Adversaries: WW2 Japanese.

Most of these aircraft, but not all, have tangled in some way (mostly unsuccessfully) with the Fleet Air Arm:

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Mitsubishi A6M2b Zero Reisen (Zero), 202 Kokutai IJN, Rabaul  1942.

Allied reporting name: “Zeke”

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The carrier-based Zero was an unpleasant surprise to Allied forces in the early part of the war. However, although agile and fast by the standards of the early 1940s, by 1944 it was largely outclassed by the Seafires of the British Pacific Fleet and the many other modern US types (Corsairs & Hellcats) then being deployed by the Allies.

The A6M2b was the most numerous version, leading the 1941 attack at Pearl Harbor and against the British Eastern Fleet at Ceylon in April 1942. 202 Kokutai (formerly Genzan) were largely obliterated by the US Navy during the Guadalcanal campaign and the battles known as “the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.

Mitsubishi A6M5c Zero Reisen (Zero), Motoyama Naval Air Base, Iwo Jima

Allied reporting name: “Zeke”

Hasegawa out the box

Later Zero variants featured four long-barrelled 20mm canons in a smaller wing that enabled for increased speed and manoeuvrability as well as allowing the folding wingtips to be omitted and save weight.  Rear facing ejector exhausts around the cowling provided some small additional thrust.  

This particular aircraft was part of the famous Genzan Kokutai operating from South Field Motoyama on the island of IwoJima.  It may have been expended as a Kamikaze aircraft.

Aichi D3A1 Type 99 Carrier Bomber, IJN Carrier Akagi Air Group

Allied reporting name: “Val”

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The Val dive bomber entered service in 1939 and was the most important Japanese carrier based bomber aircraft of  early WW2, playing a critical role in many of the IJN’s early victories, including Pearl Harbor, where it dealt a near fatal blow against the US Navy, the less successful Indian Ocean Raid, intended to repeat the Pearl Harbour success against the British Eastern Fleet in Ceylon, and in air raids on the Australian mainland at Darwin.  

Often paired with B5N “Kate” torpedo aircraft, the "Val" sank more Allied ships during WW2 than any other Axis aircraft, including the RN carrier HMS HERMES, and USN Carriers USS Lexington, USS Hornet and  USS Yorktown.

Nakajima B5N2 Kate, IJN Carrier Shokaku Air Group,

Allied Reporting name: “Kate”

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The Kate was the main carrier attack aircraft at the start of WW2. Along with the Zero and the Val, it led the initial attacks on the US  Navy and the Royal Navy. Capable of carrying air launched torpedoes or a good load of bombs, like most early Japanese aircraft, it was built for range, speed and agility at the cost of armour and other protection.  As such, once the Japanese faced  determined Allied opposition it proved to be vulnerable with a tendency to burst into flames when fired on.

Yokosuka D4Y3 Suisei (Comet)

601st Kokutai Imperial Japanese Navy  Yokosuka, 1945

Allied reporting name: “Judy”

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Lacking any equivalent of the Allies' powerful Merlin, Griffon, Wasp & Cyclone engines, Imperial Japanese Navy designers concentrated on lightweight and aerodynamically advanced designs to compensate. Asa replacement for the D3A1 Val, the D4Y Suisei dive bomber exemplified this approach, building on a Heinkel concept (the He-118, for which Japan had acquired manufacturing rights). Fast, with an impressive range and payload, but vulnerable to combat damage due to its weight-saving lack of any armour or self sealing fuel tanks.

Unable to operate from the smaller IJN carriers due to their very high landing speed, operations by Judy dive bombers were seriously hampered by a lack of experienced aircrew after they were decimated by the USN and British Pacific Fleet.  During the final year of the Pacific war, they were widely used as Kamikaze aircraft, stripped of equipment and armed with a single 800lb bomb.

On 6 April 1945 a D4Y3 Judy struck HMS ILLUSTRIOUS' island in a suicide attack, before skidding into the sea where its bomb exploded. Damage to the hull was significant, although the ship was able to continue with flying operations. Nevertheless, with her top speed now severely limited, it marked the end of ILLUSTRIOUS' war and she was forced to returned to home waters, arriving at Rosyth Dockyard in June 1945 for extensive repairs that lasted for over a year.

Attacks by Kamikaze (Divine Wind), or more correctly Tokubetsu Ko-geki Tai (Special Attack) units, were one of the last desperate acts of a nation facing defeat. The concept of a suicide attack was alien to the Allies and inspired considerable alarm and fear, especially as the concept proved highly effective and took a severe toll on the US and British fleets. Manned in theory by volunteers (although coercion may have been common), Kamikaze was widely interpreted by the West as an example of the unfathomable fanaticism of Japanese culture. However more recent research acknowledges that the Japanese truly feared what would happen to them if defeated; many volunteered as Kamikaze pilots, not simply out of fanaticism but out of a desperate desire to protect their women, children and elders from the anticipated (but largely unrealised) revenge, rape and pillage to come.

Mitsubishi G4M1 Type 1 Attacker Mk.11 - Hamaki (cigar)

Allied reporting name: “Betty”

Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka Mk.11

721st Kokutai,  708th Attack Sqn.  Imperial Japanese Navy, Okinawa, June 1945

Hasegawa (out the box)    link to build page

The Betty was a highly successful Japanese bomber design that remained in production throughout WW2.  Very fast for its time, its early successes were helped by its ability to outrun most Allied fighter aircraft.  

With the arrival of the Seafire, Corsair and Hellcat in theatre this advantage was  soon lost and the Betty’s light construction and lack of armour began to take their toll. Despite frantic attempts to add simple rubber protection to its fuel tanks, It quickly gained a reputation for catching fire with the lightest of hits on the fuel carrying wings.

As the war in the Pacific drew to its climax, Bettys were used in such diverse roles as as troop transports and heavy escort fighters as well as carrying rocket powered Ohka suicide bombers to attack the Allied fleet.  

The Betty’s final duty came as transport for the Japanese surrender delegation on the first leg of their flight the Philippines to deliver the formal surrender documents. The disarmed G4Ms were painted all-over white with large green crosses on tail, wings and fuselages, and were escorted by USAAF P-38 Lightning fighters..

The Betty’s intended cargo was this Ohka (“Cherry Blossom”) rocket powered Kamikaze flying bomb.  Carrying a 1.200kg warhead, it could achieve a top speed of over 570 Mph and would be dived into the decks of Allied warships .  Over 750 were built and used mainly  during the battles off Okinawa, where they proved of little value, with only a few successful hits on smaller ships, and no confirmed hits on any of the target capital ships or carriers. As with German attempts at radio controlled anti shipping missiles, the Ohka’s main weakness was the vulnerability of the heavily laden “Betty” carrying aircraft needed to get it with in range of its target.

Kawanishi N1K2-J Shinden-Kai (Violet Lightning)

Allied reporting name: “George”

343rd Kokutai, 301st Squadron, Imperial Japanese Navy July 1945

Aircraft of Lt. Naoshi Kanno, IJN

Hasegawa (out the box)   link to build page

The Shinden-kai was developed in 1942 as an improved land-based variant of the Kawanishi N1K seaplane fighter, to fill the need for a more capable fighter to replace the famous Zero.  With a much more powerful engine and automated combat flaps to enhance dogfight agility, it is widely considered to be the IJN’s best fighter of WW2, well matched to the capabilities of the Allied Hellcats, Corsairs and Mustangs.

By early 1945, the IJN had already lost most of its most capable pilots and all of its aircraft carriers.  Those remaining were gathered in elite units equipped with the latest equipment, including the 343rd Kokutai commanded by Captain Minoru Genda, architect of the Pearl Harbor attacks.  

The 343rd was the main user of the “George”.  Despite an impressive combat record and undoubted qualities of its pilots and aircraft, unit losses could no longer be replaced; with overwhelming losses, the 343rd was withdrawn from combat and finally disbanded on 14th August 1945.

Nakajima C6N1 Saiun (Iridescent Cloud)

Allied reporting name: “Myrt”

Hikotai 11, Kokutai 762, Katori Air Base, Imperial Japanese Navy, January 1945

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Entering Service in September 1944, the Myrt was a very fast 3-man reconnaissance aircraft used widely by the Imperial Japanese Navy, with a top speed allowing it to able to outrun the majority of allied fighters.   Although designed as a carrier based aircraft, by the time it entered service most of the IJN’s carriers had been sunk and as a result it was mainly operated from land bases.

Over 460 Myrts were built, including night fighter versions armed with oblique mounted 30mm guns in place of the centrally seated observer.

On 15 Aug 1945, a Myrt that was shadowing the Allied Fleet became the last aircraft to be shot down during WW2 (although there were several further engagements after the official cease-fire), falling to an F4U Corsair of the US Navy.

Nakajima Ki-44 IIb Army Type 2 Fighter - Shoki (Vanquisher)

Allied reporting name: “Tojo”

70th Army Fighter Squadron, Kashiwa Air Base, Tokyo, June 1945

Aircraft of Capt. Yosio Yoshida, IJAAF

Hasegawa (out the box)

The Shoki was developed as a high altitude interceptor with an emphasis on speed, climbing and diving capabilities.  Like many Japanese designs, it suffered from the lack of strategic planning and co-operation brought on by competition for resources between the Japanese Army Air Force and the the Japanese Navy Air Service. Its seemingly incongruous fat nose and slim tail arose because the only available engine had been designed for bomber use and was wider than desirable,.  Fitted with a unique “butterfly” combat flap to enhance manoeuvrability in a dogfight, its short wingspan unfortunately gave a very high landing speed that caused serious difficulties for inexperienced pilots.

 Entering service in 1942, it saw widespread combat defending the Sumatran oilfields and then became a useful counter to the massed B-29 Superfortresses raids of the USAAF during the last year of the war, with squadrons concentrated around the home islands.

In the final months of WW2, some aircraft were also used in suicide ramming attacks against B-29s. (Link to build page)

Mitsubishi G3M3 Type 96 Land-based Attack Aircraft Rikko

Allied reporting name: “Nell”

Genzan Air Group, Imperial Japanese Navy, Saigon, 1941

Arii (out the box)    link to build page

The Mitsubishi G3M was developed in the mid 1930s as a maritime attack aircraft. With a very long range of over 3,300 nautical miles at high speed (258mph), it was well ahead of contemporary European and US aircraft, coming as  an unpleasant surprise when first encountered by the Allies in 1941, by which time it was already being replaced in Japanese Navy service.

With a full title of Mitsubishi G3M Type 96 Land-based Attack Aircraft "Rikko", it was given the Allied reporting name "Nell". Like many Japanese aircraft, it achieved its superb performance partly by sacrificing armour and defensive weaponry for speed and range, a weakness that limited its use during the later war period when Allied fighters were more effective. From about 1943 onward, it was relegated to second line training or radar equipped maritime patrol duties.

Following service over China, where it conducted the first ever trans-oceanic bombing raids, plus active participation in the Battle of the Philippines and the attacks on Singapore, perhaps the Nell's most famous victory was the torpedoing and bombing of the Royal Navy's Force Z, HM Ships PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE off the coast of Malaya on 10 December 1941.  Accompanied by newer G4M "Betty" bombers, Nells of the Genzan Air Group, operating out of Saigon, made the first torpedo hit on HMS PRINCE OF WALES.  Further attacks by G3M Nells and G4M Bettys of the Kanoya Air Group resulted in 4 torpedo hits on the PoW and two on REPULSE, both ships sinking with the loss of over 840 men in the first ever sinking by aircraft of an actively defended modern capital ship at sea (ships sunk at Pearl harbor ships were all older designs, constrained in their defensive actions by being alongside).  

Nells later participated in the massed bombing raids on Darwin in northern Australia, as part of Japanese preparations to invade.   By the beginning of 1943, the Nell was relegated to secondary duties, including bomber training and maritime patrol, with some aircraft fitted out with early Japanese anti-ship radars.

Kawasaki Ki48-II Type 99 Light Bomber Sokei

Allied reporting name: “Lily”

90th Army Aviation Regiment, Imperial Japanese Army

Hebei Air Base, Chine, 1943-44

Hasegawa (ex-Mania) (out the box)    link to build page

The Ki-48 Type 99 Shiki-souhatu-keibaku or "Sokei" design was commissioned by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1937 to match the Soviet Tupolev SB-2 bomber that was beginning to operate over China.  Designed for a similar role to the Bristol Blenheim and Martin Maryland, it was fast, had a good climb rate and long range.  With a surprisingly large crew of 5, it could also operate as a dive bomber, but it only carried a relatively small 500 Kg bomb load (later 800kg), which severely limited its effectiveness.

In normal Japanese style, the Ki-48 sacrificed armour and self sealing fuel tanks for performance, relying on speed for defence, although it did carry 3 machine guns. Powered by two Nakajima HA115 radial engines of 940 hp each, it could achieve just over 500 Km/h at 5,600 m height.  Ki-48s entered service in 1940, operating initially over China, but they continued successfully in service in Malaya, the Phillipines, Burma and New Guinea until the battle of Okinawa in April 1945, after which many remaining aircraft were converted as Kamikaze aircraft or for testing and training purposes.

The Ki-48s of the 90th Air Regiment, 5th Air Army, based in the occupied province of Hebei near Beijing, was the only Japanese air unit to fight against the Soviet Union, followinf their declaration fo wa rin 1945. It flew 20 sorties against Soviet forces on 14 August 1945.

Kamikaze Ki-48s saw action against the British Pacific Fleet off Palembang in January 1945 during Operation Meridian, with all seven attacking aircraft being shot down by the British carrier's Supermarine Seafires.

Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden (lightning Bolt)

Allied reporting name: “Jack”

302nd Kokutai, Imperial Japanese Navy, Atsugi Naval Air base, 1945

Hasegawa (out the box)    link to build page

Development of the J2M Raiden (Thunderbolt) began in the late 1930s.  In a departure from previous IJN philosophy of range and manoeuvrability, the Raiden specification emphasised speed, rate of climb and firepower, even allowing for some armour plating. To improve aerodynamics, the engine was mounted relatively far back, with an extended shaft and cowling allowing a thinner nose profile with an engine cooling fan within the cowling.

Difficulties with the engine and the undercarriage, as well as competing priorities for the Zero fighter meant that the J2M did not enter service until 1943 and even then in limited numbers.  These delays, disappointment with under-par performance and problems of both reliability and logistic spares availability led the IJN to adopt the N1K2-J Shinden-Kai (George) fighter (see above) instead.  Nevertheless, low rate production continued and the J2M3 variant of the "Jack" finally came into its own in the defence of the Japanese mainland, although the lack of a supercharger limited performance at height against the massed fire-bombing raids by USAF B-29s in 1945.

Aircraft of the elite 302nd Air Group at Atsugi Air Base had notable success against allied bombers (300 official kills), whose track toward the main industrial centres of Yokohama and Tokyo passed close to Atsugi.  The proximity of the manufacturer's factory also helped with technical and logistic issues.

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