WW2 Japanese Medium Tanks

Type 1 Chi-He

IJA (1944)
Medium tank – 170 built

An improved Chi-Ha

The Type 1 Chi-He was an attempt by Mitsubishi to modernize the Type 97 Chi-Ha, the latter being later upgraded to the Shinhoto standard in 1942. The efforts of the engineers were aimed at increasing the protection level and improve the main gun range, speed and accuracy. The American M4 Sherman was especially in their minds. Unfortunately, production was delayed due to steel shortages, reserved in priority for warship construction. When the production run ended in early 1944, after 170 units built*, the model was desperately outdated.
*170 is the commonly accepted figure. Japanese Tanks 1939-45, Steven J. Zaloga, 2007, goes as far as 587, perhaps including part of the Shinhoto conversions.

Hello, dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

Design improvements

The all-welded armor was increased to 50 mm (1.97 in), with a straight flat plate to simplify production. It was also slightly longer and taller, and weighed 1.5 tons more. Fortunately, this was compensated by the Mitsubishi Type 100 diesel, which gave 70 hp more than the previous Type 97, with a 240 hp total. Its main Type 1 47 mm (1.85 in) high-velocity (810 m/s or 2,700 ft/s) gun had a barrel length of 2.25 m, and was found able to defeat 72 mm (2.83 in) at 200 m or 52 mm (2.05 in) at 1,000 m, almost double of the original Type 97 Chi-Ha. However, it needed an elevation gear, but this also lead to superior accuracy. Elevation/depression was +20 and -15 degrees. The three-man turret was a retrofit of the Chi-Ha Kai one. The Type 1 was also the first Japanese medium tank equipped with a radio as a standard.

The Chi-He in action

Fortunately (or unfortunately) for the Japanese, the Chi-He never left the Home Islands. They were kept here to defend against the projected Allied invasion (Operation Olympic), scheduled for October 1945. However, what-if prospects, if the invasion had took place, would have seen the Chi-He still inefficient against the upgraded, 1944 pattern Shermans, especially the new M4A3E8, later deployed in the Korean war.
A single prototype was derived from it, the twin 37 mm (1.46 in) AA gun Ta-Ha SPAAG.

Links & sources

The Chi-He on Wikipedia

Type 1 Chi-He specifications

Dimensions 5.5 x 2.2 x 2.38 m (18.1 x 7.3 x 7.10 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 17 tons
Crew 5 (driver, commander, gunner, loader, machine-gunner/radio)
Propulsion Mitsubishi V12 Type 100 air-cooled diesel, 240 hp (179 kW)@2,000 rpm, 21,700 cc
Speed 44 km/h (27 mph)
Armor 8 to 50 mm (0.31-1.97 in)
Range (road/off road) 210 km (128 mi)
Total production 170

Type4 Ke Nu
Type 1 Chi-He, possibly in Kyushu, Home Islands, late 1944.

Type 1 Chi-He, unknown unit, Home Islands, 1945.


Official photo - at MitsubishiType 1 Chi-He in storageType 1 and Type 97 in storageRear view
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By David.B

Tank Encyclopedia's Creator, webmaster and illustrator since 2010.

5 replies on “Type 1 Chi-He”

I think from Wikipedia and some other sites mistakenly refer the Type 1 Chi-He being captured and sent over to the PLA.

Brandon – there is some confusion based on old photos and also in looking at the chassis of the PLA “Gohchen tank” on display from the museum photo. However, that tank was “restored” by the Chinese government, so who know how much of the tank is original. The Wikipedia article on the Type 1 Chi-He has been changed.

Hey, there is a very commun misconseption regarding the performance of the 47mm gun, it is said that it couldnt pen a Shermans front armour, however by the later stages of the war it achieved this and was able to reliably beat late variant Shermans up to a range of 750m more or less, as reported by US personnel during different battles and fire tests.
Basically when the Type 1 47mm gun was first introduced, its early Type 1 (1941) APHE shell, which had the 72mm armour pen at 200m, struggled against the Shermans front armour. However around 1944 or 1945 according to the reports, an improved 47mm shell was encountered which, if not complitely, at least partially managed to replaced the older shell at the battlefield. This shell had a pen of 115mm at range of 250m or so and could beat any armour of the M4a6 Sherman up to a 750m range. These are some of the sources:
-Enemy on Luzon, an intelligence summary. Headquarters, Sixth Arny, Dec. 1945, page 194.
(This is a report based on the Battle of Luzon, where it mentions the 47mm gun being able to pen 115mm of armour at short range, probably being 250m or so according to US army standards)
-Okinawa, The Most Effective japan Tank, Intelligence Bulletin Vol. 3 No. 10 June 1945 and Vol. 3 No. 11 July 1945, page 24, Vol. 3 No. 11 (Lonesentry)
(This is a report based on the Battle of Okinawa where the 47mm gun was able to beat an M4a3 at a range of 450m)
-Japan’s Battle of Okinawa, April – June 1945, Leavenworth Papers, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, pages 68, 69 and 70
(A different report based on Okinawa where it is stated that the 47mm gun was able to reliably beat any armour of the M4a6 at any range up to 730m)
-Annex “Jig” to Fourth Marine Division Operations Report, Iwo Jima – 4th Tank Battallion Report, page 20
(A report based on the Battle of Iwo Jima were US personnel request the quick delivery of the M26 Pershing due to the now extreme vulnerability of the M4a3 by the 47mm AT gun).

Hello Kikiriburikiriki,
Thank you for the awesome references. This article has long been earmarked for rewrite, and the author who will redo it will certainly check these out!
All the best!

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