Ki-61 and Ki-100 Aces Book Review
|Date of Review
|Ki-61 and Ki-100 Aces
|96 pages, softbound
Kawasaki’s sleek Ki-61 Hien (“Swallow”) remains the only Imperial Japanese Army Air Force fighter with a liquid-cooled engine to see widespread production and combat during World War II.
Now it’s the launchpad for a lavishly illustrated, superbly researched study from Osprey – Ki-61 and Ki-100 Aces, 114th in the publisher’s popular “Aircraft of the Aces” range.
In the run-up to war, Japan experienced luckless efforts to introduce streamlined fighters with liquid-cooled piston engines.
Acquisition of manufacturing rights for Nazi Germany’s Daimler-Benz DB 601A engine aimed to change that. But Kawasaki’s resulting Ho-40 powerplant proved unreliable and difficult-to-maintain in the field. Manufacture of the inline engine further failed to match Kawasaki’s airframe production.
Author Nicholas Millman’s account actually covers three designs: Ki-61, Ki-100 and Ki-60 – the last of which failed to achieve production.
Liberally seasoned with absorbing anecdotes, operational history follows. That’s where you learn that the robust, well-protected Ki-61’s unofficial combat debut surprisingly occurred during April 1942’s Doolittle retaliatory raid. After a protracted gestation, Heins finally deployed to New Guinea in 1943. But serviceability and reliability remained low – and the aircraft’s reputation suffered.
Nevertheless, experienced IJA pilots soon began capitalizing on the new fighter’s strengths. They refined existing tactics – and developed new ones. And author Millman recounts results – theater-by-theater, unit-by-unit, man-by-man – in gripping combat narratives.
Coverage moves from Ki-61 operations in New Guinea and the Philippines through use in Burma, Java, Sumatra and China to final defenses of Japan’s home islands – including suicide “Special Attack” (Tokkôtai) actions and air-to-air ramming missions against USAAF B-29 formations.
Millman concludes contents with a compact chronicle of Japan’s “Seven Week Fighter”. In a case of “convergent evolution” mirroring Lavochkin’s La-5 development, Kawasaki replaced the inline propulsion with a compact radial. Thus emerged the superlative Ki-100 Goshikisen – the IJAAF’s last operational fighter to enter World War II service.
Cool color profiles and cover art by the matchless Ronnie Olsthoorn will surely motivate your modeling muse. And extended captions, appendices and index augment this absorbing effort.
So try prying this terrific little tome from my cold, dead fingers. As a Ki-61 devotee, I absolutely loved it.
My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!