Imperial Japanese Army tanks and armoured cars
The ultimate tank database


Light & medium tanks, armoured cars.
Around 10 000 armoured military vehicles during ww2.

The very origins of IJN armor :

During ww1, IJ troops actively fought off central powers positions in the pacific theater. However, if the navy and aviation were mostly mobilized, never the army experienced a stalemate, urging the use of tanks on the battlefield. However, officers found themselves acutely aware of the tank development by the westenr powers, and the military junta quickly purchased several machines abroad. In 1921, the IJA, acquired a few British Whippet Mark A (ex-red Russian) which became the first Japanese tanks, and around 6 machines were duly tested and practiced manoeuvers until 1930. They also bought in 1919 thirteen Renault FT17, the most current tank of the day worldwide, which became the mainstay of the early infantry tank force, under the name of "FT-Ko". They served during the "Mandchurian incident", under the 1st Tank Unit of the 12th Division in 1925. They also placed 10 orders by 1931 for the French Renault NC-27 "Otsu", a modernised and improved variant of the Ft17 also used in numbers by the Polish army. they were deployed in the 1st Tank Unit in Kurume, and later, remained in China for the duration of ww2.

Development of tanks during the thirties :

The first indigeneous design came with the study of contemporary British designs like the Medium Mark C at Chiba Infantry School , studying tanks tactics, ending with the experimental Type 87 in 1927. It was initiated by the 4th Military Laboratory of the Imperial Japanese Army Technical Bureau, and made of soft steele, similar to the French char 2C. The type 89 Yi-Go was built in numbers, first with the Ko variant, and later the Otsu (278 and 126 units). It was replaced by the more advanced type 89 Chi-Ro. It was a relatively fast (25 km/h), diesel-equipped, well-armoured infantry tank built from 1929 to 1936, which formed the mainstay of the Japanese army in China, participating in the Shanghai incident and subsequent conquest of China. By 1941 they were seen as absolete, but many participated in the Philippines operations were they remains until 1944. Also in 1927, the Japanese brought 6 Carden-Lloyd MkVI MG carriers and copied the suspension system and drivetrain. The first derivative was the "combat car" type 92 Jyu-Sokosha for the cavalry corp. Later on, they built several hunrdred of small reconnaissance tankettes, Type 94 TK, later equipped with a diesel from 1936.

Operations in China

By 1933, IJN has created its three first tanks units, the 1st and 3rd Regiment at Kurume and the 2nd Regiment at Chiba Tank School. An Independent Mixed Brigade was formed in China the same year with mainly type 89 and 94 tanks. In 1934, this was the 1 st Independent Mixed Brigade. The Chinese has no tanks and few capable antitank guns, so these tanks served as mobile pillboxes and infantry support. By 1937, 8 tanks regiments has been formed, for a total of 1060 units. By july of the same year, thrirteen tankettes companies (with four platoons of four tankettes each) were sent in china. Bad roads and general terrain in mandchuria was a proving ground for many tanks designs, were engines, suspensions, tracks and transmissions were thoroughly put to the test. By 1938 two (1st and 3rd) Senshadan or tank groups were formed to control Mandchuria borders with USSR.

War with the Soviets

In 1938-39, several frontier incidents has degenerated on full scale battle. The biggest clash occured at Kalkhin Gol. IJA forces were defeated by better tanks and more agressive Russian tactics. The generals which has always seen tanks and a primary support for the infantry began to look it as a fighting force in itself. The 3rd and 4th Tank Regiments in mandchuria showed all the range of IJA models in service that year, were committed during these days, were they lost 42 tanks out of 73, while the Russian has lost 32 BT tanks. After and initial success and deep penetration, they were surrounded and decimated. This failure triggered many changes in the IJA tactical thinking, and in response of Russian tanks, several new antitank guns and new tanks models were devised. General Tomoyuki Yamashita was sent in Germany to study Wehrmacht tactics and armoured warfare doctrine. He made a complete report full of recommandation for new medium tanks and better infantry equipment against tanks. Only by april 1941, the armored branch was independent, with General Shin Yoshida as first commander in chief.

World war two

The tank force was primarily under the overall command of the IJA, and not the navy. Also for the nature of mostly naval operation on small islands, tanks were circonvented in several large scale operational areas, were they could be effective in blitzkrieg-style tactics : China, the Philippines, Burma, Indonesia (java), and some were dispersed in support of infantry units on Okinawa, Iwo Jima and several other islands. On December 22, near Damortis, at Luzon island (philippines) the first clash between Japanese and US tanks occured. They were opposed by M3 and M2A4 of the American 192nd Tank Battalion, and the 57mm of the Chi-Ha, then the best frontline IJA tanks proved useless against their armor. In Burma, engaging second and third rate light tanks, and a few Stuarts from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, the Japanese proved deadly. By 1943, the SNLF, or navy armored force received its first amphibious tanks, like the Ka-Mi. 223 units would be built until 1945. The Germans sent in Japan two Panzer III and later plans of their more advanced tanks, but all upgrades were slow and the development of really effectiven german-style tanks never really materalized. Only a few of these new types were completed by 1945, and many prototypes never entered production. Lacking materials and petrol, Japanese industral capacities were hampered to the point of complete inneficience.

The last tanks built were allocated to home defence units, waiting the invasion (operation Olympic) which never came. When the Soviets invaded Mandchuria in august 1945, they found an impressive tank force, at least on the paper, but a deep ravine separated the IJA and Soviet types. The latter has constantly improved their models in response to German tanks, and were much more advanced in speed, firepower and protection than the average IJA models, which were light and/or obsolete by these standards. It has to be said that the Japanese never has the capacity to develop a large-scale production, at least comparable to the western powers. Even during the war, the US naval blockade, mostly performed by US Navy air force and Submarines began to talk in 1943. By late 1944, Japan was deprived from all kinds of industrial resources from south-east Asia, and their industries were constantly hammered by swarms of B-29 bombers operating from China, and later from Iwo Jima and Okinawa. They dispersed also their efforts between the needs of the Army and Navy, conceiving many specifications, ending with many derivatives, all remaining as prototypes or a few units.


Type 5 Chi-Ri

Type 5 Chi-Ri with a prospective camouflage, 1945. (off-scale). The Type 5 Chi-Ri (五式中戦車 チリ Go-shiki chusensha Chi-ri) was the last Japanese tank. Not a heavy but a medium, it was designed to be more heavier and powerful than the Type 4 Chi-To. It was based on a lengthened version of the Type 4 Chi-To chassis (8 road wheels) but also thicker sloped welded armor, with 75 mm at the glacis front and from 25 to 50 mm on the sides, rear and turret. It was to be initially powered by a Mitsubishi Diesel engine, but instead a 800 hp V-12 gasoline-fueled aircraft engine designed by BMW was licensed to Kawasaki Heavy Industries was selected. This Kawasaki Type 98 Ha-9-IIb" could provide 550 hp which was comfortable to move a 37 ton tank. The type 5 75 mm Tank Gun Mark I had a semi-automatic loader, at first, same as the Chi-To but eventually a 88 mm gun (based on the Type 99 AA Gun) was planned for the turret. Secondary armament comprised a front hull-mounted Type 1 37 mm and there was a ball mount for a Type 97 light machine gun on the left side of the turret. Work started in mid-1944. Military planners thought to equip several mobile armoured division with this new model, ready to throw the invaders to the sea. Indeed, the Type 5 was quite an adversary for the Sherman. Well advanced in may 1945, the Chi-To fell into cancellation, the Type 4 being given first priority according to the lack of resources at this stage. An unfinished prototype was eventually captured by American occupation troops in the fall of 1945, and it was to be apparently shipped back to Aberdeen Proving Grounds but was lost at sea, or scrapped in situ. The Ho-Ri tank destroyer was based on the same chassis and was to be equipped with a more powerful 105 mm gun, like the German Elefant/Ferdinand. It remained a paper project and only a scaled mockup was found.

Specs. Type 5 Chi-Ri

Dimensions: 8,5 (28 ft) x 3,05 (10 ft) x 3,10 (10.2 ft)m
Total weight, battle ready: 37 short tons.
Crew : 5 (Driver, commander, gunner, loader, hull gunner/radio)
Propulsion: Water-cooled Kawasaki Type 98 aircraft engine (Petrol) 550 HP.
Speed: 45 km/h (28 mph)
Armor: 12 to 75 mm hull & turret
Suspension Bell Crank
Armament: Main: 75 mm Type 5, Type 99 88 mm AA Gun planned
Sec: 1x 37 mm type 1/1-2 Type 97 7.7 mm MGs
Range (road/off road): 250 km (160 miles)

ww2 Japanese Tankettes. (Approx. 1547 units)

Type 92 Jyu-Sokosha (167 units)
Type 94 tankette (823 units)
Type 97 Te-Ke Tankette (557 units)

ww2 Japanese Light tanks. (Approx. 2633 units)

Type 95 Ha-Go (2300 units)
Type 98 Ke-Ni (104 units)
Type 2 Ke-To (29 units)
Type 4 Ke-Nu (100 units)

ww2 Japanese Medium tanks : (Approx. 3150 units)

Type 89 Yi-Go (404 units)
Type 89 Chi-Ro (278 units)
Type 97 Chi-Ha (1162 units)
Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha (or -kai, 1943-45 930 improved units)
Type 2 Ho-I Infantry Support Tank (1944 - 30 units)
Type 1 Chi-He (1943-44, 170 units)
Type 3 Chi-Nu (1944-45, 166 units)
Type 4 Chi-To (1944, 2 units)
Type 5 Chi-To (1944, 2 units)

ww2 Japanese Heavy tanks (3 produced)

Type 91 Heavy Tank (only prototype, 1932)
Type 95 Heavy Tank (only prototype, 1934)
Super-Heavy Tank "O-I" (1 prototype, 1940-44)

ww2 Japanese Amphibious tanks. (223 units)

Type 1 Mi-Sha (prototype)
Type 2 Ka-Mi (1942-43, 184 units)
Type 3 Ka-Chi (1942-43, 19 units)
Type 4 Ka-Tsu (20 units for Pearl Harbor, torpedo tanks)
Type 4 Ka-sha (one prototype)
Type 5 To-Ku (one prototype)
F B Swamp Vehicle (?one prototype)
SRII Ro-Go Amphibious Tank (?one prototype)

ww2 Japanese self propelled guns. (approx. 252 units)

Type 1 Ho-Ni I SPH (1942-43, 124 units)
Type 1 Ho-Ni II SPH (1942-43, 54 units)
Type 2 No-Ni III Tank Destroyer (1944-45, 41 units)
Type 4 Ho-Ro 150 mm SPH (1944, 25 units)
Type 4 Ha-To 120 mm SPG (1943, 4 units)
75 mm SP AT Gun "Na-To" (1945 - 2 prototypes)
Type 4 Ha-To 30cm SP Heavy Mortar Carrier (1 prototype)
105 mm SP Gun Tank "Ho-Ri" (1945 - 1 unfinished prototype)
Type 5 Ho-Ru 47 mm SP Gun (1945 - 1 prototype)
Type 5 Na-To Tank Destroyer (1945 - 2 units)
Type 5 Mortar Launcher "Tok" (1945 - 1 prototype)
75 mm SPG "Kusae" (1944 - 1 prototype)

ww2 Japanese Armored cars. Unknown production.

Aikoku Armored Car (1931 - 2 units)
Hokoku Armored Car (1933 - 1 unit by SNLF)
Type 87 Armored Car (1927 - around 200 - derived from the Crossley Mk.I) Type 2592 "Kokusan" Armored Car (?)
Type 2592 "Chokei Sensha" Armored Car (?)
Type 2593 "Sumida" Armored Car (1933-42, approx. 1000 units. Broad Gauge Railroad Tractor)
MODEL 92 "OSAKA" Armored car (1932 - approx. ?500, six-wheels) Model 92 Naval Armored Car (1933 - ?200)
Model 92 "Chiyoda" Armored Car (1932-36, 200 units)

Other armored vehicles. Unknown production

Type 91 So-Mo Armored Railroad Car (?)
Type 95 So-Ki Armored Railroad Car (?)
Type 98 So-Da Armored Ammunition Carrier(1941-43 ?100)
Type 1 Ho-Ki Armoured personal carrier (1941, ?200)
Type 1 Ho-Ha Half-Track Armoured Personnel Carrier (1944-45 ?200)
Type 100 Te-Re Observation Vehicle (?)

Links about IJA armour

The complete list on Wikipedia.
Armored Car Chiyoda
IJA Armored car "Chiyoda" 1932. The most current 6-wheels heavy AC in service in China. 6-wheeled Type Q truck used by the Hyakutake unit in the Jehol Operation.

Armored Car Hokoku
IJA armored car Hokoku. Data available over IJN armored cars ars scarce at best. It seems a few were built on purpose; most served in china.

M2593 Sumida railroad armoured car
This broad gauge railroad armoured car was the most current in service, notably in the Philippines and China, and most of southeast asia.

The most impressive IJA self-propelled gun conceived by 1945 in two variants, Ho-Ri and Ho-Ri II, both equipped with the heavy 105mm naval gun. The first was an unfinished prototype, the second existed only as paper project.

A rare view of captured Te-Ke tankettes (Type 94) at Kwajalein. The scale of the Sherman gives clues about their size.

O-I Heavy tank
O-I heavy tank. This impressive machine seems to have been completed by the manufacturer, and rumors of sightings in China for trials, but no existing photo were found.

SR II Ro-Go amphibious tank. It seems that only a prototype was built.

Type 3 Ka-Chi
Type 3 Ka-Chi, an amphibious tank, bigger and more heavily armed than the Ka-Mi.

Type 5 To-Ku
Type 5 To-Ku, the biggest of these amphibious tanks was developed in 1945, but production never started. Only a prototype was built.

Type 5 Na-To
Type 5 Na-To, was a tank destroyer armed with a 75mm type 5, high velocity gun. The first prototype was completed in 1945, but despite an order of 200, only 2 were completed before the end of the war.

Type 5 Ho-Ki
Type 5 Ho-Ki, was based on the type 1 Ho-Ki transport, but adapted as a self-propelled anti-aircraft gun with a twin type 98 20mm AAG.

Type 4 Ho-Ro
Type 4 Ho-Ro, built by Mistubishi in small numbers, was inspired by the German SiG33 Self propelled howitzer. It was equipped with an old Krupp-designed 150mm howitzer, but vulnerable due to short and weak side protections.
April tank of the month: The T34/76 April 2012
May tank of the month: The M3  Halftrack May 2012
June tank of the month: The Panzer III June 2012
July tank of the month: The Cruiser VI Crusader July 2012
August tank of the month: The Char B1 bis August 2012
September tank of the month: The T26 September 2012
April tank of the month: The M3 Lee/Grant October 2012
November tank of the month: The Panzer IV November 2012
December tank of the month: The Mathilda infantry tank December 2012
January tank of the month: The Type 97 Chi Ha January 2013
February tank of the month: The Russian KV-1 February 2013
March tank of the month: The M4 Sherman March 2013
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Sd.Kfz.250  Hanomag May 2013
June tank of the month: The Panzer III June 2013
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August tank of the month: M4 Sherman Part 2 August 2013
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November tank of the month: The Churchill November 2013
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Chitsmas tank of the month: The Tiger January 2014
February tank of the month: The February 2014
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June tank of the month: The Leopard I June 2014
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