Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki / TOJO


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Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki / TOJO

Of similar general configuration to the Ki-43, the Nakajima Ki-44 prototypes incorporated the manoeuvring flaps that had been introduced on that aircraft, and carried an armament of two 7.7mm and two 12.7mm machine-guns. First flown in August 1940, the Ki-44 was involved in a series of comparative trials against Kawasaki's Ki-60 prototype, based on use of the Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine, and an imported Messerschmitt Bf 109E. The result of this evaluation, and extensive service trials, showed the Ki-44 to be good enough to enter production, and it was ordered under the designation Army Type 2 Singleseat Fighter Model 1A Shoki (demon), company designation Ki-44-Ia, which carried the same armament as the prototypes. A total of only 40 Ki-44-I aircraft was produced, including small numbers of the Ki-44-Ib armed with four 12.7mm machine-guns, and the similar KI-44-Ic with some minor refinements.

When introduced into service the high landing speeds and limited manoeuvrability of the Shoki made it unpopular with pilots, and very soon the Ki-44-II with a more powerful Nakajima Ha-109 engine was put into production. Only small numbers of the Ki- 44-IIa were built, the variant being followed by the major production Ki-44- Ilb. The Ki-44-IIc introduced much heavier armament, comprising four 20mm cannon or, alternatively, two 12.7mm machine-guns and two 40mm cannon, and these proved to be very effective when deployed against Allied heavy bombers attacking Japan. Final production version was the Ki-44- III with a 1491kW Nakajima Ha-145 radial engine, an increase m wing area and enlarged vertical tail surfaces.

Nakajima had built a total of 1,225 Ki-44s of all versions, including prototypes, and these were allocated the Allied codename 'Tojo'. They were deployed primarily in Japan, but were used also to provide an effective force of interceptors to protect vital targets, as in Sumatra where they defended the oil fields at Palembang.

Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki / TOJO

 ENGINE1 x Nakajima Ha-109, 1133kW
  Take-off weight2995 kg6603 lb
  Empty weight2105 kg4641 lb
  Wingspan9.45 m31 ft 0 in
  Length8.8 m29 ft 10 in
  Height3.25 m11 ft 8 in
  Wing area15 m2161.46 sq ft
  Max. speed605 km/h376 mph
  Ceiling11200 m36750 ft
  Range w/max.fuel1700 km1056 miles
 ARMAMENT4 x 12.7mm machine-guns

Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki / TOJOA three-view drawing (752 x 1176)

Comments1-20 21-40
RB, e-mail, 21.07.2020 08:46

Enter the Ki 44!
Could Nakajima muster a better B-29 interceptor?
They already had the Ki 12 with 20mm motor cannon and reliable inline engine. Alas, it was too heavy for the hp.
But at least it had a narrow engine. The later Shoki was the opposite. Plenty of hp per lb, but too wide an engine blocking the view forward and no cannon. This could be the making of a B-29 interceptor without going the mid-engine route like the Ki 88 or P-39 with crossed control vices and directional instability to get more nose-ammo. It could be simple and straight forward. By the time B-29s raid Japan, the inline version of the Ki 44 would have something akin to the high altitude VK-107 434 mph Yak-9U engine with a selection of excellent IJAAC choices for the nose-cannon.

From 5x20mm Ho-5 cannons like the G.55 /II Centauro;

to the 30mm Ho-155-II motor cannon and 2x20mm cannons [wing or cowl, to your taste] like a Ta-152;

or the 37mm Ho-204 hub-cannon with 4x12.7mm Ho-103 HMGs like a P-63 but better in every case.

Food for thought.


RB, e-mail, 19.07.2020 10:55

The Shoki may have had 37mm Ho-203 wing cannons but there was another option easier on the wings. Nakajima could feasibly combine this also used as the Ha-140 powered Kawasaki Ki 88 interceptor hub-cannon [P-39 style], and the updated Nakajima Ki-12 prototype's HS engine alias Klimov. If the Russians could use that French engine and eventually come up with the Yak-9T so could Nakajima, as a reliable alternate to the Kawasaki Ha-140. Now update the slow 37mm cannon to the high velocity Ho-204 as a motor-cannon in place of the French 20mm Hispano 404, and you beat the Yak-9T easily! When the Russians attacked Japan at the end of WW2, they could tangle.

I suspect the big disappointing B-29 destroyer Ki 88 was dropped because it followed the mid-engine way like the Cobra instead of the better handling design of the motor-cannon Yak. To succeed the Kawasaki Ki 61 as an interceptor, the Ki 88 needed to climb better but it didn't.


RB, e-mail, 06.06.2020 22:22

B-29 raids dodged a bullet!

Did Nakajima have an early enough start to threaten B-29s?
Their Ki 12 flew in the mid-1930s with a 20mm HS 404 /inline engine combo. Their Ki 44 was parallel with the Ki 43 from the start. It had excellent climb to intercept at medium altitude but was at it's limits to attack B-29s so high. Thus, the Kawasaki potentially did better up at B-29 altitudes.
The Japanese had the ingredients for a more potent B-29 interceptor on the order of the Luftwaffe Bf 109 Gustv armed with a 30mm Mk 108 cannon. In fact the IJAAC 30mm Ho-155-II cannon was more potent. But the Japanese did not combine these ingredients into one interceptor.

The Gustav had fast interceptor climb like the Ki 44. The Ki 61 did not, but it had an inline engine potentially compatible with the 30mm motor-cannon like the Ki 12, and was the best Japanese fighter for high B-29 altitudes.
The Bf 109 had 17,000 30mm packing interceptors to stop B-17s and B-24s. Nakajima could mass produce more than any other Army fighter maker.
Fortunately for the B-29, all of these elements did not combine for Japan, but they could have. Yes, the B-29 benefitted by default. The Bf 109 never had to face the B-29 like Japan did. An Uber 'Gustav' was called for. However, Army pilots were more into dogfighting than stopping B-29s, so the unpopular Ki 44 interceptor was dropped while the obsolete Ki 43 kept being produced to the end. Thus, the spectacular Ki 44-III fell victim to the Oscar.


thomas, e-mail, 19.06.2020 RB

I appreciate the comment, the ," Germans didn't face the B-29..."
B-29 were fast at high altitudes, Japan had few planes capable of getting to those altitudes before they dropped their load.


ron, e-mail, 17.03.2017 06:59

The Shoki was as good as most US fighters in turn and stall.
But it excelled in vertical tactics as did US fighters.
Dive limit was well beyond 500 mph. P-38, P-47, P-51 were all redlined just under 500 mph in the dive.
Climb was no contest at all. No US fighter comes close to the Ki 44-II.
Since most US fighter pilots embraced vertical combat tactics, the Shoki pilots should have been pleased.
They could gain lead on most any target and close for a great shot. This is what the very short range 40mm Ho-301 cannons needed. These were available for the Shoki intended for intercepting B-29s. Unfortunately, this was suicidal given the 914m range, strong defences of the B-29 combat boxes and the point-blank 150m range of this 40mm cannon. Or should I say rocket shells?

Think of these shells as 20 air-to-air rockets but with clean wings aerodynamically.
Using climb and dive, the Shoki could aquire over 5 kills per combat flight, no sweat. That is averaging 4 rounds of 40mm and 4 rounds of 12.7mm per short burst. Fatal. Nevermind that it is mixed ballistics with no harmony. Certainly one of the 40mm shells will hit in the climb at least. 65g of TNT explosive per 40mm HEI caseless shell is fearsome. There is virtually no recoil to throw off aim, so uniform fire isn't necessary. Rocket propulsion is less than accurate so 150m range makes some sense. Besides, the Shoki was the gunnery champ of Japan for accuracy.

I say it was safer to get on the tail of fighters with similar tactics and which the Ki 44 could match or better.
Now this 40mm can shine. The pilot would have to strictly stretch his 40mm ammo of 10 shells per wing to fire only 1 or 2 at a time per cannon along with the 12.7mm cowl guns.
Each 40mm hit makes a 1.5m hole!!! No US fighter could survive that. After the 40mm ammo was spent, the cowl guns still had 30 seconds of ammo to get safely home.

I think very few Japanese pilots grasped this potential.


thomas, e-mail, 19.06.2020 ron

The 40mm was not effective in actual use.
150 yards brings the Tojo into effective range of defending fire.
Range , slow fire rate, low ammo were poor.

as with other posts the 37mm gun was better, but too heavy.


ron, e-mail, 29.09.2016 08:41

To further clarify my last post, my estimation of a 37mm Ho-203 hit is 1 /3 more leathal than a 40mm Ho-301 shell. The 37mm HE /I shell is only 475g vs 585g for the 40mm and 37mm has RDX vs TNT for the 40mm shell. The M /V is 576m /s vs an abismal 245m /s! M /V gives the 37mm 6x the firing range of the 40mm! I meant to include the M /V factor in that post: 900m vs 150m. RDX is superior to TNT also.
In my estimation,
the 20mm Ho-3 scores 20.5 pts per shell of Cartridge Power; the 20mm Ho-5 is 12 pts per shell (10 pts 1945);
the 20mm Type 99-I is 10.2 pts per shell;
the 20mm Type 99-II is 14 pts per shell;
the 37mm Ho-203 scores 55 pts per shell;
the 40mm Ho-301 scores 30.1 pts per shell.
The points per shell is the average since HE /I is not the only shell type in most belt compositions. So take my estimations with variations in the ammo belt in mind. Your estimation may differ.


ron, e-mail, 29.09.2016 07:41

If the 4x20mm cannon Shoki had 100 rpg, it had the best total firepower of any IJA fighter and all IJN fighters but the J2M3 and N1K2. After 15 seconds it would be down to just 2 20mm cannons for another 16. The J2M3 had 22 seconds and 3 more for just 2 cannons. The N1K2 had 24 seconds and 6 more for just 2 cannons. WoF was just under 3kg /s vs 4.362kg /s for the Raiden and 4.276 for the Shiden Kai. A hit from the Tojo's Ho-3 was 2x as deadly as a hit from the Jack's old pair of Type 99-I cannons. The Type 99-II split the difference. The 37mm Tojo did 2.4kg /s for 12.5 seconds and the 40mm armed Tojo only had 1.3 seconds of ammo but for a wopping 9.261kg /s!! A hit from the 40mm H0-301 was more than 2x deadlier than the new Type 99-II hit and the 37mm Ho-203 hit was 4x deadlier than the Type 99-II hit! This is included the HE /I factor in addition to the WoF (kg /s).


Ron, e-mail, 22.09.2016 06:57

"Contrary to 9,500 meter reconnaissance missions, the B-29 formations flew at 9,000 meters during bombing missions and so we were finally able to catch up with them in our Shokis. But when we reached 9,000 meters, it was always individually, not as a group, so we had to deal with the rain of defensive fire a ten B-29 box formation was throwing at each one of us.
On November 24 the first air raid took place. In December and January there were air raids almost every second day. Corporal Mita of the "Shinten Seiku-tai", which originated from my 2nd Chutai (Fuji-tai), was the first to perish in a ramming attack in the Kanto area. The next year, on January 9, Sergeant Sachi was also lost during a ramming attack. He crashed head long with a B-29, his aircraft was completely destroyed but the B-29 lost only its right outboard engine. With one less engine it flew out of formation and our other Ki 44 aircraft were able to attack and shoot it down. I was amazed that the bomber was still able to fly after suffering such damage."
-Japanese blog.


rRon, e-mail, 22.09.2016 06:45

The 37mm Ho-203 had a range of 2,950 ft (900m), only 1,890 f /s (576m) M /V.
RoF was 120 r /m or only 2 r /s with each wing-gun.
12.5 seconds of ammo for 25 r /g. 436.2g /shell.


ron, e-mail, 06.09.2016 08:15

"Ki.44-II has a range of armament options. The first machines Ki.44-II-ko (model 2-ko), which was released not too much, carrying weapons, the corresponding test Ki.44 seven - two regular and two heavy machine guns. Much more built Ki.44-II-Otsu (Otsu-2 model) with four large-Ho.103. Especially for air defense units prepared Ki.44-II-hey with different types of weapons, the main of which was set, including two machine guns Ho.103 fuselage and wing two 37-mm cannon Type 3 (Ho.203). Despite the low rate of fire and small ammunition (total of 25 rounds on the barrel), Ho.203 proven quite effective weapons against American bombers. 70th Regiment, based in Anshan (China), successfully used such machines against strategic bombers B-29. In a smaller number of fighters were issued with 40-mm cannon Ho.301. These guns had an effective range of 150 m and is usually used to destroy ground lightly armored targets. As attack aircraft with weapons used in Burma. Ho.301 had caseless projectiles - a charge of powder was pressed into a recess in the projectile Donets. Hence the low initial speed of its flight and a small firing range. Ho.301 get from the plane was quite difficult, but with a successful shot a projectile could destroy the enemy car to pieces, and even in the huge B-29s made a hole diameter of a meter and a half.Therefore Ki.44 with guns Ho.301 sometimes used against American bombers. On this machine flew one of the best Japanese aces Lt. Ogawa. A significant disadvantage of these airplanes was negligible ammunition - only 9 rounds per gun. There is also an option Ki.44-II-hey with four 20-mm cannons."
-This was from a Russian site.


Ron, e-mail, 24.06.2016 14:26

20mm Ho-3 43kg
400 rpm; 20x125mm 162g APT (820m /s); 127.4g HEI 846m /s 3.175g RDX; 5.961g Incendiary. 900m Range.
Cartridge Power 20.5; Gun Power 136.67; 68.33 sync.
Ammo: 50-100 rpg.
WoF: 0.965k /s; Sync: 0.483kg /s.

This is a cannon on the Ki 44-IIc. A quartet of these helps offset the slow RoF.
Ammo is 50 per magazine, 100 per double magazine.
I used 1.26% RDX formula with TNT as 1.00% baseline for the CP and GP calculation. I lacked more details beyond the APT and HEI rounds, so my results are limited to them.

These cannons give the Tojo interceptor long range leathality compared to the 40mm Ho-301 recoiless cannon on some Ki 44-IIc fighters. Plus it had up to 10x more ammo. The alternate Ho-301 had only 10 rpg and had a suicidal 150m range as compared to 900m for the 20mm Ho-3. The Ho-3 was well suited to B-29 interception. It had the best M /V and heaviest shell of any 20mm in WW2. The US Hispano had better M /V but not such a heavy shell, and it jammed too much.
With such a growing threat from B-29s, why stop production of these Ki 44-IIc interceptors instead of the obsolete
Ki 43? The Ki 84 didn't have the altitude improvement over the Tojo. The faster Ho-5 lacked the punch of these Ho-3s too. And the Ho-5 only got worse. They were good for dogfighting, so the Franks and Tonys should have escorted the Tojo interceptors in greater quantity against the B-29 raids.


Ron, e-mail, 02.12.2015 03:24

93 mph stall on wiki.


Ron, e-mail, 08.11.2015 01:42

The Ki 44-III is hard to find photos of.
If you wonder what it looked like, I had the engine, prop, and tail of the Ki 84 and probably a wing like the Ki 84 too.
So my guess is a Ki 84 would be close in looks.
Now if only the Ki 84 started out with the 4 Ho-5 20mm CNs found on the Ki 44-III. Just a thought.


Ron, e-mail, 07.11.2015 07:11

360 turn took nearly 20 seconds for the Shoki. Thus it could be out-turned by the P-51B version of the Mustang.

Some say the heavy 20mm Ho-3 CN that Francillion sources talk about, were not used by the Ki 44-IIc. I'm not easily swayed.

When Chenault encountered the Shoki he said it was the best fighter in China.


Ron, e-mail, 09.10.2015 02:39

This is a fighter that could have done well in the Luftwaffe.
All it needed was some German production lines.
It's short range was long range in Europe. It's lack of maneuverability and high altitude performance would be a non issue on the Russian front. armed with 4xMG151 /20s and you have a 'Fw 190' that climbs like a Bf 109!


Ron, e-mail, 16.02.2015 01:12

The Shoki could match the 528 mmph dive limit of the Ki 100!
In China, P-40 pilots knew it wasn't a 'Zero' when it stayed with them in a dive. Chennault called the Tojo the best fighter in China in 1943. Few Japanese pilots utilized it's strengths to the full like the 85th did. It excelled in vertical tactics (even the diving right turn).


Ron, e-mail, 22.09.2014 22:14

The Ki 44 deserved more production.
The Oscar and Zero were produced more but they lacked it's
high performance. All the rest of the new high performance Japanese fighters lacked the reliability of these 3. The Tony, Frank, Jack, and George all had engine troubles relative to the Tojo.

Therefore the Tojo should have been produced to compensate.
As it happened, the Oscar was instead, which would have worked better if it had the twin 20mm cannons of the Ki 43-IIIb by mid-war instead of post-war!

The Tony and the others should have stayed where the maintenance depots could supply the needed mechanics.

The Tojo could take its place in the tropics, just add drop tanks


yk, e-mail, 30.05.2014 18:05

This plane was modified from Ki44-I at 1942 for testing Pe-7XP-1 propeler. Only one plane was build.

Hasegawa released 1 /48 limited model.


Rottensox, e-mail, 25.05.2014 22:30

I have a question. I have a photo of a Shoki with contra rotating props. Does anyone have any definitive information on this version to authenticate or document it? The photo looks real, but with photo shop just about anything can be depicted.


Ron, e-mail, 29.04.2014 23:54

The Ki 44-IIc was mostly armed with 4 high velocity 20mm Ho-3 cannons which were slow (400 rpm) but the shell was heavier than any other 20mm in the war even the Allied Hispano of similar high velocity (other Ki 44-IIc Tojos armed with the 40mm were fewer and ineffective).
And that on a top gun platform like the Ki 44!
This was effective for bomber interception.
The non-production Ki 44-III with the 37mm cannons had 12.7mm MGs in the cowl. The 4x20mm Ki 44-III had the fast Ho-5 cannons. Neither would be as good against bombers as the 4xHo-3. (

I'm inclined to agree. What do you think?


Ron, e-mail, 25.04.2014 05:13

A top gun platform among Japanese fighters, very interesting.

I understand the Tojo was respected as a challenge to all mid-war Allied fighter pilots. Even for P-51s and Spitfire VIIIs that could turn inside it. Its combat flaps effectively reduced its wing-loading by a good margin for the horizontal fight but it was the vertical performance that was so impressive for a Japanese fighter.

I heard its dive was between that of the P-39 and the P-40. Not bad for its day as a contemporary of the Oscar. Then came the Tony which could dive but not climb better than the Ki 44.

The Ki 44-I was unreliable compared to the Ki 44-II with the Ha 109 motor.
The Ki 44-III had the unreliable 2,000 hp motor of the Frank.
Thankfully the reliable one was mass produced. All the Japanese fighter types that followed had unreliable powerplants, from the Tony to the Frank and from the George to the Jack (except a few J2M5s and Ki 100s). So The Tojo is significant as the last reliable one in quantity that could challenge Allied fighters and bombers Better than the hordes of Zeros and Oscars that overstayed their time in the ring.

It's like the Army's equivalent to the Navy's Jack fighter but beat it out of the gate by a mile.

The Ki 44 Tojo is really under-appreciated if even heard of by most people.


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