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An improved Chi-Ha
The Type 1 (一式中戦車 チへ) Ichi-shiki chusensha Chi-he was an attempt by Mitsubishi to modernize the Type 97 Chi-Ha, the latter being later upgraded to the Shinhoto standard in 1942. The efforts of the engineers were aimed at increasing the protection level and improve the main gun range, speed and accuracy. The American M4 Sherman was especially in their minds. Unfortunately, production was delayed due to steel shortages, reserved prioritarily for warship construction. When the production run ended in early 1944, after 170 copies*, the model was desperately outdated.
*170 is the commonly accepted figure. Japanese Tanks 1939-45, Steven J. Zaloga, 2007, goes as far as 587, perhaps including part of the Shinhoto conversions.
The all-welded armor was increased to 50 mm (1.97 in), with a straight flat plate to simplify production. It was also slightly longer and taller, and weighed 1.5 tons more. Fortunately, this was compensated by the Mitsubishi Type 100 diesel, which gave 70 hp more than the previous Type 97, with a 240 hp total. Its main Type 1 47 mm (1.85 in) high-velocity (810 m/s or 2,700 ft/s) gun had a barrel length of 2.25 m, and was found able to defeat 72 mm (2.83 in) at 200 m or 52 mm (2.05 in) at 1,000 m, almost double of the previous Type 97. However, it needed an elevation gear, but this also lead to superior accuracy. Elevation/depression was +20 and -15 degrees. The three-man turret was a retrofit of the Chi-Ha “Shinhoto” one. The Type 1 was also the first Japanese medium tank equipped with a radio as a standard.
The Chi-He in action
Fortunately (or unfortunately) for the Japanese, the Chi-He never left the Home Islands. They were kept here to defend against the projected, expected Allied invasion (Operation Olympic), scheduled for October 1945. However, what-if prospects, if the invasion had took place, would have seen the Chi-He still inefficient against the upgraded, 1944 pattern Shermans, especially the new M4A3E8, later deployed in the Korean war. A single prototype was derived from it, the twin 37 mm (1.46 in) AA gun Type 1 Ta-Ha SPAAG.
Links & sources
Type 1 Chi-He specifications
|Dimensions||5.5 x 2.2 x 2.38 m (18.1 x 7.3 x 7.10 ft)|
|Total weight, battle ready||17 tons|
|Crew||5 (driver, commander, gunner, loader, machine-gunner/radio)|
|Propulsion||Mitsubishi V12 Type 100 air-cooled diesel, 240 hp (179 kW)@2,000 rpm, 21,700 cc|
|Speed||44 km/h (27 mph)|
|Armor||8 to 50 mm (0.31-1.97 in)|
|Range (road/off road)||210 km (128 mi)|