The Type 2597 Chi-Ha is the third tank in the Chinese Tier, and though it is classified as a light in reality it was a captured Japanese tank that will be entering the game as a medium. Which is perhaps a good way of reminding us all that the tank classifications of World of Tanks are somewhat artificial. What you have with the Chi-Ha is a vehicle that can act as a medium in certain circumstances, but in others is more or less forced into the role of a light, or perhaps even a TD.
From the look of the tank, however, it is easy to see why it is probably more medium than anything else. Simply it is large for a light tank. This can make it a relatively easy target, but it is not so large as something like the British Medium Mk III. Size does not equate to particularly strong armour – though the 25mm hull armour is somewhat more effective than it looks due to some sloping. Do not, however, count over-much upon it – when you get a bounce it is a blessing, not a certainty.
The Chi-Ha is also not a particularly speedy tank, but neither is it a lumbering whale like the AMX 38. It will be left behind by the more genuine light tanks, but still has the ability to move handsomely around the battlefield as needed.
The tank’s best attribute is undoubtedly its top gun. The first two guns are, in order, subpar and average. The top gun – a 47mm – gets an average penetration of 81mm with regular ammo. With care this is enough to penetrate the weakspots of even the Tier V heavies, though do expect to get some bounces as the accuracy is fairly poor so you will not always hit. Premium ammo gives an average penetration of 130mm, which would be sufficient against the Tier Vs with a little care and attention for when the situation requires it. The average damage is only 70 – but the rate of fire with a full crew is 20 rounds/minute, which means despite the average alpha you can put out a quite respectable amount of damage.
The view range with the upgraded turret is alright for Tier III, if nothing particularly special. The radio range, when upgraded, is excellent. With binoculars boosting the view range this means the Chi-Ha can be something of a scout. It has two drawbacks in this role, however. Firstly its relatively large size makes it easier to spot than many true lights, though because it is classed as a light it gets the same camo rules as a light tank. Secondly in most match-ups there will always be plenty of other potential scouts who are much better in that role.
Leaving the light scout role aside, I think the way to play this is highly situational on the match one is in. In a Tier III match one can very much assume the role of a medium tank. Everything is vulnerable and most tanks should be toast in two or three shots, and the tank does have a respectable 240 hitpoints with the upgraded turret which makes one fairly durable for the Tier. However, in a match with a preponderance of Tier IV and V tanks one becomes acutely vulnerable. However, that gun still remains effective. However, by adopting a position in the backfield, hiding in a bush or behind a rock, and waiting for your moment, that gun can still inflict considerable damage. In other words, playing the Chi-Ha more like a lower-tier TD in a higher-tier battle.
My own record in the Chi-Ha has been 18 matches with 12 victories and 24 vehicles destroyed. Along the way I earned a Confederate medal, the Ace Tanker award, and a Cool-Headed and Spartan commemorative award. I do not feel any desire to keep it however, and will be moving onto the M5A1 Stuart whenever it is next on discount.