Ki-15 file photo [9642]


ManufacturerMitsubishi Heavy Industries
Primary RoleReconnaissance Aircraft
Maiden Flight1 May 1936


ww2dbaseThe Ki-15 aircraft were originally designed to meet a 1935 Army Air Force requirement. The prototype first took flight in May 1936, and was quickly accepted as the Japanese Army Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Plane Model 1. Production for the first order of 437 aircraft began in May 1937. They were single-engine monoplanes with fixed tailwheel undercarriages.

ww2dbaseThe Japanese newspaper firm Asahi Shimbun was given permission to purchase the second prototype of the aircraft named "Kamikaze", which first took flight on 19 Mar 1937; the civilian version of the Ki-15 was designated Karigane. On 6 Apr 1937, "Kamikaze" took off from Tachikawa Airfield in Tokyo, Japan at 1412 hours with Masaaki Iinuma as pilot and Kenji Tsukagoshi as the navigator; it was flying for London for the coronation of King George VI of the United Kingdom. After stops in Taipei, Hanoi, Vientiane, Calcutta, Karachi, Basra, Baghdad, Athens, Rome, and Paris, it arrived in London at 1530 hours on 9 Apr. The actual flight time of 51 hours, 17 minutes, and 23 seconds was a world record, while "Kamikaze" also became the first Japanese-built aircraft to fly over Europe. Both Iinuma and Tsukagoshi were awarded the LĂ©gion d'honneur award by the French government for the achievement. On 12 Apr, "Kamikaze" carried Prince Chichibu (Yasuhito) and Princess Chichibu (Setsuko Matsudaira), who were visiting England for the coronation, on a joyride. On 12 May 1937, the actual date of the coronation, "Kamikaze" was used to film the ceremony from the air. On 14 May, "Kamikaze" returned to Japan, arriving in Osaka on 20 May and then the Haneda Airport in Tokyo on 21 May. "Kamikaze" ran into bad weather in southern Taiwan and had to be ditched; the wreck was later recovered and put on display in Ikoma in Nara Prefecture, but it was destroyed during Allied bombing in WW2. Owing to the success of "Kamikaze", the Karigane design became popular. A small number of Karigane aircraft operated in the civilian sector, many of them as fast mail delivery aircraft.

ww2dbaseWhen the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in Jul 1937, they were immediately deployed to China. Their high speeds made them ideal reconnaissance aircraft and light bombers, especially as the obsolete Chinese fighters were too slow to pursue them. In Sep 1939, the second variant designated Ki-15-II began production, which increased power output to 900 horsepower after switching the Nakajima Ha-8 engines with the smaller but much more efficient Mitsubishi Ha-26-1 engines. The Japanese Navy made an order for 20 Ki-15-II aircraft before the Army made its order; the Navy designated them Navy Type 98 Reconnaissance Plane Model 1 or C5M1. Later in the war, the Japanese Navy made an additional order of 30 for an upgrade variant, Navy Type 98 Reconnaissance Plane Model 2 or C5M2, which were each equipped with a Nakajima Sakae 12 engine rated at 949 horsepower. By 1943, the Ki-15 aircraft began to be replaced on the front lines as newer models proved to be better suited in combat zones, but by the end of the war, many Ki-15 aircraft were returned to front line service, some as special attack aircraft.

ww2dbaseThe Allies codenamed the Ki-15 aircraft "Babs". About 500 Ki-15 aircraft were built during the design's production life.

ww2dbaseAt the end of the war, the Communist forces in China captured an unknown number of Ki-15 aircraft at Harbin in northeastern China. The Communist air force operated them until 1951.

ww2dbaseSource: Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Mar 2010

Ki-15 Timeline

19 Mar 1937 The second prototype of the Mitsubishi Ki-15 aircraft took flight.
9 Apr 1937 A Ki-15/Karigane aircraft, named "Kamikaze", landed in London. The flight from Tokyo to London broke the world record, while "Kamikaze" became the first Japanese aircraft to fly over Europe.


MachineryOne Nakajima Ha-8 9-cylinder radial piston engine rated at 750hp
Armament1x7.7mm machine gun, 250kg of bombs
Span12.00 m
Length8.70 m
Height3.35 m
Wing Area20.36 m˛
Weight, Empty1,400 kg
Weight, Loaded2,033 kg
Weight, Maximum2,300 kg
Speed, Maximum480 km/h
Speed, Cruising320 km/h
Service Ceiling11,400 m
Range, Normal2,400 km


Japanese Army Ki-15 reconnaissance aircraft in flight, date unknownKi-15 fighter at rest, date unknown

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Ed Butler says:
29 May 2019 08:37:13 AM

I have an iron plaque commemorating the 1937 flight from Tokyo to London. It measures about 11 3/4" diameter. Is this a rare item?

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Japanese Army Ki-15 reconnaissance aircraft in flight, date unknown
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