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Weapons of World War Two

Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tank

Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tank

Towards the early half of the 1930s, the situation of the armored forces of the Japanese Imperial Army was not yet stabilized. In the first place, the two weapons that comprised the Armed Forces, this is, the Navy and the Army, were very distanced to each other and, in some way, they were "rivals", which created confusion and difficulties when addressing the industry for the construction of new weapons. In fact, each of them had its own infantry, aviation, armored forces and artillery, besides, naturally, of the ships, which were exclusive dotation of the Navy.

The habit of working in "watertight compartments" and the lack of collaboration between both weapons excluded, frequently, the knowledge of the accumulated experience, for example, by one of the corps, which, before sharing it with the other, continued studying on its own, without managing to arrive to where it could have with the help of the other corps. The situation of the armored forces suffered from this state of things: the largest part of the tanks were of an outdated model (many were European models, dating back from the Great War). Others, such as the Type 89 Chi-Ro, were typical transition models, on which the armament could not be renovated, as the Japanese High Staff wanted.

Hence, it was considered convenient to request from the industry a new tank, but also about this point the military high echelons were in disagreement. A part of the responsibles pronounced in favor of a light tank, economical and of fast construction. Other part preferred, however, a heavy tank and, albeit more costly, of a formula that could be valid during a long time frame. The workshops of Mitsubishi and the Arsenal of Osaka decided, therefore, to build two models: the first one a heavy model and the second one a light model. The tanks were presented in 1937 and, during the trials, both obtained optimal results; this ignited again the polemics, which however was quickly ended in July, with the beginning of the hostilities against China. Finally, it was preferred the heavier model, which was denominated Type 97 (after the year 2597, according to the Japanese calendar) "Chi-Ha".

Really it was a good tank; built with steel plates riveted to each other, as many other Japanese tanks, it had a suspension which granted an easy march over diverse terrains. Its engine, a Diesel type Mitsubishi, air-cooled, of 12 cylinders in V, allowed a maximum speed of 38 kilometers/hour. The main armament was housed inside an asymmetrical turret, placed on the right side of the tank, and it consisted of a short 57-millimeter cannon. This would be the main defect of the Chi-Ha; the poor velocity of the projectile and hence its low perforation power, which diminished its effectiveness. Because of this the cannon was soon replaced by one of 47 millimeters and higher muzzle speed.

This tank, destined to operate in very harsh climates, was totally conditioned with an asbestos coating and among its instruments was a radio device whose antenna was disposed around the highest part of the turret. The Chi-Ha were the main element of the Japanese armored detachments and they fought courageously in every front; but, despite never taking part in true tank battles, they were weaker than those produced by the Allies during the latter half of the Second World War.

Year: 1937

Weight: 15 tonnes

Length: 5.516 meters

Width: 2.33 meters

Height: 2.23 meters

Ground clearance: 40 centimeters

Maximum armor: 33 millimeters

Engine: Mitsubishi of 12 cylinders in V and 170 horsepower

Maximum speed: 38 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 210 kilometers

Crew: 4

Armament: One 57-millimeter cannon; two 7.7-millimeter machine guns

Ammunitions: 114 of 57 millimeters; 4035 of 7.7 millimeters

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.50 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 0.90 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: 57 percent

Fording: 1.00 meters

Also in Weapons of World War Two:

Sonderkraftfahrzeug 302 GoliathAdmiral Graf Spee pocket battleshipR-35 light tank