The first tanks used by the Japanese army were of European manufacture. British and French designs were adopted and vehicles produced by Vickers, Carden-Lloyd, and Rennault were used on a small scale by the Japanese armed forces until domestic manufacture of armored vehicles was begun in 1929. Since the conclusion of the Tripartite Pact (27 September 1940), German tank designs apparently have been made available to the Japanese; and since the Nomonhan incident of 1939 on the Mongolia-Manchuria border, Soviet equipment likewise has been available for study by Japanese designers. Combat with the forces of the United Nations has afforded another source for ideas relative to the design of Japanese tanks. There is no evidence, however, that foreign principles of tank construction have exercised a direct influence on Japanese design.
Japanese tanks encountered thus far have been inferior to those utilized by Axis and Allied armies in Europe and North Africa. Their armor was too thin, although of good quality, and insufficient attention had been given to the utilization of deflection angles. In many cases reentrant angles had been formed, and no effort apparently had been made to protect turret rings or mantlets against jamming or splash.
No tanks encountered, with the exception of a negligible number of heavy vehicles, have been armed with
weapons heavier than
Crew space is cramped in models captured to date, and no escape doors or hatches have been provided. Visibility has been poor. Radio equipment has been installed on an extremely meager basis judged by the standards of the armored forces of other armies.
Improved Models Expected
Despite these deficiencies of earlier models, the design of efficient modern tanks, even heavy types, is not beyond the capabilities of the Japanese. They are familiar with the details of modern German models and have had an opportunity to observe American and British equipment. Limitations on the productive capacity of Japanese industry impose the necessity of freezing tank models in order to attain a reasonably large volume of production. Nevertheless, it would be unwise to assume that the Japanese do not or will not have more effective armored vehicles than those encountered to date.
Much heavier armor, or the addition of spaced armor to the present armor, can be expected in newer models. To
compare with European and American standards, the armor of light tanks should be as much
Equipment of medium tanks with a modern, high-velocity gun of at least
Japanese tanks are classified into four types according to their weight. These are tankettes which weigh less
than 5 1/2 tons; light tanks weighing from 5 1/2 to 11 tons; medium tanks with a weight range
from 11 to 22 tons; and heavy tanks over 22 tons.