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Ki-27 ‘Nate’ Aces

Ki-27 ‘Nate’ Aces Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review September 2013 Title Ki-27 ‘Nate’ Aces
Author Nicholas Millman Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2013 ISBN 9781849086622
Format 96 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $22.95


When it first appeared, Nakajima's Ki-27 "Nate" changed the calculus of combat.

In his 1939 evaluation of a captured Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) example, none other than Gen Claire Lee Chennault mentioned its "'astonishing rate of climb and incredibly short turning radius'" against some of China's best fighters – the Curtiss Hawk 75, Gloster Gladiator and Polikarpov I-16.

Over a three-year period, many Imperial aviators scored initial victories in Ki-27s.  Now Nicholas Millman tells their tale in Ki-27 'Nate' Aces – 103rd installment in Osprey's popular "Aircraft of the Aces" series.

Contents chronologically and geographically course through the nimble Nakajima's stellar service.  From March 1938 through early 1942, Ki-27s fought over China, Mongolia, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Dutch East Indies and Burma.

Superior Japanese training and tactics often proved decisive in forging theater dominance.  Against ill-disciplined foes over Nomonhon, for instance, Sgt Maj Yutaka Kimura claimed seven I-16s in one sortie.  And WO Mamoru Hanada bagged 17 Soviets in just two weeks.  In fact, Millman notes, Ki-27s enjoyed a 2.6:1 kill ratio over I-16s.  Until seasoned Spanish Civil War veterans joined Soviet ranks, Imperial experience regularly trumped enemy technology and numbers.

But training and tactics alone couldn't sustain supremacy.  And early Pacific fighting confirmed the Nate's emerging obsolescence.  Its rifle-caliber armament proved puny against rugged American designs like the B-17D.  And its lightweight airframe proved frighteningly frail in combat dives – even against much maligned Brewster Buffaloes.

So by early 1942, the JAAF began rapidly replacing Ki-27s with Ki-43 Hayabusas.  A year later, Nates largely left frontline units for secondary and training roles.  Some soldiered on in Manchukuo and, not noted in this volume, Thailand.  Still others surprisingly survived to serve in suicide operations.

Photos and extended captions season this superb study.  Over 30 excellent color plates by Ronnie Olsthoorn provide plenty of modeling inspiration.  And two appendices of Nate aces, 1:72-scale drawings, index and sources complete contents.

Also called 97 Sen or "Type 97", Nakajima's Ki-27 initially helped Japan dominate Asian and Pacific skies.  In fact, it claimed the Pacific War's first kill – Catalina FY-V/W8417 of RAF No 205 Sqn, Singapore – hours before the Pearl Harbor attack.

But this is more than just a record of one warplane and its warriors.  Millman masterfully distills the sweep of early JAAF air actions into one handy history.  That his tragic tale extends to the end of hostilities makes Osprey's authoritative little account vital for students of all the conflict's epochs.

Rabidly recommended.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!