The journey begins
Between August 1942 and August 1945, the Kawasaki Aircraft Engineering Company Ltd. produced 3,313 Ki-61s of various models. The initial
12 Ki- 61 prototypes (c/ns 6101-6112) were soon
followed by production representative aircraft,
construction number (c/n) 113 through c/n 500,
and as with all of Japan’s aircraft production at
the time, their true c/ns were camouflaged, in an
attempt to conceal intelligence data from the Allies. For the initial Ki- 61 models “100” was added
to airframe c/ns and “110” to the Ha-40 engines.
Factory records indicate that c/n 263 (the
163rd production Ki-61-1a) was completed dur-
New Guinea began.
Twenty-three-year-old Army Private Douglas Bilodeau of Karnak, Illinois, examines c/n 263 at Tuluvu on January 9, 1944, while attached to protect members of the TAIU field team.
ing the first week of May 1943, together with 43
identical Ki-61-Ias produced during that month
on the company’s parallel assembly lines at the
Kagamigahara plant, near Nagoya. Its Ha-40 engine c/n 252 (the 142nd production engine) was
manufactured during mid March of the same year.
Following inspection and acceptance into the
IJAAF, through the neighboring army depot, c/n
263 was soon dispatched to New Guinea, where
the air war was rapidly becoming a bitter campaign for the Army.
Under intolerable tropical conditions, the 68th
and 78th Sentai (Regiment) found themselves introducing a new and unproven high-technology
fighter into operation service, just as the Allied
bomber offensive against the Japanese airfields in