Mark Rossmann submits his 1/48 Hasegawa Nakajima Ki-44-II Otsu Shoki. Mark used AeroMaster’s “Tojo Collection Pt. II” (48-170) decals to represent the Ki-44-II Otsu flown by Captain Hatano, leader of the 3rd Chutai of the 47th Sentai.
Mark also provided the following narrative with his build:
“B-29 Hunter – Ki-44-II Otsu -47th Sentai”
History: Nakajima Type 2 heavy fighter, the Ki-44 Shoki, was developed from the 1939 Air Headquarters (Koko Hombu) requirement for a different type of fighter. In all previous requirements, responsiveness, classic dog-fighting as in WWI, and agility were utmost; however, this requirement was for rate-of-climb, speed, and ability to withstand battle damage. Initial trials against the Zero saw it totally fail, and only equaled the performance of the Ki-27 and Ki-43.
Many changes were made, including a set of Ki-43 like “butterfly combat flaps fitted for improved maneuverability, and aerodynamic changes, especially to the engine housing. The aircraft was finally production ready with only 40 Ki-44-I’s built before the -II Otsu commenced production. The Otsu was the best of the series with a top speed of 376 mph at 17,060 feet with ascent to 16,000 feet in 4 minutes, 17 seconds, and armed with 4 machine guns. The -III Hei only had a few built before suspension in late 1944 in order to build the Ki-84.
With high wing loading, this created fast speeds for landing and tricky handling. It was thought fighter pilots with over 1,000 hours of flight time in their log books should only fly it. This caution was found to be unneeded and by late war it was decided relatively inexperienced pilots could handle it.
Pilot opinion was subjective. Those that flew the nimble Ki-27 and Ki-43 disliked it intensely, as it lacked maneuverability and for its high speed landing. However, it was respected for its outstanding dive characteristics, rapid roll rate, and being an excellent gun platform consisting of a pair of 7.7 mm (.303 in) and a pair of 12.7 mm (.50 cal.) machine guns. Later, the “IIc” had a single 20 mm cannon replacing the wing mounted machine gun. Limited numbers of aircraft had devastating 40 mm wing mounts. Those willing to accept the plane’s characteristics and to exploit them were few and far between.
Limited success was partly due to only 1227 variants of this type being produced, which was 9% of the single engine JAAF aircraft produced during the war. It was deployed mostly in China, also in Burma, East Indies, and the Philippines. The Ki-44 (Ki for “kitai” which is airframe type number) Shoki (“The Demon Queller”, a Taoist temple deity traditionally regarded as a vanquisher of ghosts and evil beings), or named by the Allies as “Tojo”, is mostly known for its Homeland Defense deployment against the B-29.
The 47th Chutai: Nine aircraft were received by an experimental unit, the 47th Chutai “Kawasemi Buntai (“Kingfisher Flight, 47th Squadron”), commanded by Major Toshio Sakagawa at Saigon, Indochina in early September 1941. As a result of the “Doolittle Raid”, having laid bare the lack of a Home Defense lead by the 244th with its obsolete Ki-27s, the wake-up call ordered the 47th Chutai to return to Japan on April 25, 1942. The 47th was assigned to the 10th Air Division and rated as the “best” with many skilled pilots, even though the 244th gained most of the limelight.
In October 1943, the 47th worked its way into “Sentai” status at Choufu Air base. Its tail emblem was a stylized version of the number 47 with each Chutai (squadron) displaying it in its own color; for this model, yellow for the 3rd Chutai. It disbanded at the end of the war at Ozuki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, then operating the Ki-84.
On November 1, 1944, the 47th saw its first B-29 homeland action when an F-13 photo-recon variant of the B-29 from the 3rd Photographic Group came in at 32,000 feet to map the Kanto plain. At 1300 hours, the 47th scrambled available Tojos and began their long climb toward the bomber. Leading was Captain Jun Shimizu, the 1st Chutai commander. As the formation reached 27,000 feet, the planes began wallowing and started stalling with some pilots dropping their noses to climb at a shallower angle. Captain Shimizu and his wingman, Lt. Matsuzaka, got within 3,000 feet of the F-13, struggling to keep their planes controlled, fired short bursts with no hits.
The IIc version was armed with heavy cannons, using caseless ammunition with low muzzle velocity, which was effective in close attacks against B-29s. Using the IIc, there was a special kamikaze unit (a company of four aircraft minimum) of the 47th Sentai, which specialized in bomber collision tactics, called the Shinten unit (Shinten Seiku Tai – Sky Shadow) which was based at Narimasu airfield during the defense of Tokyo.
On February 10, 1945, a B-29 mission to Ota, the 47th Sentai intercepted. 1st Lt. Heikichi Yoshizawa flew inverted straight at the formation, then rolled upright flashing barely 30 feet above the Superforts, he slammed into one of them killing him instantly. That morning, he had pinned a small doll to his flying suit for good luck, telling his wingman, 2nd Lt. Ryozo Ban, “Follow me today!” Ban replied, “Yes sir, yes sir, I will follow you to heaven or hell!” Ban was hit by defensive fire and had to make an emergency landing at Shimodate airfield. Lt. Yoshizawa is recorded as the leading B-29 ace of the 47th with four B-29s destroyed.
By April of 1945, the P-51 “Sunsetter” units on Iwo Jima were escorting the B-29s. Japanese Army Air Force units were ordered not to engage the U.S. escorts, but to go after the bombers and to save themselves for the final defense. At this time, the 47th was transitioning to the Ki-84.
The Ki-44, which was used on the eve of World War II in Indochina, evolved into a heavily armed fighter suited for attacking heavy bombers, something the Lufwaffe resurrected near the end of their “Defense of the Reich”. The “Tojo” was never destined to become a great fighter, or the mount of aces. Those who did make their mark in this aircraft did so by ramming B-29s at high altitudes or stalking them at low altitudes with the deadly 40mm canon. This was not what was envisioned in the original “Koko Hombu” requirement.
Kit: Hasegawa 1/48 Nakajima Ki-44 II ko Shoki (Tojo) “85th Flight Regiment” (JT37)
Decals: Aeromaster “Tojo Collection Pt. II” (48-170)
The only draw back to the kit was that it came with the scope site which protruded through the front windshield. Later built planes came with the optic site, which this has. I used “Formula 560” canopy glue to fill in the hole. It would have been nice if the optional site and windshield were available in the kit.
A. Tamiya TS-17 Aluminum for fuselage and wings.
B. Testors Flat White for Home Defense bands.
C. Tamiya TS-29 Semi-Gloss Black for anti-glare panel.
D. Tamiya TS-47 Chrome Yellow for wing leading edges.
E. Tamiya AS-29 Grey Green (IJA) for fabric areas.
F. Vallejo Model Color Mahogany Brown 70.846 for propeller.
Final Note: In reference #2, last page, shows a picture of a Ki-44 on display at Wright-Patterson AFB. This last surviving “Tojo” was scrapped and there are no intact examples of this aircraft type left in the world. Another source says a wing center section is preserved at the Northwestern Polytechnical University Aviation Museum at Xi’an China.
1. B-29 Hunters of the JAAF – Aviation Elite #5; Koji Takaki & Henry Sakaida; Osprey Publishing Limited (2001)
2. Ki-44 “Tojo” Aces of World War 2 – Aircraft of the Aces #100; Nicholas Millman; Osprey Publishing Limited (2011).
3. Japanese Army Air Force Aces of World War 2 1937-45 – Aircraft of the Aces #13; Henry Sakaida; Osprey Publishing Limited (1997).
4. World War II Airplanes Vol. 2; Enzo Angelucci & Pablo Matricard; Rand McNally (1978).
5. AeroMaster “Tojo Collection Pt. II. (1995)
6. Hasegawa Instruction Sheet (1995)
Thanks to Mark for submitting his build and article on the Nakajima Ki-44 II Otsu Shoki!