The small and nimble Ki-43 was the mainstay fighter of the Japanese army during World War II.
In 1940, designers at Nakajima decided to go small. They reasoned that the superior airmanship and marksmanship of Japanese pilots could make up for a plane’s lack of heavier weaponry. Pilots who flew the Ki-43 thought it handled beautifully—a great advantage in a dogfight.
The plane's drawbacks were its light construction and small caliber guns. None-the-less, the plane served in combat throughout the Pacific. Later in the war, the planes became the mainstay of the Japanese army's Kamikaze program.
American and British pilots often misidentified the plane as a Mitsubishi “Zero.” The Ki-43 was assigned the Allied code name Oscar. In total, 5,919 Ki-43s were produced.
History of the Artifact
Shortly after the end of the war, this Oscar was found in dense jungle near an airfield on Rabaul. The fighter had severe engine and propeller damage from a crash landing, but it was being repaired by Japanese soldiers. It was crated and shipped to Australia where it passed into the hands of many private owners. The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum acquired the plane in 1999.
This Ki-43 is the last known type-Ib Oscar left in the world. While it has been restored to flyable condition and has flown in the past, it may never take to the skies again due to its extreme rarity.
Did you know?
Though hindered by limited fire-power, pilots flying Oscars accounted for half of Japan’s air-to-air victories scored during World War II.