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Mitsubishi Ki-15

Originally developed as a high-speed civilian mail-plane, the Mitsubishi Ki-15 Army Type 97 Command Reconnaissance aircraft was repurposed as a reconnaissance aircraft and light attack bomber by the Japanese during the Second Sino-Japanese War and Pacific War.

This aircraft was characterised by its single-engine, low-wing, cantilever monoplane design, featuring a fixed tailwheel undercarriage and a two-person crew capacity.

Operating under the designation C5M in the Imperial Japanese Navy, it also saw service with the Imperial Japanese Army.

Referred to as “Babs” by the Allies during World War II.

The Ki-15 was specifically designed by the Mitsubishi Corporation in response to a requirement from the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in 1935.

This requirement called for a high-speed reconnaissance aircraft with a seating capacity for two individuals.

The resulting aircraft was a cantilever monoplane with a low-wing configuration and a fixed undercarriage that was spatted.

It is worth noting that this design was similar to other stressed-skin monoplanes that were being developed during the 1930s, such as the Heinkel He 70 and the Northrop Alpha.

To power the Ki-15, a single Nakajima Ha-8 radial engine was utilized.

This engine had the capability to produce 560 kW (750 hp) when flying at an altitude of 4,000 m (13,120 ft).

The first prototype of the Ki-15 took to the skies in May 1936, and subsequent testing proved to be successful.

The aircraft not only met all the performance requirements set forth by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force but also demonstrated excellent handling characteristics.

It achieved a top speed of 481 km/h (299 mph), showcasing its impressive capabilities.

The service testing was successfully conducted, leading to the official designation of the Army Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Aircraft Model 1 for production.

By May 1937, a total of 437 production aircraft were delivered to the army, one year after the initial flight.


Karigane I

Prototype version for civilian use.


Initial production variant for the Japanese Army, with Nakajima Ha-8 (Army Type 94) 640 hp at take-off, 900 hp at 11,810 ft (3,600 m)


Improved Army production version with smaller, more powerful 14-cylinder Mitsubishi Ha-25-I, with 850 hp at take-off, 900 hp at 11,810 ft.


A proposed upgraded version did not enter production.

It had the Mitsubishi Ha-102 engine (1,080 hp at take-off, 1,055 hp at 9,185 ft and 950 hp at 19,030 ft), with a top speed of 329 mph (530 km/h).


(Navy Type 98 Reconnaissance Aircraft Model I)

Improved version of Ki-15-I for the Japanese Navy


(Navy Type 98 Reconnaissance Aircraft Model 2)

Upgraded version of C5M1 with more powerful engine for the Japanese Navy





8.7 m (28 ft 7 in)


12 m (39 ft 4 in)


3.35 m (11 ft 0 in)

Wing area

20.36 m2 (219.2 sq ft)

Empty weight

1,400 kg (3,086 lb)

Gross weight

2,033 kg (4,482 lb)

Max take-off weight

2,300 kg (5,071 lb)


1 × Nakajima Ha8,

9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine,

477 kW (640 hp)


2-bladed variable-pitch propeller


Maximum speed

480 km/h (300 mph, 260 kn) at 4,000 m (13,123 ft)

Cruise speed

320 km/h (200 mph, 170 kn) at 5,000 m (16,404 ft)


2,400 km (1,500 mi, 1,300 nmi)

Service ceiling

11,400 m (37,400 ft)

Time to altitude

5,000 m (16,404 ft) in 8 minutes 27 seconds



1 x 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 89 machine gun, flexible mounting


250 kg (551 lb) of bombs.


Wings of the Rising Sun Uncovering the Secrets of Japanese Fighters and Bombers of World War II-Mark Chambers.
Japanese Imperial Army Navy Aircraft Color Markings-Koku Fan 42.
Japanese Code Names-Richard M Bueschel.
Japanese Aircraft-John Stroud.
Japanese Aircraft, 1910-1941-Robert Mikesh & Shorzoe Abe.
Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War-Rene Francillon.
Japanese Aircraft Interiors, 1940-1945-Robert C. Mikesh.
Japanese Aircraft Equipment 1940-45-Robert C Mikesh.

The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II-David Mondey.




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