One of the most elegant aircraft of World War Two, the ‘Dinah’ was so successful that Germany tried (in vain) to acquire manufacturing rights from Japan. Although fighter and ground attack versions were developed, it was in the high-altitude photographic reconnaissance role that the Ki46 excelled. Given allied codename ‘Dinah’, this aircraft combined high speed with long range and was able to cover the entire Pacific theatre of operations with little opposition.
Having first flown in November 1939, performance trials showed the prototype Ki46-I’s top speed to be 64kph (40mph) lower than the requirement, although at 540kph (336mph) it was still faster than the latest Japanese fighters! Ki46s were first used operationally over China, their speed enabling them to avoid interception by the few fighters available to the Chinese.
Before the highly successful Japanese campaign against the British in Malaya, detailed reconnaissance of the area was carried out by a Ki46 unit. Detachments of Japanese Army Air Force Ki46s were soon deployed to cover most of South-east Asia and their success led to the Japanese Navy operating a small number of Dinahs.
Although Dinahs became vulnerable to fast-climbing Allied fighters towards the end of the war, they still managed to make many reconnaissance flights over the large, well-defended airbases in the Mariana Islands that the Americans were using for massed bomber raids against Japan in 1944 and 1945.