Air Weapons

Mitsubishi

Ki-51 'Sonia'

Yet another largely unsung Japanese aircraft of World War II, the Mitsubishi Ki-51 'Sonia' was something of a scaled down version fo the Ki-30 light bomber with the advantage of being able to operate from short airstrips close to the front lines. Given its smaller size and lighter weight, the Ki-51 dispensed with the weapons bay, carrying its reduced bomb load externally while a lower mounted wing allowed a shorter fixed undercarriage. The 'Sonia' made its combat debut in China as with many contemporary designs and was later deployed throughout the Pacific, performing admirably thanks to its maneuvrability, ease of maintenance, and short strip operation. Its service life continued up to the end of the war with production continuing well until 1944 although it was highly vulnerable to enemy fighters thus relegating it to secondary theaters and kamikaze strikes.

Two prototypes of the 'Sonia' were flown in June and August 1939 with a number of service trials aircraft following shortly after. The Ki-51 referred to the only production variant built although experimental aircraft were fitted with cameras in the rear cockpit for tactical reconnaissance duties while the similar Ki-71 prototype included a retractable undercarriage and uprated Ha-112 engines.

Preceded by:

None

Succeeded by:

None

Datafile

DesignKi-51
Code NameSonia
TypeClose Support
Year1940
Crew2
Dimensions
Length9.21 m
Height2.73 m
Wing Span12.10 m
Wing Area24.0 m²
Weight
Empty1,873 kg
Maximum2,910 kg
Wing Loading121.1 kg/m²
Performance
Speed423 km/h
Ceiling8,270 m
Range1,062 km
Powerplant
Engine1 x Ha-16-II
Mitsubishi
708 kW
Thrust/Weight0.46
Armament
Guns2 x 7.7/12.7-mm
1 x 7.7-mm
Payload200 kg
Production
Built2,372
Total2,385