Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Anatomy of a Small War Part 4

As I wrote last March (the Anatomy of a Small War Part 3), I needed to pick up some 20mm tanks to provide support for my Japanese infantry. This year at Cangames I purchased three Frontline Wargaming Resin Kits from Five Arrows Figures and Fine Art (, one of the dealers who was in the Cangames marketplace.

I purchased two J3 TYPE 97 STANDARD MEDIUM TANK (CHI-HA) and one J4 TYPE 97 SPECIAL SHINHOTO (CHI-HA) tanks. These were the first resin kits I dealt with. Reading on the web I found the wise advise that I should soak the pieces in warm water with dish detergent, and scub them clean with a toothbrush before rinsing them clean. Afterwards it was very easy to apply both glue and paint without worrying of the effects of the chemicals used to seperate the kit from their molds.

Two Type 97 (CHI-HA) Medium Tanks
with 20mm Infantry shown for scale.

According to Wikipedia "The Type 97 medium tank Chi-Ha was a medium tank used by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Second World War. It was the most widely produced Japanese medium tank of the period.

The Type 97 was initially equipped with a Type 97 57mm main gun. The cannon was a short barreled weapon with a relatively low muzzle velocity but sufficient as the tank was intended primarily for infantry support.

It also carried two 7.7 mm Type 97 machine guns, one on the front left of the hull and the other in a ball mount on the rear of the turret. The latter could be remounted on top of the top of turret for anti-aircraft use. The turret was capable of full 360-degree traverse but the main gun had a second pair of trunnions internally allowing a maximum 10-degree traverse independently of the turret. The turret featured a small periscope for use when the tank was "buttoned up." On the front of the tank was a searchlight.

The Type 97 medium tank was manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (1,224 units), Hitachi Industries (355 units), as well as some limited production in Army’s Sagami Arsenal. A total of 2,123 vehicles were constructed from 1938 to 1943, of which 1162 units with the standard Type 97 and 930 units were the improved Type 97-kai (Shinhoto) version. The remainder was various specialized variants produced in small numbers, such as recovery, flail mine clearers, engineer, bridge layers, 20 mm and 75 mm anti-aircraft and self-propelled guns.

The shortcomings of the Type 97 with its low velocity 57 mm gun became clear during the Nomonhan Incident against the Soviet Union, where the 45 mm gun of the Soviet tanks outranged the Japanese tank gun, resulting in heavy Japanese losses. This convinced the Army of the need for a more powerful gun, and development of a new 47 mm weapon began in 1939 and was completed in 1941. This gun was based on Soviet 45 mm anti-tank guns[citation needed] captured during the Nomonhan conflict and was also influenced by the German PaK 36 37 mm anti-tank gun[citation needed]. Although it was a smaller-caliber weapon, the 47 mm gun's longer barrel generated much higher muzzle velocity, resulting in armor penetration superior to that of the 57 mm gun.

1 TYPE 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha ("new turret")
with 20mm Infantry shown for scale.

From 1942 onwards, production of the Model 97 was changed to use the new 47 mm gun, which also required a larger turret. The turret was taken from the Type 1 Chi-He medium tank to resolve this issue, and the new version was designated "Type 97 Improved Medium Tank" or Shinhoto Chi-Ha ("new turret"). About 300 of the older Type 97s were also upgraded to use the new gun. The 47 mm gun was easily capable of dealing with the armour of the American M3 Stuart, though had difficulty with the heavier M4 Sherman. However as the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff believed that any tanks fielded by the Allied nations would only be of the lighter types, the lack of capability against heavier armour was considered acceptable."