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Nakajima Ki-27

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Nakajima Ki-27
Role Fighter aircraft
National origin Japan
Manufacturer Nakajima Aircraft Company
First flight 15 October 1936
Introduction 1937
Retired 1945 (Japan)
Primary users Imperial Japanese Army Air Service
Manchukuo Air Force
Royal Thai Air Force
Reformed Government of the Republic of China
Number built 3,368

The Nakajima Ki-27 (九七式戦闘機, Kyūnana-shiki sentōki, Type 97 Fighter) was the main fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service up until 1940. Its Allied nickname was "Nate", although it was called "Abdul" in the "China Burma India" (CBI) theater by many post-war sources;[1] Allied Intelligence had reserved that name for the nonexistent Mitsubishi Navy Type 97 fighter, expected to be the successor to the carrier-borne Type 96 (Mitsubishi A5M) with retractable landing gear and an enclosed cockpit.[2]

Design and development

Nakajima Ki-27 of the Akeno Army Flying School, ca. winter 1941/42 (see Bueschel 1970)

In 1935, the Imperial Japanese Army held a competition between Nakajima, Mitsubishi, and Kawasaki to design a low-wing monoplane to replace the Kawasaki Ki-10 (Army Type 95 Fighter) biplane. The new fighter was to have also a better performance than the experimental Mitsubishi Ki-18.[3]

The results were the Nakajima Ki-27, the Kawasaki Ki-28, and the Mitsubishi Ki-33 (a modification of the Mitsubishi A5M carrier-based fighter).[4][5] The Nakajima design was based on its earlier Ki-11 monoplane fighter which lost to the Ki-10 in the Type 95 Fighter competition. When the follow-up Nakajima Ki-12 proposal with a liquid-cooled engine and retractable landing gear was deemed too complex by the Japanese officials, the Ki-27 was designed by Koyama Yasushi to have an air-cooled radial engine and fixed landing gear. The aircraft had the Nakajima trademark wing with a straight leading edge and tapered trailing edge which would reappear again on the Ki-43, Ki-44, and Ki-84.

The Ki-27 made its first flight on 15 October 1936.[6][7] Although it had a slower top speed and worse climb performance than its competitors,[8] the Army chose the Nakajima design for its outstanding turning ability granted by its remarkably low wing loading. The Army ordered 10 pre-production samples (Ki-27a) for further testing, which featured an enclosed cockpit with sliding canopy and larger wings.

The type was officially accepted into service in 1937 as the Army Type 97 Fighter. In addition to Nakajima, the Ki-27 was also manufactured by Tachikawa Aircraft Company Ltd and Manshukoku Hikoki Seizo KK, with a total of 3,368 built before production ended in 1942.

Operational history

Nakajima Ki-27b of Kenji Shimada, commander of the 1st Chutai of the 11th Sentai, Battle of Khalkhyn Gol June 1939

The Ki-27 was the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force's main fighter until the start of World War II. When placed into combat service over northern China in March 1938, the Ki-27 enjoyed air superiority until the introduction of the faster Soviet-built Polikarpov I-16 fighters by the Chinese.

A Ki-27 as used in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol.

In the 1939 Battle of Khalkhin Gol against the USSR in Mongolia, the Ki-27 faced both Polikarpov I-15 biplane and Polikarpov I-16 monoplane fighters. In the initial phase of the conflict, its performance was a match for the early model I-16s, and was considerably superior to the I-15 biplane. With better trained Ki-27 pilots, the IJAAF gained aerial superiority. The Ki-27 was armed with two 7.7 mm (.303 in) Type 89 machine guns and as with most aircraft of the period, lacked armor protection for the pilot and self-sealing or fire suppression in the fuel tanks.

Later, the Soviet Air Force received improved I-16s. The faster, more heavily armed (with twin wing-mounted 20mm ShVAK cannon) and armored I-16 now nullified the Ki-27's advantages and it could now escape from the Ki-27 in a dive. The VVS introduced new tactics consisting of flying in large tightly knit formations, attacking with altitude and/or speed advantage and hit-and-run (high-energy) tactics much as Claire Chennault would later formulate for the 1941-era Flying Tigers (likewise to fly against Japanese forces).

Ki-27s at Nomonhan, 1939

Japanese losses mounted but despite this they claimed 1,340 aircraft (six times the admitted Soviet losses and three times as many as Soviet aircraft admitted to being in the theatre).[9] Japanese losses numbered 120 (including Ki-10s) while the Russians claimed 215 vs. a peak Japanese strength of 200 fighters.[9] (Overclaiming remained commonplace through World War Two, despite gun cameras and expert intelligence assessments.[citation needed]) Top scoring pilot of the incident and top scoring IJAAF pilot on the Ki-27 and overall World War II IJAAF ace was Warrant Officer Hiromichi Shinohara, who claimed 58 Soviet planes (including an IJAAF record of 11 in one day) whilst flying Ki-27s, only to be shot down himself by a number of I-16s on 27 August 1939.[10]

The preference of Japanese fighter pilots for the Ki-27's high rate of turn caused the Army to focus excessively on manoeuvrability, a decision which later handicapped the development of faster and more heavily armed fighters. The Ki-27 served until the beginning of World War II in the Pacific, escorting bombers attacking Malaya, Singapore, Netherlands East Indies, Burma and the Philippines (where it initially fared poorly against the Brewster F2A Buffalo).[11]

Ki-27 replica at Tokorozawa Aviation Museum

The type also saw extensive action against the American Volunteer Group in the early months of the war. Soon outclassed by the American Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, the Ki-27 was replaced in front line service by the Nakajima Ki-43, while surviving examples continued to serve as trainers.

The Ki-27 was also exported for use with Manchukuo and Thai armed forces, seeing combat with both. In Thai service, Ki-27s reportedly damaged two North American P-51 Mustangs and shot down one Lockheed P-38 Lightning and one North American P-51 Mustang.[12]

In the final months of the war, desperate lack of aircraft forced the Japanese to utilize all available machines and the Ki-27 and 79 were no exception. Some were equipped with up to 500 kg (1,100 lb) of explosives for kamikaze attacks, but some were redeployed as fighters, suffering terrible losses as on 16 February 1945 when the 39th Educational Flight Regiment scrambled 16 Ki-79 trainers from Yokoshiba Airfield to oppose a massive air raid from U.S. Task Force 58 carrier group, losing six aircraft with more damaged and five pilots killed, in return damaging at least one F6F Hellcat and possibly downing a second.[13]



Data from[14]

Nakajima Army Type 97 Fighter
Long Army designation for the Ki-27
Japanese army personnel and their Ki-27s
Nakajima Type PE
Private-venture experimental aircraft with Nakajima Ha1a engine.
Nakajima Ki-27
Prototype version with armament in response to IJAAF specs, two aircraft built.
Nakajima Ki-27-Kai Prototype
Pre-production units with armament and heavier Nakajima Ha1b engine, 10 aircraft built.
First production version. Approximately 565 aircraft built.
Trainer version converted from existing production. Approximately 150 aircraft converted.
Ki-27b (Army Type 97b Fighter)
Improved canopy, oil cooler and provision for 4 × 25 kg (55 lb) bombs or fuel tanks under the wings. A total of 1,492 built, including 50 by Tachikawa Aircraft Company Ltd.
Trainer version converted from existing production. Approximately 225 aircraft converted.
Nakajima Ki-27-Kai
Experimental lightened version developed as an interim solution when Ki-43 development was delayed, top speed 475 km/h (295 mph); two aircraft built[15]).
Mansyū Ki-79
Trainer version, built by Manshūkoku Hikōki Seizo KK with a 510 hp Hitachi Ha.13a-I or Ha.13a-III engine. A total of 1,329 aircraft built in four sub-versions (The single seat Ki-79a (Ha.13a-I) and Ki-79c (Ha.13a-III) and the two-seat Ki-79b (Ha.13a-I) and Ki-79d (Ha.13a-III)[16][17]).
Mansyū Army Type 2 Advanced Trainer
Long Army designation for the Mansyū Ki-79



World War II

Ki-27 in ROCAF markings
Beiyang government Reformed Government of the Republic of China


Mansyū Ki-79 in Museum Dirgantara Mandala

Surviving aircraft


Two aircraft survive today:

Specifications (Ki-27b)

3-view drawing of Nakajima Ki-27

Data from Nakajima Ki-27 Nate,[19] Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War[28]

General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 7.53 m (24 ft 8 in)
  • Wingspan: 11.31 m (37 ft 1 in)
  • Height: 3.25 m (10 ft 8 in)
  • Wing area: 18.56 m2 (199.8 sq ft)
  • Airfoil: root: NN-2 mod (16%); tip: NN-2 mod (8%)[29]
  • Empty weight: 1,110 kg (2,447 lb)
  • Gross weight: 1,790 kg (3,946 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Nakajima Ha-1 Kotobuki Otsu (Ha-1b) 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine, 530 kW (710 hp) for take-off, 582 kW (780 hp) at 2,900 m (9,500 ft)
  • Propellers: 2-bladed variable-pitch propeller


  • Maximum speed: 470 km/h (290 mph, 250 kn) at 3,500 m (11,500 ft)
  • Cruise speed: 350 km/h (220 mph, 190 kn) at 3,500 m (11,500 ft)
  • Range: 627 km (390 mi, 339 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 1,710 km (1,060 mi, 920 nmi)
  • Time to altitude: 5,000 m (16,000 ft) in 5 minutes 22 seconds (3,056 fpm)
  • Wing loading: 96.5 kg/m2 (19.8 lb/sq ft) Maximum weight
  • Power/mass: 3.43 kg/kW (5.64 lb/hp) maximum


  • Guns:
  • Bombs:
  • 4 × 25 kg (55 lb)
  • 2 × 130 L (34 US gal; 29 imp gal) drop-tanks

See also


Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists




  1. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 202.
  2. ^ Wieliczko & Szeremeta 2004, p. 87.
  3. ^ Januszewski 2003, p. 10.
  4. ^ Januszewski 2003, pp. 10–11.
  5. ^ Wieliczko & Szeremeta 2004, p. 12.
  6. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 198.
  7. ^ Wieliczko & Szeremeta 2004, p. 16.
  8. ^ Wieliczko & Szeremeta 2004, pp. 17–19.
  9. ^ a b Francillon 1979, p. 200.
  10. ^ Sakaida 1997, pp. 16–17.
  11. ^ Wieliczko & Szeremeta 2004, p. 57.
  12. ^ a b Wieliczko & Szeremeta 2004, p. 81.
  13. ^ "Cat Fight Over Chiba". Tailhook Magazine. 1997. Archived from the original on 2013-01-19.
  14. ^ Bueschel 1970, p. rear cover.
  15. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 203.
  16. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 486.
  17. ^ Wieliczko & Szeremeta 2004, pp. 26–27.
  18. ^ Bueschel 1970, pp. 48–50.
  19. ^ a b Wieliczko & Szeremeta 2004, p. 99.
  20. ^ Thorpe 1968, pp. 1881–185.
  21. ^ Bueschel 1970, p. 50.
  22. ^ "Japanese Aircraft in Royal Thai Air Force and Royal Thai Navy Service During World War II." aeroflight.co. Retrieved: 22 July 2010.
  23. ^ Wieliczko & Szeremeta 2004, p. 79.
  24. ^ "Indonesian aviation 1945-1950." Archived 14 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine adf-serials.com.
  25. ^ "Nakajima Ki 27 'Nate' at Tachiarai Peace Memorial Museum." j-aircraft.com.Retrieved: 14 August 2012.
  26. ^ Wieliczko & Szeremeta 2004, p. 77.
  27. ^ "Mansyu Ki-79b at the ABRI Satria Mandala Museum." Archived 2010-11-26 at the Wayback Machine pacificwrecks.com. Retrieved: 22 July 2010.
  28. ^ Francillon, Rene (1979). Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War. London: Putnam & Company Limited. pp. 196–203. ISBN 0-370-30251-6.
  29. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". m-selig.ae.illinois.edu. Retrieved 16 April 2019.


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