-The Kawasaki KI-61 Tony-
Japan's allinace with the European Axis led to a number of military avaiation co-operatives. A not
inconsiderable factor in this partnership failing to bear much fruit was the sheer disatnce between Europe
and Asia. Allied intelligence nevertheless became aware that the Messerscmitt Bf-109 had been tested in
Japan and rumors persisted of the type being built under license. This was not true of course but later the
Allies did see a definite connection between the two Axis nations when the Kawasaki KI-61 emerged,
powered by a Daimler-Benz inline engine. The Japanese actually opted for a liquid rather than a air cooled
engine for a fighter, the KI-61 flew for the first time in December 1941. Similar to the abandoned DB 601A
powered Kawasaki He 60, the lighter KI-61 had more pleasing lines with a better proportioned fuselage.
The powerplant was a Kawasaki Ha-40 engine. there were twelve prototypes built in August of 1942. The
pre service trials impressed the Japanese Army pilots , who saw the merit in the armament, armour
protection, and high performance. Deliveries for the aircraft entered service in April of 1943 and it entered
combat that same year. The squadrons it was assigned to was the 68th and 78th Sentais.
The allies still at the time thought the KI-61 had foreign orgins and that Italy was the contributor so "Tony"
was the name given to the aircraft. Initially the KI-61 was armed with four machine guns but they were soon
replaced by 20-mm Mauser cannons which were mounted on the side due to unsufficient space in the wing.
Introduced into the front line of New Guinea the KI-61 came under some maintenance that was corrected in
the newer KI-61-I.(built from January 1944) In this model the fuselage machine guns were replaced with
Ho-5 cannon and added store pylons on the wing. In developing a more powerful engine Hein variants
Kawasaki produced the 1,500 Ha 140. It was designed to be fitted in the improved KI-61. This powerplant
went through numerous teething problems which most were not corrected. The recipient fighter was the
KI-61-II which ahd a greater wing span and redeisigned cockpit. The type suffered from poor handling
problems and combined with engine problems resulted in only 11 examples of this model Hein to be
produced. A solution was sought by lengthening the fuselage and retrofitting standard wings to produce the
KI-61-II. The 61-II model proved to be a excellent intercepto with a speed of 379 mph and a ceiling of
The Kawasaki KI-61 Stats
Type: Single-seat fighter
Span: 39' 4"
Length: 28' 8.5"
Height: 12' 1"
Weight empty: 4,872 lbs.
Number built: 3,078
Armament: 2 x fuselage mounted 12.7-mm Ho-103 machine guns and 2 x 20-mm Mauser MG 151/20 wing
cannon; 2 x 551 lb bombs on wing hardpoints.
Maximum speed: 368 mph
Range: 373 miles
Surface ceiling: 37,730 ft