Although actually a light tank, it was called sōkōsha (armored car) in Japanese due to political sectionalism within the Japanese Army (tanks were controlled by the infantry, whereas the new weapon was intended for the cavalry).
Exactly the same device was used in America with the M1 Combat Car.
Type: 92 Tankette
Type: 92 Combat Cars
Place of origin: Empire of Japan
Production history: Designed 1931 and produced 1932–1939
Number built: 167
Weight: 3.5 tons
Length: 3.95 m
Width: 1.63 m
Height: 1.86 m
Armor: 6–12 mm
Armament: 13 mm type 92 heavy mg + 1 × 7.7 mm type 97 light mg
Engine: Franklin/Ishikawajima Sumida C6 air-cooled inline 6-cyl. gasoline 45 hp
Suspension: Bell crank
Range: 200 km
Speed: 40 km/h
After World War I, many European countries attempted to mechanize their cavalry. In parallel, Japanese cavalry also experimented with a variety of armored cars with limited success. These wheeled armored cars were not suitable for most operations in Manchuria, due to the poor road conditions and severe winter climate. Japan's army (like the US, French, British and Russian armies) tried various methods to integrate modern armor into their traditional horse cavalry formations.
The development of the Type 92 began with a hybrid amphibious car; this had both tracks and wheels and was able to drive in forward and reverse, both in the water and on land. The experiment was not entirely successful, and the Japanese cavalry was not impressed with the performance. After this, the amphibious car concept was abandoned, and the design was changed to a tracked vehicle for land use only.
Production was initiated by Ishikawajima Motorcar Manufacturing Company in 1932. Production was plagued by technical problems and in total only 167 units were built between 1932 and 1939. After some initial problems with the running gear, the Type 92 proved well suited for the rough terrain and poor roads of Manchuria and China, and was able to attain a speed of 40 km/h (25 mph). Some vehicles were equipped with two searchlights for night operations and Type 94 Mk 4 Otsu radios (this 1934 model had a range of 0.6 mile and weighed 88 lb; it used a 23 ft (7.0 m) long antenna of "reverse L" shape).
The Type 92 was eventually replaced by the Type 94 Te Ke during the Second Sino-Japanese War, although both British and American sources often confused the two models.
The Type 92 used riveted and welded armor with a maximum thickness from 6 mm (in the hull) to 12 mm (in the turret). The thin armor enabled the weight to be kept to three tons; however, the armor was not thick enough to withstand even normal rifle fire. Although its armor was thinner and its weaponry much lighter than its European contemporaries, the Type 92 was only able to reach a speed of 40 km/h.
In terms of armament, for the most part, the main weapons were twin machine guns, one in the turret, and one in the hull. Later, the primary weapon was a hull-mounted, manually aimed 13 mm Type 92 heavy machine gun, license-built from Hotchkiss. The weapon had limited traverse, but included a pivoting eyepiece on the gunsight optics and a high-angle mount, allowing anti-aircraft use. Secondary armament was a 6.5 mm Type 91 machine gun, replaced later by the 7.7 mm Type 97 light machine gun mounted in the manually traversed turret. This weaponry was comparable to that on the German Panzer I. Initially, the vehicles were armed with identical 6.5 mm or 7.7 mm machine guns on both the turret and the hull.
There were three major production variants of the Type 92. The early wheeled prototype and the experimental amphibious tank (Type 92 A-I-Go) with a watertight hull, floats and propellers (only 2 built) eventually resulted in the early production model with two bogies on each side, each with two small rubber-lined road wheels. However, this model was superseded in production by a late production model with improved suspension, when combat experience showed that the early Type 92 tended to throw its tracks in high speed turns.
A Type 92 first production "early" model. Initial armament was two light 6.6 mm type 91, with one mounted in the hull. This was used by the Cavalry division which took part in the attack of Harbin, 1932.
The re-armed early or "mid" production type 92 included the 13.2mm heavy Mg in the hull. The first Special Tank Company of the 8th Division used it in the battle of Rehe, March 1933. The mid-production re-armed model allowed for some anti-air capability, increasing the utility of the vehicle.
The "late" type 92 was deployed in Manchuria, April 1942. Modifications included a new drive train, new redesigned portholes and vision slits with different swing, a new light turret machine gun, the 7.7mm type 96.