As Germany was developing their two-seater fighter bomber - the Messerschmitt Bf 110, the Imperial Japanese Army approached the Kawasaki Shipbuilding Company to develop a Japanese version that could be used in a similar multiple role.
While development commenced in 1937, initial results were not promising with the twin Ha-20 Otsu engines being both underpowered and prone to failure. Undeterred, Kawasaki persisted in its development and in February 1942, the aircraft finally entered service as a long-range bomber escort with its more powerful Nakajima Ha-25s engines.
Known as the Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu (Dragon Slayer) the aircraft saw its first combat action in June 1942 - participating in attacks on the Chinese City of Guilin.
However, within days it soon became apparent that the Ki-45 was no match for the speed and manoeuvrability of the P-40 Warhawks flown by the US volunteer pilots of the ‘Flying Tigers’. In September of the same year it once more faced the P-40 over Hanoi - finally convincing the Imperial Japanese Army that the Ki-45 was never going to hold its own against a single seat fighter and was subsequently redeployed in the roles of interception, ground and sea-attack as well as fleet defence.
Much like the Luftwaffe’s Bf-110 in Europe, the Ki-45 greatest strength turned out to be as a bomber interceptor and reequipped with more powerful 37 mm tank gun nose cannons, it was used against the B-17 Bombers. While its fire power had a devastating effect on the USAAF bombers, its manual loading requirements meant that the aircraft could only make two attack passes before having to withdraw to reload.
The next variants, the Hei and Tei , reinstalled the original 20 mm cannons but with an autoloading mechanism and further twin 20 mm cannons behind the cockpit. This new configuration proved to be extremely effective against the high flying B-29 super-fortresses which had started bombing the Japanese mainland in June 1945 but the aircraft struggled with maintaining the extreme altitudes and with the arrival of the P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt as bomber escorts, the Ki-45’s career was soon over.
Some Ki-45s were reassigned as night-fighters and with a vertical firing cannon installed at the rear of the cockpit (much like the German Schräge Musik cannon of the Bf 110), the Ki-45s shared the night defence of Japan with the navy’s J1N1-S and Yokosuka P1Y1-S. The move proved highly successful with one squadron alone being credited with 150 kills, of which 26 were gained by one pilot, Captain Isamu Kashiide, all despite the lack of any nigh-time radar.
By the closing months of the war, with Japanese Imperial forces retreating on all fronts and its Pacific fleet in ruins, the Ki-45, like many of the nation’s remaining aircraft, found itself being used in aerial ramming attacks as well as Kamikaze attacks on the USN fleet. One such attack by a Ki-45 on the USS Dickerson on 2 April 1945, resulted in the deaths of the ship’s commanding officer and 54 crew who were killed when it clipped the stacks from astern, and rammed the bridge. A second Ki-45 hit the foredeck, opening a 23 ft hole in the deck, with the ensuing fires demolishing the ship.
All Kawasaki Ki-45 Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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