Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu / NICK


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Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu / NICK

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

Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu / NICK

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.

Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu / NICKA three-view drawing (752 x 941)

 ENGINE2 x Mitsubishi Ha-102, 810kW
  Take-off weight5500 kg12125 lb
  Empty weight4000 kg8819 lb
  Wingspan15.02 m49 ft 3 in
  Length11 m36 ft 1 in
  Height3.7 m12 ft 2 in
  Wing area32 m2344.44 sq ft
  Max. speed540 km/h336 mph
  Ceiling10000 m32800 ft
  Range2000 km1243 miles
 ARMAMENT1 x 37mm cannon, 2 x 20mm cannons, 1 x 7.92mm machine-guns, 2 x 250kg bombs

Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu / NICK

Ron, e-mail, 06.10.2014 12:10

The Nick interceptor had the same Cannons as the faster Dinah had on theirs but in reverse, which was unsuccessful. Too bad the Ki 46 didn't just followed what worked on the Ki 45 so well.


Hiroyuki Takeuchi, e-mail, 23.03.2012 10:40

Although the Schräge Musik, and the Japanese oblique cannons share the concept, it seems to have been born out of necessity to fight against the tough US bombers and unrelated to each other in origin.


PeoriaGuy, e-mail, 16.12.2011 07:33

I wish that someone still made this model. I have built Nichimo models before and their quality was very good, especially considering it was 25 years ago the last one was made! Will be looking for this model. Gotta have it-it was a good plane, just lesser known one.


Angela, 20.06.2011 10:52

All the pilots in the squadron wanted to fly it but the powers that be refused permission. I did take a couple of pictures of it. There were also a couple of Bettys on the strip but they were damaged beyond repair.


Ken K., e-mail, 14.04.2011 23:38

Neat plane.
I find it particularly interesting that the night fighter variant employed the German jazz music concept, the upward angled guns for use against bombers.


Ian, e-mail, 08.10.2010 23:51

Paul, I agree with you on that. The majority of Japanese planes do look very similar at first glance. They seem to be one of the least documented too. This site is a treasure trove of info for aircraft anoraks like me.


paul scott, e-mail, 10.09.2009 23:41

If it's not considered a joke, a lot of Japanese aircraft do look the same, however, on closer inspection, they are all unique. This one was a neat little 'plane too!


Mick Dunne, e-mail, 23.11.2008 08:21

Incidentally, much is made of the performance of US aircraft vis a vis Japanese types during WWII...
To put things into perspective, air combat is not the same thing as Pylon Racing! Anyone that ACTUALLY flew Corsairs and Hellcats against Japanese facilities in Japan and its occupied territories soon realised that even at attack speeds of 400mph, a bunch of Nicks and Tojos joining combat from all angles at 350mph caused a whole bunch of trouble for the attackers! Engagements could be measured in seconds!


Mick Dunne, e-mail, 23.11.2008 08:10

Interesting observations Carl! Pity you guys didn't get to fly one...I know some ex RAAF pilots that got to fly Tachikawa Ki54 Hickory comunications aircraft as Squadron Hacks. They LOVED the plane! Very reluctant to give them up...


Sgt.KAR98, 04.04.2008 03:48

This plane looks great as Bf-110,althought the Zerstorer looks to have more firepower and the Ki-45,more agility


Mick Dunne, e-mail, 29.12.2007 04:27

Interesting comment about the build quality of the Nick! Historians seem to love rubbishing this plane...in fact, it was a very good design, it was well built and used most capably by its pilots. In the end it was NUMBERS rather than fighting qualities that proved to be its nemesis!


wilfredo alvarado, e-mail, 23.12.2007 18:09

I am a Giant scale R /C freak, and I wopuld like to build one KI 45.

But I need three views with cutaway sections, whera can I find them?




Carl Michels, e-mail, 08.06.2007 18:09

I was a Navy pilot in WWII and first saw a Nick fighter in a hangar at NAS Alameda before I left for the Pacific area. My impression of the aircraft was that it was lovingly constructed and must have taken lots of personal handiwork in its construction. I compared it to an F6F which was hangared next to the Nick, which looked like it had been put together in a great hurry, which was true since we turned out thousands of them in a relatively short time. Later, I was able to see another Nick up close which was left on the strip in perfect condition on the island of Palawan in the Philippines. All the pilots in the squadron wanted to fly it but the powers that be refused permission. I did take a couple of pictures of it. There were also a couple of Bettys on the strip but they were damaged beyond repair.


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