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Kawasaki Ki-45 Dragon Slayer


In the late 1930s the concept of a long-range fighter that could escort bombers to and from their targets was popular. In 1937 the Japanese Army decided they needed a such an aircraft. Takeo Doi was the chief project engineer and work started on the design in January 1938. The result was the Ki-45 Toryu (Dragon Slayer). The total production was 1,701.[i] Today only one remains.

[i] Weapons of Warfare, Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu,, posted April 2, 2020, last accessed 1/11/21.

In Combat

The Toryu entered combat in the fall of 1942. In China the Ki-45s showed what was already known. Twin-engine, two-seat, fighters could not provide adequate support for bombers.[i] They and the bombers they were escorting suffered heavily at the hands of the American Volunteer Group (AVG). On June 12 AVG pilot George Bugard shot down a Ki-45 and a Ki-27. The Ki-45 pilot, Sergeant Jiro Ieiri died in the crash. The Radioman was captured and posed for pictures with Burgard and other members of the Flying Tigers. AVG pilot C. Joseph Rosbert shot down 2 Ki-45s that day. William Bartling also scored a kill against a Ki-45 and a Ki-27.[ii] The Toryus also suffered a defeat at the hands of the AVG’s P-40s over Hanoi. Like other heavy fighters the Ki-45s were given new roles. They were used for ground attack and anti-shipping missions.

The Toryus proved capable against 5th Air Force B-24 heavy bombers. Mechanics in the field replaced Ki-45 fuel tanks with two upward firing 12.7 mm (0.50 caliber) machine guns. The upward firing method proved so successful the Japanese Army had Kawasaki make a night fighter version with two upward firing 20mm cannons. The night fighter version also had a forward firing 37mm cannon.[iii] The Luftwaffe copied the tactic of firing at enemy bombers from below.

On January 17, 1944 Captain Totaro Ito shot down 4 B-24s over Ambon Island. He is credited with shooting down 9 B-29s between September 1944 and the end of the war.[iv]

On May 27, 1944 Japanese Army and Navy aircraft attacked an American amphibious force off Biak. Major Katsushige Takada led a force of 4 Toryus. Anti-aircraft fire damaged Takada’s plane and downed the other 3 Ki-45s. Major Takada turned and made an apparent suicide attack. He crashed close to the Sub Chaser No. 699. The Toryu tumbled into the sub chaser and killed 2 crew members. Some other crew members were wounded. Takada was killed but his observer survived and natives returned him to the Japanese at Manokari on June 3.[v]

When the USAAF began flying B-29 Superfortresses against Japan. The Toryus were among the Japanese fighters to intercept them. On one mission Toryu pilots claimed 8 B-29s.[vi] On the night of March 9/10, 1945 B-29s carried out the first in a series of firebombing raids. The target city was Tokyo. Sergeant Nobuji Negishi was credited with shooting down two of the Superfortresses involved in the raid. The USAAF lost 14 of the 279 B-29s in this raid. The damage was more extensive than any other bombing raid. The official death toll was 83,793 but many believe the actual death toll could have been over 100,000. Another 41,000 people were wounded.[vii] The Japanese army credited Sergeant Negishi with 6 B-29 kills and 7 damaged during the war. The Japanese credited his unit, the 53rd Sentai, with shooting down or damaging 168 Superfortresses.[viii]

As with many Japanese aircraft some Ki-45s were used as kamikaze aircraft. Two Ki-45 kamikazes struck the destroyer USS Dickerson on April 2, 1945. The attack killed 54 crew members including the captain, roughly half the crew. The USS Dickerson was deemed damaged beyond repair and sunk by US Navy gunfire.

[i] In the Battle of Britain, 1940, the RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes outmatched the Bf 110, the Luftwaffe heavy fighter.

[ii] Warbird, The Flying Tiger Aces, American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers: AVG aces (, last accessed 1/14/21.

[iii] Weapons of Warfare, Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu,, posted April 2, 2020, last accessed 1/11/21.

[iv] Fighter Aces by Christopher Shores, © 1975 by The Hamlyn Publishing Group, Limited, P.122-123.

[v] Pacific Wrecks, K-45 Nick, Pacific Wrecks - Ki-45 Nick piloted by Major Katsushige Takada, last accessed 1/14/21.

[vi] Weapons of Warfare, Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu,, posted April 2, 2020, last accessed 1/11/21.

[vii] World War II Almanac 1931-1945 by Robert Goralski © 1981, P.385. The Night Tokyo Burned by Hoito Edoin © 1987.

[viii] Air Aces by Christopher Shores, © 1983 by Bison Books Corp. P.153.

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Ki-45 and Bf 110 stats

Sources: Weapons of, 3/2/2020, Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu
Luftwaffe Fighter Aces by Mike Spick (c) 1996

 Ki-45Bf 110C-4

Max Speed

540 km/h (340 mph)

558 lm/h (349 mph)


2,000 km (1,200 mi)

770 km (481 mi)


10,000 m (33,000 ft)

9,700 m (32,800 ft)

Wing loading

171.9 kg/sq m (35.2 lb/sq ft)

175 kg/sq m (36 lb/sq ft)

Rate pf climb

11.7 m/s (2,300 ft/min)

11 m/s (2,165 ft/min)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Robert Sacchi


Robert Sacchi (author) on January 17, 2021:

They did make aircraft such as the Kawanishi H8K, which was a flying boat made used for long range patrol. Building a strategic bombing force has advantages and disadvantages. They are heavy investments and to have a credible stategic bombing force means taking away from your tactical force. Fielf Marshal Kesselring pointed out the issues with a strategic bombing for in a 1954 statement. The B-29 could be a case in point. They started operations against Japan in Mid-1944. The tide of the war had already turned against Japan.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 17, 2021:

Another fine article this time in Japanese aircraft. The Japanese were good at manufacturing small and medium-range military aircraft but somehow they never got around to make anything big like the B 29.

Robert Sacchi (author) on January 16, 2021:

Thank you for reading and commenting. Firing from below was a clever idea since the fighters would have a much broader target. The Germans copied that tactic and the RAF didn't believe their bomber crews until a German night-fighter was caught on camera doing it. Kamikaze attacks were also for psychological purposes. The idea the other side was on a suicide mission adds more terror to the attacks.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 16, 2021:

This was interesting, particularly the change in strategy of firing from below. I can't imagine the thinking and preparation that goes on behind a kamimake mission. Terrible.

Robert Sacchi (author) on January 15, 2021:

Thank you for reading and commenting. The casualties in World War II were heavy.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on January 15, 2021:

Robert, you're welcome.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 15, 2021:

This is an interesting account of this airccraft, Robert. It is a shame about the USS Dickerson. Your articles are always so informative and interesting.

Robert Sacchi (author) on January 15, 2021:

Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, the Axis was notorious for their brutality.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on January 15, 2021:

Robert, like you know I detest too much the Japanese Army. It was like Germany, that has only one mission- to destroy all humanity. Glad that the Kawasaki Destroyer met it's waterloo. Much thanks.

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