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Weapons of World War Two

The Japanese Invasion of India (Mar 1944)

Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tank

Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tank

Circa the first half of the 1930s, the situation of the armored forces of the Japanese Imperial Army was not yet stabilized. In the first place, the two branches which comprised the Armed Forces, namely, the Navy and the Army, were very distant to each other and, in some way, they were "rivals", which caused confusion and difficulties when approaching the industry for the construction of new weapons. In fact, each of them had their own infantry, armored forces, artillery and aviation, besides, naturally, the ships, which were an equipment exclusive of the Navy. The habit of working in watertight compartments and the lack of collaboration between both branches often hindered the awareness on the accumulated experience; for example, when one of the branches kept researching on its own rather than sharing it with the other, without managing to achieve whatever could have achieved with help from the other branch. The situation of the armored forces suffered from this state of things, as the largest part of their tanks were of outdated model (many were European models dating back from the First World War). Others, such as the Type 89 "Chi-Ro", were typical transition models, on which the armament could not be renovated, as the Japanese High Staff wanted. Hence, it was deemed convenient to request a new tank from the industry, but the military high echelons were in disagreement about this matter as well. A part of those in charge voiced in favor of a good tank, but one which were lightweight, inexpensive and of fast construction. Conversely, the other part preferred a heavy tank of a design which could be valid for a long time, despite being more expensive. Thus, the workshops of Mitsubishi and those of the Arsenal of Osaka decided to build two models: a heavy model the former and a light model the latter. The tanks were presented in 1937 and both achieved optimal results during the trials; this ignited back the controversy, which however was quickly ended in July, with the beginning of the hostilities against China. Finally, the heavier model, which was denominated Type 97 (after the year 2597, according to the Japanese calendar) "Chi-Ha", was preferred. It was in fact a good tank; built with steel plates riveted to each other, as many other Japanese tanks, it had a suspension which granted an easy going on diverse terrains. Its Diesel engine, a Mitsubishi of twelve cylinders in V cooled by air, allowed a maximum speed of 38 kilometers/hour. Its main armament was housed inside an asymmetrical turret, which was displaced toward the right side of the hull, and consisted of a short 57-millimeter cannon. This would be the main defect of the "Chi-Ha"; the low velocity of the projectile and the consequent low perforation power diminished its effectiveness. Because of this the cannon was promptly replaced by one of 47 millimeters and higher muzzle velocity. This tank, intended for operating in very harsh climates, was fitted with an asbestos coating and its instruments included a radio device whose antenna was installed around the top of the turret. The "Chi-Ha" were the main element of the Japanese armored detachments and they fought with courage in every front; but, despite never taking part in true tank battles, they were weaker than those produced by the Allies during the second half of the war.

Year: 1937

Weight: 15 tonnes

Length: 5.516 meters

Width: 2.33 meters

Height: 2.23 meters

Ground clearance: 40 centimeters

Maximum armor: 33 millimeters

Engine: Mitsubishi of 12 cylinders in V and 170 horsepower

Maximum speed: 38 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 210 kilometers

Crew: 4

Armament: One 57-millimeter cannon; two 7.7-millimeter machine guns

Ammunitions: 114 of 57 millimeters; 4035 of 7.7 millimeters

Maximum surmountable trench: 2.50 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 90 centimeters

Maximum surmountable slope: 57 percent

Fording: 1.00 meters

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