Aircraft / Aviation Vehicles & Artillery Small Arms Warships & Submarines Military Ranks Military Pay Chart (2024)
Aviation / Aerospace

Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Sonia)

Ground Attack / Reconnaissance Aircraft [ 1940 ]

While proving serviceable in the ground attack role, the Mitsubishi Ki-51 Sonia was relegated to kamikaze attacks by the end of World War 2.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/10/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

Mitsubishi lent its considerable development and production talents to more than just "Zeroes" during World War 2. The Mitsubishi Ki-51 was an early-war low-wing monoplane intended for the light bomber/dive bomber role and was deployed by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) for a time in the conflict - particularly during actions over China and Burma. Total production eventually netted 2,385 examples and the type served into the final weeks of the Pacific War in August of 1945. The Ki-51 was codenamed "Sonia" by the Allies. Its formal IJA designation was "Type 99 Assault Plane".

The series began as two prototypes with a first flight recorded during 1939. From this came eleven pre-production aircraft for evaluation. Its design incorporated a crew of two seated in tandem under a long greenhouse-style canopy with the pilot in front and a gunner in back. The cockpit sat ahead of midships and over the monoplane wing assemblies which themselves were straight projections with rounded tips. The large radial piston engine was mounted in a forward compartment as usual and the fuselage tapering elegantly to a point under the tail. A single rounded vertical tail fin was used along with low-set horizontal tailplanes. The undercarriage was of the tail-dragger arrangement and fixed in place with aerodynamic fairings set over the main legs - typical of early-war mounts such as the Ki-51. Dimensions included a length of 9.2 meters with a wingspan of 12 meters and a height of 2.7 meters. Empty weight was 4,130lbs with a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 6,415lbs.

Power came from a single Mitsubishi Ha-26-II series 14-cylinder, air-cooled radial piston engine developing 950 horsepower. The engine drove a three-bladed propeller unit at the front of the aircraft and featured a large spinner for airflow. Maximum speed reached 265 miles per hour with a range out to 660 miles and a service ceiling up to 27,130 feet.

Standard armament included 2 x fixed, forward-firing 7.7mm Type 89 machine guns. The rear operator managed a single 7.7mm Te-4 series machine gun installation on a trainable mount. As a light bomber-dive bomber airframe, the Ki-51 was cleared to carry up to 440lbs of bombs.

Both Mitsubishi and the Tachikawa Army Air Arsenal contributed the impressive numbers of Ki-51 produced. Mitsubishi eventually delivered 1,462 of the stated total with Tachikawa adding a further 913 examples. The Imperial Japanese Army Air Force (IJAAF) became its primary user. All production models fell under the simple designation of "Ki-51".

In the early-going, such aircraft were crucial to the Japanese expansion in the Pacific, particularly against lesser foes where the Ki-51 could act with impunity. The Ki-51 served in the general light bombing role by delivering conventional drop ordnance where needed and doubled as a dive-bombing platform for more accurate strikes on enemy targets and positions. The machine guns could be used as a defensive measure or during strafing runs as needed. The structure of the aircraft proved robust enough that Ki-51s were operated from rough fields which broadened the tactical flexibility of this Mitsubishi design for Japanese warplanners. Later versions were up-gunned by having their 7.7mm machine guns replaced by 2 x 12.7mm Ho-103 series heavy machine guns for a better frontal "punch".

The success of the Ki-51 began to bring about another form, this of a tactical reconnaissance platform constructed by the Mansyu Airplane Manufacturing Company of Manchukuo (a subsidiary of Nakajima). The aircraft incorporated such modern qualities as a retractable undercarriage and three prototypes served as the start of the product. However, the design - designated as Mansyu Ki-71 - was not adopted for serial production.

Fortunes for the Japanese Empire changed after successes found the Allied advance in their drive towards Tokyo. Desperate to turn the tide of the war - or at least engage the allies in favorable surrender terms - stocks of Ki-51 aircraft were reconstituted later in the war for the kamikaze suicide role against Allied warships. For these suicidal endeavors, the aircraft carried an ordnance load of 550lbs to maximize damage and carnage against the enemy. Such ended the wartime career of the Ki-51 as the Japanese surrendered in September of 1945.

The Ki-51 existed in the post-war years by captured forms deployed in Indonesia, China, and North Korea. Indonesian types saw service into its war with the Dutch during its fight for independence and many were lost as a result. Chinese Ki-51s lasted until 1953 in service. North Korean mounts were made available through the Soviet Union immediately after the war, helping to build up the North's air power.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Service Year

Imperial Japan national flag graphic
Imperial Japan



Mitsubishi / Tachikawa Army Air Arsenal - Imperial Japan
(View other Aviaton-Related Manufacturers)
National flag of modern Japan Imperial Japan
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.

30.2 ft
(9.20 m)
39.7 ft
(12.10 m)
9.0 ft
(2.73 m)
Empty Wgt
4,129 lb
(1,873 kg)
6,437 lb
(2,920 kg)
Wgt Diff
+2,308 lb
(+1,047 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Sonia) production variant)
Installed: 1 x Mitsubishi Ha-26-II radial piston engine developing 940 horsepower.
Max Speed
264 mph
(425 kph | 229 kts)
27,133 ft
(8,270 m | 5 mi)
659 mi
(1,060 km | 572 nm)
1,640 ft/min
(500 m/min)

♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the base Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Sonia) production variant. Performance specifications showcased above are subject to environmental factors as well as aircraft configuration. Estimates are made when Real Data not available. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database or View aircraft by powerplant type)
2 x 7.7mm Type 89 machine guns in wings
1 x 7.7mm Te-4 machine gun on trainable mount in rear cockpit.

2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns in wings
1 x 7.7mm Te-4 machine gun on trainable mount in rear cockpit.

Up to 440lbs of external stores (550lbs in kamikaze role).

Supported Types

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun

(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 2

Ki-51 (prototype) - 2 example prototypes completed for testing and evaluation; a further 11 were completed for service trials.
Ki-51-I - Initial production model; 2,372 examples completed.
Ki-71 - Proposed tactical reconnaissance variant by Mansyu; retractable undercarriage; 3 prototypes completed; no serial production ordered.

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Ukranian-Russian War
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft

Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.

Images Gallery

1 / 1
Image of the Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Sonia)
Left side profile view of the Mitsubishi Ki-51 Sonia at rest

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2024 Military Pay Chart Military Ranks DoD Dictionary Conversion Calculators Military Alphabet Code Military Map Symbols

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content; site is 100% curated by humans.

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world, WDMMA.org (World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft), WDMMW.org (World Directory of Modern Military Warships), SR71blackbird.org, detailing the history of the world's most iconic spyplane, and MilitaryRibbons.info, cataloguing military medals and ribbons. Special Interest: RailRoad Junction, the locomotive encyclopedia.

©2023 www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-2023 (20yrs)