Self-propelled gun – 31 built
The last operational Japanese tank hunter
The Type 3 Ho-Ni III program started in 1942, as the Imperial Japanese Army experimented with early models of tank hunters, like the Ho-Ni I and II. These did not provide sufficient protection to their crews, with their partially open casemate, and their guns were inadequate for the role, having a too low muzzle velocity. In early 1944, an order from the Army to Hitachi Ltd requested a new series, able to address theses issues. It was known, after being accepted for production, as the 三式砲戦車 ホニIII San-shiki hōsensha, or Ho-Ni III, Type 3.
Hitachi’s tank hunter was indeed the best of the series, based on the late Type 97 Chi-Ha Shinhoto chassis. It fielded the 75 mm (2.95 in) Type 90 field gun, derived from a rechambered Schneider M1927 85 mm (3.35 in) field gun. It had a very good muzzle velocity of 683 m/s (2,241 ft/s). This gun formed the basis on which the Type 3 75 mm (2.95 in) tank gun was devised, later fitted on the Type 3 Chi-Nu medium tank. Around the Type 90 gun, the designers fitted a long armored casemate, protruding from the sides, with a roof and two hatches, able to completely protect the gun crew, both from ground and aerial fire. The rear was closed with two armored doors. There was no provision for a secondary weapon, and no hull machine-gun. As the casemate was cramped, most rounds were stored below, in the hull, but it was a real improvement over past designs.
Due to a growing shortage of materials, a consequence of the ongoing bombing campaign and depredation caused by the US submarine fleet, very few of these tank hunters were built, and Hitachi records are not known with precision. Total production figures range between 31 and 41. These vehicles were a match for US tanks, like the M3 Grant, and even the M4 Shermans, but too few (if any) were allocated to units stationed in active sectors, like the Philippines or Okinawa. Most were kept on the Japanese Home Islands, waiting for the Allied invasion. Therefore, there is no record or clue of any tank-to-tank engagement of the Ho-Ni III.
Type 3 Ho-Ni III specifications
|Dimensions||5.52 x 2.29 x 2.39 m (18×7.6×7.10 ft)|
|Total weight, battle ready||17 short tons|
|Crew||4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)|
|Propulsion||Mitsubishi air-cooled V12 diesel, 170 hp|
|Speed||38 km/h (24 mph)|
|Armor||12 to 25 mm (0.47-0.98 in)|
|Armament||75 mm (2.95 in) Type 90 gun|
|Range||200 km (160 miles)|