Ki-48 No. 2820 of the ROCAF
After the surrender of Japan in late 1945 there were a multitude of Japanese aircraft left in China. Many of these aircraft were in good shape and Chinese officials felt it would be a shame to let them go to waste, especially since the war against the Chinese communists had restarted. So a decision was made to gather all the usable aircraft into a brigade and thus, in October 1945, the 6th brigade was formed. Personnel went to all over China, Taiwan, and even Vietnam to learn how to fly and maintain the aircraft with Japanese instructors. They then brought them up to northeast China where they would be divided up into their respective squadrons. Many pilots of the 6th brigade were from the Air Force Sergeants/Non commissioned officers School as Air Force command didn’t want to use pilots trained with more modern US aircraft. Those from the sergeants school trained with older American aircraft such as the P-66 and others. The Ki-48’s would be assigned to the 5th Bombing squadron and was the main workhorse of the 6th brigade going on half of all missions. They would bomb communist positions until mid 1946 when the 6th brigade was disbanded. One of the main reasons for disbanding the brigade was the lack of spare parts and heavy maintenance. Around half of the Ki-48’s were ready to fly at any time during its service with the 5th Bombing squadron.
The communist Chinese also made use of Ki-48’s. They obtained them from the soviets and leftovers scattered throughout northeast China. They were mainly used as trainers with the Northeast Democratic Aviation School until 1952. Possibly training many of the PLAAF’s first pilots. One restored aircraft is on display at the China Aircraft museum in Beijing.
Length: 12.75 m
Width: 17.45 m
Height: 3.8 m
Empty weight: 4550 kg (Ki-48-IIb), 4630 kg (Ki-48-IIc)
Gross weight: 6500 kg (Ki-48-IIb), 6620 kg (Ki-48-IIc)
Engine: 2 × Nakajima Ha-115 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 843 kW (1,130 hp) each
Max speed: 505 km/h (Ki-48-IIb), 498 km/h (Ki-48-IIc)
Cruise speed: 390 km/h (Ki-48-IIb & c)
3 x 7.7mm type 89 machine guns (nose, rear gunner, and belly positions)
Bombs: up to 800kg
2 x 12.7mm type 103 machine guns (forward and side of nose)
2 x 7.7mm type 89 machine guns (rear gunner and belly positions)
Bombs: up to 600kg of bombs
In game the Ki-48 would be a great low tier bomber for the Chinese tech tree. With its formidable bomb load and dive bombing capabilities it would do well as a base bomber or ground attacker.
Interview with a captain from the 5th bombing squadron:
After the end of the war the recently established Sixth Squadron, which had just spent eight months of hasty days, has now “retired with success” and has been declared disbanded. This squadron was originally formed in Nanjing, consisting of two fighter squadrons and one bomber squadron formed from the reception of surrendered Japanese aircraft. Later, due to mission requirements, it was relocated to North China. During my interview with Captain Li Pengwu of the Fifth (Bomber) Squadron, he discussed their work over these eight months.
"As soon as the war ended we were tasked with receiving Japanese aircraft. Initially all our personnel were concentrated in Nanjing, later they were assigned to various locations to receive the aircraft. When we had finished receiving and concentrated the aircraft we were organized into squadrons and our numbers, designations, and personnel were all determined. Last winter the Sixth Squadron had reappeared within Chinese Air Force units.”
“Right after being transferred to North China our work became quite busy. Although the Japanese aircraft were not structurally sound, their performance was not great, and most of them left on the Chinese battlefield were old and worn-out, we, in these eight months, did not waste any resources for the nation. We used these old aircraft to the fullest extent possible, doing everything they could until they were truly paralyzed and disabled, only then did we abandon them. In these eight months the Sixth Brigade’s number of missions wasn’t any lower than any other brigades, with the Fifth Squadron going on the majority of them. These small achievements, while seemingly insignificant, were earned at the risk of our lives.”
"It’s a real headache to talk about these dilapidated Japanese aircraft. The number of Japanese aircraft received is indeed not small. People’s estimate of its power was originally very high. Excluding Taiwan and Northeast China, headquarters, various provinces, and cities received hundreds of aircraft including about 200 fighter aircraft at most. Followed by training aircraft, dozens of bombing, reconnaissance and transport aircraft. However, the number of aircraft that were intact and usable was only one-fifth of the total the rest are dilapidated, cannot be repaired, or must go through careful and arduous maintenance procedures to determine whether they can be used. Although the total number of aircraft received is large, it wasn’t enough to form a brigade.”
“Looking at aircraft production, you can understand why Japan lost the war this time. The equipment standards of Japanese aircraft originally could compete with any country in the world but at the end of the war its domestic resources were exhausted. Due to the shortage of resources and lack of manufacturing material many of the aircraft produced were structurally weak and the engine parts even more fragile; so they’re essentially far inferior to American aircraft. Moreover the weapons and equipment are still second. After these aircraft were handed over to us spare equipment parts can’t be replenished and maintenance work is quite difficult. Most importantly once the engine has exceeded its service life it can no longer be replaced with a new one. So the old one is used and maintained. As a result it’s full of problems. Every time an aircraft takes off everyone in the plane and on the ground were all worried about it crashing. Indeed many excellent pilots lost their lives as a result.”
The Sixth Brigade is over. In eight months she left the Chinese Air Force with a history of arduous struggle. In the reception room of the 5th Squadron, I met many old friends, most of whom had experienced several dangerous encounters. (Captain Li Pengwu made three emergency landings on pick up flights and escaped safely.) Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I couldn’t write them down one by one at the time. I look forward to the next opportunity to interview every brave person.
Restored Ki-48 at the China aircraft museum in Beijing. Looks like they restored it with a cold weather cowling.
China Airforce magazine issue 96 pages 7-6: 空小網友會: 抗戰時 中國的空軍
Kawasaki Ki.48-I/II Sokei in Japanese Army Air Force, CNAF & IPSF Service (AirCam Aviation Series No.32)