Kawasaki Ki-45 Nick

This twin was Japan’s attempt at a twin engine “heavy fighter”.

Serving from 1942 to the end of the War, the Ki-45 can be regarded a reasonable entry to the genre.

I’ve mentioned several times that the “typical” Japanese fighter design was very light and emphasized combat of maneuver. That may be partly why the Japanese Army looked into a heavy fighter design with more realistic expectations than many other powers. They under no illusions about it being a dog fighter that would go toe to toe with single engine fighters.
They sought a multi-role aircraft that could provide close support, long term standing patrols, a bomber destroyer and maybe even a night fighter.

One light machine gun in the rear defensive position.

Kawasaki’s first attempt, the original Ki-45 prototype was not a success and was rejected by the Army. After nearly giving up on the project and completely shaking up the design team, new head designer Doi Takeo produced an attractive twin that was designated Ki-45Kai. The “Kai” means modified, but it was truly an all new design. Uniquely among Japanese combat types, every Ki-45 produced would carry the “Kai” designation. It also had self-sealing fuel tanks and crew armor from the start.
The new type first saw combat in October 1942. It was not only a new type, but a new concept for the Japanese Army and it was somewhat underemployed for a while. But it saw increasing use in close support and anti-shipping. Its forward firepower was two 12.7 mm guns; usually considered a heavy machine gun, but the Japanese Army’s use of exploding ammunition made it more of a light cannon. There was also a forward firing 20 mm tunnel gun. As the type found its niche in Burma the Army deployed new squadrons to Timor and New Guinea. From mid-1943 it also came to be Japan’s best anti-PT Boat weapon.

All told 4 variants (differing mostly in armament) totaling 1690 examples were built. The last two versions were intended for operations against B-29s, and indeed the type was one of the more successful for that purpose.

Tunnel mounted 20 mm cannon. Later versions of the Ki-45 switched this to a 30 mm cannon.

This particular aircraft was assigned to the 5th Flight Regiment in Timor, late 1943. Protection for Eastern Dutch East Indies airfields and area shipping were their main function.

Differing approaches to the heavy fighter concept.
The Japanese were one combatant with a clear understanding of the distinction between a heavy and light fighter.

This is the Hasegawa kit. It was one of their last WWII kits before they switched over wholly to Gundam and Anime themes. And that sort of makes me sad, they were really putting out first rate kits when they withdrew from the market. But apparently there is now far money in giant robots than historic subjects.
I will look forward to building a few more of this type; its a nice kit of an attractive plane with a variety of interesting variations in armament, colors and markings.

The Nick proved very effective in opposing PT Boats.
The Ki-45 was evaluated in the US. The National Air and Space Museum has one in their collection.

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; 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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13 Responses to Kawasaki Ki-45 Nick

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Nice model kit. I know this is sad that they have stopped making WWII planes.
    I have look at Amazon this morning on several kits, the asked prices have skyrocketed!

    • atcDave says:

      They do still reissue on occasion, sometimes even with new markings. But I don’t think they’ve done any new tool aircraft in a few years.

      • Pierre Lagacé says:

        I love what you did with it.

      • Pierre Lagacé says:

        I should pick up my forgotten hobby soon… I can feel the urge.

      • atcDave says:

        Thank you! It is a nice kit of an attractive airplane. Some of the home defense bomber killers get really colorful.
        I should have mentioned, its Japanese name translates as “Dragon Slayer”. So it ought to be dashing and colorful!

  2. Ernie Davis says:

    Tough to tell if the “heavy fighter” was a flawed concept or just poorly executed by just about everyone. Clearly both the Brits and Americans pulled off a successful version (though the Mosquito is probably more a light bomber), this was a new one to me, My general impression is that any “fighter” that needs a rear gunner has missed the mark.

    • atcDave says:

      That might be a valid point! Although I think its more a reflection of the Japanese not expecting the plane to dogfight, but rather to just charge in fast.
      It was clearly not as fast or capable as a P-38 or Mosquito. But the Japanese never imagined a heavy fighter operating like they did either. Its probably most like a Bf 110, with more reasonable expectations from the start. It was not a “great” airplane, but it was capable and effective in the missions it was intended for.

  3. jfwknifton says:

    A nice looking aircraft, beautifully painted. Google revealed the Japanese for “Dragonslayer” / “Toryu” which is 屠龍. I suppose that somewhere out there, there will be a transfer/decal for that!

  4. It’s a pretty decent looking aircraft in my book, I think many twin engined aircraft of this type were stuck somewhere between the fighter and light bomber genres, as thus were not as successful as might have been hoped. The Mosquito and P-38 perhaps being two of those that were successful.

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