Saturday, 25 April 2015

Mitsubishi F1M "Reikan" (Pete) - Kashima Kokutai

The following is another selective translation we did from an article featured in the Maru Mechanic #20 on the Mitsubishi F1M "Reikan" (Pete).

That was the role of the Reikan
by LCDR Yoshikawa Akira of the Kashima Ku

  The first time I touched a Mitsubishi F1M "Reikan" (Pete) was in TateyamaKu in 1941. There were Type 94 and Type 95 Reconnaissance Seaplanes (Kawasaki E7K "Alf" and Nakajima E8N "Dave" respectively) and a single Reikan that was used to train new pilots for the type and air combat. It did not have the later 3-blade propeller but had instead a 2-blade Sumitomo/Hamilton 2-step variable pitch one. The Type 95 (Dave) and the Reikan had a very tight turn radius but when going for a loop-the-loop, at the apex point, the aircraft had the tendency to stall so the pilot had to be extra carefully and work the stick and the throttle.
  I have flown the Zero-sen too. Fighter pilots thought that the controls of the Zero were much heavier than the "96 Kansen" (Mitsubishi A5M "Claude"). But in comparison with the Type 95 (Dave) or the Reikan I found the controls of the Zero particularly light. If the controls of our seaplanes were light our lives would be much easier. When fighter pilots flew the Type 95 or the Reikan they were really impressed with our ability to engage in air battles so skillfully with our seaplanes.
  At the end of the War I was serving as "Hikocho" (Group Leader) with KashimaKu. We had about 50 Reikan in our strength but most of our students were reserves. From July 1945 we relocated to Maihama beach, in Hakata bay to prepare for the battle of the mainland (the Allied invasion of Japan - Operation Downfall). The Reikan has a single main float so no bombs could be attached on the belly. Under the wings only two 60kg bombs could be attached and this bombload was deemed insufficient for this major battle. So we were ordered to weld and attach one 250kg bomb on the main strut of the central float. Modifying 50 Reikan to carry 250kg bombs was quite a job but everybody did their best. Fortunately the War was over before anybody could fly suicide missions with these Reikan.
  By August 23 we had all flown back to Kashima and these were the last Reikan flights of the War. 

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