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Kawasaki Ki-45 Kai Hei Toryu (Dragon Slayer)

 

December 1, 2020

Photo courtesy of Tom Lymburn

Kawasaki Ki-45 Kai Hei Toryu (Dragon Slayer)

In 1918, Kawasaki heavy industries established an aircraft and engine division. Between the wars, it produced license versions of the French Salmson 2A2 recon biplane and the Dornier Wal flying boat. Richard Vogt, later of Blohm und Voss, also designed aircraft for the Japanese Army. During WWII, Kawasaki was known for the Ki-61 fighter, the Ki-48 bomber, the Ki-56, a license-built version of the Lockheed 14 transport, and the Ki-45 Toryu twin engine fighter.

Intrigued by the concept of a twin-engine fighter like the Messerschmitt Bf-110, Kawasaki proposed the Ki-45. Although the prototype first flew in January 1939, the Ki-45, suffered through a prolonged gestation period. What emerged in August 1942 was a two-seater capable of ground attack and night fighting. Powered by a pair of 1050 hp Mitsubishi Ha.102 radials, the Ki-45 also proved effective for anti-shipping duties. With a 37 mm cannon, it made American PT boats a prime target. The need for an effective counter measure to the American B-29 raids led to a night fighter version with oblique mounted 20 mm cannon, similar to the German Schrage Musik installation. Japan failed to develop a useful airborne radar, so the Ki-45 had to make visual attacks. Captain Isamu Kashiide, known as "King of the B-29 Killers," was credited with seven B-29 victories, while Captain Fujitaro Ito, claimed victories over B-29s and B-24s totaling thirteen.

The fuselage of a Ki-45Kai Hei is displayed at the Air and Space Museum's Dulles branch. It was shipped to the United States after the war aboard the U.S.S. Barnes (CVE-20) and tested by the Navy at NAS Norfork, Virginia. Later, the Army made further tests at Middletown, Pennsylvania. After these tests, it was handed over to the Smithsonian and stored at Park Ridge, Chicago.

 

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