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Japan's Imperial Army flag

Japan's Type 97 Chi-Ha, 2597 Medium Tank (Chi-Ha)

Photos

Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank:
Japan's Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank
Aberdeen Tank Museum
Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank:
Japan's Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank
Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank:
Japan's Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank

Design

Based on use in China the Army issued a requirement in 1935 for a new medium tank to replace the Type 89B. Inspired by the British A6, a design was put forth that was faster than the Type 89. The Operations Chief of Staff however wanted a vehicle that was lighter and thus cheaper to manufacture. The Engineering Department however wanted to improve performance so Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the Osaka Army Arsenal were each tasked with developing a prototype, one to meet the Chief of Staff's preferences and the other theirs.

At first the Chi-Ni was selected as it was cheaper, but it was decided that the more powerful Chi-Ha was needed after the war broke out in China.

Internal communications were accomplished by 12 push buttons in the turret connected to 12 lights and a buzzer by the driver.

Engine

The engine, located in the rear provided power by a shaft that went to the gearbox in the front which then drove the front sprockets.

Crew

The Type 97's driver was located in the front to the right, and the machine gunner was to his left. The turret was to the right of center.

Construction

The Type 97 was manufactured with riveted construction.

Suspension

The suspension for the Type 97 Chi-Ha was similar to one used in the Type 95 light tank. It however had six road wheels instead of four.

The middle return roller only supported the inside of the track. The 4 center wheels were mounted in pairs on bell cranks. The outside wheels were independently mounted.

Main Armament

The turret ring was made large enough to allow for larger guns in the future.

  Round Type Weight Velocity per Second Penetration
500 yards
47 mm     2,700' 70 mm
47 mm Type 97 L/48     2,625'  
47 mm Type 1 AP 3.4 lb 2,700' 2.7"@0°
57 mm HE 6 lb 1,200', 1,378'  
57 mm Type 90     350 m  
57 mm Type 97     420 m  

Prototype

Two prototypes were built. Mitsubishi built one for the Engineering Department, and Osaka Arsenal built one for the General Staff Office.

Production

  • Chi-Ha Prototype:
    • Manufacturer: Mitsubishi
    • Production: 1937
  • Chi-Ni Prototype:
    • Manufacturer: Osaka Arsenal
    • Production: 1937
  • Type 97 Chi-Ha: ~3,000
    • Manufacturer: Mitsubishi, Hitachi
    • Production: 1937 - 1943, 1938 -
  • Type 97 Special Shinhoto Chi-Ha:
    • Production: 1942 -

Variants

  • Chi Ha Prototype: Armor was light. Was selected for production.
  • Chi Ni Prototype: Commander was only one in turret.
  • Type 97 Chi-Ha:
  • Shi-Ki: Command tank with 37 mm gun in hull instead of MG. Turret gun was dummy. A long range radio was installed with a rail antenna around the top of the turret.
  • Se-Ri: Armored Recovery Vehicle with a collapsible crane. Had 240 hp diesel.
  • Ho-Ni I: Turret removed and 75 mm gun installed.
  • Ho-Ni II: Turret removed and 105 mm gun installed.
  • Mine Clearing Tank G: Had 2 revolving drums which had rows of chains. This was primarily copied from Allied Mine Clearing tanks.
  • Type 38 HO-RO: Turret removed, and 150 mm gun installed.
  • Ho-K: Had its turret removed and had a steel prow mounted on the front for clearing paths through Manchurian forests.
    Other variants were self-propelled AA (20 mm & 75 mm), engineer, recovery, flame-thrower, bulldozer, and bridge layer.
  • Type 97 Special Shinhoto Chi-Ha / Type 97-Kai Shinhoto Chi-Ha: New turrets designed by Mitsubishi for the Type 1 Chi-He were put onto Type 97 tanks. Had 47 mm Type 1 as its main armament. Mainstay of Japanese Armored forces. Since the Type 1 Chi-He was slow in getting into full production it was decided to upgrade the Type 97 Chi-Ha production. First used in 1942.
  • Observation Tank Ka-So: Carried a dummy 47 mm gun, but kept the MGs. Had rail antenna around the top of the turret.
  • Bulldozer: Had bulldozer attachment that was operated by a cable.

Usage

36 Type 97s with the 9th Tank Regiment, commanded by Colonel Takashi Goto, arrived on Saipan in April 1944. In the early morning hours of June 17, 1944, 37 Type 97s and Type 95s joined with the 136th Infantry Regiment (commanded by Colonel Yukimatsu Ogawa) and attacked the 6th Marines. Several of the tanks got bogged down near the Susupe swamp while the rest moved forward towards the Marine lines. The Marines using machine guns, mortars, bazookas, artillery, and naval gun fire were able to stop the attack which was the largest tank attack of the Central Pacific.

It's role was to deal with machine gun nests and field fortifications encountered by the infantry.

Specifications

  Chi Ha Prototype
Crew 4
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 13.5 tons
Length 5.55 m
Height  
Width  
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 1: 57 mm
Secondary  
MG 2: MG
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 25
Hull Front, Upper  
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper  
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear  
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom  
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model)  
Bore / stroke  
Cooling  
Cylinders  
Capacity  
Net HP 170
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type)  
Steering  
Steering ratio  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Diesel
Octane  
Quantity  
Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse  
Speed - Road 38 kph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road  
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits  
Fording depth  
Trench crossing 2.5 m
Trench crossing with tail  
Vertical obstacle  
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  
  Chi Ni Prototype
Crew 3
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 9.8 tons
Length 5.26 m
Height  
Width  
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 1: 57 mm
1: 57 mm Type 90
Secondary  
MG 1: MG
1: 6.5 mm Type 91 MG
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 25
Hull Front, Upper  
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper  
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear  
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom  
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model)  
Bore / stroke  
Cooling Air
Cylinders 6
Capacity  
Net HP 135
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type)  
Steering  
Steering ratio  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type)  
Octane  
Quantity  
Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse  
Speed - Road 18.5 mph
30 kph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road  
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits  
Fording depth  
Trench crossing  
Trench crossing with tail 2.5 m
Vertical obstacle  
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  
  Type 97 Chi-Ha,
2597 Chi-Ha
Crew Commander, loader, driver, gunner-hull
4, 5
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 33,069 lb, 29,685 lb
15,000 kg
13.3 tons, 14.76 tons, 14.8 tons, 15 tons
Length 18', 18' 0.5", 18' 0.75", 18.01', 18.2', 18' 1", 18' 2"
5.5 m, 5.516 m
Height 7.33', 7' 4", 7.7', 7' 9"
2.23 m
Width 7.66', 7.7', 7' 7", 7' 7.5", 7' 8"
2.33 m
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance 13.5", 14"
Ground contact length 138", 12' 2"
Ground pressure 8.4 psi, 8.5 psi
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 1: 47 mm Type 1
1: 57 mm
1: 57 mm Type 97 (90)
1: 57 mm Type 97
Secondary  
MG 2: 7.7 mm MG
2: MG
2: 7.7 mm Type 97 MG
1: 7.7 mm MG
MG - hull 1: 7.7 mm Type 97 MG
MG - rear turret 1: 7.7 mm Type 97 MG
1: 7.7 mm MG
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main 80: HE, 40: AP.
104, 120
Secondary  
MG 2,350, 2,575, 3,825
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 8 - 25, 25
Front: 0.98"
Side: 0.8"
Hull Front, Upper 1"@0°
25, 26
Hull Front, Lower 17
Hull Sides, Upper 1"@0°
20, 20-35
Hull Sides, Lower 20-35
Hull Rear 0.78"@0°
20
Hull Top 10
Hull Bottom 8
Turret Front 1.3", 1.3"@0°,
25
Mantlet: 30, 33
Turret Sides 1", 1"@0°
25
Turret Rear 25
Turret Top 10
Engine (Make / Model) Mitsubishi Type 97, Type 97, Mitsubishi
Bore / stroke  
Cooling Air
Cylinders 12, V-12
Capacity  
Net HP 150, 170
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio 17.8:1
Transmission (Type) 4 forward, 1 reverse.
High and low ranges
Sliding pinion with high-low transfer case
Steering Clutch brake, Epicycle and clutch brake
Steering ratio  
Starter Electric
Electrical system Starting: 24-volt
Running: 12-volt
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Diesel
Octane  
Quantity 51.7 gallons, 52 gallons in 2 tanks
Road consumption 3.7 gallons/hour @ 9.3 mph
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse 360°, hand
Speed - Road 23.5 mph, 24 mph, 24.2 mph, 25 mph
38 kph, 38.6 kph, 39 kph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road 124.3 miles, 130 miles
200 km, 210 km
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits -9° to +11°
Fording depth 3' 3"
1 m
Trench crossing 8.25', 8' 3"
2.514 m
Trench crossing with tail  
Vertical obstacle 2' 6"
0.812 m
Climbing ability 30° (57%) slope, 40° slope
Suspension (Type) Bell crank
Front and rear road wheels independently sprung, center wheels sprung in pairs, coil springs used
Wheels each side 6
Return rollers each side 3
Tracks (Type) Dry pin
Length  
Width 13", 2' 11"
Diameter  
Number of links 95, 97
Pitch 4.9", 5 1/8"
Tire tread Rubber
Track centers/tread 6.6'
  Type 97 Special Shinhoto Chi-Ha
Crew Commander, loader, driver, gunner-hull
4
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 35,000, 33,069 lb,
15,000, 16,000 kg
15.8 tons
Length 18' 0.75", 18' 1", 18.01'
Height 7' 9.5", 7' 4", 7.76'
Width 7' 8", 7.66'
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 47 mm Type 97
47 mm Type 1
47 mm
Secondary  
MG 2: 7.7 mm MG
MG - hull 1: 7.7 mm MG
MG - rear turret 1: 7.7 mm MG
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main 114, 104
Secondary  
MG 2,575
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 8 - 25
Hull Front, Upper 38
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper  
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear  
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom 8
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model) Mitsubishi Type 97
Type 97
Bore / stroke  
Cooling Air
Cylinders V-12
Capacity  
Net HP 170
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type)  
Steering  
Steering ratio  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Diesel
Octane  
Quantity  
Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse 360°
Speed - Road 23.5 mph, 24 mph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road  
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits  
Fording depth  
Trench crossing  
Trench crossing with tail  
Vertical obstacle  
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  
  Se-Ri
Crew 4
Physical Characteristics  
Weight 15.4 tons
Length 18.17'
Height 7.32'
Width 7.66'
Width over tracks  
Ground clearance  
Ground contact length  
Ground pressure  
Turret ring diameter  
Armament  
Main 2: 7.7 mm MG
Secondary  
MG  
MG - hull  
MG - rear turret  
Side arms  
Quantity  
Main  
Secondary  
MG  
Side arms  
Armor Thickness (mm) 8 - 25
Hull Front, Upper  
Hull Front, Lower  
Hull Sides, Upper  
Hull Sides, Lower  
Hull Rear  
Hull Top  
Hull Bottom  
Turret Front  
Turret Sides  
Turret Rear  
Turret Top  
Engine (Make / Model) Type 97
Bore / stroke  
Cooling Air
Cylinders V-12
Capacity  
Net HP 240
Power to weight ratio  
Compression ratio  
Transmission (Type)  
Steering  
Steering ratio  
Starter  
Electrical system  
Ignition  
Fuel (Type) Diesel
Octane  
Quantity  
Road consumption  
Cross country consumption  
Performance  
Traverse  
Speed - Road 25 mph
Speed - Cross Country  
Range - Road  
Range - Cross Country  
Turning radius  
Elevation limits  
Fording depth  
Trench crossing  
Trench crossing with tail  
Vertical obstacle  
Climbing ability  
Suspension (Type)  
Wheels each side  
Return rollers each side  
Tracks (Type)  
Length  
Width  
Diameter  
Number of links  
Pitch  
Tire tread  
Track centers/tread  

Sources:

  1. The Encyclopedia of Tanks and Armored Fighting Vehicles - The Comprehensive Guide to Over 900 Armored Fighting Vehicles From 1915 to the Present Day, General Editor: Christopher F. Foss, 2002
  2. Tanks of the World, 1915-1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 1972
  3. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  4. Japanese Tanks 1939-45, Steven J. Zaloga, 2007
  5. Tanks of World War II, Duncan Crow, 1979
  6. Tank Data, Aberdeen Proving Grounds Series, 1968?
  7. Tank Data 2, Aberdeen Proving Grounds Series, E. J. Hoffschmidt and W. H. Tantum IV, 1969
  8. Profile AFV Weapons #49 Japanese Medium Tanks, Lieutenant-General Tomio Hara, 1972
  9. World War I and II Tanks, George Forty, 2012
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