Nakajima Ki-84-I Frank

This late war Japanese fighter was a match for late war allied types.

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After the jump, a look at a very dangerous Japanese Army Fighter.

The Nakajima Company produced the Japanese Army’s most important fighters from the start of the war.  Numerically the most important was the Ki-43 Oscar.  The Oscar was “modern”, but a traditional sort of Japanese fighter that emphasized maneuverability over firepower or defensive properties.

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The Ki-84 had a more conventional type of Fowler Flap than the earlier Ki-43. It also provided a big boost to the type’s maneuverability.

The Ki-84 was a next generation aircraft in every sense.  It had a 2000 hp engine, pilot armor, self sealing fuel tanks and heavy firepower. Over 3500 were built and clearly had the potential to be a deadly rival.  It was a very dangerous foe when flown by capable pilots.

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But the Frank never quite changed the balance of power for many reasons.  In the broadest sense, the Japanese could not put enough quality pilots in the cockpit. Production quality also suffered; everything from availability and quality of resources to labor force.  Individual aircraft could vary in top speed by 30 knots or more.  Fuel quality also had a marked influence; early Ki-84 test aircraft, being flown in ideal conditions could attain over 380 mph, but post-war, aircraft being test flown in the US, with high grade av-gas, could reach over 420 mph.  

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Another problem was that the Ki-84 first made it into action in late 1944, when modern allied types were already available in superior numbers with experienced pilots. The Frank was an important fighter.  They scored kills against Mustangs, Hellcats and Corsairs; often surprising allied pilots with their capability.  But the momentum of the war had changed.  The Frank never had a realistic chance of turning things around.

A line up of Franks.

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The two major fighters produced by Nakajima. The Ki-43 (left) entered service just as World War II in the Pacific started. The Ki-84 (right) entered service in the last year of the war.

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The Ki-84 could compete against the Allies’ best.

Ultimately, the Ki-84 was a great airplane, a great weapon; deployed too late and hopelessly handicapped by circumstances.

This is the Hasegawa kit with Aeromaster decals.  It represents an aircraft that served in Formosa the last summer of the war.

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About atcDave

I'm 54 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 31 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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3 Responses to Nakajima Ki-84-I Frank

  1. Theresa says:

    This plane suffers like all the great Axis planes did. It was too little too late.

  2. The Ki-84 was a stunning aircraft, certainly worthy of being mentioned along side the likes of the P-51D, the Focke-Wulf 190D-9 and the Vought F4U-4 Corsair – amongst others. Another great build Dave, I look forward to your next installment.

    • atcDave says:

      Thanks Rich. I always think it’s a good looking plane too. It looks powerful, like the late war type it is; yet more graceful than most American or German types of the period.

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