Type 1 Chi-He

The Type 1 medium tank Chi-He was an improved version of the Type 97 Chi-Ha medium tanks of the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. It had a more powerful main gun and engine and thicker armor.

Type 1 Chi-He
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Mitsubishi J
Origin Japan
Country Name Origin Year
Japan 1943
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Japan View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Mitsubishi J View
Sagami RZ View

After 1941, the Imperial Japanese Army quickly realized that its 1930s designed medium tank, the Type 97 Chi-Ha, was inferior to the 1940s generation of Allied armor, such as the M4 Sherman. Since the Type 97’s low-velocity 57 mm main gun was designed for infantry support in 1938, it could not penetrate the 1940s generation of Allied armor, whereas its own thin armor made the Type 97 vulnerable to most adversaries equipped with anti-armor capabilities.

In response, a new series of tanks based on an improved Type 97 design was conceived. The first of this new series was the Type 1 Chi-He, which appeared in 1941. However, production did not begin until 1943, due to the higher priority of steel allocated to the Imperial Navy for warship construction. A total of 170 units were built from 1943–44, and they did not see any combat.

Compared to the Type 97, the Type 1 Chi-He was slightly longer and taller. Its angled, thicker frontal armor was welded, as opposed to riveted, and weighed an additional 1.5 tons.

The Mitsubishi Type 100 diesel engine at 240 hp provided 70 hp more power than the Mitsubishi Type 97 diesel engine, and was thus more than able to compensate for the additional weight in armor.

The Type 1 Chi-He's 47 mm high-velocity gun had a barrel length of 2.250 m, a muzzle velocity of 810 m/s (2,700 ft/s), and a penetration capability of 72 mm over 200 meters and 52 mm 1,000 meters, over double that of the Type 97s low-velocity main gun. It was more reliable and more accurate, but did require the installation of elevation gear (on the earlier Type 97 the gunner had to physically move the gun up or down on his shoulder). In light of these improvements, the gun was adequate against Allied armor.

The gun was placed in a three-man turret, which had space for a loader, and could be elevated and depressed between +20 and -15 degrees. This turret was retrofitted into the "Type 97 Shinhoto ("New Turret") Chi-Ha" tank, and was also used on the Type 3 Ka-Chi Amphibious Tank.

The Type 1 Chi-He was also the first Japanese tank to carry a radio as standard equipment, eliminating the need to use signal flags.

All of the Type 1s were allocated to the Japanese home islands to defend against the projected Allied Invasion. Despite Type 1's superiority in terms of armor and firepower over the earlier Type 97, it still underperformed against the American M4 Sherman.

Other DesignationsType 1 Chi-He
Manufacturer(s)Mitsubishi J, Sagami RZ
Production Quantity170Production Period1943-1944
TypeMedium TankCrew4
Length /hull (m)5.73Barrel Overhang (m)n.a.
Width /with skirts (m)2.33Height (m)2.38
Combat Weight (kg)17200Radio Equipmentn.a.
Primary Armament47mm Gun Type 1Ammunition Carried120
Traverse (degrees)(360°)Elevation (degrees)n.a.
Traverse speed (360°)n.a.Sightn.a.
Secondary Armament2 x 7.7mm Type 97 MGAmmunition Carried4035

Engine Make & ModelMisubishi, Type 100No. of Links/Trackn.a.
Type & DisplacementV12Track Widthn.a.
Horsepower240hp@2000rpmTrack Ground Contactn.a.
Power/Weight Ratio14.0 hp/tGround Pressuren.a.
Gearboxn.a.Ground Clearance (m)0.42
FuelDieselTurning Radius (m)n.a.
Range on/off road (km)210Gradient (degrees)35°
Mileage (liters/100km)n.a.Vertical Obstacle (m)n.a.
Fuel Capacity (liters)n.a.Fording (m)1.00
Speed on/off road44 km/hTrench Crossing (m)2.50
Armor (mm@degrees)FrontSideRearTop/Bottom
Hull10mm to 50mm

End notes