Friday 31 January 2014

Yokosuka D4Y "Suisei" (Judy) engine test

Last year we introduced the Yokosuka D4Y "Suisei" (Judy) of the Planes-of-Fame-Air-Museum; HERE.
Today our friend Devlin sent us a heads-up for the following video on YouTube, here.
The text explains:
"The Planes of Fame Museum Chino's recently restored Yokosuka D4Y Suisei ("Comet" - Allied code name "Judy") performs its first engine test as part of the museum's Living History Flying Day Event, "Japanese Combat Aircraft," on 1 December 2012. Unfortunately it's not an original engine; it's off a DC-3."

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" (Jack) #7 Hasegawa J2M2 1/32

The only J2M2 kit ever released was the one by Hasegawa. It's in 1/32 and came out in July 2012 as a limited edition; code 08227.
The kit offers options for two versions, one without the oil cooler intake and decals for the "ヨC-104" (YOC-104) "Raiden" and another with the the intake and markings for the "ヨD-147" (YOD-147). 
The decals with the instruction booklet.


Thursday 30 January 2014

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" (Jack) #6 301Ku J2M2

One of the J2M2 prototype photos most often featured in various publications is one of an early model without the oil cooler intake under the cowling and unfortunately with the tail number censored.
Everybody suspected that the tail number was "ヨC-104" (YOC-104) but it was only a couple of years ago that aviation researcher and restorer Nakamura-san (aka A6M232) first introduced an uncensored version of the photo on his site HERE.
The aircraft belonged to the 301ku and the location was Yokosuka base in Kanagawa prefecture.
Artwork by Devlin Chouinard.


Wednesday 29 January 2014

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" (Jack) #5 Kugisho J2M2

Today we post artwork created by Devlin Chouinard based on the photos featured in FAOW#61 p.24, Model Art#470 p.34 & MA#831 p.38.
According to the captions the photos were taken in the winter of '43-'44 at Oppama base. It belongs to the Kugisho (the test department of the IJNAF) and the pilot in the cockpit is LCDR Kofukuda. The plane lucks gunsight in the cockpit and probably all its armament. It has also grease applied on all the wing and tail edges to avoid ice from accumulating. Unfortunately the whole tail marking is not visible in the photos. Here we chose the random number 2 making the tail number "コ-J2-22" (KO-J2-22). Note that the fuselage machine gun muzzle trough is further forward than the later version shown on our previous post.

Sunday 26 January 2014

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" (Jack) #4 From J2M1 to J2M2

We continue today with the fourth instalment of our "Raiden" series (previous parts: 1, 2, 3).

As we saw the first J2M1 prototype was delivered in February 1942 and during testing although overall satisfactory with few minor problems, like forward visibility, which could be rectified, the type unfortunately did not deliver the expected by the Navy performance. As a result the IJNAF put forward the idea to install a more powerful engine, the Kasei 23a MK4R-A and incorporate various modifications.
Main differences with the J2M1 were:
1. A four blade propeller of 3.3m diameter Sumitomo VDM constant speed. In the J2M1 the pitch variation mechanism was electric but since it was unreliable it was changed to hydraulic*.
2. The cowling was shortened by 20.5cm
3. Large size wind shield
4. Eight exhaust pipes
5. Flap width was 50cm bigger
6. 20mm wing cannons were changed from 1Go Model 3 to longer and more powerful 2Go Model 3
7. Cannon magazine changed from 60 rounds to a bigger with 100 rounds. As a result there are projections on top and bottom of the wing
8. The blades of the cooling fan were reduced from 22 to 14.
9.  The heavier Kasei 23a was heavier and it was installed 100mm further to the rear.
10.  Pilot’s seat was placed 70mm forward and 80mm higher to improve forward visibility
11. The fuselage fuel tanks were separated to front with 120l water methanol and rear of 280l. The two wing tanks were of 90l each for a total of 590l. Including the 250l of fuel carried by the drop tank, total fuel capacity could reach 840l.

IJNAF requirements called for a maximum speed of 340kt (629.6km/h) and reaching a height of 6,000m in less than 5min 10sec. The first prototype, designated J2M2, was completed in early October 1942 and the first flight took place on October 13, 1942 at Suzuka. During tests the J2M2 was able to do only 322kt (596.3km/h) and reached the height in 5min 38sec.
From the get go there were problems with the water-methanol injection system resulting in a lot of black smoke coming out of the engine but more serious was the excessive engine and propeller vibration as a result of the installation of a bigger engine. The mechanics of Mitsubishi constantly tried to rectify the problems by modifying and improving the engine mounting shock absorbers and the propeller. But none of these issues were satisfactorily resolved leading to the crash of the second prototype during testing in Suzuka on June 16, 1943 and the death of the test pilot Lt Hoashi Takumi.
In September 13, 1943 another accident took place with the 10th prototype when Mitsubishi test pilot Shibayama was in the controls.
In Autumn 1943 the J2M2 was officially named “Shisei Raiden” (Test Raiden) and although not all the problems had been rectified it was decided to be placed in production due to the worsening war situation. Mass production started in September 1943 and in total 155 J2M2s were produced (other sources mention 131).

The January 1964 issue of "Maru" magazine features an article by Toguchi Yuzaburo, a member of the Navy Test Department. He mentions that during ground testing the "Raiden" was different than all other aircraft. During taxing in full power it had the tendency to overturn because the engine was too strong. During this kind of testing one ground crew member had to ride on each horizontal tail surface or otherwise dead weights had to be placed. Taxing was particularly difficult with almost no forward visibility so the pilot had no other option but to zigzag on the airfield trying to avoid bumps and other aircraft. During take-off and landing the nose had the tendency to change direction and it was very difficult to retain a straight course. Toguchi-san makes clear that since "Raiden" units were organised he had never heard of in-flight accidents. There were many accidents during take-off and landing due to young pilot’s inexperience with the peculiarities of the type.
After take-off the "Raiden" had exceptional climbing speed, much better than the Zero. It was like the engine was pulling the whole aircraft and it could climb to 6,000meters in 5min. Nevertheless fuel consumption was high and therefore cruising time was short. Without a drop tank the aircraft had only 40 min to an hour flight time with only 15min combat time. In the air it had limited visibility like when on the ground and a rather wide turning circle much wider than the Zero-sen so the manoeuvres performed by the Zero were impossible to be done with a "Raiden". But apart from these two it had no other problems and using the type’s advantages like climbing power and speed a pilot could use this plane as a good interceptor.
He also mentions that since February 1945 the US bombers were escorted by scores of fighters and during battles a lot of "Raiden" were shot down. This was not due to the type's design but because the numbers were unfavourable towards the Japanese planes. In the beginning it was one "Raiden" to ten US fighters and gradually one "Raiden" to 20 US fighters.

At this point we would like to introduce one more invaluable source to the history of the type. A small book written by noted aviation historian Ikari Yoshio (born 1925 and a former member of the IJAAF Aviation Technical Department) titled "Raiden"  and published by Kojinsha in 2006. Ikari-san is using a number of official documents and other sources including the diary of Mitsubishi engineer and designer Sone Yoshitoshi who was next to Horikoshi and eventually replaced him. The publication is so full of details regarding the development of the "Raiden", none mentioned by other authors, that we will mention only a small number in this research.

As noted before there are no official Mitsubishi diaries or records detailing the exact production process of the various "Raiden" types. There are also only a small number of photos available. Therefore different authors have drawn different conclusions depending on the material available to them at the time.
Francillon and Nohara clearly mention that the fourth J2M1 prototype was modified and became the first J2M2 prototype, while Akimoto mentions that "one of the J2M1 prototypes" was modified.  
Ikari-san shows in great detail that the developments of the J2M1 and J2M2 were in parallel. Actually Mitsubishi at the time were extremely busy working on improving the Zero, on the "Raiden" and on the "Reppu". The installation of a larger engine caused many problems which Mitsubishi spent a lot of time and effort to rectify. These problems resulting in a disappointing performance of the first J2M2, made Mitsubishi and the Navy to go back and forth; Mitsubishi wanted to improve the J2M1, IJNAF promoted the J2M2. The result of this was that eventually all the J2M1 prototypes except the first were modified by Mitsubishi (see part 3) while they were working at the same time on more J2M2 prototypes. The J2M1 prototypes were actually used to test various techniques incorporated in the J2M2.
Various official documents and especially the diary of Sone confirm that not only the fourth J2M1 prototype did not become the first J2M2 but that actually none of the J2M1 prototypes became J2M2. From Ikari-san's book we will mention only a few facts that support this.
On February 19, 1942, there were meetings in Mitsubishi’s Nagoya factory regarding the design of the new J2M2 and it was decided that by the end of August, seven J2M1 were to be built and the design of J2M2 should be over by the end of May. One prototype was to be built by July and two in August and September respectively, totalling five J2M2 prototypes.
On April 22 there was another meeting discussing the painting process of the prototypes. It was decided that the first and fourth J2M1 prototypes as well as the first J2M2 prototype were to be polished, the second and fifth J2M1 as well as the second J2M2 were to have patty applied and then painted and finally the third, sixth, seventh, eighth J2M1 and the all the J2M2 following the third prototype were to be painted like the Zero-sen, gray.
The modified J2M1s were called J2M1-kai.
In the Sone diary it is mentioned that on October 8, 1942, the first and fourth J2M1-kai prototypes were to be test flown by the Navy.
The entry of the next day in Sone’s diary mentions that the second J2M2 prototype was to be completed by October 20 and the fifth by the end of November. These two entries clearly differentiate the J2M1-kai and the J2M2.
Ikari-san mentions that on January 4, 1943, the eighth J2M1 prototype and on January 13 the fourth J2M1 prototype had sustained minor damage.
On February 14, 1943, the Mitsubishi "Raiden" were as follows:
The first J2M2 returned to the factory.
The fuselage of the second J2M2 was to arrive in Suzuka by February 15.
The engine mount and the vibration dumpers of the fourth were to be tested.
The fifth was been test flown in Suzuka.
The second J2M1-kai was to be completed on February 18.
The first unit to receive the "Raiden" was 381ku organised on October 1, 1943, in Tateyama base, Chiba Prefecture. The unit was to be assigned to the protection of the Balikpapan oil fields of Borneo so it was deemed a suitable unit to receive an interceptor fighter. The unit relocated to a bigger base in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, but "Raiden" were barely delivered! In February 1944, the unit had only ten "Raiden" even though the unit was to be equipped with at least 36. On January 5, 1944, during shooting training the engine mount of the 30th production J2M2 lost its strength and dissolved in the air resulting in the death of the pilot. Due to such accident further modifications to the type were required, causing further delays in the production. So the 381ku quit to be a "Raiden" unit and changed to Zero 52s and relocated to Borneo from March of the same year.
In the photo below taken after the end of the war at the Mitsubishi factory in Nagoya, a rare 381Ku J2M2, serial number 2024, can be seen in the back.

Photo: "Asahi Shimbun" collection
The second Raiden unit was the 301ku organised in Yokosuka base, Kanagawa Prefecture on November 5, 1943. Again there were not enough "Raiden" as their delivery started from March 1944. In February 1944 the unit was split into the "Raiden" equipped Sento 601 Hikotai and the Zero equipped Sento 306 Hikotai, each with 48 aircraft.
Various air battle techniques were discussed and tested including one which the "Raiden" was to be positioned above the enemy bomber, then roll over and attack while diving. Although there were constant problems with their "Raiden" the unit gradually reached operational level. The unit was to relocate to Truk to participate in the Marianas fight but the orders changed and were assigned the air defence of Iwojima. But due to bad weather season and the inability to fly for long distance over the sea, the mission was cancelled and eventually the unit changed their "Raiden" to Zero-sen and finally was able to take part in battle.
The experience with the two units led to serious doubts about the abilities of the "Raiden" and the original production estimates of 3,695 a/c per year were changed to about 30-40 per month. In return, the idea was to augment the production of "Shiden/Shiden-kai". Pilots too became reluctant to fly the plane preferring the much easier to fly Zero-sen.

There are less than half a dozen J2M2 photos. One featured in most publications shows a later type J2M2 belonging to the 302 Ku with tail marking "ヨD-1171". The unit was organised on March 1, 1944 at Kisarazu base, in Chiba prefecture and due to slow delivery of "Raiden" it was largely equipped with Zero-sen and "Gekko". Artwork by our friend Devlin Chouinard.

*from Wiki: Constant-speed propellers allow the pilot to select a rotational speed for maximum engine power or maximum efficiency, and a propeller governor acts as a closed-loop controller to vary propeller pitch angle as required to maintain the selected engine speed. In most aircraft this system is hydraulic, with engine oil serving as the hydraulic fluid. However, electrically controlled propellers were developed during World War II and saw extensive use on military aircraft...

Friday 24 January 2014

Akagi Zero-sen diorama WIP#6 by Panagiotis Koubetsos

Happy New Year to you all!
I've just finished my Zeros and I'm relieved to get back to the Akagi island structure. Also I'd like to add that I was very happy to meet George Eleftheriou in Athens some days ago and have a good time together!



Thursday 23 January 2014

Artist - Hamaji Seimatsu

Painter Hamaji Seimatsu was born in 1885 in Kushimoto, Wakayama prefecture. In 1901 he travelled to California in the States to stay with his immigrant brother. There he decided to study art and he graduated from the Boston Art School. In returned to Japan and two years later found his own school in Shingu called "Shingu Foreign Art School". In 1925 travelled back to the USA and then to Paris returning to Japan two years later showing his work in numerous exhibitions.
During the war he visited the battlefront in central China with other artists and displayed his work in a War Art exhibition in Tokyo.
He passed away in March 1947.
The piece featured here was captioned: "Middle of August 1941. The aircraft is getting ready for another bombing mission against Chongqing from central China".

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Japanese Focke-Wulf Fw 190

From "Nihon Kokuki Shoshyu Vol.6" (Encyclopedia of Japanese Aircraft Vol.6), Shupan Kyodo, January 1972:
In 1943 the IJNAF imported one FW-190 A-5 from Germany transferred in a submarine. Tests between this plane and the Ki-84 and other single seat fighters were contacted mainly in Fusa airfield. Compared to other Japanese fighters, it was better in acceleration, climbing performance, armament etc. Furthermore, it was an inspirational design and Japanese airplane manufacturers learnt a lot about mass production planning and techniques. Together with the Me-210A they were the last planes imported by Japan
From Koku Fan magazine, February 1997 issue and the book "Rikugun Jiken Sentoki-tai" (Army Test Fighter Unit) by Watanabe Yoji, Green Arrow, September 1999: 
In charge of the tests contacted with the FW-190 in Fusa was LCDR Jimbo Susumu who was second in command of the Ki-84 tests.
Second in command of the FW-190 tests was LCDR Aramaki Yoshitsugu.
LCDR Aramaki, who was averagely built for a Japanese pilot, found the size of the cockpit of FW-190 exactly to his measurements, neither too narrow as in BF-109E, nor too spacious as in P-40. During take-off it didn't have deflection tendencies and had very good response to controls, going straight.
It had adequate climbing power and its acceleration speed during vertical flight, was exceptional. Responded very good to controls during manoeuvring and although it didn't have the diving acceleration speed of BF-109, it was good enough. According to LCDR Aramaki the plane's total performance was between the Type 4 (Ki-84 Hayate) and the Type 5 (Ki-100) fighter.
But the high reliability of the electric systems of the plane was exceptional and the difference in the manufacturing level was apparent everywhere.
From the top three planes that were test flown (BF-109E7, FW-190 A5, P-51C) the best was the FW-190A5.
WO Takezawa Toshiro remembers that the Focke-Wulf was a good plane, better that the Messerschmitt. Compared with the Messerschmitt, the Ki-61 was a better plane but in order to combat fighters, the FW was better than Ki-61 because the engine was more reliable. But the P-51 was better than the FW.
The four 20mm cannons and the two 7.92mm machine guns that the FW had, were more powerful than any Japanese single fighter had. Nevertheless, the range of Type 2 fighter (Ki-44 Shoki) was better.
From Koku Fan magazine, April 1957 issue, Aramaki interview:
Compared to Japanese aircraft it had good speed but flight performance was inferior. Compared to Me109 the Fw190 was easier to fly. Even though Aramaki was quite thin and wore summer suit, the cockpit of the Me109 was too tight for him. The Fw190's cockpit was more spacious so the control stick was easier to operate but not as comfortable as the Japanese aircraft. The Japanese type closer to the Fw190 was the Ki-84. There were no problems during circular turn and it was a very balanced aircraft overall.
Answering a question about the final fate of the aircraft, Aramaki replies that it was given on loan to a reconnaissance unit but doesn't know anything else. 
From Aireview #36, October 1954, article by Kuroe Yasuhiko:
The Me109 and the Fw190 were very similar aircraft in character. The Fw190 was really horrible during circular turn but starting speed was good and it was very pleasant to fly. It was also very reliable and a fine example of German technology.
During one of the test flight he had to land without extending the flaps. Upon inspection it was found that one of the ground crew members had forgotten a wrench inside the wing. The lesson of this was that if there was a problem with the aircraft it would be due to human error. A characteristic of German aircraft.
During mock-up air battle testing if the aircraft was in unfavourable position and the pilot chose to escape in a sharp dive, the pursuing Ki-84 had no chance to follow the Fw190.
Sudden speed acceleration was great and resembled a short distance speed runner. During high speeds it flew very smoothly giving a very favourable impression of an aircraft designed for speed giving an advantage during high speed air battles.   
Good photos taken by Kariya ? in September or early October 1943, in Maru magazine, June 1974 issue taken during a fun flight from Fusa to Tokorozawa. In the cockpit is pilot LCDR Jimbo who passed away during the war. Unfortunately the tail of the Fw190 is not visible in any of the photos so it is unknown if there was any marking.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21

IJNAF maintenance crew member training was taking place in Yokosuka Ku until 1942 when two separate units were established. Susaki Ku where weapon maintenance training was taking place and Oihama Ku, established on November 1, 1942 for fuselage and more.
Oihama Ku, based in Kanagawa prefecture, had two branches one in Sagamino, Kanagawa prefecture and one in Chita, Aichi prefecture. The unit was disbanded on December 20, 1944.  
The photo below shows a number of Zero-sen belonging to Oihama Ku, as indicated by the "オヒ" (OHI) tail marking undergoing maintenance.
The aircraft with the tail marking "OHI160" is a Model 21 with folded wing tip while the one next to it is a Model 32. The green top camouflage of the "OHI-160" was probably applied in the unit or the depot so it is not clear if it's a Mitsubishi or a Nakajima built Zero. The Model 32 next to it has no camouflage but retains the original overall hairyokushoku

A few words about the unit name which is often referred to as Oppama Ku (and Oppama base).
When in 1944 the Navy started building the facilities of the unit they encountered and transferred to a new location a small community, a Buddhist temple and the grave of Minamoto no Noriyori.

According to Wikipedia:
"In May 1193, when Yoritomo held a grand hunt on Mt. Fuji, an incident occurred in which two brothers of the Soga clan killed Kudo Suketsune, an enemy of their father.
A rumor spread that Yoritomo was killed. Yoritomo's wife Hōjō Masako worried about it, but Noriyori assured her that even in Yoritomo's absence, he would be there for her and for the clan. These words caused a doubt of Yoritomo, and Noriyori was confined to Izu Province. Soon Noriyori was attacked by warriors of Yoritomo's, and killed."
Actually the exact details of Noriyori's death are not clear and there were many rumours even during that time. According to one, he and a dozen followers of his pursued by Yoritomo's warriors escaped with a small ship and aided by fishermen landed on a beach which came to be known as "pursue beach". Still chased by Yoritomo's warriors, according to one rumour, they all committed seppuku.
"Pursue beach" in Japanese is "oihama" and it was at that exact place that the IJNAF unit was organised. While originally called "oihama" the name gradually changed to "oppama" but the unit marking "OHI" is from the original pronunciation and therefore the correct name of the unit should be Oihama Ku.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Visitors - The British Connection

On March 25, 1924 Squadron Leader Archibald Stuart Charles Stuart-MacLaren, Flying Officer William Noble Plenderleith, Sergeant W. H. Andrews of the Royal Air Force set off from Calshot in a Vickers Vulture II amphibious bi-plane (G-EBHO) in an eastbound attempt to circumnavigate the world. They arrived in Kasumigaura on July 8, photo below, after many mishaps but the attempt ultimately led to failure when their aircraft crashed on August 4 in the Commander Islands in the Bering Sea.
More details HERE.

On THIS pdf file we have uploaded from JACAR a number of interesting messages from the British Counsellor in Tokyo at the time Michael Palairet regarding this flight.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Mitsubishi G3M "Nell" - Kanoya Kokutai

A photo of a Type 96 Attack Bomber or Mitsubishi G3M2 Model 22 "Nell" belonging to the Kanoya Kokutai. A larger version of the same photo is featured in Richard M. Bueschel's "96 Rikko - in Japanese Naval Air Service" published by Schiffer and according to the caption it was taken in the summer of 1941 during a raid against Chungking. Unfortunately the published photo is too dark and most of the details, particularly the two tone top camouflage (green and sandy brown), get lost. 

Artist Nohara Shigeru includes artwork of a "Y-309" in the Model Art #406 "Camouflage & Markings of Imperial Japanese Navy Bombers in W.W.II". Unfortunately it is very inaccurate. First of all the artwork depicts a G3M2 Model 21 (with two retractable turrets) when the plane in the photo is clearly a 22 (with one retractable and one dome). The camouflage pattern is depicted in reverse and there is no white fuselage band. Other markings include a white band on the tail's edge and narrow red band over the tail marking. Nohara mentions that the tail marking is in yellow but to my eyes it looks probably white.
The artwork caption offers some very interesting and useful information though. Kanoya used the letter "Y" for the unit marking from the spring of 1938 to the summer of 1940. In the summer of 1940 the numbers 301~319 were reserved for the 1st Chutai and the numbers 320~339 for the 2nd Chutai. The letter "Y" changed to "K" from November 1940.    

Monday 13 January 2014

Mitsubishi G4M1 "Hamaki"

Four photos today from a vintage September 15, 1943 magazine featuring a Navy Type 1 Attack Bomber Model 12 or Mitsubishi G4M1 being maintained and getting ready for another mission somewhere in the South Pacific. I hope you find them inspirational diorama ideas. 

Saturday 11 January 2014

Kawasaki KDA-3, Ajia Koku Gakko & female pilots

A photo from a vintage January 1935 magazine. The captions says:
"Last year two members of our female pilot group flew to Manchukuo for the first time. We have high hopes that this will promote female aviation in our school. In the photo below, taken during their first flight of the year, four members of the Ajia Koku Gakko are featured, from left: Mses Murakami, Matsumoto, Hisada, Ikemura. The female group includes more members like Mses Mabuchi and Suwa but overall chief of the female group is Ms Matsumoto." 
The first female pilot who flew to Manchukuo was Ms Matsumoto Kiku who made the flight from October 22, 1934 to November 4 with a Salmson 2A2 named "Shiragiku", becoming the first Japanese female pilot to complete an overseas flight. The second was Ms Mabuchi Choko who took-off from Haneda on October 26, 1934 and arrived in Changchun on November 5, also with a Salmson 2A2 but named "Kicho" (Yellow Butterfly; her name "Choko" means "Miss Butterfly").
Ajia Koku Gakko (Asia Aviation School, a.k.a. Ajia Kokukikan Gakko - Asia Aero-engine School) was founded on May 19, 1933 by pilot Iinuma Kintaro. The school was located at Susaki airfield, Tokyo.

The girls are sitting on a rather rare Japanese X-plane; one of the Kawasaki KDA-3 prototypes. Wiki has a nice article about the type HERE. Ajia Koku Gakko received the third prototype which took the civilian registration J-BEYF and was modified to a two-seater.

Note the school marking on the fuselage sides and on the wings based on the "A" kanji for Ajia; 亜細亜, and the school name on the hangars. The type of the aircraft in the background registered J-BLES is unknown.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Kawanishi N1K1-J "Shiden" by Jean Barby

An absolutely brilliant Kawanishi N1K1-J Otsu "Shiden" by our friend Jean Barby. This particular plane, 210-149, belonged to the Tokushima branch of the 210Ku. The drop tank could hold 400l and the kanji in white above the tail marking is probably the first one in the name of the maintenance crew member responsible for this plane. The name of the pilot is unknown.