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Type 89 I-Go (Chi-Ro)
Type 89 Yi-Go at Tsuchira.jpg
A restored Type 89 I-Go at Tsuchiura GSDF Base open day
Place of origin  Empire of Japan
Production history
Designed 1928
Weight 12.79 metric tons (14.10 short tons)
Length 5.73 m (18 ft 10 in)
Width 2.13 m (7 ft 0 in)
Height 2.56 m (8 ft 5 in)
Crew 4

Armor 6 to 17 mm (0.24–0.67 in)
57 mm Type 90 gun
100 rounds
2 x 6.5 mm Type 91 machine gun
(hull, turret rear)
2,745 rounds
Engine Mitsubishi A6120VD air-cooled inline 6-cylinder diesel
120 hp (90 kW)/ 1800 rpm 14,300cc
Suspension leaf spring
170 km (110 mi)
Speed 26 km/h (16 mph)

The Type 89 medium tank I-Go (八九式中戦車 イ号 Hachikyū-shiki chū-sensha I-gō?) was a medium tank used by the Imperial Japanese Army from 1932 to 1942 in combat operations of the Second Sino-Japanese War, at Khalkhin Gol against the Soviet Union, and in the Second World War. The Type 89B model was the world's first mass-produced diesel engine tank.[1] The tank was armed with a short-barrel 57 mm cannon for knocking out pillboxes and masonry fortifications, and proved effective in campaigns in Manchuria and China, as the Chinese National Revolutionary Army had only three tank battalions to oppose them, which consisted primarily of Vickers export models, German Panzer Is, and Italian CV33 tankettes.[2] The Type 89 was a 1920s design medium tank, built to support the infantry, and thus lacked the armor or armament of 1940s generation allied armor; and was regarded as obsolete by the time of the battles of Khalkhin Gol, against the Soviet Union, in 1939.[3] The code designation "I-Go" comes from the katakana letter [イ] for “first” and the kanji [号] for “number”.[4] The designation is sometimes transliterated “Yi-Go”[5]

Experimental tank No.1(ja:試製1号戦車), 1927 (Imperial year 2587)

History and development

The Type 89 evolved from Japan's first domestic light tank project initiated by the Japanese Army's Osaka Technical Arsenal in 1925. However, the growing weight of the initial prototype and its low speed did not impress the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office, and a new requirement was issued for a lighter tank, with a nominal 10-short-ton (9.1-metric-ton) weight. The new design was modeled closely after the Vickers Medium C which had been bought by the Japanese Army in 1927. By April 1928, the new light tank design was finished and designated as the Type 89. The prototype of the Type 89 light tank (試製八九式軽戦車1号機?) was completed in April 1929. Later, the Type 89 was re-classified as a "medium tank" because the weight increased to over 10 tons due to several improvements.[5]

As the Army's Sagami Arsenal lacked the capacity for mass production, a contract was awarded to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which built a new factory next to the Sagami Arsenal specifically to produce this model.[5] Production of the Type 89 began in 1931 and it soon became the main tank of the Imperial Japanese Army.

Although the Type 89 was well regarded by the Japanese army, there were several small problems to be rectified, notably a gap under the mantlet on early models that allowed rifle fire to enter the turret. Work continued on improving the Type 89 after the production started, and as a result many variants were developed.[6]


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Type 89 medium tank Ko early model.

The Type 89 required a crew of four (commander/gunner, loader, driver and hull gunner). The design of the Type 89 was relatively conventional with a forward-mounted gun turret carrying the main armament, a Type 90 57 mm gun that was complemented by two Type 91 6.5 mm machine guns. One was placed in the turret and pointed towards the rear, a practice followed with most Japanese tanks, and one was located in the hull. The Type 90 57 mm Tank Gun had a barrel length of 0.85 metres (33 in) (L14.9) el angle of fire of −15 to +20 degrees, AZ angle of fire of 20 degrees, muzzle velocity of 380 m/s (1,200 ft/s), and could penetrate of 20 mm of armor at 500 m (0.8 in/550 yd).

Rather than using iron armor, as on the earlier Type 87, the designers chose to use steel plate armor developed by the Nihon Seikosho Company (JSW). The type of armor was referred to as 'Niseko steel', an abbreviation of Nihonseikosho.

The Type 89 was driven through the rear drive sprocket and featured nine bogies, mounted in pairs on each side, with the forward bogie on an independent suspension. Five smaller return wheels were mounted along a girder. Some vehicles were provided with two searchlights for night operations and Type 94 Mk 4 Hei (1934 model) radio communication device with range of 0.6 miles and weight of 198 lb, linked with a radio antenna of 29 ft 6 in (8.99 m) in a reverse L shape.


  • Type 89A I-Go Kō (八九式中戦車(甲型)?)

The initial production model had a water-cooled Daimler-type 100 hp engine (ダ式 一〇〇馬力 発動機 da-shiki hyaku-bariki hatsudōki?) 6-cylinder gasoline engine and mounted a machine gun on the right side of the hull. This design could only attain 15.5 km/h, and was also limited by the severe winter climate in northern China. A total of 220 units were produced.

  • Type 89B I-Go Otsu (八九式中戦車(乙型)?)

The Ko was superseded in production from 1934 by the model Otsu with an air-cooled Mitsubishi A6120VD 120 hp diesel engine. The improved model had a new gun turret design complete with a cupola for the commander, and with the machine gun relocated to the left side of the hull. The multiple armor plates of the front hull were replaced by a single shallow-sloped frontal armor plate which provided more protection for the driver. However, the major difference between the versions was the Mitsubishi air-cooled 6-cylinder diesel engine, which had several advantages: reduced vulnerability to fire should the vehicle be hit or roll over; better fuel economy; greater torque at lower revolutions. A diesel engine was also preferred by the Japanese Army because more diesel fuel than gasoline could be produced per barrel of oil. A total of 189 Otsu units were produced. The Type 89B Otsu version was the first mass-produced tank with a diesel engine.[5]

Combat history

Japanese tanks moving toward Manila, January 1942.

The Type 89 was deployed for infantry support operations in the Second Sino-Japanese War. It served with Japanese infantry divisions before that, during the Japanese invasion of Manchuria (September 1931), and during the First Battle of Shanghai in 1932, as part of the Imperial Japanese Navy's Special Naval Landing Force. The short-barreled 57 mm gun was effective at destroying machine gun nests and its 15 mm (0.59 in) armor, although thin, was enough to stop small arms fire. The relatively low speed of 25 km/h (16 mph) was not an issue in these types of operations.[7]

The following year, the Japanese Army formed its first independent armor force by creating three regiments armed with the Type 89 I-Go, each consisting of two companies with ten tanks each. Three more regiments were formed in 1934. Type 89s were used widely in various campaigns throughout China after 1937.

Battle of Khalkhin Gol

On the evening of 2 July 1939, during the battle of Khalkhin Gol, the Japanese Army's 1st Tank Corpsdisambiguation needed, commanded by Lt. General Yasuoka Masaomi, launched an offensive against the Soviet Union's 11th Tank and 7th Armored brigades.[8] The 1st Tank Corps consisted of the 3rd and 4th Tank Regiments; of which the 3rd regiment consisted of 26 Type 89s, four Type 97 medium tanks, seven Type 94 tankettes, and four Type 97 tankettes, and the 4th regiment contained 35 Type 95s, eight Type 89s, and three Type 94 tankettes respectively.[9] In this battle, the Type 97 medium tank was a newly fielded machine, and was primarily reserved for home units, as well as transitioning into Japanese Army forces stationed in China (Manchuria).[10]

The 3rd Tank Regiment had, after charging through Soviet artillery barrages, successfully managed to overrun the Soviet motorized infantry, and took the high ground, which had been quickly abandoned by the Soviets. However, by 2100 hours, Soviet counter battery fire had begun pounding the newly taken position, and the 3rd Tank repositioned themselves behind the objective.[11]

The 4th Tank Regiment, which had become separated from the 3rd Tank Regiment, advanced upon an objective under the cover of a thunderstorm which masked their movements, but exposed the Soviet positions.[12] The 4th Tank Regiment continued to advance, when suddenly a shift in the lightning flashes illuminated the advancing Japanese tanks, whereupon the Soviets immediately opened fire with anti-tank guns, heavy machine guns, and artillery.[12] However, the range was so close, that the Soviet artillery could not depress their guns any lower, and the 4th Tank Regiment was ordered to charge at about 0020 hours (12:20 AM). Soviet shells passed wildly over the charging tanks as they penetrated over a thousand yards into the Soviet lines.[13] Now isolated, and deep within the Soviet lines, the 4th Tank Regiment moved several thousands yards[14] where they met up with Japanese infantry.

The 4th Tank Regiment had expended 1,100 37 mm and 129 57 mm tank shells during the fight, as well as about 16,000 machine gun rounds. Of the approximate 73 light and medium Japanese tanks from both regiments committed to the offensive, 13 were damaged beyond repair by Soviet gunfire, about 14 others were repaired after major overhauls, and 17 tanks were repaired in the field.[15]

Soviet forces concluded that the 1st Tank Corps had penetrated the defenses of their 9th Armored Brigade and 149th Infantry Regiment and had reached Soviet artillery positions.[16]

Other Service

Type 89 "I-Go" on display at the United States Army Ordnance Museum.

By 1942 the Type 89 was gradually being withdrawn from front-line combat service, but many units saw action in the Battle of the Philippinesdisambiguation needed, Battle of Malaya, and Burma campaign, and continued to be used in China. They were also often used in static defense positions in the Japanese-occupied islands of the Netherlands East Indies and in the South Pacific Mandate, but with their weak armor and small main gun they were a poor match for the American M4 Sherman.[17]

During the early stages of the First Indochina War, France set up an ad hoc unit of French and Japanese armour called the 'Commando Blindé du Cambodge' from tanks left over from the Japanese invasion of French Indochina.[18]

World War II Japanese units equipped with the Type 89 Tank

  • 1st Independent Mixed Brigade
  • 3rd Tank Regiment
  • 4th Tank Regiment
  • 7th Tank Regiment
  • 2nd Independent Tank Company
  • 1st Special Tank Company
  • 1st Tank Battalion
  • 2nd Tank Battalion
  • 5th Tank Battalion
  • Special Tank Company of China Detachment Tank Unit
  • 7th Tank Regiment
  • 8th Independent Tank Company
  • 9th Independent Tank Company
  • 2nd Tank Division
  • Shanghai SNLF Tank Company
  • SNLF Tank School at Tateyama IJN Ordnance


  • The United States Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen, Maryland (where it is labelled as a "Type 89 Chi-Ro").
  • The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force base at Tsuchiura, Ibaraki, Japan.
  • Sinbudai Old Weapon Museum, Camp Asaka, Japan


  1. Zaloga (2007) p. 6
  2. Zaloga (2007) p. 12
  3. Foss. The Great Book of Tanks
  4. War II.html
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Zaloga, Japanese Tanks 1939–45, p. 90.
  6. Foss. The Great Book of Tanks
  7. Taki's Imperial Japanese Army
  8. Coox p. 324 (map) & 363
  9. Coox p. 349, 350
  10. Coox p. 350
  11. Coox p. 376 & 377
  12. 12.0 12.1 Coox p. 386
  13. Coox p. 387
  14. Coox p. 390-393
  15. Coox p. 425
  16. Coox p. 395
  17. Foss. The Great Book of Tanks[page needed]
  18. Dunstan, Vietnam Tracks: Armor in Battle 1945-1975, pages 10-11


  • Coox, Alvin D. Nomonhan; Japan Against Russia, 1939. Two volumes, Stanford University Press, Stanford California 1985. ISBN 0-8047-1160-7.
  • Foss, Christopher (2003). Great Book of Tanks: The World's Most Important Tanks from World War I to the Present Day. Zenith Press. ISBN 0-7603-1475-6. 
  • Foss, Christopher (2003). Tanks: The 500. Crestline. ISBN 0-7603-1500-0. 
  • Zaloga, Steven J. (2007). Japanese Tanks 1939–45. Osprey. ISBN [[Special:BookSources/1-84603-091-8|1-84603-091-8]]. 

External links

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