Ki-15 Karigane
Mitsubishi Ki-15-I (Army Type 97 Command Reconnaissance aircraft)
Role Military reconnaissance aircraft, light bomber
Manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
First flight May 1936
Introduction May 1937
Retired 1945 (Japan)
1951 (China)
Primary users Imperial Japanese Army Air Force
Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service
Number built approx. 500

The Mitsubishi Ki-15 (雁金, Karigane, English: Wild Goose) Army Type 97 Command Reconnaissance aircraft (九七式司令部偵察機, Kyunana-shiki sireibu teisatsuki) was a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft and a light attack bomber of the Second Sino-Japanese War and Pacific War. It began as a fast civilian mail-plane. It was a single-engine, low-wing, cantilever monoplane with a fixed tailwheel undercarriage; it carried a crew of two. It served with both the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy (as the C5M). During World War II it was code-named "Babs" by the Allies.

Design and development

The Ki-15 was designed by the Mitsubishi corporation to meet an Imperial Japanese Army Air Force requirement of 1935 for a two-seat, high-speed reconnaissance aircraft.[1] The resulting aircraft was a low-wing cantilever monoplane with a fixed, spatted undercarriage, similar to other all-metal stressed-skin monoplanes developed elsewhere in 1930s, such as the Heinkel He 70 and the Northrop Alpha. Power was by a single Nakajima Ha-8 radial engine, giving 560 kW (750 hp) at 4,000 m (13,120 ft). The first prototype flew in May 1936, with testing proving successful, the aircraft meeting all performance requirements, reaching a speed of 481 km/h (299 mph) and showing good handling characteristics.[2]

Service testing was completed without difficulty and the type was ordered into production under the official designation Army Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Aircraft Model 1. In May 1937, a year after the first flight, delivery of the first of 437 production aircraft to the army began.[1]

Operational history

The Ki-15-I was almost immediately placed into operational service at the beginning of the war with China in 1937. The aircraft proved useful in the early period of the Second Sino-Japanese War and performed missions deep into Chinese strategic rear areas, as far as reaching Lanzhou, and in particular serving as pre-strike guide and post-strike observation during the years-long Battle of Chongqing-Chengdu.[3] Its high speed gave it a distinct advantage until the Chinese Air Force acquired Soviet-made Polikarpov I-16 Type 17 fighters; a Ki-15 was shot down along with three bombers by I-16 Type 17 fighters of the 24th PS, 4th PG over Liangshan Airbase on 20 May 1940.[4] It was used for level bombing, close support and photo reconnaissance before being eventually replaced by the Mitsubishi Ki-30.

Plans were already in hand to improve the Ki-15-I, and in September 1939 the Ki-15-II was put into production with the 671 kW (900 hp) Mitsubishi Ha-26-1; the smaller diameter of this both reduced drag and overcame one of the major shortcomings of the initial version: poor forward field of view past the large-diameter of the initial Nakajima Kotobuki engine. The improved version entered production in September 1939 as the Ki-15-II.

The Japanese Navy, impressed by the performance of this aircraft, ordered 20 examples of the Ki-15-II under the designation “Navy Type 98 Reconnaissance Aircraft Model 1," or Mitsubishi designation C5M1, even before the Army. The Navy subsequently acquired 30 C5M2 aircraft which had an even more powerful 708 kW (949 hp) Nakajima Sakae 12 engine. They were used for reconnaissance duties. In further development, the army also experimented with an even more powerful engine with 783 kW (1,050 hp) Mitsubishi 102 radial in the Ki-15-III which did not enter production.

When production ended, approximately 500 examples of all versions of the Ki-15 had been built, the majority in front-line service when the Pacific War began. By 1943, the Ki-15 had been relegated to second-line roles, but numbers were expended in kamikaze attacks in the closing stages of World War II.

World record flight to Europe and other civilian use

Mitsubishi Ki-15 Karigane, (registration J-BAAI) was sponsored by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper

Despite the relatively weak engine (by later standards) and fixed undercarriage, the Ki-15 was remarkably fast. During the initial flight testing, the newspaper Asahi Shimbun obtained permission to purchase the second prototype. The aircraft was given the designation Karigane ('wild goose'), flying on 19 March 1937,[5] being named Kamikaze and registered as J-BAAI.

It was the first Japanese-built airplane to fly to Europe and caused a sensation in 1937 by making the flight between Tokyo and London, for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, between 6 April 1937 and 9 April 1937 in a flight time of 51 hours, 17 minutes and 23 seconds, a world record at the time.[6] Following the success of the Japan-England flight, a small number of Ki-15s were sold to civil customers. One of the early production aircraft was named "Asakaze" (J-BAAL) and was also used by the Asahi Shimbun; others were used by various civilian operators as mail-planes.



 People's Republic of China

Specifications (Ki-15-I)

3-view drawing of the Mitsubishi Ki-15

Data from The Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II,[8] and Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War [9]

General characteristics



See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^ a b Francillon 1979, p. 149.
  2. ^ Francillon 1979, pp. 149–150.
  3. ^ PE Matt (2015-05-26). "Mitsubishi Ki-15 Type 97 / C5M Type 98 "Babs"". Pacific Eagles. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  4. ^ "当年设施简陋的梁山机场,没想到却是中国空军保卫重庆的第一道空中防线" [At that time, Liangshan Airport, which had poor facilities, did not expect it to be the first air defense line of the Chinese Air Force to defend Chongqing!]. Upstream News. 2019-01-17. Retrieved 2020-11-12.[dead link]
  5. ^ Francillon 1979, pp. 150–151.
  6. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 150.
  7. ^ History of war article
  8. ^ Mondey 1996, p. 206.
  9. ^ Francillon 1979, pp. 154–155.