The Nakajima Ki-44 Shōki (鍾馗, Zhong Kui) was a single-engine fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in World War II. The type first flew in August 1940 and entered service in 1942. The Allied reporting name was "Tojo"; the Japanese Army designation was "Army Type 2 Single-Seat Fighter" (二式単座戦闘機). It was less maneuverable than its predecessor, the nimble Ki-43, and pilots disliked its poor visibility on the ground, its higher landing speed, and severe restrictions on manoeuvring. Yet, it was obvious the Ki-44 was clearly superior overall as a combat aircraft compared to the Ki-43. As an interceptor it could match Allied types in climbs and dives, giving pilots more flexibility in combat and greater pilot confidence than the Ki-43. Moreover, the basic armament of four 12.7 mm machine guns or two 12.7 mm guns and two 20 mm cannon,(plus a few aircraft which carried two Ho-301 40 mm cannon of limited performance) was far superior to the older Ki-43's two 12.7mm MGs. These characteristics made the fighter despite performance restrictions at altitude, a useful B-29 Superfortress interceptor and one of the Japanese High Command priorities during the last year of war. However, like most of the Japanese aircraft flown in the last part of the war, the low availability of properly trained pilots made them easy targets for experienced, aggressive, and well trained Allied pilots flying superior aircraft...
"A mix of pre-production Ki-44-Is and a Ki-60 on the far right. The Ki-44s were hastily camouflaged and sent to Malaysia for combat against the British and the Dutch..."
Ki 44 47th Sentai
"..A line up of pre-production Ki-44-Is in SE Asia during the winter of 1941/42. The front machine is the 3rd prototype which has an earlier model cockpit. The second machine is the 5th prototype as flown by Maj Toshio Sakagawa..."
".. Great view of the telescopic gunsight on a Ki-44-II Ko. The version can be recognised from the rectangular cockpit door (the Ki-44-I had a rounded cockpit door) and the narrow hatch for the cowling guns, identifying these as 7.7mm weapons and thus the aircraft as a Ko model. Incidentally, as this photo shows, the cockpit door was *not* used for normally entering/exiting but rather for maintenance access and emergency escape!.."
" ..A late-production factory-painted Ki-44-II Hei. Note the underwing bomb racks. The majority of Ki-44s was delivered in bare metal and painted by their respective units..."
"..Ki-44-I "34" of the 47th Independent Fighter Chutai, which later became the 47th Sentai. Fuji-san in the background of course...."
" From left to right an A5M, Ki-44 and A6M2. The mix of Army and Navy aircraft here is interesting. They really didn't like each other and there was pitiful cooperation between these two air forces of Japan..."
posted by Mike Gepp on the Axis planes and pilots FB page
Comments by Ronnie Olsthoorn