The Type 97 was Japan’s standard medium tank during World War II. It first saw action against Russian forces at Nomonhan in 1939, and continued service throughout the war. When the Type 97 found itself outclassed by Allied tanks later in the war; it became more often deployed in bunker and pillbox fortifications rather than as a field tank.
Fine Molds’ 1/35-scale kit represents the early version Type 97 Chi-Ha with additional front and turret armor and a 57mm cannon. A redesigned version of the Type 97, equipped with a new turret and high-velocity 47mm cannon was introduced in 1943.
The project follows the usual modeling path, instructing modelers to begin with the wheels, then the suspension, and working up to the hull and turret. Kit highlights include basic engine and air-duct detail, interior and exterior hatch details, and an outstanding set of photo-etched muffler covers. Modelers can choose markings for vehicles stationed in Manchuria, Saipan, or Jeju Island, Korea.
Issues of fit occurred while mating the upper and lower hulls; it appears that the top is a couple of millimeters too short. The fix was fairly simple: adding a small strip of Evergreen styrene to the front hull will bridge the gap. Also, the fit of the wheels are not as snug as one would expect, which can lead to alignment issues with the suspension. The kit-supplied vinyl tracks offer adequate detail, but do not provide for the accurate sag so often seen in period photographs.
Overall, the Fine Molds Type 97 Chi-Ha is a nice, basic kit that makes for a perfect weekend project.
Originally published in the August 2010 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here.