With the apparent success of their Ki-45 "Toryu" twin-engine heavy fighter line, Kawasaki turned to developing an improved form as a private venture. Development ensued in 1942 and more or less followed the same design principles inherent in the Ki-45 before it. The new design included a twin-engine configuration with a crew of two, the fuselage intended to fit heavy cannon-minded armament to counter the American bomber presence. However, the Japanese Army requested the type be designed as a single-seat heavy fighter which forced Kawasaki to rework the design. A revised prototype went airborne in September of 1943 while a further two prototypes soon followed. The Japanese Army liked what it saw from the new Ki-96 performance-wise though a new initiative requested the Ki-96 be redesigned as a two-seat, twin-engine heavy fighter - essentially the original Ki-96 vision. The design was once again reworked, this time to become the new "Ki-102" which retained the former design's wing and tail assemblies while incorporated new additions where needed. Ki-96 development was, therefore, discontinued with only three prototypes completed.
The Ki-102 was born from three prototype forms using the base "Ki-102" designator. "Ki-102a" marks signified the original high-altitude heavy fighter design form of which a total of the 26 of the type were ultimately produced. All combat models were fitted with 1 x 37mm Ho-203 series cannon and 2 x 20mm Ho-5 cannons as well as turbosupercharged engines required for high altitude performance. The Ki-102a was known to the Japanese as the "Type Ko".
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