MANUFACTURER(S): Mitsubishi - Japan
OPERATORS: Imperial Japan
Detailing the development and operational history of the Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tank Tracked Combat Vehicle.
Entry last updated on 3/3/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
The Type 97 Chi-Ha was a product of the Mitsubishi company and designed to replace the aging Type 89B series then in service for the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) prior to World War 2 (1939-1945). The design of the Type 97 Chi-Ha system was highly conventional with very little to recommend itself by Western standards - yet it was produced in quantity (over 1,100 examples) and would later be regarded as the best tank available to the IJA throughout the whole of the war. Ultimately, the system was suspect and suffered from such shortcomings as a small-caliber main gun armament and light armor protection.
Despite its compact size, the Type 97 Chi-Ha was crewed by four personnel. The main armament consisted of a single 57mm gun mounted in the turret and this supported by two 7.7mm self-defense machine guns. This armament was of particular note for it was sufficient in dealing with enemy armor during the early phases of the war but lacked the needed punch of medium-class tracked combat vehicles fielded by the enemy as the war drew on. A later version of the Type 97 would appear as the "Shinhoto" and this fielded a high-velocity main gun of 47mm - smaller in caliber but more effective at defeating armor at range. Either way, the system was woefully undergunned to the end when compared to Allied tanks fighting in the Pacific Theater.
Armor protection reached between 8mm and 25mm in thickness. The gun mantlet carried the thicker 25mm measurement.
Dimensions included an overall length of 18 feet with a beam of 7.7 feet and a height of 7.2 feet. Weight reached 15.8 tons.
Type 97 Chi-Ha (Cont'd)
Medium Tank Tracked Combat Vehicle
The vehicle was driven by an in-house Mitsubishi SA12200VD diesel-fueled, air-cooled unit which offered up better range and more stability than the gasoline-powered counterparts used by the Allies (much less prone to catching fire as well).
Performance resulted in a maximum road speed of 24 miles per hour with an operational range out to 130 miles. The vehicle was suspended atop a Bell crank suspension system. The running gear was made up of six double-tired road wheels to a hull side. The drive sprocket was held at the bow with the track idler at the rear. Three track return rollers were featured. The engine sat at the rear of the hull with the crew compartment fitted forward.
The Type 97 Chi-Ha appeared in a few more variants that consisted of standard battlefield products such as an Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV), Self-Propelled Gun (SPG) and Command Tank - all utilizing the chassis of the original combat tank. The Type 97 would later be superseded by the Type 1 Chi-He combat tank which was of a heftier "medium" classification.
Production of the Type 97 peaked in 1941 with 507 units produced. Just 28 were made in 1942.
The Shinhoto offshoot managed a production total of 930 units with 503 completed in 1942 and a further 427 in 1943.
1943 marked the last year of the Type 97's production run in either form as the focus moved to the Type 1 Chi-he (detailed elsewhere on this site).