The Type 98 Ke-Ni Production: Incremental Success

Type 98 Ke-Ni Production, Rank I

[Would you like to see the Type 98 Ke-Ni Production?]
  • Yes
  • No
0 voters


In 1936, the famous Type 95 Ha-Go entered production. It was built to meet the demands of Japan’s nascent mechanized units, as the Type 89 medium tank I-Go could not keep up with infantry who were transported by truck. Despite popular misconceptions, the tank was very good for its time, especially in its intended role of infantry support. It successfully engaged infantry units in Manchuria and China, the latter of which had few tank units. But it would not take long for a successor to be formulated, as tank crews would later criticize its thin armor and lacklustre firepower. The former would especially ring true as the US entered the war, proving the Ha-Go to be vulnerable to .50 caliber machine gun fire.

In 1938, the design process for a successor tank to the Ha-Go began. Two companies, Hino Motors and Mitsubishi, would respond to the bid, completing prototypes by the end of September 1939.

Type_98A_Ke-Ni Type_98b_light_tank

These would be the Ke-Ni A (left) and the Ke-Ni B (right). As you can tell, we already feature the left prototype in War Thunder (however, its current name, the Type 98 Ke-Ni, does not reflect its prototype status: Type 98 Ke-Ni A is actually more correct). To learn more about the Ke-Ni B, see the suggestion written by @_N4MELESS!

The prototypes would be noteworthy as they incorporated more welding, internalized the suspension for its protection, and increased the overall armor scheme by around 4 mm while keeping the weight and overall dimensions lower than the Ha-Go’s. Both would mount the Type 100 37 mm tank gun in a new coaxial setup with the Type 97 heavy tank machine gun. The Ke-Ni B is especially interesting as it featured Christie suspension, large roadwheels, and rear-wheel drive. Despite these unique features, the Ke-Ni A would win the competition, due to apparent superiority in off-road performance. It would still not go into mass production, however, as the Type 95 Ha-Go still performed adequately against Chinese forces, even with its limitations. Furthermore, the Japanese industrial base was already strained due to the war effort.

Finally, in 1942, the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff realized the Ha-Go had a serious vulnerability to the M2 Browning in wide usage by the US Armed Forces. Thus, Hino Motors was ordered to begin production of the Type 98 Ke-Ni. The production variant, as seen below, differs significantly from the prototype version.

Essentially, the highly curved chassis of the prototype was simplified into a more “faceted” design, likely done to expedite production. The turret was also enlarged to better accommodate the Type 100 37 mm tank gun/Type 97 MG setup. Armor overall, it seems, was increased. A more detailed breakdown of the differences is below.

Differences Between the Type 98 Ke-Ni A and Type 98 Production

The above infographic details the main differences between the production and prototype (center picture) variants of the Type 98 Ke-Ni. The peripheral images are from the Instruction Manual for Handling Type 98 Light Tanks[1] (scroll to “Additional Images”) and are therefore not be confused with the Type 2 Ke-To (more on this matter below):

  1. The production turret is more cylindrical than conical. It features optics on either side of the mantlet. Additionally, it was also enlarged as the conical design faced complaints of being too cramped.
  2. A more angular upper chassis. Note how the curved hull and protrusion for the driver’s compartment were simplified to a more faceted design. Both the turret and chassis were apparently up-armored from 12 mm to 16 mm, but this point is somewhat contentious as it seems the prototype should instead have 16 mm of armor[2]. That being said, the production version will still be an improvement assuming the currently modelled armor of the Ke-Ni A is correct.
  3. The prototype features road wheels from the Type 97 Te-Ke, whereas the production variant clearly has a more “spoked” design. Interestingly, it seems to borrow the road wheels from the Type 98 Prime Mover Ro-Ke, both having six spokes (more on this later).

Despite these notable changes in the design from the prototype, and the improvements over the Type 95 Ha-Go, they were not significant enough to warrant mass production. The armor especially remained too thin. Additionally, as the Japanese industrial base faced shortages of raw materials, it was the Imperial Japanese Navy that had higher priority for steel in constructing warships and aircraft. What steel the Army received had to go to aircraft and more resilient medium tanks. In the end, only 113 Ke-Ni tanks would be produced.

However, the Japanese did not give up the idea of producing an effective light tank and would continue to experiment with newer designs, namely the Type 2 Ke-To and the more substantial Type 5 Ke-Ho. Neither would see mass production, nor leave the home islands. Now in regards to the Type 2 Ke-To, it was an incrementally improved version of the Type 98 Ke-Ni Production, the only significant difference being that it swapped out the Type 100 37 mm tank gun for the Type 1 37 mm tank gun. There is a great deal of confusion on the exact difference between the Type 98 Ke-Ni and the Type 2 Ke-To, which I have decided to address below, for those interested.

Clearing the Air: Difference Between the Ke-To and Ke-Ni Production

Foremost, I am by no means a military historian, nor an expert on Japanese tank developments. But having done much research over the months, and consulting those more knowledgeable than I, I believe I can offer a good account of the difference between the Type 98 Ke-Ni and the Type 2 Ke-To for those unaware.

  1. As was said before, what is commonly imagined to be the Type 98 Ke-Ni is actually the prototype (Ke-Ni A) designed by Hino Motors. Thus, when websites like Wikipedia talk about the improvements of the Ke-To over the Ke-Ni, they are mistakenly comparing it to the Ke-Ni A. It doesn’t help that War Thunder, which has an outsized effect on military history, has not clarified the naming of the tank.

  1. The Ke-Ni Production (top pictures, below) actually is a lot closer to the Ke-To (bottom). The picture on the right comes from that aforementioned handling manual as well.

KeNiGun structureLift


Given their similarity, it’s unsurprising that there is a lot of confusion on this matter; many are not even aware a mass-produced variant existed. It should be understood that the Ke-To shares the same chassis as the Ke-Ni Production and essentially the same turret. The only major difference is that the Ke-To carries the Type 1 37 mm tank gun, a longer, higher-velocity version of the Type 100 37 mm tank gun, necessitating a change in the gun mount. Accordingly, it is easier to think of the Type 2 Ke-To as an incremental step in Japanese light tank development that would culminate with the Type 5 Ke-Ho.

Screenshot (7)Screenshot (17)
You can see the longer length of the Type 1 gun on the Ka-Mi (right), which actually borrows the turret from the Type 2 Ke-To, which is essentially the same as that on the Ke-Ni Production. You can also see the improvement from the cramped turret of the Ke-Ni A (left)

  1. Given that the Ke-To shares the same chassis and turret as the Ke-Ni Production, it is also necessary to dispell misinformation regarding the former. When it comes to the turret, we know with certainty what the Ke-To’s turret looked like, given that examples of the Ka-Mi survive, which borrowed its turret.

These images clearly match the Ke-Ni Production’s turret found in the handling manual as well as in the below left schematic. Another image of the Ke-To is added for reference. (All scans of the Instruction Manual for Handling Type 98 Light Tanks can be found under “Additional Images” for easier viewing)

productionDiagram2KeTo Hull

Another piece of information we have is that we know that a single example of a Type 2 Ke-To was sent to the United States for evaluation. In a rather infamous video of unique Japanese tanks being scrapped, a Ke-To appears. Considering that only a single example of a Ke-To was shipped to the US, and not a single Ke-Ni, it’s highly likely it’s the same tank (unfortunately).

This video confirms two things:

3a. The Ke-To did not have a different turret from the Ke-Ni Production as has been depicted as seen on Wardrawings, for example (they are not the only ones, there are many incorrect models out there). Note how much more conical it is in the drawing. This misunderstanding probably comes from sources like the above report. The intelligence report most likely made a mistake (which was relatively common) in comparing the Ke-To directly to the Ke-Ni A, without considering the mass-produced Ke-Ni.


3b. The Ke-To did not have an exterior suspension layout (pictured top, below) as has been theorized by the popular website Gunsight has done amazing work, but this faulty theory likely originates from two variants of the Type 2 Ke-To that were produced that featured this external suspension, the Prototype Work Vehicle (pictured second-top) and the Type 4 Work Vehicle (bottom left). Note the two return rollers. Interestingly enough, the suspension for these work vehicles appears to be identical to that of the Type 98 Prime Mover Ro-Ke (bottom right). Note the placement of the coil springs.This is unsurprising considering that the Ro-Ke was designed for towing artillery pieces weighing six tons-likely warranting a more substantial suspension that was ideal for these engineering vehicles. Additionally, the Ro-Ke was designed by Hino Motors, the same company responsible for the production of the Ke-Ni. Given that we have an actual video of the Type 2 Ke-To, we can conclude that no external suspension system existed.


In conclusion, the Ke-Ni Production represented an important transitional phase in the improvement of Japan’s light tank designs. The rapid improvement in design from the obsolescent Type 95 Ha-Go, to the Type 98 Ke-Ni, Type 2 Ke-To, and finally, the Type 5 Ke-Ho, in the space of a few years should be applauded and be seen as a testament to the capability of Japanese engineers to design proficient armored vehicles and rapidly learn from the lessons of war.

In War Thunder

What BR Suits the Ke-Ni Production?
  • 1.0
  • 1.3
  • I don’t want it
0 voters
Would it be Better Off as a Tech Tree Vehicle or a Premium?
  • TT
  • Premium
  • I don’t want it
0 voters

While the Ke-Ni Production may not bring any major improvements to the Ke-Ni A we have in-game, I believe there is still a place for this vehicle. Not only can it reinforce the 1.0/1.3 lineup, replacing low-performing tanks such as the I-Go Ko or Ha-Go, it will also add variety and reinforce the historical aspect of War Thunder. After all, the Japanese tree features each major variant of the A6M Zero, the B6N, and other prototype tanks (such as the STA series). Additionally, its implementation will be made easier given that the turret already exists (it’s on the Ka-Mi).

Ke-Ni Production Specifications

  • Armament: Type 100 37 mm tank gun
  • Secondary Armament: Type 97 heavy tank machine gun
  • Armor:
    • Turret: 16 mm all sides, 6 mm on top
    • Chassis Front: 16 mm
    • Chassis Side: 12 mm
    • Chassis Rear: 10 mm
    • Chassis Floor: 6 mm
  • Dimensions: 4.10 m length, 2.12 m width, 1.82 m height
  • Weight: 7.20 metric tonnes
  • Crew: : 3
  • Maximum Speed: 50 kph
  • Engine: Controlled Type 100 Diesel Engine, 130 hp at 2100 RPM

Additional Images


[2] Instruction Manual for Handling Type 98 Light Tanks. Higher quality images can be found at this link (scroll to the bottom)

Ke-Ni ManualFrontViewrearTurret



schematicRear Inspection WindowCommand and Communication System


[3] Miscallaneous images.
Art of the Ke-Ni.

The So-Ki was based on the Ke-Ni A chassis.
Weird camera modification of the Ke-To/Ke-Ni.

Additional images of the Ke-To and Ka-Mi that can be used for understanding the design of the Ke-Ni Production.

Ka-Mi Images


Possible Ke-Ni model, given shorter gun length
Possible Ke-To model, given longer gun length

Type2_KETO model

From 1/35 二式軽戦車 ケト (九八式軽戦車 ケニ) - KИT Moдeл - BOOTH


I commend you on your well-researched suggestion post! +1

1 Like

We should have at least three different ke-ni’s by now…


Thank you, this took me a while to research in order to iron out all the misinformation out there. I may as well rewrite the English Wikipedia page haha

1 Like

Something interesting to note:


You should! Research like this is what keeps the military history community alive.


That’s really cool. Would love to get access to the boosted round.

1 Like

Well, the time taken was mostly just laziness lmao. But not being able to read Japanese doesn’t help either.

Even Japanese sources can be wrong too (shocker, I know)

1 Like

Except the A6M8.

1 Like

Yeah, the language barrier makes it tough.

1 Like

Here are some good renders of the Ke-To, which again, has the same chassis of the Ke-Ni Production. The Ke-To has the longer gun, and thicker muzzle ring

Media posts by もっちー (@iegamo1) / X



WoT Renders

Type 98 Ke-Ni HD Renders - The Armored Patrol