Type 1 Chi-He Medium Tank

The Type 1 Chi-He (medium sixth) Medium Tank was an improved version of the Type 97 Chi-ha, the most numerous Japanese medium tank of the Second World War, but the generally low priority give to tank development during the war meant that only 170 were built.

The most obvious problem with the Chi-ha was its 30mm thick frontal armour, which by 1941 was vulnerable to the main Allied anti-tank guns. On the Chi-he the frontal armour was increased to 50mm and the mix of welded and riveted armour on the earlier machine was replaced by a largely welded structure. The hull was also simplified, partly to remove some protruding features which had proved to be “shell traps”, deflecting incoming shots onto the armour.

The Chi-he carried an improved version of the 47mm Type 1 L/48 cannon used on the improved Chi-ha. This was more reliable and more accurate, but did require the installation of elevation gear (on the earlier tank the gunner had to physically move the gun up or down on his shoulder). Despite the improvements, this gun was barely adequate in 1941, and by the time the tank entered production in 1943 was verging on the obsolete.

The Chi-he had a larger turret, which now contained three crewmen – commander, gunner and loader – the same arrangement that had proved so effective for the Panzers. Despite the thicker armour and the fifth crewman, the Chi-he was only 1.5 tons heavier than the improved Chi-ha, and had a 240hp engine (compared to the 170hp engine of the Chi-ha). The Chi-he was also the first Japanese tank to automatically carry a radio, removing the need to use signal flags.

Despite being accepted in 1941 at the Type 1 Chi-he, production did not begin until 1943. A total of 170 were built in 1943-44, and like most later Japanese tanks the Chi-he did not see any combat, being reserved for the final defence of Japan.

Names (see article on Japanese tank designations)
Type 1 Chi-he (medium sixth)

Number produced: 170
Produced: 1943-44
Length: 5.7m/ 18.76ft
Hull Width: 2.3m/ 7.66ft
Height: 2.4m/ 7.83ft
Crew: 5 – driver, bow gunner, commander, gun-layer and loader
Weight: 17.2 tonnes
Engine: 240 metric hp Type 100 diesel
Max Speed: 44kph/ 27.3mph
Max Range:  210km
Main Gun: 47mm Type 1 L/48
Machine guns: Two 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns, one in turret, one in hull front






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Japanese Tanks, 1939-45, Steven J. Zaloga, Osprey New Vanguard 137. A well written and illustrated look at the tanks produced for the Japanese army from the late 1920s to the end of the Second World War. This is a good overview of this neglected subject, looking at both the development of their tanks and their use in combat. [see more]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 August 2008), Type 1 Chi-He Medium Tank, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_type_1_chi_he.html

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