The Type 98 Light Tank was designed during 1938 to replace the Type 95 Ha-Go light tank, but despite being a superior design it did not enter full production until 1942, and never appeared in large numbers.
The sources do not agree on the name of this tank. General Hara’s own entry in the AFV Weapons Profiles series calls it the “Chini”. The AJ Press TankPower series call it the “ke-ni” or light fourth. This would match the Type 2 “ke-to”. Some sources call it the “chi-ni”, but this name was used for the “medium fourth”, a failed alternative to the Type 97 Chi-ha. Here we will follow Hara, one of the designers of the tank.
Two different designs were produced for the Chini. The Model B was developed by Mitsubishi and used large road-wheels supported by side-ways facing coil springs, in a similar system to the American Christie suspension. This version did not enter production.
The “Chini A” used Hara’s standard suspension system, which saw pairs of road wheels on bogies connected to the chassis using bell cranks, which transferred any movement in the bogies into sideways motion that was absorbed by springs. The Chini A had six road wheels carried on three bogies.
On the Type 95 the drive shaft had run up the centre of the tank. On the Type 98 Chini it was moved to the left, allowing the driver to take up a central position. Steering was controlled using a normal steering wheel.
The Type 98 Chini had a conventional two man turret, carrying a Type 100 37mm main gun, with a muzzle velocity of 760m/s, and with a coaxial 7.7mm machine-gun to the side. This was an improvement on the asymmetrical turret used on the Type 95.
Power was provided by a Type 100 6-Cylinder Air-Cooled Diesel, giving 130hp and located sideways to make maintenance easier. This engine gave the Type 98 China a top speed of 55 km/h. The tank was also shorter in both length and height, and slightly lighter than the Type 95.
The Type 98 Chini did not enter production until 1942, and only around 100 were produced (24 in 1942 and 79 in 1943). General Hara believed that this was partly because the Army High Command did not want to increase the number of different types of tanks in use and partly because the Type 95 Ha-Go was popular with its users.
Names (see article on Japanese tank designations)
Type 98 Chi-Ni or Ke-Ni Light Tank
Length: 13.46ft/ 4.11m
Hull Width: 6.96ft/ 2.12m
Height: 5.96ft/ 1.82m
Weight: 7.2 tons
Engine: 130 six-cylinder air-cooled diesel
Max Speed: 31.1mph/ 50km/h
Max Range: 300km
Armament: Type 100 37mm main gun, two 7.7mm machine guns
Armour: 16mm maximum