Kawasaki Ki-48

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Ki-48 99siki-souhatu-keibaku.jpg
Kawasaki Ki-48
Role Light bomber
Manufacturer Kawasaki Kōkūki Kōgyō K.K.
Designer Takeo Doi
Introduction 1940
Retired 1945
Status Retired
Primary user Imperial Japanese Army Air Force
Number built 1,997

The Kawasaki Ki-48 (Japanese: 九九式雙發輕爆擊機, romanizedshiki-souhatu-keibaku, shortened to 'Sokei', Army Type 99 Twin-engined Light Bomber), was a Japanese twin-engine light bomber that was used during World War II. Its Allied reporting name was "Lily".

Design and development[edit]

The development of the aircraft began at the end of 1937 at the request of the Japanese military high command. Kawasaki received an order to develop a "high-speed bomber" capable of 480 km/h (300 mph) at 3,000 m (9,840 ft), and able to reach 5,000 m (16,400 ft) within 10 minutes. It was inspired by the Soviet Tupolev SB.

Kawasaki had the advantage of the experience of designing the Ki-45 twin-engined heavy fighter. Most technical problems were solved; however the aircraft had a number of shortcomings. It carried only an 800 kg (1,760 lb) bombload. This was actually more than contemporary light bombers such as the Bristol Blenheim or Tupolev SB, and only slightly less than light bombers designed several years later, such as the A-20 Havoc, and the strikingly similar-appearing Martin Maryland and Baltimore. Speed was intended to be its primary defense, much like the later, unarmed, de Havilland Mosquito. So it had only three machine guns (again, an equivalent armament to contemporary light bombers). This made it very vulnerable to enemy fighters later in the war, once they became fast enough to actually catch it. The flight characteristics of the Ki-48 also left much to be desired. Newer generations of Allied fighters caught up in speed, and eventually, the Ki-48 was too slow to outrun them, while superior modern Japanese aircraft, such as the Yokosuka P1Y and the Mitsubishi Ki-67, could only be produced in small numbers. The first versions were lightly armoured, so the Ki-48 was quite aerobatic, and could loop and turn with an experienced pilot at the controls. The aircraft was often used as a dive bomber in Burma. The aircraft was not necessarily a failure, and was considered an acceptable light bomber for the first few years of the war by many historians. Much like the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter, it was satisfactory for the period when it was designed and produced, but had to be used against much newer and faster competition, due to Japan's inability to produce enough newer aircraft.[citation needed]

Operational history[edit]

Kawasaki Ki-48 after Japanese surrender

The aircraft served in China from late 1940, replacing the Kawasaki Ki-32, and were widely used in the Philippines, Malaya, Burma, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the Dutch East Indies, where the Ki-48 Ia and Ib models, slow and badly armed, were supplemented by the marginally improved Ki-48 IIa and IIc, which were maintained in service along with the older types until the end of the war.

All models continued in service until the Battle of Okinawa during April 1945, when many were converted into kamikaze aircraft (Ki-48-II KAI Tai-Atari) armed with an 800 kg (1,760 lb) bomb. Some aircraft were modified to act as testbeds; one carried the Kawasaki Ki-148 guided missile intended for use on the Kawasaki Ki-102 in late 1944, and one was modified to test a Ne-0 pulsejet engine in late 1944 to early 1945.

The fact that all models continued in service until 1945 reflects that many Ki-48s survived more often than not. This was due to the use of small ship formations (three to ten aircraft) escorted by large numbers of fighters (25–75), typically Nakajima Ki-43s. Although not as fast as more modern fighters, after 1942, the aircraft was still fast enough to enable it to often avoid interception unless it ran into a standing patrol of fighters.[citation needed] The 90th Air Regiment of the 5th Air Army (based in Hopei, north China) equipped with Ki-48s was the only Japanese air unit in China proper to engage the Soviets, although others were advanced in preparation. It flew 20 sorties against the Soviets during 14 August 1945.[citation needed]

Ki-48 Special Attack Unit[edit]

The British Pacific Fleet departed from Ceylon on 16 January 1945 en route to Australia, and struck Japanese-held oil wells and refineries at Palembang, Sumatra on 24–29 January 1945 in Operation Meridian.

On 29 January, seven Kawasaki Ki-48 of the Army's Shichisi Mitate Tokubetsu Kōgeki Tai counter-attacked the Allied fleet at low level as the British aircraft were returning from Palembang. The British radar picture was confused by the presence of over 100 friendly aircraft and the first two or three Supermarine Seafire CAP interceptions did not occur until just before the Ki-48 formation entered the air defence zone. The last pair of Seafires chased the five remaining Ki-48s inside the screen, and with the support of returning Vought F4U Corsairs and Grumman F6F Hellcats which had just been scrambled, shot down all of them, amongst intense AA fire. One Seafire was slightly damaged and one Hellcat was written off due to friendly fire, but the only ship to be damaged was the carrier HMS Illustrious, hit by heavy AA shells.

A modified Ki-48 with a Ne-0 turbojet under the bomb bay during testing

Such success, minor by Pacific fighting standards at the time, gave the British Pacific Fleet useful expertise and confidence in its ability to deal with kamikaze attacks.


Four prototypes with 708 kW (949 hp) Nakajima Ha25 engines and five pre-production aircraft, with modified tail surfaces.
Army Type 99 Twin Engine Light Bomber Model 1A; as first series model. Produced from 1940, 557 built.
Similar to the Ia, with changes in defensive machine gun mountings.
  • Total production of Ki-48 Ia and Ib: 557 aircraft
Three prototypes built.
Fitted with more powerful engines, a longer fuselage, additional armour, and larger bomb load. Produced from April 1942.
Dive bomber version, with reinforced fuselage and dive brakes.
Improved defensive weapons. Produced from 1943.
  • Total production of Ki-48 IIa, IIb and IIc: 1,408 aircraft
Ki-48-II KAI Kamikaze (Type Tai-Atari)
Conversion with 800 kg (1,760 lb) of explosives and two or three crew for kamikaze missions
Nose turret removed and replaced with solid nose fitted with 2x fixed forward firing 12.7mm machine guns. 8 prototypes built of varying configurations. None selected for mass production due to minimal increase in speed. Dive brakes used on Ki-48 IIb.
Proposed version of the Ki-48. Not built.
Single-seat special attack version. Not built.
  • Total production of all versions: 1,997 aircraft


  • Imperial Japanese Army Air Force[1]
    • 3rd Attack Air Combat Regiment (June 1942 – June 1945)
    • 6th Attack Air Combat Regiment (1942–1945)
    • 8th Light Bomber Air Combat Regiment (August 1941 – 1945)
    • 12th Light Bomber Air Combat Regiment (April 1944 – August 1945)
    • 16th Light Bomber Air Combat Regiment (1941–1945)
    • 34th Light Bomber Air Combat Regiment (October 1942 – April 1944)
    • 35th Light Bomber Air Combat Regiment (1942–1944)
    • 45th Attack Air Combat Regiment (July 1940 – February 1944)
    • 65th Attack/Light Bomber Air Combat Regiment (1940 – July 1941)
    • 75th Attack Air Combat Regiment (1941 – April 1945)
    • 90th Light Bomber Air Combat Regiment (October 1941 – August 1945)
    • 206th Light Bomber Air Combat Regiment (June 1941 – July 1941)
    • 208th Light Bomber Air Combat Regiment (March 1941 – May 1945)
    • 82nd Independent Light Bomber Company (1940–1942)
    • 21st Independent Headquarters Flight (July 1939-15 October 1942)
    • Hokota Army Light Bomber Flying School
    • Hokota Light Bomber Instructing Flight Division
    • Mito Army Flying School
    • Army Aviation Maintenance School
    • Tokorozawa Army Aviation Maintenance School
 People's Republic of China


Kawasaki Ki-48 on display in ‘Victory Park’, Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Poklonnaya Hill, Moscow, Russia.

There is a Ki-48 on display at the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Moscow.[3] The China Aviation Museum in Datangshan has a Kawasaki Ki-48 in Chinese Liberation Army Air Force colours. Some of the parts of the airplane are reproduced.[4][5] The Indonesian Air Force Museum in Yogyakarta is also known to have a Ki-48 in its collection.[6]

Specifications (Ki-48-IIa)[edit]

Data from Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft,[7] Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War,[8] Kawasaki Ki.48-I/II Sokei in Japanese Army Air Force-CNAF & IPSF Service, Aircam No.32[9]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4
  • Length: 12.75 m (41 ft 10 in)
  • Wingspan: 17.45 m (57 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 3.8 m (12 ft 6 in)
  • Wing area: 40 m2 (430 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 4,550 kg (10,031 lb)
  • Gross weight: 6,500 kg (14,330 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 6,750 kg (14,881 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Nakajima Ha115 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 843 kW (1,130 hp) each
  • Propellers: 3-bladed variable-pitch propellers


  • Maximum speed: 505 km/h (314 mph, 273 kn) at 5,600 m (18,373 ft)
  • Range: 2,400 km (1,500 mi, 1,300 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 10,100 m (33,100 ft)


  • Guns: 3 × 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 89 machine guns, in nose, dorsal and ventral positions
  • Bombs: 800 kg (1,764 lb) of bombs

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ Bueschell 1971, pp. 49–50.
  2. ^ Bueschel 1971, p. 12.
  3. ^ Kotelnikov, V. Stalin's Captives article in Fly Past magazine, February 2017 p.104 with photo
  4. ^ Hannah, Paul. "Kawasaki Ki 48." Preserved axis aircraft. Retrieved: 25 August 2010.
  5. ^ "Kawasaki Ki-48-II (replica)." China Aviation Museum (中国航空博物馆), Datangshan. Retrieved: 25 August 2010.
  6. ^ "Babo airfield." www.pacificwrecks.com. Retrieved: 25 August 2010.
  7. ^ Jackson 2002, p. ?.
  8. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 107.
  9. ^ Bueschell 1971, pp. 50–51.


  • Bueschel, Richard M. Kawasaki Ki.48-I/II Sokei in Japanese Army Air Force-CNAF & IPSF Service, Aircam No. 32. Canterbury, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1972. ISBN 0-85045-133-7.
  • Francillon, René J. Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War. London: Putnam and Company, 1979, 2nd edition. ISBN 0-370-30251-6.
  • Green, William & Swanborough, Gordon (n.d.). "Pentagon Over the Islands: The Thirty-Year History of Indonesian Military Aviation". Air Enthusiast Quarterly (2): 154–162. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Jackson, Robert. The Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft. London: Parragon, 2002. ISBN 0-7525-8130-9.
  • Millot, Bernard (November 1977). "Kawasaki Type 99 Ki.48 "Lily" (1)" [Kawasaki Type 99 Ki.48 "Lily" Part One]. Le Fana de l'Aviation (in French) (96): 20–25. ISSN 0757-4169.
  • Millot, Bernard (December 1977). "Kawasaki Type 99 Ki.48 "Lily" (2)" [Kawasaki Type 99 Ki.48 "Lily" Part Two]. Le Fana de l'Aviation (in French) (97): 31–35. ISSN 0757-4169.

External links[edit]