Kokusai Ki 76 Stella

The Kokusai Ki-76 'Stella' was a artillery spotting and liaison aircraft inspired by the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch, but that was designed independently in Japan.

The development of the Ki-76 was inspired by the early successes of the Storch. In 1940 Nippon Kokusai Koku Kogyo was ordered to design a similar aircraft to act as an artillery spotter and liaison aircraft. The Ki-76 was designed by Kozo Masuhara, without access to one of the German aircraft (but presumably with some technical support). The 240hp Argus inline engine of the Storch was replaced by a more powerful Hitachi Ha-42 nine-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, and the slotted flaps of the Storch were replaced with more sophisticated Fowler flaps.

The Ki-76 made its maiden flight in May 1941, the month before a Storch finally reached Japan. In comparative tests the Ki-76 out-performed the Storch in everything but landing distance, one of the more important abilities of the aircraft. Flight trials were completed by November 1942 and the aircraft entered service as the Army Type 3 Command Liaison Plain. The Ki-76 was used with the artillery units of the Japanese Army until the end of the war. It was also used on the Japanese Army's own aircraft carrier, the Akitsu Maru, where it served as an anti-submarine aircraft, although without much distinction.

At first glance the Ki-76 looks very similar to the Storch, but there are three distinctive differences that can be used to tell the aircraft apart. The first, and most obvious, is the use of the radial engine. The second is the landing gear. On the Storch the main undercarriage legs were straight, and contained very lengthy springs. On the Ki-76 the main legs bend slightly just above the wheels. Third is the cockpit canopy. On the Storch the glazed area is wider than the fuselage, giving the crew an excellent view directly down. On the Ki-76 the glazed area is the same width as the fuselage.

Engine: Hitachi Ha-42 nine-cylinder radial engine
Power: 310hp at take-off, 280hp at 6,560ft
Crew: 2 - pilot and observer
Wing span: 49ft 2 9/16in
Length: 31ft 3 3/8in
Height: 9ft 6 5/16in
Empty Weight: 2,447lb
Loaded Weight: 3,373lb
Max Speed: 111mph
Service Ceiling: 18,470ft
Range: 466 miles
Armament: One flexible rear-firing 7.7mm Type 89 machine gun
Bomb-load: Two 132lb depth-charges

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (5 April 2010), Kokusai Ki 76 Stella , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_kokusai_ki-76_stella.html

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