Kawasaki Type 3 Fighter Hein / Ki-61 Tony
The Kawasaki Type 3 Fighter / Ki-61 Tony was the first Japanese fighter to enter production after the start of the Pacific War. In 1937 Kawasaki purchased a license to build the
Daimler Benz DB.601 engine used in the Messerschmitt 109. By 1940, Kawasaki
created their own revised and lighter weight inverted V-12 inline engine, the Kawasaki Ha-40. Around this new engine was designed the Ki-60 fighter and the production design was the Ki-61.
By December 1941 a prototype was completed and flight tested with good performance and a top speed of 368 mph. During the first half of 1942 the prototype
was extensively tested, performing very well against a captured P-40E
Warhawk and an imported German
Messerschmitt Bf-109E. Accepted by the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) as the
Type 3 Fighter. Nicknamed Hein (meaning "Swallow" in Japanese). It was the only in-line engine fighter designed and built by the Japanese.
A total of 3,078 were built. All Ki-61s were built by Kawasaki Aircraft Industries (Kawasaki Kokuki Kogyo K. K.) at Kagamigahara. Most of the Ki-100 production was also assembled at Kagamigahara. Twelve Ki-100-Ib aircraft were built by Kawasaki at Miyakonojo.
Mistaken For Messerschmitt Bf-109
During the April 18, 1942 a test model was being flown by Lt. Umekawa was airborne and made an attack against one of the "Doolittle Raid" B-25 Mitchells, but was forced to break off his attack due to a lack of fuel and problems with his guns. One of the
B-25 crews reported the sighting, and the aircraft was mistakenly identified as a Messerschmitt Bf 109 and was seen as evidence the Japanese were importing or producing the German fighter aircraft. In combat against the Allies, the Type 3 fighter was often mistaken as a Messerschmitt Bf-109 due to the similar silhouette and in-line engine. Later, Allied intelligence verified this aircraft was an entirely new Japan aircraft design and was code named "Tony".
When the Type 3 fighter entered combat during 1943, it could out
run, dive and climb every Allied fighter except the P-38
was the first fighters to be equipped with fuel tank “fire-proof jacket", an early form of self-sealing fuel tanks that were inferior to Allied self sealing fuel tanks,
but offered some protection. Also, armor plate behind the pilot's head.
The Type 3 fighter was more rugged and able to withstand more damage than other lighter Army fighters.
Despite these advantages, the Type 3 fighter was plagued with mechanical and engine problems
in the tropics plus a shortage of supplies, trained ground
crews or were disabled on the ground.
Tonys with Mauser MG 151/20 cannons
The Japanese Army imported 800 Mauser MG 151/20 cannons, but never license built any in Japan. The Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) equipped 400 Ki-61 with the Mauser 20mm cannons. To distinguish the Type 3 fighters equipped with the Mauser cannon, Kawasaki and the army identified these planes by adding the base number of 3000 to the four-digit true serial number creating manufacture numbers 3001 to 3400. Some reports say that only 388 were equipped and the rest were earlier Ki-61s field modified for the weapon, but this has not been confirmed. Mauser equipped Tonys had the "Hei" armament configuration of two synchronized 12.7mm Ho-103 machine guns in the fuselage forward decking with two Mauser MG 151/20 cannons in the wings. No spares were available so as planes were written off, the Mauser cannons were removed for use as spares.
During 1944-1945 Type 3 fighters with increased armament of either 20mm cannons (Ho-5 / Army Type 2) or larger 30mm cannons (Ho-155) for attacking the B-29 Superfortress. The Tony was also used for Taiatari (body
crashing) ramming attacks against bombers.
Crew One (Pilot)
Engine 1 × Kawasaki Ha-40 liquid-cooled inverted V12 engine
Maximum Speed 366 mph
Range 1,120 miles
External Mounts 2 x 250 kg (551 pounds) bombs or 2 x drop tanks
Armament (varied by model)
Ki-61-I-Ko: 2 x synchronized 12.7mm Ho-103 machine guns in in the nose with 2 x 7.7 mm Type 89 machine guns in the wings.
Ki-61-I-Otsu: 2 x synchronized 12.7mm Ho-103 machine cannons in the nose with 2 x 12.7mm Ho-103 machine guns in the wings.
Ki-61-I-Hei: 2 x synchronized 12.7mm Ho-103 machine cannons in the nose with 2 x Mauser MG 151/20 cannons in the wings.