Based on use in China the Army issued a requirement in 1935 for a new medium tank to replace the Type 89B.3,4,8 Inspired by the British A6, a design was put forth that was faster than the Type 89.4,8 The Operations Chief of Staff however wanted a vehicle that was lighter and thus cheaper to manufacture.8 The Engineering Department however wanted to improve performance so Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the Osaka Army Arsenal were each tasked with developing a prototype, one to meet the Chief of Staff's preferences and the other theirs.8
At first the Chi-Ni was selected as it was cheaper, but it was decided that the more powerful Chi-Ha was needed after the war broke out in China.5,8
Internal communications were accomplished by 12 push buttons in the turret connected to 12 lights and a buzzer by the driver.
The engine, located in the rear provided power by a shaft that went to the gearbox in the front which then drove the front sprockets.3
The Type 97's driver was located in the front to the right, and the machine gunner was to his left.3,4 The turret was to the right of center.3,4
The Type 97 was manufactured with riveted construction.3,4
The suspension for the Type 97 Chi-Ha was similar to one used in the Type 95 light tank.4 It however had six road wheels instead of four.4
The middle return roller only supported the inside of the track. The 4 center wheels were mounted in pairs on bell cranks. The outside wheels were independently mounted.
The turret ring was made large enough to allow for larger guns in the future.8
Velocity per Second
47 mm Type 97 L/48
47 mm Type 16
57 mm Type 908
57 mm Type 978
Two prototypes were built.3,5,8 Mitsubishi built one for the Engineering Department, and Osaka Arsenal built one for the General Staff Office.3,8
Manufacturer: Osaka Arsenal5,8
Type 97 Chi-Ha: ~3,0003
Manufacturer: Mitsubishi3, Hitachi
Production: 19377 - 1943, 1938 -4
Type 97 Special Shinhoto Chi-Ha:
Production: 1942 -
Chi Ha Prototype: Armor was light.4 Was selected for production.8
Chi Ni Prototype: Commander was only one in turret.8
Type 97 Chi-Ha:
Shi-Ki: Command tank with 37 mm gun in hull instead of MG.2 Turret gun was dummy. A long range radio was installed with a rail antenna around the top of the turret.
Se-Ri: Armored Recovery Vehicle with a collapsible crane. Had 240 hp diesel.
Ho-K: Had its turret removed and had a steel prow mounted on the front for clearing paths through Manchurian forests.
Other variants were self-propelled AA (20 mm & 75 mm), engineer, recovery, flame-thrower, bulldozer, and bridge layer.
Type 97 Special Shinhoto Chi-Ha / Type 97-Kai Shinhoto Chi-Ha: New turrets designed by Mitsubishi for the Type 1 Chi-He were put onto Type 97 tanks. Had 47 mm Type 1 as its main armament.8,9 Mainstay of Japanese Armored forces. Since the Type 1 Chi-He was slow in getting into full production it was decided to upgrade the Type 97 Chi-Ha production. First used in 1942.
Observation Tank Ka-So: Carried a dummy 47 mm gun, but kept the MGs.2 Had rail antenna around the top of the turret.
Bulldozer: Had bulldozer attachment that was operated by a cable.2
36 Type 97s with the 9th Tank Regiment, commanded by Colonel Takashi Goto, arrived on Saipan in April 1944. In the early morning hours of June 17, 1944, 37 Type 97s and Type 95s joined with the 136th Infantry Regiment (commanded by Colonel Yukimatsu Ogawa) and attacked the 6th Marines. Several of the tanks got bogged down near the Susupe swamp while the rest moved forward towards the Marine lines. The Marines using machine guns, mortars, bazookas, artillery, and naval gun fire were able to stop the attack which was the largest tank attack of the Central Pacific.
It's role was to deal with machine gun nests and field fortifications encountered by the infantry.