Having just finished painting my first Japanese tank, I thought it might be a nice idea to have a look at the history of this cute little death dealer!
The Type 97 Te-Ke was officially designated a light armoured car but is more rightly referred to as a tankette in my opinion. It saw production from 1938 right through until 1944. Like many other tank designs from Japan, it was produced in limited numbers with the bulk of Japan's limited resources going to the IJN. Approximately 600 Type 97's rolled off the production lines. The Japanese army used the Type 97 during the Second Sino-Japanese War as well as during WWII to good effect as infantry support.
Designed as a replacement for the Type 94 Te-Ke with some significant changes as a result. The engine was moved to the rear with the commander then being centred in the tankette and thus closer to the driver, making for much improved communications. The Type 97 fielded the Type 94 37mm AT gun or the Type 97 7.7mm MG but due to the limited tank v. tank engagements, it had very minimal armour making it susceptible to .50 cal fire. The 2-man crew also meant that in addition to commanding the tank, the commander was in charge of loading and firing the main gun.
Typically fielded in pairs to support infantry, its light weight meant that it could keep up with the infantry advance as well as acting in a fast-reconnaissance role.
The Type 97 was fielded during the Battle of Nomonhan against the Soviets and despite not being able to stand up to the power of the 45mm Soviet AT guns, the Te-Ke still managed to hold its own. It went on to be crucial to the Japanese successes in Malaya and the Philippines.
The Type 97 Te-Ke in Flames of War
It's not gonna win you tank on tank battles, but the Te-Ke is great at what it does, which is sneaking into the enemy lines and making a mess of any infantry and/or support options hiding there. It's small size means it can use terrain to extreme advantage in order to avoid enemy fire. And guess what...they're recon teams as well which means you can use them to remove the pesky gone to ground from dug-in Marines.
And did I mention they're DIRT CHEAP?! Getting a pair of them for less that 100 points would seem to be a no-brainer selection in your Hohei Chutai to me. If you're fielding the 37mm Te-Ke you also benefit from the 'Hip Shot' special rule as well which is amazing!
The 37mm gun is potentially going to make a mess of those Shermans if it gets into the side and the MG option is great, as I said, for clearing out infantry and guns hiding behind lines.
All in all, the Te-Ke is a great little addition to any Japanese force.