Nakajima Ki-43 Oscar

The Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa was a single-engine land-based tactical fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in World War II. The army designation was "Army Type 1 Fighter" the Allied codename was "Oscar", but it was often called the "Army Zero" by American pilots for its resemblance to the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Like the Japanese Navy's A6M Zero, the radial-engined Ki-43 was light and easy to fly. The Ki-43 was legendary for its combat performance in East Asia in the early years of the war.

It could outmaneuver any opponent, but did not have armor or self-sealing tanks. Its armament was poor until the last version in 1944. In spite of its drawbacks, the Ki-43 shot down more Allied aircraft than any other Japanese fighter and almost all the JAAF'S aces achieved most of their kills in it. Allied pilots often reported that the nimble Ki-43s were difficult targets, but burned easily or broke apart with few hits. Total production amounted to 5,919 aircraft. Many of these were used during the last months of the war for kamikaze missions against the American fleet.

The Ki-43 was the most widely-used Army fighter, and equipped 30 groups and 12 independent squadrons. The first version, Ki-43-I, entered service in 1941, the Ki-43-II in December 1942, the Ki-43-II-Kai in June 1943, and the Ki-43-IIIa in summer 1944. The aircraft fought in China, Burma, the Malay Peninsula, New Guinea, the Philippines, South Pacific islands and the Japanese home islands.

Like the Zero, the Ki-43 initially enjoyed air superiority in the skies of Malaya, Netherlands East Indies, Burma and New Guinea. This was partly to do with the better performance of the Oscar and partly due to the relatively small numbers of combat-ready Allied fighters, mostly the P-36 Hawk, Curtiss P-40, Brewster Buffalo, Hawker Hurricane and Curtiss-Wright CW-21 in Asia and the Pacific during the first months of the war. As the war progressed, however, the fighter suffered from the same weaknesses as the Ki-27 "Nate" and the A6M Zero; light armor and less-than-effective self-sealing fuel tanks, which caused high casualties in combat. Its armament of two machine guns also proved inadequate against the more heavily armored Allied aircraft. As newer Allied aircraft were introduced, such as the P-47 Thunderbolt, P-38 Lightning, P-51 Mustang, F4U Corsair, F6F Hellcat and late-model Supermarine Spitfire/Seafire, the Japanese were forced into a defensive war and most aircraft were flown by inexperienced pilots. However, even towards the end, the Oscar's excellent maneuverability could still gain advantage over rash Allied pilots. Like most Japanese combat types, many Hayabusas were at the end expended in kamikaze raids.

The Ki-43 also served in an air defense role over Formosa, Okinawa and the Japanese home islands. Some examples were supplied to the pro-Japanese regimes of Thailand, Manchukuo and Wang Jingwei Government as well. The Thai units sometimes fought against the USAAF in southern China.

Hayabusas were well liked in the JAAF because of the pleasant flight characteristics and excellent maneuverability, and almost all JAAF fighter aces claimed victories with Hayabusa in some part of their career. At the end of the war, most Hayabusa units received Ki-84 Hayate "Frank" fighters, but some units flew the Hayabusa to the end of the war. The top-scoring Hayabusa pilot was Sergeant Satoshi Anabuki with 39 confirmed victories, almost all of them scored with the Ki-43.

General characteristics
  • Crew: One
  • Length: 8.92 m (29 ft 3⅜ in)
  • Wingspan: 10.84 m (35 ft 6¾ in)
  • Height: 3.27 m (10 ft 8¾in)
  • Wing area: 21.4 m² (230.4 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 1,910 kg (4,211 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 2,590 kg (5,710 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 2,925 kg (6,450 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× Nakajima Ha-115 fourteen cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 858 kW (1,150 hp)

  • Maximum speed: 530 km/h (286 knots, 329 mph) at 4,000 m (13,125 ft)
  • Cruise speed: 440 km/h (237 knots, 273 mph)
  • Range: 1,760 km (952 nmi, 1095 mi)
  • Ferry range: 3,200 km (1,730 nmi, 1,990 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 11,200 m (36,750 ft)
  • Wing loading: 121 kg/m² (24.8 lb/sq ft)

  • 2× fixed, forward-firing 12.7 mm (.50 in) Ho-103 machine guns in the cowl with 250 rpg
  • 2× 250 kg (551 lb) bombs

** Nakajima Ki-43 Oscar - Warbird Fare

Other Warbirds

Facebook Twitter Stumbleupon Delicious Digg More Favorites

Back To Top