Chi-Ha (Family)

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Description

Type 97 Chi-Ha with IJA officer

The Type 97 Chi-Ha (九七式中戦車 チハ, Kyūnana-shiki chū-sensha Chi-ha) was a medium tank used by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War, Soviet–Japanese border conflicts, and the Second World War. The tank was the most produced Japanese tank during the Second World War.

The Chi-Ha's low silhouette and semicircular radio antenna on the turret made the tank very recognizable from its contemporaries. Because of the Navy having resource priority, the Army had to keep this rather fast becoming outdated tank in service, which got a turret overhaul in 1942 allowing for a third turret crewman and a Type 1 47 mm anti-tank gun. This remodel got the designation Type 97-Kai (Improved) or Type 97 ShinHoTo Chi-Ha (Improved turret).

Vehicles

Rank I Vehicle

Rank II Vehicle

History

Design

The Type 97 Chi-Ha was a medium tank constructed with rivets in the armour plates. It had a crew of four with a two-men turret. Armour was relatively thin, but quite standard at the time of 1930s. The first main gun on the Chi-Ha, being the Type 97 57 mm tank gun which was a slighter longer barrel than the Type 90 57 mm tank gun that was mounted on the Type 89 I-Go medium tank and used in an infantry support role. The bell crank suspension was the same as on the Type 95 Ha-Go light tank, but due the Chi-Ha having an longer hull, the suspension as well had to be elongated and got 6 road wheels instead of four. With the addition of these 2 new road wheels, made the Chi-Ha more stable in a hilly environment which was an issue on the Type 95 Ha-Go.

Development

Type 97 Chi-Ha

Type 97 Medium Tank Chi-Ha

As the Type 89 I-Go has seen its use in Manchuria and the problem of not being able to keep up with the motorized infantry, a replacement program by the Imperial Japanese Army has started in the late 1930's. The plan for the new tank was to be a up-scaled version of the 4 man Type 95 Ha-Go light tank, with thicker armor and a more powerful engine to keep up with motorization.

As the Tokyo Plant of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries & Osaka Army Arsenal start their prototypes for the Army requirements, with Mitsubishi developing the more expensive Chi-Ha and Osaka the cheaper, lighter Chi-Ni.

Even though the requirement of the gun was to be a 47 mm, both Mitsubishi & Osaka Army Arsenal outfitted their tanks with the 57 mm found on the Type 89B I-Go Otsu.

As the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out on the 7th of July 1937, the peace-time budget limits have been removed. Because the Army now has a larger budget, they chose for the more expensive and capable Chi-Ha by Mitsubishi and was adopted in to service as the Type 97 Medium Tank Chi-Ha

Type 97 Chi-Ha Kai

As the Soviet–Japanese border disputes continue, the Chi-Ha has been put in service on the borders. Their first major encounter against other tanks were during the Battles of Khalkhin Gol. The low-velocity Type 97 57 mm gun on the Type 97 started showing its weakness as the faster and better gunned Soviet BT-5 and BT-7 out-ranged and out-maneuvered the slow turning & short range turret of the Chi-Ha. Due this shortcoming, it resulted to heavy Japanese losses.
Chi-Ha being tested with the new ShinHoTo turret
Unarmed ShinHoTo turret on Type 1 Hull

After hearing of these losses the Army was looking for a more powerful gun. The development of a new 47 mm anti-tank gun began in 1939 and was completed by 1941. This new gun specifically designed to counter Soviet tanks, was adopted as the Type 1 47 mm anti-tank. The longer barrel of this 47 mm creating a lot higher muzzle velocity and resulted in greater armor penetration which far surpassed that of the 57 mm gun.

As this gun was to be put on the Chi-Ha, a new turret was designed, which allowed for the Type 1 47 mm tank gun to be mounted and a 5th crew member as loader. This variant of the Chi-Ha would be designated as Type 97-Kai ("improved") or ShinHoTo Chi-Ha ("New turret" Chi-Ha"). The new Type 97 Medium Tank Chi-Ha Kai would fully replace the regular Type 97 Medium Tank Chi-Ha in 1942. Additionally about 300 regular Chi-Ha's were converted with this new turret.

Further Development

Like most other countries having a main medium tank, the Japanese adapted the hull for a multitude of roles and variants to be used in other purposes. The Type 97 was improved plenty of times with field guns, command variants & engineering variants. Near a hundred self-propelled guns were built upon Type 97 chassis.

As the gun power of 1930s Japanese tanks were rather lackluster and weren't able to reliably penetrate the 1940s generation of Soviet, American & British armor, the need of tank destroyers rose, gun ranging from 47 mm up to 127 mm guns were tested upon. But due the Navy's priority, raw materials for the Army's production was limited, and building new guns or tanks was nearly out of question.

The last Japanese tank directly based on the Type 97 lineage should be the Type 3 Medium Tank Chi-Nu which got the improved Chi-Ha hull from the Type 1 Medium Tank Chi-He but with a totally overhauled hexagonal turret and commander's cupola with a 75 mm gun.


Variants (In-Game)

Medium Tanks

Gun Tank

SPG's

Media

References