Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki / TOJO
1940
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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


Specification 
 MODELKi-44-IIb
 CREW1
 ENGINE1 x Nakajima Ha-109, 1133kW
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight2995 kg6603 lb
    Empty weight2105 kg4641 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan9.45 m31 ft 0 in
    Length8.8 m29 ft 10 in
    Height3.25 m11 ft 8 in
    Wing area15 m2161.46 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed605 km/h376 mph
    Ceiling11200 m36750 ft
    Range w/max.fuel1700 km1056 miles
 ARMAMENT4 x 12.7mm machine-guns

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

Comments1-20 21-40
Ron, 22.09.2016

“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.

Ron, 22.09.2016

“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, 22.09.2016

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, 06.09.2016

“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, 24.06.2016

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, 02.12.2015

93 mph stall on wiki.

Ron, 08.11.2015

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, 07.11.2015

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, 09.10.2015

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, 16.02.2015

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, 22.09.2014

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, 30.05.2014

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, 25.05.2014

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, 29.04.2014

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. (historyofwar.org)

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

Ron, 25.04.2014

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.

Ron, 23.04.2014

The Shoki was a good match for the Spit VIII, the P-51A, and the F6F as well as the P-38. An RAF Spitfire Mk VIII pilot over Burma even dove and zoom climbed to 18,000' and was alarmed to see the pursuing Japanese fighter could stay right with him. It was the Ki 44!
The Shoki was considered an equal challenge to these Allied fighters as a dogfighter with the combat flaps - in addition to it's vertical prowess.
It was not maneuverable enough only by Ki 43 Hayabusa standards.
Not only that, it also tackled Allied bombers with far more success than the lightly armed Ki 43.

Miguel Junior, 02.04.2013

In fate, the Ki-44, like Ki-100 and Kawanishi N1K1, have only one serius problem: the lack of pilots...
Best regards,
Miguel Junior
'''''''''''''

steve, 04.08.2012

If the Granville brothers (GeeBees) had designed a fighter, it likely would've looked like the Ki-44 - an engine with wings!

Ron, 27.04.2012

I understand some P-51s could turn at least as well as the standard Shoki.

Ron, 13.04.2012

Despite inferior maneuverability to it's stable mate (Ki43), the Shoki 'won the approval of pilots. They especially liked ...ki 44's spin performance and lateral stability' as a more focussed gun platform when firing. I think moving the tail fin back ala the Zero helped because that is why the A6M did that - to keep the wing cannons from spraying left and right so much.
With a dive performance between the P-39 and P-40 and a climb like the P-39 and Spitfire, it could still be more competetive than the Hayabusa. And the Allies thought it was maneuverable if not the Japanese. It had those combat flaps too so don't let wing-loading fool you. For all I know it didn't suffer from an unreliable powerplant like all the newer Japanese fighters that followed (Tony, Jack, Frank, and George). That's a biggie.

1-20 21-40

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