Saturday 26 September 2020

Nakajima Ki-43 "Hayabusa" Royal Thai Airforce

In the summer of 1943, the Japanese Army gave "Hayabusa" fighters to the Royal Thai Airforce to help in the defence of the area. 24 of them were given to the 1st Hikodan. Upon arrival, the 15th Hiko Chutai was organised, equipped exclusively with these aircraft and was based at Don Muang airfield (Don Mueang) of Bangkok responsible for the air defence of the capital.
A number of "Hayabusa" were also given to the 16th Hiko Chutai based at Lampang in the North of Thailand as replacements to their older Nakajima Ki-27s "Nate".

A photo from a vintage publication showing a Japanese (left) and a Thai pilot discussing their flight route. Note the camouflage pattern.

Below is a short clip from the NHK collection showing the arrival of the new fighters at Don Muang and how the Thai markings were applied.

Here's a translation of the Japanese script.
"A white elephant flag is drawn on the tail. Let's intercept the enemy planes that are attacking Thailand and protect our skys by ourselves. Under the guidance of the brave soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army, Thai Air Force officers will work diligently to improve their flight skills with "Hayabusa" fighters and special training. They will join hands with Japan and fight together in the Greater East Asia War.
Enemy planes: come if you dare. With a series of enthusiastic training, the Thai defense camp is steadily getting stronger."

Note the different camouflage pattern with the aircraft in the top photo. The aircraft in the stills does not seem to have any previous unit markings.

A line-up of new "Hayabusa" being inspected by Japanese and Thai pilots. Note that the aircraft in the foreground seems to have a centrally attached drop tank.

The exhaust indicates that this is a Nakajima Ki-43 Model II and from the camouflage pattern we can conclude that it is probably the same aircraft in the two stills at the top.

I think this is the same "Hayabusa" with the one in the above stills. As you will notice in the clip, it has hinomaru on the wings. These were later erased and the Thai markings were applied together with camouflage.

Below are more photos of Thai "Hayabusa" fighters with Japanese and Thai pilots and crews.
The first photo is very similar to the one at the top of the page, so it's safe to assume it was taken about the same time.

The photo below is often reproduced, but most times in very bad quality. Note that the top camouflage continues a little under the wing leading edge. Also note the removed hinomaru and the Thai insignia painted over it. 

There are many illustrations of Thai "Hayabusa" on the net, most of very bad quality, and the camouflage pattern has been depicted very inaccurately.
Below is an illustration by Nohara Shigeru featured in Model Art #395. In my opinion, it shows fairly accurately the aircraft seen in the top and the photos above.

And below is an illustration by Koizumi Kazuaki included in an old Koku Fan issue, depicting the aircraft in the clip.

The above, only the stills, was originally posted in 2012 and received basically no reaction. Since then, the photos have been ofcourse "borrowed" by various blogs without any credit. Thank you guys for the support!


Brendan McGovern said...

Thanks for sharing the stills. I hope to paint a Hayabusa in the Thai scheme someday, but that camouflage scheme is daunting!

Best wishes,

Dan Salamone said...

I have always wanted to build one of these birds. Thanks for sharing these images, as always.


Danilo said...

I have always wanted to build a Ki-43 in Thai scheme but what prevented me to start the project are those spots interpreted as "white" which I don't find so convincing. My opinion is that it's another colour -maybe a pale sand or grey-green?In fact if compared to the the elephant or band's white the spots look slightly darker. What is your opionion, George?

Arawasi said...

AFAIK, apart from the early models, "Hayabusa" were delivered unpainted and white paint was not considered a main camouflage color. So, what you see as lighter color between the green and brown blotches is actually the metal of the aircraft. That's my take.

Nanond said...

Thank you for sharing this information. I've seen these pics before but no descriptions (probably they were taken from here).

Since I don't understand Japanese, is Don mueng mentioned in the video? Sometimes these shots were said to have been taken in Singapore. If the narrator mention the Thai airport, this can be clarified.

It is interesting to see you noted that there did not appear to be any unit marking. This seems to support a recently found document in Thailand that Thai government negotiated a purchase of these fighters, instead of the long-held belief that they were previously used IJA machines given by the Japanese. The Japanese national markings were removed and replaced by Thai markings in the field. However, the sprayed camouflage was not consistent with any of the Thai practices at the time, leading me to believe that the camouflage was of Japanese origin. What is your thought on that?