Type 2597 Chi-ha Medium Tank

Location: Tank Museum of the People’s Liberation Army, Changping County, Beijing, China

Date: June 2006

This series of images was taken in June 2006 at the Tank Museum of the People’s Liberation Army, Chang Ping County, Peoples Republic of China.

The Chi-ha Medium Tank was developed in the mid-1930’s and represented a departure from previous Japanese armour designs. It was larger, heavier and fitted with a much more powerful engine than previous medium tank designs. It was broadly equivalent to contemporary German PzKfw III, Soviet BT 7 and British early Cruiser designs, and intended to be able to take on these types. Series production and issue to armoured units commenced in 1939.

Main features:

  • 4 Man Crew: Turret crew increased to two (loader and commander / gunner) from previous designs. Although this relieved the commander from loading, he was still occupied operating the 57 mm main armament.
  • 57mm Main Armament: Oddly, there was no elevation gear – the gun was elevated or depressed via a shoulder stock, similar in concept to early US Light Tank 37mm gun mounts, but with a much larger and heavier weapon. The gun could also be pivotted +/- 10 degrees in this manner.
  • Secondary Armament: Two MGs, one mounted on the left of the driver’s comparment, the other in the rear plate of the turret, meaning that the turret had to be rotated forward to bring this weapon to bear. The reason for not developing co-axial mounts like almost every other tank producing country is unclear.

Clashes with the Soviet Union on the Manchurian border showed the inadequacy of the original 57mm armament in dealing with even relatively lightly armoured BT 7 class tanks. This led to the development of a new turret mounting a 47mm high velocity main armament with more effective anti-tank ammunition. This new version was referred to as the Shinhoto Chi-ha, or Type 97 Kai. The vehicle featured here is of the original 57mm design. The mounts for the “handrail” type antenna can be seen around the top edge of the turret on this example.


  • Tank Power 9: Japanese Armour Vol 2, Andrzej M. Tomczyk, AJ Press, 2002. ISBN 83-7237-111-3.