When in mid 1935
Kawasaki, Mitsubishi and Nakajima were instructed by the Imperial
Japanese Army to build competitive prototypes of an advanced fighter
aircraft. Nakajima responded with a single seat monoplane fighter
derived from the company's Type P.E., which it had started to develop
as a private venture by the designers Hideo Itokawa and Yasushi Koyama.
A cantilever low-wing monoplane of all metal construction, except for
fabric covered control surfaces, the aircraft had a conventional tail
unit, fixed tailskid landing gear and power provided by a 650 hp (485
kw) Nakajima Ha-1a radial engine.
First flown during July
1936, this aircraft was followed three months later by the first
Nakajima Ki-27 prototype which incorporated minor modifications and
refinements that resulted from the early tests of the Type P.E. Service
trials proved that the Kawasaki Ki-28 was the fastest of the three
contenders, but Nakajima's Ki-27 was by far the most manoeuvrable and,
on that basis, 10 pre-production examples were ordered for further
service evaluation. They differed from the prototype by having wings of
increased span and area, and the cockpit enclosed by a sliding canopy.
Following further testing in 1937 the type was ordered into production
as the Army Type 97 Fighter Model A (Nakajima Ki-27a). Late production
aircraft which introduced some refinements, including a further
improved cockpit canopy, had the designation Ki-27b. Subsequently two
Ki-27 KA1 experimental aircraft were built, introducing a lighter
weight structure to improve performance, but no production examples
Nakajima could not have
guessed that 3,999 aircraft would be built, by Nakajima (2,020) and
Mansyu Hikoki Seizo K.K.(1,379), before production came to a halt at
the end of 1942, but the type's entry into service over northern China
in March 1938 gave an immediate appreciation of its capability, the
Ki-27's becoming masters of the airspace until confronted by the faster
Soviet Polikarov I-16 fighters. At the beginning of the Pacific war the
Ki-27's took part in the invasion of Burma, Malaya, the Netherlands
East Indies and the Philippines.
Allocated the Allied
codename 'Nate' (initially 'Abdul' in the China-India-Burma theatre),
the Ki-27 had considerable success against the Allies in the initial
stages before more modern fighters became available. When this occurred
they transferred for air defence of the home islands, remaining
deployed in this capacity until 1943 when they became used increasingly
as advanced trainers. As with many Japanese aircraft, their final use
was in a Kamikaze role.
(Army Type 97 Fighter
Model A - Nakajima Ki-27a)
Nate (Initially 'Abdul' in the China-India-Burma theatre)
710 hp (529 kw) Nakajima Ha-1b 9-cylinder radial piston engine.
Maximum speed 292 mph (470 km/h) at 11,485 ft (3500 m); cruising speed
217 mph (350 km/h).
Range: 389 miles
(625 km) on internal fuel stores.
2,447 lbs (1110 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 3,946 lbs (1790
Dimensions: Span 37 ft 1 1/2 in (11.31 m); length 24 ft 8 1/2 in (7.53
m); height 10 ft 8 in (3.25 m); wing area 199.68 sq ft (18.55 sq m).
forward firing 7.7 mm (0.303 in) machine guns.
Ki-27a, Ki-27b, Ki-27 KA1 (experimental).
Japanese Army, Thailand.