-Ib, had the 7.7mm guns replaced by 12.7mm models for a total of four 12.7mm Type 1 (Ho-103) machine guns.

Despite being the fastest fighter in either Army or Navy service, the plane was incapable of catching up with the Army’s Ki-46 reconnaissance plane. Nakajima responded by installing a more powerful engine, the Ha-109, which had the same dimensions as the Ha-41 and thus required no changes to the airframe. Production of this version, known as the Ki-44-IIa, commenced in August 1942 with armament similar to the -Ia variant. Few -IIa’s were built with production shifting almost immediately to the Ki-44-IIb with pair of 12.7mm machine guns in the cowl and pair of same guns in wings.

Even with this armament, it was not enough powerful against the B-29s. 20mm cannons were requested by the pilots, but development of 20mm Ho-5 cannon was delayed, and few of the succeeding model, the Ki-44-IIc, were equipped with a pair of synchronized 12.7mm guns in cowl and either a pair of 40 mm cartridge-less Ho-301 cannon or even a pair of much heavier 37 mm Ho-203 cannon in wings, but these heavy cannon saw limited operation.

Strengths

  1. Climb Rate — The Ki-44 is able to reach an altitude of 5000m in less than 4.5 minutes making it the fastest climbing plane in the Japanese inventory.

Weakness

  1. Maneuverability — With wing loading higher than contemporary US Navy fighters, the Ki-44 pilot is best advised to use energy fighting tactics except when dealing with the heavier and faster late-war designs
  2. Firepower — Even four 12.7mm machine guns were far from enough to effectively damage a B-29 Superfortress.

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