Mitsubishi Ki-51 'Sonia'

Mitsubishi Ki-51 'Sonia'


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Mitsubishi Ki-51 'Sonia'

The Mitsubishi Ki-51 'Sonia' was a very successful Japanese ground attack aircraft that remained in service throughout the Second World War. It was developed from the Mitsubishi Ki-30, a light bomber that made its maiden flight in February 1937 and entered service in 1938. Work on the Ki-51 began in December 1937 at the suggestion of Captain Yuzo Fujita. When the specification was revised in February 1938 it called for an aircraft with a top speed of 261mph, powered by a Mitsubishi Ha-26-II radial engine, armed with two forward firing and one flexible rear firing machine gun, and capable of carrying twelve 33lb or four 110lb bombs. The new aircraft also had to be manoeuvrable, and because it was expected to operate at low levels, to be unusually heavily armoured for a Japanese aircraft of this period.

The Ki-51 resembled a smaller version of the Ki-30. It used a similar fuselage and the same wing form, although the wings were mobbed from their mid-position on the Ki-30 to the base of the fuselage to reduce the length of the fixed undercarriage. The cockpit was shortened, bringing the two crew members closer together. The bombs were carried externally

The first two prototypes were completed in June and August 1939. Eleven service test aircraft followed by the end of the year - at this stage 6mm steel armour was added under the engine and cockpit.

It had originally been planned to produce two versions of the Ki-51 - the Army Type 99 Assault Plane and the Ki-51a Army Type 99 Tactical Reconnaissance Plane, carrying cameras in the rear cockpit. Instead of this the Army decided to give every Ki-51 the ability to carry cameras, and the aircraft could easily be swapped between roles in the field.

A total of 1,459 production aircraft were built by Mitsubishi and 913 by the Tachikawa Dai-Ichi Rikugen Kokusho (the Army's own arsenal). During the production run the 7.7mm wing guns were replaced by two 12.7mm machine guns, but otherwise the design remained unchanged. Production ended in July 1945.

The Ki-51 was used in a close support role in China and in every theatre where the Japanese Army fought during the Second World War. Although the Ki-51 lacked speed it was manoeuvrable, and unusually for a Japanese aircraft of the Second War, well protected. It was also easy to maintain and could operate from small airfields close to the front line. As a result it remained in use until the end of the war, and in production until July 1945. Only in the last few months of the war were the last surviving aircraft used for kamikaze missions, carrying one 551lb bomb under the fuselage.

Engine: One Mitsubishi Ha.26-II 14-cylinder radial engine
Power: 940hp at take-off, 950hp at 7,545ft
Crew: 2
Wing span: 39ft 8in
Length: 30ft 2in
Height: 8ft 11in
Weights: 6,426lb
Max Speed: 263mph at 9,840ft
Service Ceiling: 27,130ft
Range: 660 miles
Armament: One flexible rear-firing 7.7mm machine gun and two wing guns - 7.7mm on early production, 12.7mm on later production
Bomb-load: 441lb/ 200kg


Mitsubishi Ki-51 SONIA

To meet an Imperial Japanese Army specification of December 1937 for a ground-attack aircraft, which it was suggested could be a development of the Ki-30 light bomber, Mitsubishi produced two prototypes under the designation Mitsubishi Ki-51. Of similar external appearance to the Ki-30, the new design was generally of smaller dimensions, had a revised and simplified cockpit that put the two-man crew more closely together and, because the bomb bay was not required, the monoplane wing was moved from a mid- to low-wing configuration. Powerplant chosen was the Mitsubishi Ha-26-II radial engine, Tested during the summer of 1939, the two prototypes were followed by 11 service trials aircraft, these being completed before the end of the year. They differed from the prototypes by incorporating a number of modifications, but most important were the introduction of fixed leading-edge slots to improve slow-speed handling and armour plate beneath the engine and crew positions. In addition to the standard production aircraft, there were attempts to develop dedicated reconnaissance versions, initially by the conversion of one Ki-51 service trials aircraft which had the rear cockpit redesigned to accommodate reconnaissance cameras. Test and evaluation of this aircraft, redesignated Ki-51a, brought a realization that the standard Ki-51 could be modified to have provisions for the installation of reconnaissance cameras, and this change was made on the production line. Subsequently, three Ki-71 tactical reconnaisance prototypes were developed from the Ki-51, introducing the 1119kW Mitsubishi Ha-112-11 engine, retractable landing gear, two wing-mounted 20mm cannon and other refinements, but no production examples were built.

Allocated the Allied codename 'Sonia', the Ki-51 was used initially in operations against China, and was deployed against the Allies until the end of the Pacific war. In more intensely contested areas the fairly slow Ki-51s were easy prey for Allied fighters, but in secondary theatres, where an ability to operate from rough and short fields was valuable, these aircraft gave essential close support in countless operations. In the closing stages of the war they were used in kamikaze attacks.

The Hucks starter can be seen in action at The Shuttleworth coillection UK. It was first used in the 14 18 war. When you see the size of some of the props of that era you understand why. Hand swings were often done by 2 or 3 men. 1 to pull the prop and the others to pull the guy out of the way.

It was known as a "Hucks Starter" and was used as a method of starting engines on many aircraft during the 1930s and early 1940s. One might think of it as an updated version of the WW-I style engine starting method of swinging the propeller by hand, only updated with mechanical assist provided by power-take-off mounted on a specially-equipped motor vehicle. The advantage of a Hucks Starter was that the aircraft did not have to carry the additional weight of it's own engine starting system.

Phil Kuoni, Maj, USArmy (retir, 01.09.2013
That "thingie" is the connector for a starter shaft inserted from a rig mounted on a truck connected to the truck's motor.. That was the means of starting the motor as compared to explosive cartridges, external starter crank or an external ground starter unit ("putt putt"). The Russians also used this method of starting many of their aircraft. Hope this explains it for you. Phil

Ron Weil, 19.05.2013
Does anyone know what the "thingie" that looks like a cannon protruding from the prop spinner is?

with the starter-spinner dog shaft truck thingie, many Japanese planes featured that starter set-up, and I got to inspect one close up on the engine crash remains of a Ki46 Dinah they have at the Tindal Darwin air museum in Australia..the weight-saving on not having an electric start and sometimes internal batteries is considerable, especially for aircraft relying on height and speed for defence like the Dinah.

I'm reading a book non-fiction, about the Japanese WW2 Kamikazes called "Blossoms in the Wind". (can recommend the hell out of it, too, if you want a highly narrative of memoirs from surviving Japanese Ww2 "Tokko"pilots from a US author with high creds in Japanese language and culture)in it author describes in great detail an --IJA--Army(most Tokko were Navy) "Tokko" unit which was formed at Bacloban on Luzon, and equiped with Ki51s..I realised I'd never consciously heard of a Ki51, and thought he'd confused it with Ki15s, but when I saw the poor quality b /w pic of one of the units planes landing in the book, I realised it was no Ki15 Babs..I'd heard of the Ki30, and thought IT was the code-name 'Sonya". but Ki30 is the "Ann" and Ki51 which looks almost the same but is a little smaller is the "Sonya"..now I have been into Ww2 planes since as a child in the 1960s, and Japanese ones were a special favorite with me, but that subtle distinction Ki30 vs Ki51, had slipped past me.
Anyway, after various mishaps in weather and mechanical issues he finally takes off in a Ki51 with bad performing smoking engine and dirty 'Marianas Gas" gasoline, and when within distant sight of a US troop convoy, is jumped by an F6F and forced down.

That "thingie" is the connector for a starter shaft inserted from a rig mounted on a truck connected to the truck's motor.. That was the means of starting the motor as compared to explosive cartridges, external starter crank or an external ground starter unit ("putt putt"). The Russians also used this method of starting many of their aircraft. Hope this explains it for you. Phil

Does anyone know what the "thingie" that looks like a cannon protruding from the prop spinner is?

No.
It based on ki30,and ki30 based on ki15.
and ki15 based on A5M.
All of these have same structure and handling property.

Was this based at all on the JU. 87?

And it was used for kamikaze roles too.

Im making a short movie today I think i might put that plane in it because it looks cool. (The Movie is a about a renegade japanese pilot that attacks a formation of Australian Bombers)

You Can Find the only Survivor of this Aircraft in Adisucipto Aviation Museum, Jogjakarta, Indonesia

Could you post horsepower figures (hp) as well as kW for the engine ratings?
Thanks

Ki-51 wasn't a torpedo-bomber aircraft. It was only light bomber. Sometimes, this planes were used in recon role.

I build, fly and compete in Radio Control Scale models. How can I obtain more information on the Mitsubishi KI-51 "Sonia"? I need 3-views, pictures and color schemes. Thanks


Mitsubishi Ki-51 'Sonia' - History

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To meet an Imperial Japanese Army specification of December 1937 for a ground-attack aircraft, which it was suggested could be a development of the Ki-30 light bomber. Great emphasis was placed on manoeuvrability, protection for the crew and the capability of operating from emergency airfields located near the combat area. Specifications called for a maximum speed of no less than 260 mph (420 km/h) at 6,578 ft (2000 m), take-off weight was to be 5,960 lbs (2700 kg) and it was to have a bombload of at least 440 lbs (200 kg) and defensive armament consisting of three machine guns, one which was on a moveable mounting. Mitsubishi produced two prototypes under the designation Mitsubishi Ki-51 in the summer of 1939. Of similar external appearance to the Ki-30, the new design was generally of smaller dimensions, had a revised and simplified cockpit that put the two-man crew more closely together and, because the bomb bay was not required, the monoplane wing was moved from a mid to low-wing configuration. Powerplant chosen was the Mitsubishi 940 hp (701 kW) Ha-26-II radial engine.

Tested during the summer of 1939, the two prototypes were followed by 11 service trials aircraft, these being completed before the end of the year. They differed from the prototypes by incorporating a number of modifications, but most important were the introduction of fixed leading-edge slots to improve slow-speed handling and armour plate beneath the engine and crew positions. Ordered into production in this form as the Army Type 99 Assault Plane, the Ki-51 began a production run that totalled 2,385 aircraft, built by Mitsubishi (1,472) and by the First Army Air Arsenal at Tachikawa (913), before production ended in July 1945. In addition to the standard production aircraft, there were attempts to develop dedicated reconnaissance versions, initially by the conversion of one Ki-51 service trials aircraft which had the rear cockpit redesigned to accommodate reconnaissance cameras. Test and evaluation of this aircraft, redesignated Ki-51a, brought a realisation that the standard Ki-51 could be modified to have provisions for the installation of reconnaissance cameras, and this change was made on the production line. Subsequently, three Ki-71 tactical reconnaissance prototypes were developed from the Ki-51, introducing the 1,500 hp (1119 kW) Mitsubishi Ha-112-II engine, retractable landing gear, two wing mounted 20 mm cannon and other refinements, but no production examples were built.

Allocated the Allied codename 'Sonia', the Ki-51 was used initially in operations against China, and was deployed against the Allies until the end of the Pacific war .In more intensely contested areas the fairly slow Ki-51s were easy prey for Allied fighters, but in secondary theatres, where an ability to operate from rough and short fields was valuable, these aircraft gave essential close support in countless operations. In the closing stages of the war they were used in Kamikaze attacks.

Mitsubishi Ki-51a - A single Ki-51 conversion resulted in the Ki-51a tactical reconnaissance prototype. Never put into production.

Mitsubishi Ki-71 - Mitsubishi designed and Tachikawa arsenal built three prototypes of a dedicated tactical reconnaissance aircraft powered by the 1,500 hp (1119 kW) Ha-112-II engine and equipped with retractable landing gear. Never put into production.

(Army Type 99 Assault Plane - Mitsubishi Ki-51)

Allied Codename: Sonia

Type: Two Seat Ground Attack & Reconnaissance

Design: Mitsubishi Jukogyo KK Design Team (Kawano, Ohki and Mizuno, who had designed the Ki-30)

Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Jukogyo KK (1,472) & Tachikawa Dai-Ichi Rikugun Kokusho (1st Army Air Arsenal - 913)

Powerplant: One 1,500 hp (1119 kW) Mitsubishi Ha-26-II radial engine.

Performance: Maximum speed 264 mph (425 km/h) at 9,845 ft (3000 m) service ceiling 27,130 ft (8270 m).
Range: 659 miles (1060 km) on internal fuel.

Weight: Empty 4,129 lbs (1875 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 6,437 lbs (2920 kg).

Dimensions: Span 39 ft 8 1/4 in (12.10 m) length 30 ft 2 1/4 in (9.20 m) height 8 ft 11 1/2 in (2.73 m) wing area 258.56 sq ft
(24.02 sq m).

Armament: Two fixed forward firing 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 97 machine guns, one 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 92 machine gun on a trainable mount in rear cockpit plus a bombload of up to 441 lbs (200 kg). On late model aircraft the two fixed 7.7 mm guns were replaced by 12.7 mm (0.50 in) machine guns.
Variants: Ki-51a (single prototype), Ki-71.

History: First flight summer 1939 first flight (Ki-71) 1941 production ended with Japan's surrender.


Mitsubishi Ki-51

The Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Army designation "Type 99 Assault Plane" Allied nickname "Sonia") was a light bomber/dive bomber in service with the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. It first flew in mid-1939. Initially deployed against Chinese forces, it proved to be too slow to hold up against the fighter aircraft of the other Allied powers. However, it performed a useful ground-attack role in the China-Burma-India theater, notably from airfields too rough for many other aircraft. As the war drew to a close, the Japanese began using them in kamikaze attacks. Total production was around 2,385 units.

Ki-51
Mitsubishi Ki-51
Role Light bomber/dive bomber
Manufacturer Mitsubishi Jukogyo KK
First flight mid-1939
Primary user Imperial Japanese Army Air Service
Number built 2,385 [1]

On the day Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb, two Ki-51s were responsible for the last Japanese sinking of a US warship, sinking USS Bullhead (SS-332) with all hands.


Mitsubishi Ki-51 'Sonia' - History

Photograph:

Mitsubishi Ki-51 ‘Sonia’ during World War II in the Pacific (Author’s collection)

Country of origin:

Description:

Ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft

Power Plant:

One 709 kw (950 hp) Mitsubishi Ha-26-II fourteen-cylinder two-row air-cooled radial engine

Specifications:

Armament:

Two wing mounted 12.7 mm (0.50 in) Type 1 machine guns and one flexible rear firing 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 89 machine gun normal bomb load 250 kg (551 lb)

History:

In December 1937 a specification was issued for a ground attack aircraft to be developed from the successful Ki-30 ‘Ann’ light bomber. It was designated Ki-51 and, known to the Allies as ‘Sonia’, the first of two prototypes was completed in June 1939, the second in August 1939. Testing revealed the aircraft would be also suitable for reconnaissance duties and an example was built with the flight instruments and controls in the rear cockpit replaced by cameras, this becoming known as the Army Type 99 Tactical Reconnaissance Plane (Ki-51a). However, it was decided not to build this specialised variant and just incorporate in production aircraft the provision to fit reconnaissance equipment. In service there was no difference officially between the two variants and the aircraft were modified in the field for tactical reconnaissance or ground support missions. All 1,459 production aircraft built by Mitsubishi became known as the Army Type 99 Assault Plane.

Military operations commenced in China where the type was quite successful. To meet operational requirements, a second production line was set up at the Tachikawa facility at Kokusho, and a further 913 were built. During its production life it was modified by the installation of two 68 litre (15 Imp gal) wing leading edge fuel tanks, and the 7.7 mm (0.303 in) type 89 machine gun was replaced by the 12.7 mm (0.5 in) type 1 machine gun. The type was highly regarded by crews, being well protected, manoeuvrable, easy to fly and maintain, and could be operated from small airfields.

Late in the war a number were used for kamikaze missions carrying a 250 kg (551 lb) bomb. In 1941 engineers from the Manchurian Aeroplane Manufacturing Co Ltd (Mansyu Hikoki Seizo K K) commenced development of an advanced variant known as the Ki-71 Experimental Tactical Reconnaissance Plane with a 1,119 kw (1,500 hp) Mitsubishi Ha-112-II radial engine, with two wing mounted 20 mm Ho-5 cannon, and a retractable undercarriage, which became known as ‘Edna’ to the Allies but it was not proceeded with.

A few were abandoned at wartime strips throughout New Guinea, Java, Sumatra and the islands. A few survivors were put into service by the Indonesian Air Force. One is known to survive in an Indonesian Museum. Although used to some extent in New Guinea and the Islands, only a few wrecks have been discovered over the years. One ‘Sonia’ has been located abandoned at Bombaral Peninsula, Irian Jaya in what was Dutch New Guinea.

A ‘Sonia’ of the Japanese 73rd Independent Air Squadron was captured by members of No 4 Squadron, RAAF at Keningau on Borneo. The aircraft had its armament disabled and was painted army green on the upper surfaces and light grey on the lower surfaces, with large green ‘surrender’ crosses on both sides of the fuselage, above and below the wings, and on each side of the tail. The letters ‘DEP’ appeared in white on the fin. A number of No 4 Squadron personnel flew the aircraft before it was transferred to No 1 Squadron at Labuan in north-west Borneo. It was eventually written off after a landing accident.


Contents

Variants

No variants of the Ki-51-I platform were ever created, though several prototypes for variants were made. One example was converted into a Ki-51a tactical reconnaissance aircraft. Mitsubishi also designed a dedicated reconnaissance variant under the Ki-71 designation. Limited to three prototypes built by Tachikawa, this version had retractable landing gear and a 1,500 hp (1,119 Kw) Mitsubishi Ha-112-II engine. Neither reconnaissance version was selected for production. Α]


Mitsubishi Ki-51 Type 99 “Sonia”

In December 1937 the Japanese Army requested that Mitsubishi work on a development of their Ki-30 light bomber, with an emphasis on creating a new light bomber that could operate from advanced airfields very close to the fighting front. The idea was to create an aircraft that could co-operate very closely with ground troops during combat operations. The result was the Ki-51 Type 99 Assault Plane.

The Ki-51 bore a strong resemblance to the parent Ki-30 design from which it was derived. The cockpit was rearranged to allow closer co-operation between the two crew members, and the bomb bay was deleted with a lighter bomb load carried externally. This change also allowed the wing to be redesigned and the landing gear shortened, although the fixed undercarriage was retained.

Ki-51s were assigned to China-based units during 1940, and the aircraft proved useful in its intended role. It was, however, exceedingly vulnerable to enemy fighters and so was only useful in areas where the Japanese enjoyed complete control of the air. In the initial stages of the Pacific War air supremacy allowed the Ki-51 to operate successfully over Malaya, Java and Burma.

Later in the war as the Allies began to regain control of the air the Ki-51 began to suffer as a consequence. Soon it was withdrawn from front line roles and relegated to rear areas, where like most obsolete Japanese aircraft it was assigned to the kamikaze role.

In 1942 the Ki-51 was assigned the Allied reporting name “Sonia”. An updated version, the Ki-71, was never put into production but nevertheless assigned its own reporting name, “Edna”.


The remains of a Mitsubishi Ki-51 Type 99 Assault Plane on Papua New Guinea during World War II

The remains of a Japanese plane at an unknown airbase in the Pacific. Appears to be the Mitsubishi Ki-51 Type 99 Assault Plane nicknamed "Sonia." Probably on New Guinea.

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Ki-51 “Sonia”, Japanese Light Bomber


"Sonia" was a more successful design than "Helen", serving throughout the Pacific. Though somewhat slow, it was unusually well protected for a Japanese design, was easily maintained, and was well-liked by its crews. It had a good rough-field capability.

The design originated in December 1937 with a specification issued to Mitsubishi for a ground attack aircraft based on the Ki-30 "Ann". The Japanese Army wanted a smaller aircraft capable of operating on short airstrips close to the front. The design team shortened the cockpit and gave the rear cockpit a limited set of instruments and controls. The bomb bay was eliminated and the wings were lowered to permit a sturdier undercarriage. A prototype was completed in June 1939 and, with modifications to improve handling and the addition of 6 mm armor plating around the cockpit and engine, the design went into production in January 1940.

The aircraft was designed so that the rear cockpit instruments and controls could be replaced with camera equipment for photoreconnaissance.

"Sonia" was so well liked by its crews that a new production line was set up as late as 1944 at Tachikawa First Air Arsenal (Tachikawa Dai-Ichi Rikugun Kokusho). The aircraft was assigned to kamikaze missions in the final months of the war, and a few relic aircraft were used by the Indonesian Air Force against Dutch forces postwar. An attempt to produce a more powerful version with retractable landing gear in Manchuria came to naught, but was discovered by Allied intelligence, who assigned the new aircraft the code name "Edna".

The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia © 2007-2009, 2014 by Kent G. Budge. Index


Mitsubishi Ki-51 'Sonia' - History

Pilot Captain Kenji Shimada, C. O. 73rd IFR (MIA / KIA)
Observer ? (MIA / KIA)
Crashed July 28, 1944

Aircraft History
Built by Mitsubishi. Unknown if this aircraft was a Ki-51A reconnaissance version or Ki-51B assault version. Assigned to the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) as Type 99 Assault/Recon Plane / Ki-51 Sonia manufacture number unknown.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 73rd Dokuritsu Dai Shijugo Chutai (73rd Independent Flying Regiment). This aircraft was painted with mottled green upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces. No known markings or tail code.

Mission History
On July 28, 1944 took off with another Ki-51 Sonia pilot Sgt Yokogi to search for a downed aircraft after escorting a convoy of ships transporting the Japanese Army 35th Division to Sorong. While returning to Amahai Airfield on Amahai Island near Ceram (Seram), the pair were intercepted by P-38 Lightnings from the 49th Fighter Group, 9th Fighter Squadron.

Attacked by the P-38s, both Sonias evaded their attacks until P-38 piloted by Lt Wade D. Lewis scored hits on the Ki-51 pilot Sgt Yokogi causing a fire and P-38 piloted by Lt. J. C. Haslip fired from the rear causing it to smoke and crash into the sea.

Alone, Ki-51 Sonia piloted by Shimada continue to evade the P-38 for thirty minutes. Meanwhile, P-38s from the 475th Fighter Group, 433rd Fighter Squadron heard the interception over the radio and searched for the Japanese plane to join the combat at 10:45am near Amahai Airfield. As they made a diving turn from 3,000' the P-38s scored hits that caused it to smoke.

Although hit, this Sonia made a violent left turn and was fired on by P-38 piloted by Captain Danforth "Danny" Miller who missed. Completing the turn, this Sonia dove towards P-38J piloted by Charles A. Lindbergh.

Flying head on, Lindbergh opened fire for six seconds and observed hits on the engine but it did not break off the attack forcing him to pull upward. Smoking, the Sonia performed a half roll and P-38 piloted by Lt. Joseph E. "Fishkiller" Miller opened fire scoring hits on one wing before it was observed to crash into the sea. Afterwads, this Sonia was credited to Lindbergh, his first and only aerial victory credit.

References
Note, other sources list the pilot's name as Saburo Shimada incorrectly.
Charles Lindbergh and the 475th Fighter Group

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