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Type 97 Te-Ke
Type 97 (AWM P00001-361).jpg
A Type 97 Te-Ke in New Britain in 1945
Place of origin  Empire of Japan
Production history
Designed 1936–1937
Weight 4.7 onnes
Length 3.70 meters
Width 1.80 meters
Height 1.77 meters
Crew 2 (commander, driver)

Armor 4–16 mm
37 mm Type 94 gun
Engine Ikegai air-cooled inline 4-cylinder diesel
48 hp (36 kW)
Power/weight 10 hp/tonne
Suspension 2-wheel bogie
250 kilometers
Speed 42 km/h (26 mph)

The Type 97 Light armored car Te-Ke (九七式軽装甲車 テケ Kyū-nana-shiki kei sōkōsha Teke?) was a tankette used by the Imperial Japanese Army in the Second Sino-Japanese War, at Nomonhan against the Soviet Union, and in World War II. It was designed as a fast reconnaissance vehicle,[1] and was a replacement for the earlier Type 94 TK.

History and development

The origins of the Type 97 lay in a prototype diesel-engine version of the Type 94 Te-Ke developed by Hino Motors in 1936. Although the prototype had a more powerful engine and larger gun, initial trials were not successful and the Japanese Army demanded numerous changes before acceptance. Hino responded with a modified prototype in November 1937, in which the engine was moved towards the rear of the chassis. This design was accepted and full production began in 1938. A total of 557 units were produced from 1938 to 1942 (56 units in 1938, 217 units in 1939, 284 units in 1940).[2]


Type 97 light armored car Te-Ke side view.

Although the chassis was similar in appearance, the design of the Type 97 was different than the Type 94 in several significant areas. The engine was at the rear and the gun turret (and commander) moved to the middle of the tank—this put the driver to the left of the commander in a much better position to communicate with each other. As with the Type 94, the interior was lined with heat absorbing asbestos sheets.

The main armament was the Type 94 37 mm tank gun, with 96 rounds, barrel length of 136 cm (L36.7), EL angle of fire of −15 to +20 degrees, AZ angle of fire of 20 degrees, muzzle velocity of 600 m/s, penetration of 45 mm/300 m, which was also used by Type 95 Ha-Go. However, due to shortages in the production of this weapon, most vehicles were fitted with a 7.7 mm Type 97 machine gun instead.[3]

The Type 97 replaced the Type 94 on the assembly line in 1939, it was primarily assigned to reconnaissance regiments, and, as with US Army tanks prior to 1941, was not designed to engage enemy tanks.[4][5] Because it was a reconnaissance vehicle, built for speed, and not direct combat,[6] its hull and turret were designed for only two crewmen; leaving the tankette commander to load and fire the main gun. As with most tankettes it was severely deficient in armor protection, and was easy prey for a .50 caliber machinegun (heavy machinegun).[7]

A number of variants of the Type 97 were produced, including the Type 98 So-Da APC, which was designed as ammunition carrier and as a troop transport.

Operational history

Type 97 light armored car Te-Ke at china.

A camouflaged Type 97 Te-Ke in the Battle of Muar, 17 January 1942.

Typically, Type 97s were distributed in pairs to support infantry divisions, where they were very often used as armored tractors and supply vehicles.

The Type 97 was successfully fielded in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1938–1945, as the Chinese National Revolutionary Army had only three tank battalions, which themselves consisted of some Italian CV33 tankettes.[8] Their light weight enabled them to be transported easily across the sea or rivers. The Type 97 tankettes first real test of combat came during the Battle of Nomonhan during the months of May through August in 1939 against the Red Army of the Soviet Union. There, although not designed for such combat, the 97 tankette went up against Russian anti-tank guns and 45mm high velocity guns of the Soviet BT-5 and BT-7 light tanks.

With the start of World War II, the Type 97 contributed significantly to the Japanese victories at the Battle of Malaya and the Battle of the Philippines, as its light weight enabled the tank to traverse unsupported bridges and ferry crossing which would be unable to take heavier tanks, and its small size allowed it to travel along the long winding and narrow roads at that time.


  1. Coox p. 157
  2. Zagola, Japanese Tanks 1939–45.
  3. Foss. Tanks: The 500.
  4. Zaloga (Armored Thunderbolt) p. 15 & 18
  5. Zaloga (2007) p. 10
  6. Coox p. 157
  7. Japan's Tankette Type 97 Te-Ke / Ke-Ke,
  8. Zaloga (Japanese Tanks) p. 12


  • Coox, Alvin D. (1985). Nomonhan, Japan Against Russia, 1939 (Two volumes). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. 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. 
  • Gander, Terry J (1995). Jane's Tanks of World War II. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-470847-4
  • Zaloga, Steven J. (2007). Japanese Tanks 1939–45. Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84603-091-8. 

External links

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