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Type 97 Chi-Ha

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The Type 97 Chi-Ha was a medium tank used by Japan during World War II.

Description

The Type 97 Chi-Ha had a weight of 14.9 metric tons and had a 170 hp Mitsubishi Type 97 diesel engine which could propel it at speeds of up to 38.6 km/h. The total capacity of fuel for the Chi-Ha was about 889 litres, while the armour thickness of a majority of the hull was about 25.4 mm thick, too little to protect against any real anti-tank weapons.[1]

The Chi-Ha also had a crew of four and two Type 97 machine guns for defense against infantry. Its main armament meanwhile was the 57 mm Type 97 cannon which although may have been enough to deal with the tanks created at the time of the Chi-Ha's development, quickly became outdated against Western designs. The suspension of the Chi-Ha is identical to that of the Type 95 Ha-Go, with six wheels on each side of the tank and a bell crank suspension.[2]The total length of the tank itself was approximately 5.4 meters. The Chi-Ha eventually would be succeeded by the Type 1 Chi-He.

Variants

This was a special version of the Chi-Ha which differed in several ways compared to the original Chi-Ha. It had a crew of four men and a was fitted with a 47 mm main gun. Other than the few changes that were made, the Type 97 Shinhoto Sh-Ha was almost the same as its predecessor. Even though the new high velocity 47 mm main gun was powerful, it could not beat the Allied tanks it faced in the Pacific Theater.[3]

The Type 97 Chi-Ha also had other variants besides the Shinhoto, there was the Shi-Ki which was a command tank with a 37 mm gun rather than an machine gun. It also included long range radios and other communication systems. Another variant is the Se-Ri Armored Recovery Vehicle, which had a crane and a 240 hp engine.

History

The Type 97 Chi-Ha was initially developed by Mitsubishi in the late 1930s to finally replace the much earlier and thus less effective Japanese tanks such as the Type 89 I-Go. For this purpose, the Type 97 had been given several upgrades in performance on the battlefield or cross country to further empower the Imperial Japanese Army.  It was designed to assist infantry units by destroying machine gun nests and other fortifications and did so quite effectively in the early parts of the war. The Chi-Ha entered full-scale production for the Imperial Japanese Army in 1938 with the first battles it fought in taking place in Manchukuo facing Chinese forces and having a fair amount of success seeing as the largely unorganized Chinese had few anti-tank weapons to spare. 

The Type 97 was also used against the Soviet Union at the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. One notable battle occurred in Saipan where American forces defended against large amounts of Type 97 Chi-Has and Type 95 Ha-Gos. Another notable use of the Type 97 was during the Malayan Campaign.

References

  1. http://www.onwar.com/tanks/japan/ft97chiha.htm
  2. http://www.wwiivehicles.com/japan/tanks-medium/type-97-chi-ha.asp
  3. http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=223


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