Kawasaki Ki-56 Army Type 1 Freight Transport 'Thalia'

The Kawasaki Ki-56 was a twin-engined transport aircraft developed for the Japanese Army and closely based on the Lockheed 14.

Kawasaki had negotiated a licence to produce the Lockheed 14 in Japan, where it was given the designation Type LO Transport. In September 1939 the company was ordered to develop an improved version of the aircraft, with increased carrying capacity and better take-off characteristics.

Kawasaki Ki-56 'Thalia' from the right
Kawasaki Ki-56 'Thalia' from the right

The modified aircraft was designed by a team led by Takeo Doi. The Ki-56 has a 4ft 11in longer fuselage, lighter wings, redesigned Fowler flaps and lighter but more powerful engines than the Type LO. A large cargo handling door was added to the left-rear fuselage, with a smaller personnel door cut into it. This allowed the aircraft to carry three air-cooled radial engines or two liquid-cooled engines internally, allowing spares to be carried to isolated units scattered across the Japanese empire. Lockheed made similar changes to the design to produce the Lockheed 18, although the two teams were working independently of each other. 

The resulting aircraft was a low-winged twin-engined monoplane, with a rounded fuselage, a twin tail, and a clear family resemblance to the Lockheed 14 and its military offshoot, the Hudson.

The first of two prototypes was completed in November 1940. Flight tests showed that the changes had been successful, improving both the take-off and in-flight characteristics of the type. The Ki-56 entered production as the Army Type 1 Freight Transport, initially alongside the Type LO. In December 1941 production of the older aircraft ended, and Kawasaki concentrated on the Ki-56. A total of 121 aircraft (191 production and two prototypes) had been built by the time production ended in September 1943.

As a transport aircraft the Ki-56 was used across the Japanese Empire, and was encountered in just about every theatre of the Pacific War. The Allies gave it the code name 'Thalia', while the Type LO became 'Thelma'.

Engine: Two Army Type 99 (Nakajima Ha-25) 14 cylinder radial engines
Power: 950hp each
Crew: Four
Wing span: 65ft 6in
Length: 48ft 10 5/8in
Height: 11ft 9 3/4in
Empty Weight: 10,791lb
Loaded Weight: 17,692lb
Max Speed: 249mph at 11,480ft
Cruising Speed:
Service Ceiling: 26,250ft
Cargo Capacity: 5,291lb/ 2,400kg

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 May 2011), Kawasaki Ki-56 Army Type 1 Freight Transport 'Thalia' , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_kawasaki_ki-56.html

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