Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu / NICK
|NIGHT FIGHTER||Virtual Aircraft Museum / Japan / Kawasaki|
In early 1937 Kawasaki was instructed by the Imperial Japanese army to initiate the design and development of a twin-engine fighter that would be suitable for long-range operations over the Pacific. The concept derived from army interest in developments taking place in other countries, and particularly in the Messerschmitt Bf 110. The first Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu (dragon killer) prototype flew in 1939, a cantilever mid-wing monoplane with retractable tailwheel landing gear. A slender fuselage provided enclosed accommodation for two in tandem. Problems followed with the engine installation, and it was not until September 1941 that the Ki-45 KAIa entered production. Armament of this initial series version comprised one forward-firing 20mm cannon, two 12.7mm machine-guns in the nose, and a 7.92mm machine-gun on a flexible mount in the rear cockpit; there was also provision to carry two drop tanks or two 250kg bombs on underwing racks. The type entered service in August 1942 but was first used in combat during October 1942, soon being allocated the Allied codename 'Nick'. The Ki-45 KAIa was joined by a new version developed especially for the ground-attack/antishipping role, the Ki-45 KAIb. Standard armament comprised one 20mm cannon in the nose, a forward-firing 37mm cannon in the fuselage, and one rear-firing 7.92mm machine gun, plus the underwing provision for drop tanks or bombs; a number of alternative weapon installations were tried experimentally, including the use of a 75mm cannon for attacks on shipping.
The Ki-45 KAIa was, for its day, heavily armed and proved effective against the USAF's Consoldiated B-24 Liberators and, when these bombers were used more extensively for night operations, the Ki-45 was adapted to attack them. Thus the night-fighting capability of the type was discovered, leading to development of the Ki-45 KAIc night-fighter, which proved to be one of the most successful Japanese aircraft in this category. Ki-45 Toryus remained in service until the end of the Pacific war, production totalling 1,701 including prototypes, being used for the defence of Tokyo, and in the Manchuria, Burma and Sumatra areas of operations.
Ki-45 KAIc night fighter
Constant development frustrations delayed introduction into service of the Imperial Japanese Army's Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu (dragon killer) until August 1942, its design having been initiated five years earlier, and it was not until 1944 that the night-fighter version, the Ki-45 KAIc, became operational as the only army night-fighter of the war. Retaining the two 805kW Mitsubishi Ha-102 radials of the previous Ki-45 KAIb heavy day fighter (an aircraft whose role was akin to that of the German Zerstorer), the Ki-45 KAIc was armed with a single forward-firing semi-automatic 37mm Type 98 cannon in a fairing under the fuselage, two oblique/upward-firing 20mm Ho-5 cannon in the centre fuselage, and a single hand-held machine-gun in the rear cockpit. It had been intended to fit airborne radar in the nose, and therefore no nose guns were included; however, production difficulties seriously delayed this equipment and it did not enter service, although a single aircraft flew with centimetric radar shortly before the end of the war. Production of the Ki-45 KAIc got underway at Kawasaki's Akashi plant in March 1944, the first aircraft being completed the following month. On 15 June American Boeing B-29s of XX Bomber Command launched their first raid on the Japanese homeland, and were intercepted by eight Toryus whose pilots shot down eight of the big bombers. At that time about 40 Ki-45 KAIc fighters had been completed, and the aircraft went on to serve with the 4th Sentai at Usuki in the Oita prefecture, the 5th Sentai at Usuki and Komachi in the Aichi prefecture, the 53rd Sentai at Matsudo in the Chiba prefecture, and the 70th Sentai at Kashiwa. Toryus shared the night defence of Japan with the navy's J1N1-S and Yokosuka P1Y1-S, and were probably the most successful in action against the massive American raids in the last six months of the war; the 4th Sentai alone was credited with 150 kills, of which 26 were gained by one pilot, Captain Isamu Kashiide, all despite the lack of any AI radar. Away from the homeland Ki-45 KAIc nightfighters also served with the 45th Sentai in the Philippines and New Guinea late in 1944, and with the 71st Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai at Singapore in August 1945. Production of the Ki-45 KAIc reached 477 aircraft before being terminated in December 1944. The type was codenamed 'Nick' by the Allies.