The first Japanese SPG
The 一式砲戦車 ホニ I, or “Isshiki ho-sensha Ho-Ni I”, was the first Japanese SPG and tank destroyer of the war. Work on such a vehicle started under the influence of German experience, after the IJA’s main battle tank, the Type 97 Chi-Ha, first encountered the M4 Sherman. The Head of Staff devised a two-prone response. Firstly, the Type 97 itself was overhauled and a new, more powerful 45 mm (1.77 in) AT gun was fitted. This new main tank was named “Shinhoto”. Secondly, a SPG with a more powerful gun was ordered, based on the Type 97 chassis, because the Type 97 turret was too cramped. The gun was the Type 90 field gun, a powerful piece of field artillery, which had a good muzzle velocity.
The Type 1 (related to the year, 1942) Ho-Ni I was basically a turretless Type 97 chassis with some modifications to the hull and a Type 90 gun mounted on the former turret ring. The turret ring was left partially open, to allow access to the ammunition stored just below. The gun was protected by a three-panel shield, which left the crew unprotected from the rear, like the early German Panzerjäger I. However, this was compensated by the strength of the 50 mm (1.97 in) armored plates. An additional set of 16 mm (0.63 in) plates were bolted on the hull. The vehicle was stripped of any machine-gun, to make room for ammo storage. It could carry 54 rounds, most probably HE shells only. The gun, inside its new mounting, had 10 degrees of traverse and -5 to +25 degrees of elevation. Maximum range in indirect fire was about 12,000 m (7.5 mi).
Production started in late 1942 and lasted until November 1943, with 124 units delivered. By then, it was superseded by the more powerful Ho-Ni II, featuring a 105 mm (4.13 in) field howitzer. The Ho-Ni I saw service in Luzon, and took part in the battles following the invasion of the Philippines in 1944. However, the US Army and Marine’s Shermans were far too numerous for the Ho-Ni to have a real impact during the campaign. The remainder stayed in Honshu and Kyushu, the Japanese home islands, in the prospect of facing the invasion planned by the Allies, Operation Olympic. These were later captured, and never saw combat. None survived to this day.
The Ho-Ni I on Wikipedia
Type 1 Ho-Ni I specifications
|Dimensions||5.9 x 2.29 x 2.39 m (19.36×7.51×7.84 ft)|
|Total weight, battle ready||15.4 short tons|
|Crew||5 (commander, driver, three gun servants)|
|Propulsion||Mitsubishi Type 97 diesel, SA 12200VD V12, 170 hp (127 kW)@2000 rpm|
|Speed||38 km/h (25 mph)|
|Armor||25-51 mm (0.98-2 in)|
|Armament||76 mm (3 in) Type 90 gun|
|Range||200 km (160 miles)|