Type 94

The Type 94 tankette was a tankette used by the Imperial Japanese Army in the Second Sino-Japanese War, at Nomonhan against the Soviet Union, and in World War II. Although tankettes were often used as ammunition tractors, and general infantry support, they were designed for reconnaissance, and not for direct combat. The lightweight Type 94 proved effective in China as the Chinese National Revolutionary Army consisted of only three tank battalions to oppose them, and those tank battalions only consisted of some British export models and Italian CV-33 tankettes. As with nearly all tankettes built in the 1920s and 1930s, they had thin armor that could be penetrated by .50 caliber machine gun fire at 600 yards range.

Type 94
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Kobe S
Origin Japan
Country Name Origin Year
Japan 1932
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
China View
Japan View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Kobe S View
Mitsubishi J View
Tokyo Gasu Denki Kokyo View
Jukogyo View

A tankette fad occurred in Europe in the 1930s, which was led by United Kingdom's Carden-Loyd Mk VI tankette. The IJA ordered some samples from the UK, along with some French vehicles and field tested them. The IJA determined that the British and French machines were too small to be practical, and started planning for a larger version, the Tokushu Keninsha (meaning "Special Tractor"). It was reclassified as the Type 94 (tankette) and was designed for reconnaissance, but could also be used for supporting infantry attacks and transporting supplies. The Imperial Japanese Army also experimented with a variety of armored cars with limited success. The wheeled armored cars were not suitable for most operations in the puppet state of Manchukuo, due to the poor road conditions and severe winter climate.

From the early 1920s, the Imperial Japanese Army tested a variety of European light tanks, including six Carden-Loyd Mark VIbs machine gun carriers and several Renault FTs, and a decision was reached in 1929 to proceed with the domestic development of a new vehicle based largely on the Carden Loyd design to address the deficiencies of wheeled armored cars.

The initial attempt resulted in the Type 92 Jyu-Sokosha for use by the cavalry. However, Japanese infantry commanders felt that a similar vehicle would be useful as the support vehicle for transport, scout and communications within the infantry divisions, and could be used as a sort of “flying company” to provide additional firepower and close support in infantry operations.

The development was given to Tokyo Gas and Electric Industry (later known as Hino Motors) in 1933, and an experimental model was completed in 1934. It was a small light tracked vehicle with a turret armed with one machine gun. For cargo transportation it pulled an ammunition trailer. It was given the name Tokushu Keninsha ("Special Tractor"), abridged to “TK”. After trials in both Manchukuo and Japan, the design was standardized as the Type 94 tankette. It entered service in 1935. The Type 94 was later superseded by the Type 97 tankette.

Oddly, many British and American sources have confused the Type 92 Cavalry Tank, of which only 167 were built with the Type 94, although the Type 94 was the model almost always encountered in the various fronts of the Pacific War.

The design of the Type 94 was based on the British Carden-Loyd Mark VIb tankettes.

The hull of the Type 94 was of riveted and welded construction, with the engine at the front with the driver to the right. The engine was an air-cooled petrol motor that developed 35 hp at 2,500 rpm. Like many armored vehicles intended to operate in hot conditions, the engine was given asbestos insulation to protect the occupants from its heat. The commander stood in a small (unpowered) turret at the rear of the hull. A large door in the rear of the hull accessed the storage compartment.

Initially the armament was a Type 91 6.5×50mm machine gun, although in later models this was replaced by a Type 92 7.7 mm machine gun.

The suspension consisted of four bogies - two on each side. These were suspended by bell-cranks resisted by armored compression springs placed horizontally, one each side of the hull, externally. Each bogie had two small rubber road wheels with the drive sprocket at the front and the idler at the rear. There were two track-return rollers. In combat service the Type 94 was found to be prone to throwing its tracks in high speed turns. Further redesign work was carried out on the suspension and the small idler was replaced by a larger diameter idler wheel which was now in ground contact; it did not completely solve the problem. A better suspension on a longer chassis appeared in later models of the Type 94.

The design was also the basis for the Type 94 "Disinfecting Vehicle" and Type 94 "Gas Scattering Vehicle" amongst the "Type 97 Pole Planter" and "Type 97 Cable Layer".

The Type 94 was mainly deployed in "Independent Tankette Companies". By 1936, each Japanese infantry division had its own Tankette Company with six Type 94s for use in the reconnaissance role.

The Type 94 Tankette was an inexpensive vehicle to build, at approximately half the price of the Type 89 I-Go medium tank, resulting in more Type 94's entering service than any other Japanese tankette (823 units). Production ran to 300 units in 1935, 246 units in 1936 and 200 units in 1937. Given the utility of the design in combat in China, the Imperial Japanese Army was therefore content to retain the Type 94, although the design, and indeed the concept of the tankette, came to be regarded as obsolescent in Western armies.

With the start of World War II, a number of Type 94s were issued to each Japanese infantry division in the Pacific theatre, with a tracked trailer. They saw action in Burma, the Netherlands East Indies, the Philippines and on a number of islands in the South Pacific Mandate. Some were also assigned to Imperial Japanese Navy Land Forces. In 1943 ten Type 94 tankettes were given to the Manchukuo Imperial Army to form an armored company. They were still in use until as late as 1945. Major deployments included:

  • Hebei, China: 1st Tank Battalion and 2nd Tank Battalion
  • Chahar Province, China: 1st Independent Mixed Brigade
  • Shanghai, China: 5th Tank Battalion
  • Taierchwang, China: Special Tank Company of China Detachment Tank Unit
  • Hsuchou, China: 1st Tank Battalion and 5th Tank Battalion
  • Nomonhan, Manchukuo: 3rd Tank Regiment and 4th Tank Regiment
  • Hsinking, Manchukuo: Armored unit of Imperial Manchukuo Army
  • Timor: IJA 38th Division Tankette Company
  • Java: Anai Tankette unit, 2nd, 3rd and 48th Recon Regiment, Sakaguchi Detachment, 56th Infantry Group Tankette Unit
  • Kwajalein Atoll: 2nd Battalion of Army 1st Sea-mobile Brigade

Other DesignationsType 94 [or Model 92 (1932) Tankette]
Manufacturer(s)Tokyo Gasu Denki Kokyo, Mitsubishi, Jukogyo, Kobe Seikosho
Production Quantityn.a.Production Periodn.a.
Length /hull (m)3.08Barrel Overhang (m)0
Width /with skirts (m)1.62Height (m)1.62
Combat Weight (kg)3400Radio Equipmentn.a.
Primary Armament6.5mm Type 91 MGAmmunition Carried1620
Traverse (degrees)(360°)Elevation (degrees)n.a.
Traverse speed (360°)n.a.Sightn.a.
Secondary Armament-Ammunition Carried-

Engine Make & ModelType 94No. of Links/Trackn.a.
Type & DisplacementIn4Track Widthn.a.
Horsepower32hp@1800rpmTrack Ground Contactn.a.
Power/Weight Ratio9.4 hp/tGround Pressuren.a.
Gearbox4 forward, 1 reverseGround Clearance (m)0.29
FuelGasoline (Petrol)Turning Radius (m)n.a.
Range on/off road (km)200Gradient (degrees)35°
Mileage (liters/100km)53Vertical Obstacle (m)0.50
Fuel Capacity (liters)106Fording (m)0.60
Speed on/off road40 km/hTrench Crossing (m)1.30
Armor (mm@degrees)FrontSideRearTop/Bottom
Hull6mm to 12mm

End notes