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Japanese Type 89 Chi-Ro Medium Tank

The Japanese Type 89 CHI-RO Medium Tank first saw combat action in 1932. See more tank pictures.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Type 89 CHI-RO (an abbreviation of the Japanese word for "medium") tank was ideally suited to fight a war where the enemy was infantry equipped with small arms, machine guns, and a few larger guns. It was this type of war that the CHI-RO fought in China and Manchuria in the 1930s. The Japanese followed the British theory of tank warfare in which one class of tanks was to accompany infantry and serve as a mobile gun platform.

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The CHI-RO evolved from the Number 1 infantry tank, a design first laid down in 1925 and intended as a light tank. But growing weight and mechanical difficulties with the first prototype convinced the Japanese Army Technical Headquarters, responsible for the development of armored vehicles, to design a smaller tank similar to the British Medium C produced by Vickers, Several British Medium C tanks were obtained in 1927.

The new tank used a Mitsubishi 105 horsepower gasoline engine to produce a road speed of only 15,5 miles per hour. Since Nationalist Chinese forces were known to have only a few 37 millimeter antitank guns, .5 inch of armor was considered sufficient, and this was the maximum used. The tank was armed with a short-barrel 57mm cannon for knocking out pillboxes and stone and masonry forts, Two 6.5mm machine guns were installed, One was placed in the turret and pointed to the rear, a practice followed with most Japanese tanks, and one was located in the hull, The Type 89 was driven through the rear drive sprocket, Nine road, or bogie, wheels were mounted in pairs on each side with the forward road wheel on an independent suspension. Five smaller return wheels were mounted along a girder.

The new tank was officially turned over to the Japanese Army in the year 2589 (In the Gregorian calendar, 2589 is 1929.); the model designation Type 89 comes from this, The CHI-RO first saw action during the Shanghai Incident in 1932, They were used by Special Naval Landing Forces-erroneously called Imperial Marines. They performed better than the French OTSU-GATA SENSHA tanks (Renault Light Tanks) because of their stronger suspension systems. They also proved far more reliable.

Learn more about the changes made to the Type 89 CHI-RO tank's armor, weapons and other systems on the next page.

For more information about tanks and the military, see:

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The following year, Type 89 CHI-ROs were included as an armored force was formed for the first time as part of the regular Japanese Army. Three regiments of CHI-ROs were formed, each consisting of two companies with ten tanks each. Their task was to provide close support to the infantry. They proved of such value, especially in Manchuria, that three more regiments were formed in 1934. In that same year, a new air-cooled diesel engine was installed in new production Type 89s. The Army had determined that the air-cooled diesel was a more efficient engine for tanks, especially in arid northern China and Manchuria. A diesel engine was preferred because more diesel fuel than gasoline could be produced per barrel of oil. All Type 89s equipped with the diesel engine were referred to as Type 89Bs.

Over the next few years, other changes were made, none considered major. A new type of cupola was installed; a new mantlet for the gun was devised that gave more protection; and an armored sleeve was placed around each machine gun. New frontal armor plate with a shallow slope provided more protection for the driver.

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Type 89s were used widely throughout China after 1937, when the war began in earnest. They were also used against Soviet forces in the Soviet-Japanese War of 1939 when the Japanese Kwangtung Army crossed the Mongolian border near No-men-k'an in May 1939, By 1942 the Type 89 was being replaced, but many CHI-ROs saw action in the Philippines, Malaya, and Burma, They were also often used in essentially static defense positions on Japanese-occupied islands.

The Type 89 was an excellent tank for use against an enemy without heavy antitank guns or better armored and gunned tanks. They served their purpose in supporting the tide of Japanese conquest in China from 1937 and in southeast Asia between 1940 and 1945.

Learn more about the Type-89 CHI-RO Medium Tank's specifications on the next page.

For more information about tanks and the military, see:

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Lightly armored and capable of knocking down pill boxes as well as other stone and masonry fortifications, the Type-89 CHI-RO medium tank proved itself in both China and Manchuria as well as in other theaters of action throughout the Pacific.

Date of service: 1929

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Country: Imperial Japan

Type: Medium Tank

Dimensions: Length, 5.75 m (18.8 ft); width, 2.18 m (7.1 ft); height, 2.56 m (8.4 ft)

Combat weight: 11,612 kg (12.8 tons)

Engine: Mitsubishi air-cooled diesel

Armament: One 57mm Type 90 main gun; two 6.5mm Type 91 machine guns

Crew: 4

Speed: 25 km/h (15.5 mph)

Range: 160 km (99 mi)

Obstacle/grade performance: 0.8 m (2.6 ft)

For more information about tanks and the military, see:

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