By the start of World War II, Japanese field commanders realized that the standard light tank of the Japanese army, the Type 95 Ha-Go, was obsolete. While it had performed well against the National Revolutionary Army of the China in the Second Sino-Japanese War and successfully engaged United States M3 Stuart light tanks on the Bataan Peninsula in December 1941, it was quickly growing obsolete. Although its 37mm gun was adequate for most light armor designed and built in the 1930s, the Ha-Go, like the tanks of the US Army prior to 1941, was not designed to fight enemy tanks, but rather to support the infantry. The Type 95 was vulnerable to .50 caliber machine gun fire and attempts to address these shortcomings via the Type 98 Ke-Ni and the Type 2 Ke-To were steps in the right direction, but were still insufficient. Therefore, a complete design review was held and a prototype for a new standard light tank was completed by 1942. At this point the project was shelved, as the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff had to concede to the Imperial Navy's needs of raw materials necessary for the production of warships and warplanes. Mass production was finally authorized in 1945, by which time it was too late. Production was impossible due to shortages of materials such as steel, and the bombing of Japan. Only a single prototype was completed by the end of World War II.
The Type 5 Ke-Ho had armor of up to 20 mm, and a Type 1 47 mm main gun II, an improvement over existing Japanese light tanks. Power was from an air cooled diesel engine yielding 150 HP, for a top speed of 50 km/h.