The Type 97 SHINHOTO CHI-HA Medium Tank received its combat baptism in Manchuria and against Soviet forces on the Mongolian border in May through September of 1939. Post-battle analysis showed that the CHI-HA was handicapped by its low-velocity gun when dealing with enemy tanks.
A new turret mounting a more powerful high-velocity, long-barrel 47mm semiautomatic gun of 48 caliber was designed and tested. But the new turret and main gun were not put into production until 1942. Complacency after easy victories in China and Manchuria, as well as the conquests of Vietnam, Malaya, Burma, and the Dutch East Indies, caused the delay.
When the Type 97 entered service, properly equipped and supported mechanized infantry units were realized. The skill with which Japanese commanders maneuvered their mechanized infantry divisions was best seen in Malaya. Japanese units moved so fast, and were so heavily supported by armor, that British defenders never had a chance to establish effective defense lines.
A number of variations of the Type 97 were produced with more powerful engines and heavier armor. The Type 1 CHI-NE had 2 inches of armor and a 240 horsepower air-cooled diesel engine. The Type 3 CHI-NU was equipped with a new turret and a 75mm gun. The Type 4 CHI-TO had a longer hull, weighed 30 tons, and carried a 75mm 38 caliber gun.
The last variation, the Type 5, weighed 37 tons and was armed with a 75mm main gun and a secondary 37mm gun. It carried 3 inches of armor and would have been superior to the American M-4 Sherman. The war ended before it could be built.
The Type 97 SHINHOTO CHI-HA served against Allied forces throughout the Pacific and east Asia and against the Soviets during the July-August 1945 Lightning War in Manchuria. Its 47mm gun could almost penetrate M-4 Sherman armor.
Continue to the next page to learn the specifications of the Type 97 SHINHOTO CHI-HA Medium Tank.