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 A6M5 Zero Rei-Sen, Motoyama Air Base

Allied reporting name: “Zeke”

Hasegawa out the box

The 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.

Yokosuka D4Y3 Suisei (Comet) 601st Kokutai

Allied reporting name: “Judy”

Fujimi out the box

Lacking any equivalent of the Allies' powerful Merlin, Griffon, Wasp & Cyclone engines, Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) designers concentrated on lightweight and aerodynamically advanced designs to compensate. The D4Y Suisei dive bomber exemplified this approach, building on a Heinkel concept (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, Judy dive bombers were hampered by a lack of experienced aircrew, and 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,

Allied reporting name: “Betty”

Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka Mk.11

721st Naval Air Group,  708th Attack Squadron.  Okinawa, June 1945

Hasegawa (out the box)

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 Naval Air Group, 301st Squadron, July 1945

Aircraft of Lt. Naoshi Kanno, IJN

Hasegawa (out the box)

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 Minori 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

Sword (out the box)

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)

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