The Japanese produced their first modern light tank in 1935. This vehicle, the Type 95 (1935), subsequently was standardized and manufactured in large numbers. With its improved suspension and hull, and its turret-mounting of a Type 94 (1934) 37-mm highvelocity gun, it represented a considerable advance in Japanese design, which prior to 1935 was preoccupied with the production of imitations of 4- to 15-ton tanks purchased from other countries. Yet, in common with all early Japanese tanks, the protective armor of the Type 95 was made extremely light, with a maximum thickness of only 0.5 inch. From 1935 to 1942, in addition to the Type 95 light tank, the Type 97 (1937) medium tank, in both the original and improved versions, and the Type 2 (1942) amphibious tank were also developed and produced in considerable numbers.
The medium tank, known as the Type 97 (1937) and weighing approximately 15 tons, was produced in 1937. Its general design is satisfactory, but, as engagements With U. S. tanks have shown, its maximum armor thickness of only 1 inch is inadequate to withstand high-velocity projectiles. Furthermore, the turret-mounted 57-mm low-velocity gun, which is its primary armament, is unsuited for tankversus-tank fighting. Since the original Type 97 was produced, however, it has been modified by substitution of a high-velocity 47-mm gun in place of the 57-mm piece, and this new weapon should prove more satisfactory.
Tanks of this new design have been encountered in Burma and in the Pacific theaters. Although the installation of the high-velocity gun necessitated the redesigning of the turret, the armor was not increased, nor was any other major improvement effected. Recent combatreports indicate, however, that the quality of the 47-mm AP projectile has been improved. Previously, tests showed that the metal was brittle and tended to break up.
Apart from the improved version of the Type 97 medium tank, the Type 2 (1942) amphibious tank, first encountered on Kwajalein, is the latest and only other known modern Japanese tank. While the method of flotation by means of detachable pontons is extremely interesting, the most significant trend in this type is the coaxial mounting of the Type 1 (1941) 37-mm gun and the Type 97 (1937) 7.7-mm machine gun in the turret. In no other vehicle have theJapanese been known to mount coaxially the primary and secondary armament. In addition, the chamber capacity of the 37-mm gun has been increased, indicating that it would have a somewhat higher muzzle velocity than previously encountered Japanese tank-mounted guns of this caliber. The hull design shows considerable improvement, particularly in the elimination of re-entrant angles. Yet the armor is consistently light, the maximum thickness varying from 0.47 to 0.52 inch on the sides of the turret.
Recent reports indicate that the Japanese may have developed a tank weighing approximately 30 tons with a long, high-velocity gun as its principal armament. Its maximum armor thickness is reportedto be 2.92 inches, or 0.975 inch thicker than that of any armored vehicle encountered thus far. A maximum speed of 30 miles per hour is claimed. There is also some evidence that the Japanese have developed two new light tanks. One is mounted on a Type. 1 (1941) prime-mover chassis. It weighs about 20 tons, according to reports, and has a maximum road speed of approximately 20 miles per hour. The other tank, a 17-ton vehicle, is described as an improved Type 97 (1937) medium tank redesigned to carry the 75-mm gun. It is said to have a maximum armor thickness of 2.34 inches, with one plate 0.975 inch thick reinforced by another 1.365 inches thick.