Dubbed the 'Oscar' by the Allies, the Ki-43 Hayabusa was the most prolific Japanese fighter of World War II. Produced in great numbers, it initially proved superior to most US and British fighter types, due to its excellent maneuverability. The light weight and large wing area gave it a small turning radius and a high rate-of-climb which was ideal for pilots in close combat fighting. However, the Ki-43's swiftness and agility came at a price, with the low-wing design meaning that firepower and safety had to be sacrificed. With only two machine guns, a Ki-43 pilot would have to perform a dangerous balancing act between achieving a high rate of kills and their own survival. Surprisingly, more Japanese pilots achieved Ace status flying the Hayabusa than any other plane and despite being steadily outclassed by new fighters, the Ki-43 remained in frontline JAAF service until the war's end. This book expertly charts the experiences of the pilots and discusses the early stages of the war in South-East Asia, China, Burma and New Guinea.
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March 31, 2009
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