Japan’s last light tank
The Type 5 Ke-Ho (五式軽戦車 ケホ Go-Shiki Keisensha Keho) was the last light tank designed by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). Though it had performed well in the early stages of WWII and even before it, the Type 95 Ha-Go was showing it’s age by 1942. An attempt had already been made to replace it with the Type 98 Ke-Ni and Type 2 Ke-To. However, these projects failed to fully materialise .
Following this, the IJA decided to try again and work started on the Ke-Ho.
Design and Development
A scale drawing of the Ke-Ho (Source: ftr.wot-news.com)
Development of this new light tank began in 1942. Up till then, the Ha-Go had performed well against American M3 Light tanks, but suffered dreadfully against the larger M4 Sherman. Its last successful engagement was against US forces on the Bataan Peninsula in December 1941 who only had M3 Stuart Light tanks.
Of course, the name “Tank” should be applied loosely to any Japanese armored vehicle of World War II. One of the major shortcomings of the Ha-Go was the fact that a .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine gun could effectively knock one out. The Type 98 Ke-Ni and Type 2 Ke-To had somewhat of an armor upgrade, at least enough to defend against .50 cal rounds. They still lacked a gun capable of even scratching a Sherman. These vehicles were not produced in substantial numbers, with only 104 Ke-Ni and 34 Ke-Tos built by the end of the war.
The Ke-To experimented with a slightly better main armament in the form of Type 1 37 mm (1.46 in) gun. This offered a much-needed improvement over the Type 94 37 mm (1.46 in) used on the Ha-Go. Though a step in the right direction, this weapon still was not enough to combat the M4 at any angle.
As such, the Ke-Ho was to be armed with the Type 1 47 mm (1.85 in) Tank Gun II. This was a planned variant of the Type 1 47 mm found on the Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tank. The performance of the Type 1 Gun II is unknown, however the performance of the standard 47 mm is. Penetration of the weapon was 55 mm at 100 m, 40 mm at 500 m and 30 mm at 1,000 m. This was still only enough to penetrate the side of a Sherman. This of course led to the ambush style of combat used by Chi-Ha crews.
The cannon was mounted in a turret based on the Type 1 Chi-He’s. It had a raised commander’s cupola, next to which was a mounting point for a Type 97 machine gun. This turret was mounted on an enlarged Ke-Ni/Ke-To chassis, slightly of to the right of the center line. It had a Type 97 MG mounted in the front right left of the bow. The vehicle had a short wheel base, with a bell crank suspension using a similar layout out to the Chi-He’s. The Ke-Ho was powered by a 150hp air-cooled diesel engine that would crank out a decent top speed of 50 km/h.
Type 5 Ke-Ho
|Dimensions||4.38 x 2.23 x 2.23 m (14.3 x 7.3 x 7.3 ft)|
|Crew||4 (driver, gunner, commander, bow gunner)|
|Propulsion||150hp Air-Cooled Diesel|
|Speed (road)||31 mph (50 km/h)|
|Armament||47 mm Tank Gun II
2x Type 97 machine guns
|Armor||8-20 mm (0.31-0.78 in)|
|Total production||1 Prototype|
Illustration of the Type 5 Ke-Ho based on existing design drawings by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet
A planned variant of the Ke-Ho was the Ku-Se (自走砲 Jisōhō クーセ) self-propelled gun/tank destroyer. It was to be armed with a Short Type 99 75 mm mountain gun, in a similar open case mate to the planned Ho-Ni and Ho-Ro SPGs.
Drawing of the Ku-Se variant (Source: ftr.wot-news.com)
In 1942, a prototype vehicle was built, and the project was canceled soon after. As with most new tank designs the Japanese came up with, it was low on the list of importance. Resources and construction efforts were instead being focused on warships and warplanes. Mass production was approved in 1945 however, but this was of course too late and the one prototype remained the only one built. This also meant that the Ku-Se variant never left the drawing board.
A post war drawing of the the Ke-Ho. Source: – N/A
What happened to the prototype is unknown. It was likely taken back to the USA for analysis and later broken down.
Links & Resources
The Ke-Ho on Wikipedia
Osprey Publishing, New Vanguard #137: Japanese Tanks 1939-1945
Profile Publications Ltd. AFV/Weapons #54: Japanese Combat Cars, Light Tanks and Tankettes, Lt.Gen Tomio Hara