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Japanese Nakajima Ki-63 Haitaka (Heinkel He 100)

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In 1938 Kawasaki gained the right to build and develop their own version of the Daimler Benz DB 601A, one of the best inline aircraft engines of the period. In April 1940 a Kawasaki team visited Daimler-Benz in Stuttgart, and returned to Japan with the blueprints for the DB 601 and a number of completed engines. Work then began on Kawasaki's own version of the engine. The result was the Ha-40, with an improved take-off power of 1,175hp and a slight reduction in weight. The first Ha-40 was completed in July 1941 and it passed its ground tests by November, entering production as the 1,100hp Army Type 2 Engine.

While work on the new engine was going on the Air Headquarters of the Imperial Japanese Army was watching the progress of the air war over Europe, where the Spitfire, Hurricane and Bf 109 dominated the fighting. All three aircraft were high-performance aircraft with inline engines, some armor, and heavy armament, very different to the lightly armed, un-armored, radial powered and slower but maneuverable fighters in Japanese service. In February 1940 the Japanese Army initiated the design of three aircraft - the Kawasaki Ki-61 light fighter, the Nakajima Ki-62 light fighter, and the Kawasaki Ki-60 heavy interceptor, each to be powered by the Ha-40. In addition, Nakajima proposed a license-built variant of the Heinkel He 100, which they were contracted to produce for the Imperial Japanese Navy as the A9He1. Nakajima's proposal was designated the Ki-63 and was intended as the backup for the Ki-60. While these Navy aircraft were powered by the Aichi Atsuta—also a copy of the DB 601—the proposed Army variant would use the Kawasaki He-40. Priority was given to the Kawasaki Ki-60 interceptor, which first flew in April 1941, while design work on the Ki-61 did not begin until December 1940.

The first prototype of the Kawasaki Ki-60 made its maiden flight in March 1941, but from the start of flight testing it became apparent that the design was seriously flawed in several key areas. The take-off run was unacceptably long, while in flight the aircraft displayed some lateral instability, excessively heavy controls and poor control response. The spinning characteristics were described as "dangerous" and the stalling speed was extremely high. Its top speed was also disappointing, far below expectations. The failure of the Ki-60 also raised doubts about Kawasaki's Ki-61, especially given its less mature state of development. Even the best estimates made it clear that it would not be faster than the He 100 that Nakajima was already gearing up to produce. As a result, Nakajima got a contract from the IJAAS to produce the Ki-63, while development of the Ki-60, Ki-61, and Ki-62 was halted.

The Army variant of the He 100 was only slightly different than the A9He1 and it was designated the Nakajima Ki-63 “Haitaka” (Sparrowhawk). In combat, initial production variants were visually indistinguishable from the Navy aircraft, so it was also referred to as the "Herman" by the Allies. Surprisingly the Army Ki-63 actually saw combat before the Navy A9He1 when an early Ki-63 test model from the training field at Mito ran into Doolittle's Tokyo Raiders on 18 April 1942. Army Lieutenant Umekawa turned to pursue one of the North American B-25 Mitchell bombers skimming across Japan at treetop level, but had to break off quickly due to low fuel and the erratic behavior of his machine guns. One of the American raiders, Captain Charles R. Greening of Hoquiam, Washington, spotted the skinny fighter over Japan and reported its presence to the USAAF after his return to safety. This sighting was correctly interpreted as an indication that Japan was importing or producing domestic models of German fighters which prepared Allied pilots for the He 100's appearance in the Pacific.

This particular profile depicts an early production Ki-63-Ia at the IJAAS Akeno Army Flying School in the spring of 1943. The pilot's initials are in Kanji above the Akeno school emblem on the rudder. Type 3 Fighter aircraft assigned to Akeno remained unpainted except for the anti-glare panel forward of the cockpit, red-brown propeller and spinner, yellow wing leading edge, and the doped fabric of the control surfaces.
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Comments7
anonymous's avatar
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Mann-of-LaMancha's avatar
I'm not that familiar with this model, though it looks very well drawn
comradeloganov's avatar
Thanks! The Heinkel He 100 was real enough, but it never actually saw service, unlike this What If profile.
MercenaryGraphics's avatar
I used to like the HE 100....
MercenaryGraphics's avatar
Oversaturation, sorry.
comradeloganov's avatar
New airframes really take a while to do, but I'll be debuting a completely new type pretty soon. Are you familiar with the Mikoyan Gurevich Ye-8? Besides, if you're sick of the He 100 after about 20 profiles, you must really hate things like the 109 and Spitfire! So far, I really haven't done much more than what you'd find in a Squadron-Signal and far less than what you get in something like a Mushroom or Osprey title.
MercenaryGraphics's avatar
Looking forward to some variation.
anonymous's avatar
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