Empire of Japan (1943)
Prototype Fighter Interceptor – 1 Built
The Kawasaki Ki-88 was a fighter interceptor designed in 1942 with the intent of intercepting enemy aircraft heading towards vital military locations. The Ki-88 would never see service, as it was cancelled in 1943 after a mockup and partial prototype were constructed. Although considered by many to be the Japanese copy of the American Bell P-39 Airacobra due to the exterior aesthetic similarities, this is only speculation.
The origins of the Kawasaki Ki-88 began in August of 1942 when Tsuchii Takeo, a designer for Kawasaki, responded to a design specification put forward by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service (IJAAS). The IJAAS determined that they needed an interceptor aircraft that would defend important military assets like airfields, gun emplacements, and others. The specification also stated that the aircraft had to be heavily armed, provide a stable gun platform and be easily flyable by new pilots.
Takeo began work on the Ki-88 and chose to use a 37mm Ho-203 cannon as the plane’s primary armament, with two 20mm Ho-5 cannons to complement the Ho-203. The placement of the guns prompted Takeo to place the engine behind the cockpit. Many sources state that this was done to copy the American Bell P-39 Airacobra, but that claim is debated. The P-39 Airacobra was in service at the time the Ki-88 was developed, but saw limited service with the United States. It did however, see service during the Battle of Guadalcanal. The Japanese were certainly aware of its existence and possibly captured an example of the P-39. If they did indeed capture an example, Takeo could have simply copied the gun and engine placement. It is important to note that such a “rear-engine” fighter configuration was a rarity in plane design at the time. Another common theory is that Takeo came to the same conclusion as H.M Poyer (designer of the P-39) did during the planning phase and designed the plane without copying the P-39. Other than the engine and gun placement, the two planes are quite dissimilar.
Takeo completed the Ki-88’s design in June of 1943. A full scale mockup and prototype were in the works in mid/late 1943, and estimated that the prototype would be completed in October of 1943. However, after the mockup and plans were inspected by representatives of the IJAAS, it was concluded that the Ki-88 had no real improvements over other designs of the time, and the top speed was only slightly better than the Kawasaki Ki-61 after calculations. The IJAAS immediately lost interest and ordered Kawasaki to cease all work on it.
The Ki-88 was a single seater, single engine fighter powered by a Kawasaki Ha-140 engine producing 1,500hp while driving a propeller using an extension shaft. The radiator was placed under the cockpit at the bottom of the fuselage. There was an air intake placed beneath the fuselage on the left to provide cooling for the supercharger in the Ha-140.
The Ki-88 used a conventional landing gear, in which the main wheels could be retracted into the wings while the tail wheel stayed fixed. There was a fuel tank in each of the wings, beside the landing gear wells.
The size of the Ho-203 canon prevented Takeo from placing the engine into the nose which led him to place it behind the pilot’s cockpit, much like the American P-39 Airacobra. Moving the engine to the back of the cockpit was a smart move, as it theoretically would have made the plane a more stable gun platform. Under the Ho 203, on both sides of the nose, there were two 20mm Ho-5 cannons.
- Empire of Japan – The Ki-88 was supposed to have been operated by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service, but never did so due to the design being deemed as inferior to the Ki-61 and was thus cancelled.
|Wingspan||40.6 ft / 12.37 m|
|Length||33.4 ft / 10.18 m|
|Height||13.6 ft / 4.14 m|
|Wing Area||8,598 ft² / 27.49 m²|
|Engine||1x Kawasaki Ha-140 (1,500hp)|
|Empty Weight||6,503 lbs / 2,949 kg|
|Loaded Weight||8,598 lbs / 3,899 kg|
|Climb Rate||6 minutes & 30 seconds to 16,404ft (5,000m)|
|Maximum Speed||373 mph / 600 kph at 19,685ft (6,000m)|
|Range||745 mi / 1,198 km|
|Maximum Service Ceiling||36,089 ft / 11,000 m|
|Armament||1x 37mm Ho-203
2x 20mm Ho-5
Performance. Report No. 19b(4), USSBS Index Section 2 (Tech. No. 19b(4)). (n.d.)., Pacific Survey Reports and Supporting Records 1928-1947 Kawasaki Aircraft Industries Company, Ltd. (Kagamigahara, Gifu plant), Dyer, Edwin M. Japanese Secret Projects: Experimental Aircraft of the IJA and IJN 1939-1945. Classic, 2013., Francillon. (1987). Japanese aircraft of the Pacific war. Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press., Images: Side Profile Views by Ed Jackson – Artbyedo.com