The Kawasaki Ki-48 (Japanese: 九九式雙發輕爆擊機) was a Japanese twin-engine light bomber that was used during World War II. Its Allied reporting name was “Lily”.

The development of the aircraft began at the end of 1937 at the request of the Japanese military high command. Kawasaki received an order to develop a “high-speed bomber” capable of 480 km/h (300 mph) at 3,000 m (9,840 ft), and able to reach 5,000 m (16,400 ft) within 10 minutes. It was inspired by the Soviet Tupolev SB.

Kawasaki had the advantage of the experience of designing the Ki-45 twin-engined heavy fighter. Most technical problems were solved; however the aircraft had a number of shortcomings. It carried only an 800 kg (1,760 lb) bombload. This was actually more than contemporary light bombers such as the Bristol Blenheim or Tupolev SB, and only slightly less than light bombers designed several years later, such as the A-20 Havoc, and the strikingly similar-appearing Martin Maryland and Baltimore.

Speed was intended to be its primary defense, much like the later, unarmed, de Havilland Mosquito. So it had only three machine guns (again, an equivalent armament to contemporary light bombers). This made it very vulnerable to enemy fighters later in the war, once they became fast enough to actually catch it.

The flight characteristics of the Ki-48 also left much to be desired. Newer generations of Allied fighters caught up in speed, and eventually, the Ki-48 was too slow to outrun them, while superior modern Japanese aircraft, such as the Yokosuka P1Y and the Mitsubishi Ki-67, could only be produced in small numbers.

The first versions were lightly armoured, so the Ki-48 was quite aerobatic, and could loop and turn with an experienced pilot at the controls. The aircraft was often used as a dive bomber in Burma. The aircraft was not necessarily a failure, and was considered an acceptable light bomber for the first few years of the war by many historians. Much like the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter, it was satisfactory for the period when it was designed and produced, but had to be used against much newer and faster competition, due to Japan’s inability to produce enough newer aircraft.

Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Moscow.

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