1/48 Hasegawa Ki-44 II Otsu

B-29 Hunter - 47th Sentai

Gallery Article by Mark L. Rossmann on Feb 2 2021

 

      

B-29 Hunter - Ki-44-II Otsu 47th Sentai

History: 
Nakajima Type 2 heavy fighter, the Ki-44 Shoki, was developed from the1939 Air Headquarters (Koko Hombu) requirement for a different type of fighter. In all previous requirements; responsiveness, classic dog-fighting as in WWI, and agility were utmost, however, this requirement was for rate-of-climb, speed, and ability to withstand battle damage. Initial trials against the Zero saw it totally fail, and only equaled the performance of the Ki-27 and Ki-43.

Many changes were made, including a set of Ki-43 like "butterfly" combat  flaps fitted for improved maneuverability, aerodynamic changes especially to the engine housing, the aircraft was finally production ready, with only 40 Ki-44-Iís built before the -II Otsu commenced production. The Otsu was the best of the series with top speed of 376 mph at 17,060 feet with ascent to 16,000 feet in 4 minutes 17 seconds, armed with 4 machine guns. The -III Hei only had a few built before suspension in late 1944 in order to build the Ki-84.

With high wing loading, this created fast speeds for landing and tricky handling, it was thought fighter pilots with over 1,000 hours of flight time in their log books should only fly it. This caution was found to be un-needed and by late war it was decided relatively inexperienced pilots could handle it.

Pilot opinion was subjective, those that flew the nimble Ki-27 and Ki-43 disliked it intensely, as it lacked maneuverability and for its highspeed landing. However, it was respected for its outstanding dive characteristics, rapid roll rate and an excellent gun platform, consisting of a pair of 7.7  mm (.303  in) and a pair of 12.7  mm (.50  in)  machine guns. Later, the "IIc" had a single 20 mm cannon replacing the wing mounted machine gun, limited numbers of aircraft had devastating 40 mm mounts. Those willing to accept the planes characteristics and to exploit them were far and few between.

Limited success was partly due to only 1227 variants of this type being produced, which was 9% of the single engine JAAF aircraft produced during the war. It was deployed mostly in China, also in Burma, East Indies, and the Philippines. The Ki-44 (Ki for "kitai" which is airframe type number) Shokai ("The Demon Queller", a Taoist temple deity traditionally regarded as a vanquisher of ghosts and evil beings), or named by the allies as "Tojo", is mostly known for its Homeland Defense deployment against the B-29.

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The 47th Chutai:
Nine aircraft were received by an experimental unit,  47th Chutai  "Kawasemi Buntai" ("Kingfisher  Flight, 47th Squadron"), commanded by Major Toshio Sakagawa at  Saigon Indochina in early September 1941. As a result of the "Doolittle Raid", having laid bare the lack of a Home Defense lead by the 244th with obsolete Ki-27ís, the wake-up call ordered the 47th Chutai to return to Japan, on April 25th 1942 they did. The 47th was assigned to the 10th Air Division and rated as the "best" with many skilled pilots, even though the 244th gained most of the limelight.

In October 1943, the 47th worked its way into "Sentai" status at Choufu Air base. Its tail emblem was a stylized version of the number 47 with each Chutai (squadron) displaying in its own colors, for this model, yellow for the 3rd Chutai. 47th Sentai. It disbanded at the end of the war at Ozuki, Yamaguchi Prefecture then operating the Ki-84.

November 1, 1944 the 47th saw its first B-29 homeland action when a F-13 photo-recon, variant of the B-29, from the 3rd Photographic group came in at 32,000 ft to map the Kanto plain. At 1300 hours the 47th scrambled available Tojoís and began there long climb toward the bombers. Leading was Capt. Jun Shimizu, the 1st Chutai commander, as the formation reached 27,000 ft the planes began wallowing and started stalling, some pilots dropped their nose to climb at a shallower angle. Shimizu and his wingman Lt. Matsuzaki got within 3000 ft of the plane, struggling to keep their planes controlled, fired short bursts with no hits.

The IIc version were armed with heavy cannon, using caseless ammunition with a low muzzle velocity was affective in close attacks against B-29s Using the IIc, there was a special  kamikaze  unit, (a company of four aircraft minimum) of the 47th Sentai, which specialized in bomber collision tactics, the  Shinten  unit ("Shinten Seiku Tai"(Sky Shadow) 47th  Sentai  (Air Regiment) based at Narimasu airfield), during the defense of Tokyo.

On Feb 10th 1945, a mission to Ota, the 47th Sentai intercepted. 1st L.t Heikichi Yoshizawa flew inverted straight at the formation, then rolled upright then flashing barely 30ft above the Superforts, he slammed into one of them and was instantly killed. That morning he had pinned a small doll to his flying suit for good luck, telling his wing man 2nd Lt. Ryozo Ban, "Follow me today!" Ban replied "Yes sir, Yes sir I will, I will follow you to heaven or hell!" Ban was hit by defensive fire and had to make an emergency landing at Shimodate airfield. Yoshizawa is recorded as the leading B-29 ace of the 47th with 4 B-29ís destroyed. Not all his kills were in the Ki-44.

By March of 1945, P-51 "Sundowner" units were escorting the B-29ís, JAAF units were ordered not to engage U.S. escorts, to go after the bombers and to save themselves for the final defense, this also saw the 47th transitioning to the Ki-84.

Ki-44 was used on the eve of WWII in Indochina, a heavily armed fighter suited for attacking the heavy bombers, something the Luftwaffe resurrected near in the end of their "Defense of the Reich". The "Tojo" was never destined to become a great fighter, or the mount of great aces, those who did make their mark in this aircraft did so by ramming B-29ís at high altitudes or stalking them at low altitudes with the deadly 40mm cannon. Not what was envisioned in the original "Koko Hombu" requirement.


Model: 
Kit: Hasegawa 1/48 Ki44-II (JT37)

Decals: AeroMaster 48-170 "Tojo Collection PT. II".

Aircraft: This depicts aircraft #60, a Ki 44 Shoki II "Otsu" of the 47th Sentai, 3rd Chutai in Oct 1944, based at Chobu airbase. Pilot; Capt. Hatano 3rd Chutai leader.

Only draw-back on the kit, it came with the scope sight which protruded through the front windshield. Later built planes came with the optic sight, which this particular plane has. Used "Formula 560" canopy glue to fill in the hole, would have been nice if optional site and windshield were available in kit.

Paint:

  • A) Tamiya TS-17 Aluminum spray

  • B) Testers Flat white spray for the Hinomaruís areas. 

  • C) Tamiya TS-29 Semi-gloss black for glare panel.

  • D) Tamiya TS-47 Chrome Yellow spray for the leading wing edges.

  • E) Tamiya AS-29 Grey Green (IJN) for the fabric areas. 

  • F) Propeller is Model Color 70486 Mahogany Brown

Final Note:
In

reference #2, last page shows a picture of a Ki-44 on display at Wright-Patterson AFB. This last surviving "Tojo" was scrapped, there are no intact examples of this aircraft type left in the world. Another source says a wing center section is preserved at the  Northwestern Polytechnical University  Aviation Museum, at  Xi'an  China.

References:

  1. Osprey Aviation Elite #5 Ė B-29 Hunters of the JAAF, by Koji Takaki and Henry Sakaida,

  2. Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #100 Ė Ki-44 "Tojo" Aces of World War 2", by Nicholas Millman.

  3. Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #13 Ė Japanese Army Airforce Aces of World War 2", by Henry Sakaida.

  4. Rand McNally World War II Airplanes Vol. 2 by Enzio Angelucci and Paolo Matricard.

  5. AeroMaster 48-170, "Tojo Collection PT. II".

  6. Hasegawa Instruction Sheet

Thanks to Steve for maintaining this fine site.

Respectfully,

Mark L. Rossmann

Photos and text © by Mark L. Rossmann