Volume 103 in Osprey's Aircraft of the Aces series details the interesting story of the Nakajima’s Ki-27 and the pilots who prevailed while flying the little fighter. The “Nate,” as it became known to most Westerners, contributed to a prevailing myth among aviation experts during the early years of WWII that Japanese aircraft were almost impossible to best in a dogfight. The nimble aircraft was fast enough and agile enough to give well-trained Japanese pilots the edge over almost any adversary as quickly as the fighter could be supplied to the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF).
The Nate achieved its first successes during the campaigns in China in 1938. More advanced than its opponents in that theatre, the Ki-27 quickly gained supremacy as its pilots found the aircraft well suited to their dogfighting practices that relied on high maneuverability and what could best be described as aerobatics. As the book details, many of the JAAF’s leading aces in WWII began their careers in the Nate while serving first in China, and then against the Russians in the Nomonhan conflict. During that four-year period, Nate pilots reigned supreme and continued to hold their own against the faster and better-armed aircraft they began to encounter late in 1941 when the AVG entered the picture.
In time, however, the writing was on the wall for the poorly armored Ki-27, and the Nate began to be replaced by the Ki-43 Oscar. By 1943, the Nate was considered obsolete but continued to soldier on in air defense roles. Later, it found an important role as an armed fighter trainer. Then, nearing retirement, the little fighter was modified to carry a centerline bomb in desperate kamikaze attacks on Allied ships…a rather inglorious end for what was the JAAF’s near legendary fighter from 1938 to 1941.
This book by Nicholas Millman is hard to put down. Author Millman is a recognized expert on the subject of Japanese aviation, having developed and maintains one of the most respected websites on the subject, www.aviationofjapan.com, and his credentials are confirmed in the 96 pages of Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #103. The narrative is well written, well documented, and the chronological organization of the chapters makes for an interesting read. The text is complimented by seventy period photos, 31 color profiles plus two plan views, a full listing of Ki-27 Aces (with claims and credited scores), a bibliography, and an index.
- INTO ACTION OVER CHINA
- THE CRUCIBLE OF NOMONHAN
- ACTION OVER THE PHILIPPINES
- MALAYA, THE EAST INDIES AND BURMA
- FACING A NEW ENEMY IN CHINA
- CONSOLIDATION AND DEFENSE
The book is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in this aircraft, its influence on aerial combat during the early years of the Pacific War, and the stories of the pilots who achieved Ace status while flying this outstanding little fighter. My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to read and review it.