Ki-44 file photo [2227]

Ki-44 Shoki

ManufacturerNakajima Aircraft Company
Primary RoleFighter
Maiden Flight1 August 1940


ww2dbaseThe Ki-44 Shoki ("Demon") Type 2 Single Seat Fighters were designed for speed and climbing, targeting specifically high-flying bombers. The first flight took place in Aug 1940, and they entered service on an experimental basis in Dec 1941 when nine Ki-44s were assigned to the 47th Independent Air Company in Saigon, Indochina (Vietnam). They entered regular service in 1942. Though generally disliked by pilots for their perceived odd appearance, they were used in all areas of the Japanese Empire, operating in their intended defense roles. Some were converted to special attack aircraft at the end of the war, employing an unique tactic of mid-air collisions with Allied bombers, particularly the B-29s.

ww2dbaseAllied code name for these fighters was "Tojo".


ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Oct 2006


MachineryOne Nakajima Ha-109 14-cyl radial engine rated at 1,519hp
Armament4x12.7mm Type 1 machine guns
Span9.45 m
Length8.80 m
Height3.25 m
Wing Area15.00 m┬▓
Weight, Empty2,105 kg
Weight, Loaded2,995 kg
Speed, Maximum605 km/h
Service Ceiling11,200 m
Range, Normal1,700 km


A6M2, Ki-44, and A5M4 aircraft, date unknownKi-44 fighter in flight, date and location unknownKi-44 fighter in flight, date and location unknownKi-44 fighter taxiing, date and location unknown
See all 6 photographs of Ki-44 Shoki Fighter

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Commenter identity confirmed Alan Chanter says:
29 Apr 2008 02:03:22 AM

The Nakajima Ki-44 (Army Type 2) Shoki was developed alongside the Ki-43 (Army Type 1) high performance interceptor and was of similar configuration to its stablemate apart from a different engine. Flown for the first time in August 1940 the new fighter successfully passed its trials and was ordered into production as the Army Type 2 Single-seat fighter model 1A Shoki (Ki-44-1a).

Initially the Shoki (Devil-queller) was unpopular with service pilots. Its high landing speed and limited manoevrability (caused by a comparatively high wing loading for its day) could make it a difficult aircraft to handle by inexperienced pilots, but with increased experience these same pilots soon grew to respect the Ki-44 as a capable fighting machine.

When production ended in late 1944 a total of 1,225 aircraft of all versions had been built by Nakajima (including prototypes). The Ki-44 (codename Tojo by the Allies) was primarily deployed for the Air Defence of the home islands against bomber attacks.
2. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
17 Feb 2009 08:58:55 AM

info on above photo: Nakajima Ki-44-IIb Army Type 2 Single-Seat Fighter Model 2B. Used by Imperial Japanese Army Air Force.
3. Commenter identity confirmed BILL says:
27 Mar 2009 05:31:33 PM

The Manchoukuo Air Force also used the Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki (code word Tojo) by the Allies. Manchoukuo was a Puppet State under Japanese control during WWII.
4. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
27 Apr 2010 03:30:10 PM

During World War II, to get more performance
out of the aircraft a Ki-44-I Hei,Shoki was
experimentally fitted with Sumitomo Pe-7
conta-rotating propellers that were 9 feet 10 inches in diameter. Another Ki-44 was also
fitted with a constant-speed four-blade metal propeller.
The Ki-44 was armed with different weapons
from the 7.7mm Type 89 machine-gun and 12.7mm
Type 1 machine-gun.
The aircraft also carried a mix of cannons during its service life 20mm Ho-3,37mm Ho-203
and 40mm Ho-301 cannons on the Ki-44IIc.
Total production 1,167 aircraft.
The Ki-44 Shoki also saw service with the
Manchoukuo Air Corps, but in limited numbers.
5. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
6 Nov 2010 03:00:12 PM

The Nakajima Ki-44 IIB, Tojo was armed with
2x12.7mm Machineguns in the upper fuselage
and 2x12.7mm Machineguns in the wings total
ammo carried for all weapons was 760 rounds

The Tojo was powered by a Nakajima Ha 109
radial engine of 1,519 hp.
After WWII, the Ki-44 was also operated by
both the Nationalist and Communist Chinese
Air Forces.
The fighter was operated in limited numbers
by the Manchoukuo Air Force.
6. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
6 Nov 2010 04:09:10 PM

The Ki-44 was disliked by its pilots because
of its lack of manueverability, but in the
hands of a experienced pilot it was still a
deadly combat aircraft.

On the other hand, in the hands of the less
experienced pilot it was a deadly aircraft.
Pilots were killed and injuried due to
operational losses and accidents. The Ki-44
sacrificed maneuverability for speed and climb some pilots would strip unnecessary equipment for extra altitude performance.
7. Commenter identity confirmed Bill says:
6 Nov 2010 06:23:12 PM

The Nakajima Ki-44 was able to intercept the
the B-29s over the Home Islands, the fighter
over its production life different types of

The last model the Ki-44-IIIba that never got
beyond prototype stage, could have carried 2x37 and 2x20mm cannons. It was powered by a
Nakajima Ha-115, 14 cylinder radial engine
of 2,000hp.
8. Anonymous says:
16 Feb 2016 06:35:39 PM

Yoshida claimed 6 B-29 kills with the Ki 44 Shoki.
Some say about 12 Ki 44-IIc interceptors had 37mm Ho-203 cannons but others doubt this.
The 40mm Ho-301 was unpopular for it's lack of range but shot down at least 1 B-29 putting a hole in it 1.5m wide!
The 20mm Ho-3 quartet was perhaps better. It had a much heavier shell and higher velocity than most any 20mm cannon in WW2 but RoF was very slow. 4 combined, offset this @ about 20 rps! I believe this saw action. Ammo would last longer at 400 rpm (perhaps 200 sync).
The later 20mm Ho-5 was the fastest of WW2 but alas, perhaps the lightest shell.

I like the Shoki but more should have been made, especially with cannons. Most all of them were only armed with 4 HMGs. Putting out a combined cone of fire @ 45 rps, these were good for dogfighting.

It could turn a full circle in 20 seconds but all other Japanese fighters could turn better. Compared to the Ki 43 @ 11 seconds, you can see why vets didn't like it. But by any other nation's standards, it was good.

It could outdive any Japanese fighter except perhaps a Ki 61. And it could outclimb most anything, especially the Ki 61. So it was a natural for vertical tactics. Newer pilots (unspoiled by the Ki 43) put this to good use.

It was powered by a reliable engine. This is very rare in newer fighters. For this reason alone, it should have been produced in stronger numbers. But then I'm not Japanese.
The choice of their aces was still the slow Ki 43 in 1945!
The Ki 43 accounted for more than half of ALL Japanese fighter claims in WW2, so what can I say? Claims don't always mean victories, but that goes for all types. No Army aces were lost at Midway, putting them at an advantage over the Navy aces in numbers? Perhaps, but most Navy aces were landbased.

Anyway, the Shoki was still competitive with late model Allied fighters. It could stop the B-29 too, unlike the Ki 43 or A6M!
For that reason alone the Shoki should have been produced more. It was replaced by the unreliable Ki 84 due to the plagued Ha 45 engine. The Ki 84 should have hedged it's bets by utilyzing the Ki 44 engine initially, like the Russians did with the Yak-9U. The new powerful engine needed to mature, so they put the last engine (as in the Yak-3) in the new fighter and it still had improved performance. The stop-gap worked until the new engine was reliable. Nakajima should have done likewise. Or produced more Ki 44-IIc fighters. Am I repeating myself too much?

The nifty Ki 44 Shoki was underappreciated. If it had been produced in A6M scale numbers, it would be more famous than the problematic Ki 61 contemporary.

As soon as the Ki 61 lost most of it's number on a transfer flight, The Ki 44 should have taken up the slack. Use 3 drop tanks if necessary! Those Ki 61 losses were unsustainable for a non-combat flight. Another reason to ramp up Ki 44 production. The Ki 61 crankcase should have been redesigned, the shaft properly tempered and the engine beefed up like they did in Germany, not lighten it.

The Ki 44 was short range but only by Japanese standards.
A long range version should have dealt with that. Even if it takes 4 or 5 drop tanks it would have done better than the unreliable Ki 61 in the tropics.
9. Ron says:
19 Apr 2016 12:10:06 AM

Reliable engine of 1,519 hp!
More than 1,000 made!

No other Japanese fighter, could match that!
Other reliable fighters in quantity (Ki 43 and A6M) could not match the hp of the Ki 44. The A6M8 did but missed the action!
The Ki 100 and J2M5 had as much reliable hp too but not even 1,000 were made of either.

Thus, it is a shame more Tojos weren't produced and with long range cannons, since this could've made it a stronger
B-29 interceptor force.

It could compete with the new Allied fighters too, like the P-38 or the Spitfire. It was great in vertical tactics. It could climb and dive with them all.
Other reliable Japanese fighters were not as fast as the Ki 44 (Ki 43, A6M, and even the Ki 100).

Not bad for an early war Japanese fighter, contemporary of the Oscar and Zero.

It could still do a full turn in under 20 seconds too (considered good outside of Japan).

10. Anonymous says:
23 Feb 2017 10:52:49 PM

WoF for 2x7.7mm Type 89 sync: 0.24k/s.
For 2x12.7mm Ho-103: 1.03.
So Ki 44-I WoF: 1.27

4x12.7mm Ho-103: 1.516k/s

2x40mm Ho-301: 8.775k/s
2x12.7mm sync: 0.486k/s
= 9.261k/s
But under 2 sec. of 40mm short range ammo: 150m.

2x37mm Ho-203: 1.9k/s
2x12.7mm Ho-103: .486k/s
= 2.386k/s
12.5 sec. of 37mm ammo.
900m range.
This 37mm worked in the Ki 44-II or it wouldn't have been retained for the Ki 44-IIIb. The III series was canceled however.
11. Ronald Boren says:
24 Feb 2017 10:29:56 PM

The Shoki guns were mostly a quartet of 12.7mm Ho-103s, 2 fire through the prop with a weight of fire of 0.486kg per sec; 425 rounds per min. rate.
The 2 in the wings are about twice as fast with a WoF of 1.03k/s; RoF of 900 r/m.
The se had a range of 900m.

Initially the Ki 44-I had the 7.7mm guns in the nose with a RoF around 657 r/m and 600m range.

The 40mm Ho-301 wing-cannons were certainly used by the Ki 44-II. RoF: 450 r/m.
It was not retained for the Ki 44-III since it was not a success with most pilots.

The 37mm Ho-203 was more conventional but it was less definite if the Ki 44 used it. Since the Russians report capturing a few that had 25 r/g of 37mm ammo in the wings of one unit that had success intercepting B-29s, I keep an open mind. True, the cannon would have to address the feed cage for wing installation but that would be in reach of Nakajima. The later High velocity 37mm Ho-204 had belt feed and a RoF @ 400 r/m for perspective. The Shoki had stubby strengthened wings to survive the mild recoil of the lower velocity Ho-203 cannon.

Some second hand sources say that some Shokis had a quartet of 20mm Ho-3 cannons, but not original sources, so many rule this cannon out. 2.896k/m is the WoF if the Ki 44-II did in fact use it. Unlike the 20mm Ho-5, this 20mm used the heaviest 20mm shell of WW2: 162g! It was slow @ 400 r/m (188 sync) and 900m range. The planned Ki 44-III switched to the new 20mm Ho-5 for the 850 r/m RoF.
12. Anonymous says:
4 Mar 2017 01:17:06 AM

Consider the self-propelled shells to be like 20 mini air to air rockets but without hanging under the wing to foul up your slipstream and slow you down. Just fire 4 at a time at most, to conserve ammo.
13. Ronald Boren says:
6 Mar 2017 11:48:50 PM

A 4 round burst would have also benefited from the world-class rate of fire for a 40mm cannon (not counting nose-guns making up half the salvo).
More 40mm ammo would've been nice too.
accuracy was a problem for the recoiless projectiles but point-blank fire would help accuracy plus the Shoki had the best gun platform. Also, without recoil, firing in unison from both wings wouldn't be required for holding aim.

Use against B-29s was suicidal compared to dogfighting. To withstand such bomber box defensive fire to reach 150m range before firing was the bombers fight.
But closing on the tail of a fighter that had few tricks a Shoki couldn't match better than most Japanese fighters, would be more like it. Even head-on with 40mms would be intimidating. The range disadvantage would be much reduced besides.

Still, I like the Ki 44-III idea of 4x20mm Ho-5 cannons just like the 4x20s on the Ki 84-Ib. 10 seconds of firing time with all 4 cannons with a WoF per sec /4.040kg! This still leaves 12 sec. for the nose-cannons with the remaining 20mm ammo.
Pattern of fire density was about 42 rounds per sec. All harmonized!
Even with the requested 4 slower 20mm Ho-3 cannons, WoF was about 2.9kg/s with a pattern density of only about 20 shells. But these packed about twice the punch per hit of the new Ho-5!
Firing time was 15 sec at full firepower and then about 17 sec more with just nose-cannon.
That is formidable against all comers.
Had all Shokis been so armed, they would be more famous today. Maybe more than 1,225 would have been built and less of the obsolete Ki 43 with just 2 MGs. Japan needed interceptors more than anything else in 1944-45. The Ki 84 was no better up high than the Ki 44 and was less reliable. The Hayate should have replaced the Ki 43, not the Ki 44.

Can you imagine many 1,000s of cannon packing Shokis intercepting all raids?
Instead we see the all MG Shokis eclipsed by the 4x20mm cannon Raidens as the best interceptors despite being in only half the numbers and less reliable than the older Shoki.
14. Ronald Boren says:
9 Mar 2017 03:06:32 PM

I know the Shoki was disliked by most pilots. But it had some real plusses.

1. The 1519 hp Ha-109 was reliable!
All the fighter designs in Japan that followed, were not reliably powered. Only the Ki 100 was an exception and it was in smaller quantity and slower in max level speed.

2. It was an interceptor when Japan needed interceptors above all else. It was good at it for an early war design too. No US plane could climb better. It could also dive with a Spit VIII. Vertical tactics were super. It's controls were better with speed than most Japanese fighters. The 37mm cannon model would do some serious damage to B-29s. These should have been produced in stronger numbers instead of the Ki 43 in the last war years alongside the Ki 84. But what do I know?
15. Anonymous says:
14 Sep 2017 07:12:51 AM

Pilots requested 20mm cannons.
They mostly switched the 40mm back to 12.7mm guns. Had they received 20mm cannons, they would've been happy.
The 40s may have worked on a close-in fighter like the Ki 43 Oscar. It certainly needed more firepower.
It was so agile, it could score hits on Allied fighters that did hit and run tactics. The Tojo could pull lead in vertical tactics vs fighters with these cannons, I guess. But vs B-29s, they may as well ram.

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