Kawanishi H3K

Kawanishi H3K

Kawanishi H3K

The Kawanishi H3K was a long range reconnaissance seaplane designed by Shorts and produced under licence in Japan by Kawanishi. In 1929 Kawanishi's chief engineer, Yoshio Hashiguchi, travelled to Britain to look for a suitable design for a long range patrol flying boat. Shorts demonstrated the Singapore I and the Calcutta. Hashiguchi preferred the Calcutta, but wanted to use different engines to avoid having to cooperate with Nakajima, which had the licence to build its Bristol Jupiter engines (Nakajima and Kawanishi had originally worked together, but the two men had argued and their companies became rivals).

Shorts produced a new aircraft based on the Rangoon (the military version of the Calcutta), but with Rolls Royce Buzzard engines. The new S.15 was a three-engined biplane, with the engines mounted between the wings. The lower wing was attached to the top of the hull, with the upper wing attached by five pairs of struts. The tail had a single main vertical control surface and two smaller outer vertical surfaces. The S.15 used modern construction techniques, and would give Kawanishi valuable experience of working on all-metal aircraft.

The S.15 had two open side-by-side cockpits, engineering and wireless positions and internal accommodation that included a ward room and galley. The first aircraft was built in Britain, where it made its maiden flight on 10 October 1930. The aircraft was then shipped out to Japan, where it was re-assembled with the help of a team from Shorts. Its first flight in Japan came on 8 April, and after a period of tests was accepted for production as the Navy Type 90 Model 2 Flying Boat. Four aircraft were built in Japan in 1932-33, and were similar to the first aircraft, but with enclosed cockpits. The aircraft were used for reconnaissance flights and training. One was lost in a accident but the surviving four aircraft remained in service until 1936.

The H3K was rather similar to the much larger Shorts Sarafand, but was actually the older aircraft, making its maiden flight in 1930, the year before work began on the Sarafand.

Engine: Three Rolls-Royce Buzzard engines
Power: 820-825hp each
Crew: 9
Wing span: 102ft 0in
Maximum take-off Weight: 37,920lb
Max Speed: 138mph
Endurance: 138mph
Armament: Six 0.3in machine guns
Bomb-load: 2,205lb

Kawanishi H6K Type 97 “Mavis”

Kawanishi H6 K- Mavis Flying Boat 03

The Japanese Navy’s requirements for new aircraft in 1934 included a request for a new long-range, multi-engined reconnaissance flying boat capable of patrolling the huge distances of the Pacific Ocean. Kawanishi, building on their experience of building the H3K flying boat and working with the British Short Brothers, produced a design for a four-engine patrol bomber that was designated the Kawanishi H6K.

The H6K featured a huge parasol wing, similar in configuration to the PBY Catalina. Unlike the Catalina however the H6K had four motors and twin tails. Later versions carried almost 3,000 gallons of fuel and could stay out on patrol for up to 24 hours, highly advantageous when undertaking dangerous long-range reconnaissance missions. Up to 1,000kg of bombs could be carried, giving the H6K the ability to attack lightly defended targets. A pair of torpedoes could also be carried, although this a rarely used capability.


Type 97s first appeared in 1938 during the China Incident, as the flying boats helped to maintain the blockade of the Chinese coast. By the time the Pacific War began H6Ks equipped four flying boat kokutai which supported the rapid advance of Japanese forces, including reconnoitring far flung Allied bases like Rabaul, Wake Island and Darwin.

H6Ks played a key role in locating American carrier task forces during 1942, particularly during the battles off Guadalcanal. Here the problems with the H6K’s design became clear, as American fighters found the big bombers particularly enticing targets which were prone to catching fire when attacked. The successor H8K took over front-line duties from the H6K during 1943, but the older aircraft nevertheless continued in service right up to the end of the war.

In 1942 the H6K was amongst the first Japanese aircraft to be assigned a codename by the Technical Air Intelligence team, receiving the reporting name “Mavis”.

Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden (George)

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 06/14/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

Despite some early setbacks in design, the Kawanishi N1K1-J "Shiden" (or "violet lightning" - codenamed "George" by the Allies), was an exemplary fighter that was capable of going head-to-head with even the fabled American F6F Hellcat series. Operating from land-bases, the Shiden featured a powerful engine, streamlined fuselage and potent armament display that provided Japanese forces with a fast and heavy-hitter in the latter stages of the Pacific War. Despite their successes, the system was only fielded in 1,400+ examples, limiting their reach and overall potential to an extent.

The Kawanishi design bureau had already been at work on a versatile floatplane and saw an opportunity to extend that design into a land-based variant. Using the same developed airframe, the N1K1-J was born from the existing N1K1 floatplane and featured an all-new Nakajima radial piston engine along with a newly-engineered landing gear system. The prototype N1K1-J premiered in late 1942 with production beginning the following year.

Kawanishi produced a very slender, almost featureless, design making for one streamlined airframe. Wings were low-mounted monoplanes just under and forward of the high-mounted cockpit, offering up good visibility. The engine was well forward of the cockpit and featured a large propeller hub and fitted engine cowling. All vertical and horizontal surfaces were curved and straight-edged, no doubt adding to the performance capabilities of the system. Power was derived from a single Nakajima NK9H Homare 21 radial piston engine producing an impressive 1,990 horsepower. Performance statistics reported a top speed of up to 363 miles per hour, a service ceiling of nearly 20,000 feet and an operational range of up to 890 miles. Armament consisted of a pair of 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns in the nose engine cowling and an additional 4 x 20mm cannons in the wings. Later models would feature provisions for external underwing bomb racks, adding to the already impressive armament array of this aircraft.

Entry into the war for the Shiden initially produced some mixed results as the powerplant proved to be in need of some more attention. Additionally, with new design elements on existing airframes come new problems, such being the case with the landing gear system (a system obviously not present in the floatplane design). On the combat side of things, however, the Shiden design never failed, proving to be more than a match for its American counterparts. The base N1K1-J series was produced in three follow-up variants that addressed different armament arrangements and bomb loads. An "improved" N1K1-J model was formed in the N1K1-2 series and addressed the aforementioned engine and landing issues along with other subtle design elements. By war's end, the Shiden had already made its mark as - at the very least - one of the top three Japanese fighters of the war.

У 1929 році Імперський флот Японії розробив технічне завдання на побудову важкого летючого човна для охорони своїх морських кордонів, оскільки Hiro H1H та Hiro H2H не задовольняли його по дальності польоту, вантажності та захищеності. У конкурсі взяли участь фірми «Hiro» та «Kawanishi».

«Hiro» запропонувала тримоторний човен-моноплан, який отримав назву H3H. У літаку було використано багато новинок, але машина виявилась недопрацьованою — мотори перегрівались, літак мав незадовільну курсову стійкість, важко відривався від водної поверхні.

«Kawanishi» замовила розробку британській фірмі Short Brothers, яка взяла за основу свій летючий човен Short S.8 Calcutta. Японці придбали 1 екземпляр літака та ліцензію на виробництво. Від англійського прототипу японський літак відрізнявся потужнішим двигуном Rolls-Royce Buzzard (825 к.с., 955 к.с. при зльоті) та закритою кабіною екіпажу.

Після проведення випробувань літак був прийнятий на озброєння під назвою «Летючий човен морський Тип 90-2» (або H3K).

Це був нерівнокрилий біплан, з металевим силовим набором крил та фюзеляжу. Корпус був обшитий дюралем, крила були металеві, лише елерони та хвостове оперення були обшиті полотном. Двигуни кріпились на міжкрильних стійках. Озброєння складалось з восьми 7,7-мм кулеметів (спарена установка в носовій частині, дві спарені установки над фюзеляжем та спарена хвостова установка). Літак міг нести до 1000 кг бомб (2х500 кг або 4х250 кг). Екіпаж складався з 6-9 осіб, залежно від задачі.

Всього було збудовано 5 літаків.

Технічні характеристики Редагувати

  • Екіпаж: 6-9 осіб
  • Довжина: 22,55 м
  • Висота: 8,77 м
  • Розмах крил: 31,05 м
  • Площа крил: 214,00 м ²
  • Маса пустого: 10 030 кг
  • Маса спорядженого: 15 000 кг
  • Двигуни: 3 х Rolls-Royce Buzzard
  • Потужність: 3 х 955 к. с.

Льотні характеристики Редагувати

  • Максимальна швидкість: 225 км/г
  • Крейсерська швидкість: 169 км/г
  • тривалість польоту: 9 год
  • Практична стеля: 4 040 м

Озброєння Редагувати

  • Кулеметне: 8 × 7,7 мм кулеметів
  • Бомбове навантаження: до 1000 кг бомб (2х500 кг або 4х250 кг)

Літаки Kawanishi H3K несли патрульну службу з охорони морських кордонів, деколи залучались до виконання транспортних задач. 8 січня 1933 року один літак H3K зазнав аварії, командир літака та двоє членів екіпажу загинули. [1]


Mechanics of 3219 Servicing Command of Royal Air Force (RAF), check the engines of a Japanese Kawanishi H6K 'Mavis' flying boat at Sourabaya Java, in preparation for an air test flight. Of interest are the markings added by Indonesian nationalists and the fact that an additional band of blue has been added to the fuselage marking by the Dutch.
Date January 1946.
The Kawanishi H6K was an Imperial Japanese Navy flying boat produced by the Kawanishi Aircraft Company and used during World War II for maritime patrol duties. The Allied reporting name for the type was Mavis the Navy designation was &quotType 97 Large Flying Boat, The aircraft was designed in response to a Navy requirement of 1934 for a long range flying boat and incorporated knowledge gleaned by a Kawanishi team that had visited the Short Brothers factory in the UK, at that time one of the world's leading producers of flying boats, and from building the Kawanishi H3K, a license-built, enlarged version of the Short Rangoon. The Type S, as Kawanishi called it, was a large, four-engine monoplane with twin tails, and a hull suspended beneath the parasol wing by a network of struts. Three prototypes were constructed, each one making gradual refinements to the machine's handling both in the water and in the air, and finally fitting more powerful engines. The first of these flew on 14 July 1936 and was originally designated Navy Type 97 Flying Boat, later H6K. Eventually, 217 would be built , Operational history H6Ks were deployed from 1938 onwards, first seeing service in the Sino-Japanese War and were in widespread use by the time the Pacific War full-scale erupted, in 1942. At that time of the war, four kokutai operated a total of 66 H6K4s.
The type had some success over South East Asia and the South West Pacific. H6Ks had excellent endurance, being able to undertake 24-hour patrols, and was often used for long-range reconnaissance and bombing missions. From bases in the Dutch East Indies, they were able to undertake missions over a large portion of Australia.

However, the H6K became vulnerable to a newer generation of heavier armed and faster fighters. It continued in service throughout the war, in areas where the risk of interception was low. In front-line service, it was replaced by the Kawanishi H8K.

A H6K2-L Navy Transport Flying Boat Type 97H6K1
Evaluation prototypes with four Nakajima Hikari 2 engines, 4 built.
H6K1 (Navy Flying Boat Type 97 Model 1)
Prototypes with 746 kW 1,000 hp Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 Engines, 3 converted from the original H6K1 prototypes.
H6K2 Model 11
First production model. Includes two H6K2-L officer transport modification, 10 built.
H6K2-L (Navy Transport Flying Boat Type 97)
Unarmed transport version of H6K2 powered by Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 engines, 16 built.
H6K3 Model 21
Modified transport version of H6K2 for VIPs and high-ranking officers, 2 built.
H6K4 Model 22
Major production version, modified H6K2 with revised weapons, some with 694 kW (930 hp) Mitsubishi Kinsei 46 engines. Fuel capacity increased from 7,764 L (1,708 Imp gal) to 13,410 L (2,950 Imp gal). Includes two H6K4-L transport versions, 100 to 127 (if other numbers are all correct) built.
Transport version of H6K4, similar to H6K2-L, but with Mitsubishi Kinsei 46 engines, 20 built and another two converted from the H6K4.
H6K5 Model 23
Fitted with 969 kW (1,300 hp) Mitsubishi Kinsei 51 or 53 engines and new upper turret replacing the open position, 36 built.

Ενώ ο προκάτοχος του H8K, το Kawanishi H6K, έμπαινε σε υπηρεσία το 1938 το Ναυτικό διέταξε την ανάπτυξη μιας ακόμα μεγαλύτερης αερακάτου που θα είχε μεγαλύτερη ακτίνα δράσης. [1] [2] Το υψηλοπτέρυγο αεροσκάφος που προέκυψε ήταν ίσως το καλύτερο της κλάσης του που αναπτύχθηκε οπουδήποτε κατά την διάρκεια του πολέμου. [3] [4] [5] Κατά την διάρκεια του προγράμματος ανάπτυξης και δοκιμών παρουσιάσθηκαν αρκετά προβλήματα. Το πρωτότυπο είχε πολύ κακή συμπεριφορά στο νερό, κάτι που επιλύθηκε όταν επανασχεδιάστηκε το κύτος του και έγινε βαθύτερο. [6] Δύο ακόμα αεροσκάφη προπαραγωγής μπήκαν στο πρόγραμμα δοκιμών τον Δεκέμβριο του 1941.

Τα πρώτα αεροσκάφη παραγωγής που παρέλαβε το Ναυτικό ήταν τα 14 H8K1. Ακολούθησαν τα βελτιωμένα H8K2 που είχαν πολύ ισχυρό αμυντικό οπλισμό. [7] Το Η8Κ2, που είχε επίσης ισχυρότερους κινητήρες, ήταν η βασική έκδοση παραγωγής. Κατασκευάστηκαν επίσης 36 μεταγωγικά H8K2-L, γνωστά και σαν Seiku, που μπορούσαν να μεταφέρουν 62 στρατιώτες αλλά είχαν μικρότερη ακτίνα δράσης και μειωμένο αμυντικό οπλισμό.

Τα H8Κ2 χρησιμοποιήθηκαν εκτενώς σαν αναγνωριστικά, βομβαρδιστικά και μεταγωγικά σε όλη την διάρκεια του πολέμου στον Ειρηνικό.

Η πρώτη πολεμική αποστολή που εκτέλεσαν αεροσκάφη του τύπου πραγματοποιήθηκε την νύχτα της 4ης Μαρτίου 1942 και αφορούσε την προσβολή του Περλ Χάρμπορ από δύο αερακάτους. Επειδή τα αεροσκάφη δεν είχαν αρκετά μεγάλη ακτίνα δράσης για να πλήξουν τον στόχο τους, ανεφοδιάστηκαν από υποβρύχιο σε ατόλη περίπου 900 χλμ. βορειοδυτικά της Χαβάης από το στόχο τους. Εξ' αιτίας της κακής ορατότητας δεν προκάλεσαν σημαντικές ζημιές. [8]

H8K1 Κατασκευάστηκε ένα πρωτότυπο και στην συνέχεια ακόμα τέσσερα συμπληρωματικά πρωτότυπα δοκιμών. Το αρχικό αεροσκάφος διέθετε κινητήρες Mitsubishi Mk4A Kasei 11, τα άλλα τέσσερα είχαν κινητήρες Mitsubishi MK4B Kasei 12. Το αρχικό πρωτότυπο μετασκευάστηκε στο μεταγωγικό H8K1-L τον Νοέμβριο του 1943. H8K1 Πρώτη έκδοση παραγωγής, με κινητήρες MK4B Kasei 12. H8K1-L Ανακατασκευή του πρωτοτύπου H8K1 που μπορούσε να μεταφέρει μέχρι 41 επιβάτες. H8K2 Κύρια έκδοση παραγωγής. Διέθετε δύο κινητήρες Mitsubishi MK4Q Kasei 22. Κάποια διέθεταν το πρώτο στην ιστορία ραντάρ αέρος επιφανείας. [12] H8K2-L Seikū Έκδοση μεταγωγικού του Η8Κ2 που μπορούσε να μεταφέρει ως 64 επιβάτες. H8K3 Πειραματικό αεροσκάφος εξοπλισμένο με ανασυρόμενους πλωτήρες στα ακροπτέρυγα, ανασυρόμενο πυργίσκο πολυβόλων στην ράχη και άλλες μετατροπές προκειμένου να αυξηθεί η ταχύτητα. Κατασκευάστηκαν μονάχα δύο πρωτότυπα, που ήταν μετασκευές υπαρχόντων Η8Κ2. H8K4 Πρόκειται για μετατροπή των δύο H8K3 με τους ισχυρότερους κινητήρες MK4T Mitsubishi Kasei 25b των 1,825 hp. H8K4-L Έκδοση μεταγωγικού του H8K4, δεν κατασκευάστηκε. G9K Έκδοση που θα είχε συμβατικό αεροδρόμιο και θα επιχειρούσε από αεροδρόμια. Δεν κατασκευάστηκε.

Kawanishi K-200

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 02/06/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Japanese concern of Kawanishi made a name for itself in service to the Empire by delivering a healthy stable of serviceable floatplane and flying boat aircraft. Before the end of the war in August of 1945, and amidst Japan's worsening war situation, many desperate projects were undertaken by local firms in an effort to meet military requirements put forth. Kawanishi, either through a private initiative or at the behest of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), began work on a new long-range flying boat design before the cessation of hostilities and this became the "K-200" which ultimately saw no prototypes completed, the project terminated with the end of the war.

Kawanishi found success with their conventionally-powered, four-engined H8K flying boat during the war and these served the IJN with distinction from January 1942 onward. With this big aircraft experience, the K-200 took shape as a high-winged development with outboard floats, a boat-like lower hull and traditional, single-finned tail unit. Instead of engines driving propeller blades as in the H8K, six turbojets were projected for power and arranged in two sets of three engine nacelles to be fitted over the wing mainplanes. The cockpit, heavily glazed, was fitted forward of the wings and aft of a nose cone assembly. The standard crew would most likely range between six and eight persons.

Since the K-200 only ever entered the planning stages very little concrete information went on to be finalized before the end. Its usefulness in service would have been limited - early-form Japanese turbojets were thirty devices and short on range though offering the necessary performance. Armament may have followed the established H8K arrangement being a mix of cannon and machine guns for both offensive- and defensive-minded actions - a dorsal turret and tail turret among key features most likely included. The aircraft's war load would have supported torpedoes, depth charges, mines and conventional drop bombs.

The illustration provided is a concept approach to the K-200 utilizing what was known of the design and elements seen in Kawanishi's past maritime products. Presented performance figures are pure estimates.


The Rangoon was a straightforward military adaption of the Calcutta. The major changes were the use of an enclosed cockpit for the pilots, the addition of three Lewis guns (one mounted forward of the cockpit and two in the fuselage behind the wings), the provision of enlarged fuel tanks in the upper wing, under-wing armament racks and a large fresh-water tank (specified for the intended use in tropical conditions). 6 aircraft were built from 1930 to 1933.

Operated by No. 203 Squadron RAF from Basra, Iraq. Rangoons provided useful service to the Royal Air Force, the French Navy and, (converted for civilian use), Imperial Airways. The last British Rangoon was taken out of service in 1938.

The Rangoon was a straightforward military adaption of the Calcutta. The major changes were the use of an enclosed cockpit for the pilots, the addition of three Lewis guns (one mounted forward of the cockpit and two in the fuselage behind the wings), the provision of enlarged fuel tanks in the upper wing, under-wing armament racks and a large fresh-water tank (specified for the intended use in tropical conditions).

The Rangoon was initially created as a military version of the Short S.8 Calcutta to meet Air Ministry Specification R.18/29 for a flying-boat for the Royal Air Force this direct development was emphasised by the assignment of the version number S.8/8. The Royal Air Force needed urgent replacements to re-equip No. 203 Squadron RAF, operating out of Basra, and three aircraft were constructed, the first of which was flown on 24 September 1930 by Shorts’ Chief Test Pilot, John Lankester Parker. The three Rangoons were delivered to Basra in 1931[3] over the next three years three more Rangoons (built to a higher specification R.19/31) were delivered to No. 203 Squadron RAF in Basra where they served without problem until they were replaced by Short Singapore IIIs in 1935.

In 1934 three Rangoons of No. 203 Squadron visited Australia as part of the Victoria Centenary celebrations.

No. 210 Squadron RAF at Pembroke Dock took delivery in August 1935 of the Rangoons returning from Basra, and when they left military service in 1936, one was converted for civilian use and flown by Imperial Airways for training purposes until its retirement.

Version produced by Shorts, 6 aircraft built.

Version produced by Shorts (1 aircraft) and by Breguet (4 aircraft – Breguet 521-01 Bizerte).

Version built by Short Brothers who built 1 aircraft. Remaining 4 were built as the Kawanishi H3K by Kawanishi, Japan.

Kawanishi H3K - History

The Kawanishi N1K1/2 was numerically, the second most important fighter of the Imperial Japanese Navy, behind only the Mitsubishi A6M. 1435 were produced, representing just under 10% of all IJN fighters. For Japan as a whole, only the A6M, Ki-43 (Oscar), Ki-61 (Tony), Ki-84 (Frank), Ki-27 (Nate) were produced in higher numbers . It was an important plane in Japanese military history, and is well represented at iModeler. N1K1/2-J was a solid, late-war design with a 1990 hp engine, which finally matched the F6F, F4U and P-47 in power.

Derived from the N1K1 floatplane, and with minimal modifications, the land plane N1K1-J kept the “mid-wing” design of the float plane fighter This mid-wing configuration makes it appear somewhat similar to the F2A and F4F, and presented similar landing gear challenges. The N1K1 had a LG that extended an extra foot when lowered. This extension is visible in the model at the gap between upper and lower LG doors. This feature (‘bug’, actually) led to reliability and maintenance problems, and for a military that was in desperate straits by 1944, reliability problems were not welcome. The LG issue finally resolved in the N1K2 by lowering the wing to a standard WW2 fighter form, which allowed for a shorter and more reliable LG structure. But I think the mid-wing version makes for a great looking model.

One of the pleasures of modelling is to be able to see our work from a near infinite variety of angles and make comparisons that we sometimes can’t see from a 2D picture. My finished model struck me as a mix between a P-47 and F2A-2. See Darren Dickerson’s *amazing* N1K1 (iModeler May 2020) in US colors for the P-47 comparison.

The Model is from the 1970s Otaki kit, straight out of box, including decals for the 341 Kokutai, which saw action in the October 󈧰 air battles around Formosa and the Philippine Islands. The decals worked great. Painting was Mr. Color 343 (Kawanishi IJN Green) and the underside metal was a mix of flat aluminum, chrome silver and semi-gloss black. Thanks to iModeler contributors on Shiden underside color research.

I view the Otaki N1K1-J as a solid model for its era, and was a lot of fun to build and paint.

Kawanishi N1K2-Ja Shiden (Violet Lightning) Kai (Modified) GEORGE

The Museum’s Shiden Kai displayed at our Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Kawanishi N1K2-Ja in Udvar-Hazy Aviation Hangar

Kawanishi N1K2-Ja at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Aviation Hangar

Display Status:

This object is on display in the World War II Aviation (UHC) at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

GEORGE is the unlikely Allied nickname for the best Japanese naval fighter produced in quantity during World War II. The official Japanese name and designation was Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden (Violet Lightning). This outstanding land-based fighter sprang directly from a floatplane fighter design, the N1K1 REX (see NASM collection).

Many countries used floatplanes for scouting and reconnaissance duties, and to hunt submarines and surface ships, but only Japan built and fielded fighters on floats. The Japanese Imperial Navy intended to use these specialized aircraft to gain air superiority above a beachhead to support amphibious landing operations where carrier or land-based fighters were unavailable. The Kawanishi N1K1 (Allied codename REX) was the only airplane designed specifically for this purpose to fly during World War II.

GEORGE is the unlikely Allied nickname for the best Japanese naval fighter produced in quantity during World War II. The official Japanese name and designation was Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden (Violet Lightning). This outstanding land-based fighter sprang directly from a floatplane fighter design, the N1K1 REX (see NASM collection).

Many countries used floatplanes for scouting and reconnaissance duties and to hunt submarines and surface ships. But only Japan built and fielded fighters on floats. The Japanese Imperial Navy intended to use these specialized aircraft to gain air superiority above a beachhead to support amphibious landing operations where carrier or land-based fighters were unavailable. The Kawanishi N1K1 (Allied codename REX) was the only airplane designed specifically for this purpose to fly during World War II.

In September 1940, the Japanese Navy issued a specification for floatplane fighters capable of supporting offensive naval operations. A team of engineers including Toshihara Baba, Shizuo Kikuhara, Hiroyuki Inoue, and Elizaburo Adachi had readied the first prototype by May 1942, and it flew on May 6. Tests showed that the speed of new airplane was only slightly less than the Mitsubishi A6M Zero (see NASM collection) and the amphibious fighter was almost as maneuverable as its land-based cousin. This was remarkable performance for an aircraft that could not retract or jettison its huge landing gear.

Long before the first Kyofu flew, Kawanishi engineers believed that the basic design would also make an excellent land-based fighter. The conversion appeared to entail simply replacing the main and wingtip floats with a conventional landing gear. The company decided to develop this variant as a private venture. As the project unfolded, the engineers decided to replace the 14-cylinder engine with a new 18-cylinder model expected to produce about 2,000 horsepower. The new engine required a larger propeller and this component, in turn, required abnormally long landing gear struts to prevent the blade tips from contacting the ground. Kawanishi flew the first N1K1-J land-based fighter on December 27, 1942. The new engine failed to deliver the expected power and the landing gear functioned poorly. The airplane also fell short of projected speed (649 kph - 403 mph) by 74 kph (46 mph) and could manage only 575 kph (357 mph). This was faster than the Mitsubishi A6M Zero ZEKE, however, and the Japanese Navy badly needed an effective counter to new American naval fighter aircraft such as the Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair (see NASM collection). The Japanese Navy ordered Kawanishi to abandon two other fighter projects and start building Shidens.

By the end of 1943, Kawanishi delivered about 70 of the new fighters and the Navy used these airplanes for pilot familiarization and training. Expecting Allied amphibious landings in the Philippines, the Navy sent the first Shiden unit to Cebu in time to challenge Allied air power supporting the invasion of that island in October 1944. Engine, landing gear, logistics, and maintenance problems plagued the Shiden units but Allied pilots realized they faced a superb new Japanese fighter.

With N1K1-J production underway and Shidens flying combat missions, Kawanishi set about refining the design. They lowered the wings from mid-fuselage and the extra ground clearance permitted the engineers to install a shorter, more conventional and less-troublesome landing gear, simplified the fuselage structure, and redesigned the empennage. Only the wings and armament remained from the initial design. The engine continued to give trouble, but the Navy was impressed with these improvements and ordered the new version into production as the N1K2-J Shiden-kai (modified). In air-to-air combat, experienced Japanese pilots flying the Shiden-kai could more than hold their own against most American pilots flying F6F Hellcats. In February 1945, a brave pilot, Warrant Officer Muto, single-handedly engaged 12 Hellcats and shot down four of them before the remainder disengaged. Flying intercept missions against Boeing B-29 Superfortresses above the home islands, the Shiden-kai was less successful because of inadequate climb speed and power loss at high altitudes.

Kawanishi developed several other variants and planned more when the war ended. About 1,500 of the various models were produced. In battle over Formosa (Taiwan), the Philippines, Okinawa, and the home islands, Shiden pilots acquitted themselves well but this excellent airplane was another good design that appeared too late and in too few numbers to reverse Japan's fortunes in the air war.

NASM's Shiden-kai is one of four remaining today. One is displayed at the National Museum of the U. S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, one at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, and another example is displayed at Misho Park, Ehime Prefecture, Japan. American intelligence units collected four GEORGE fighters from various Japanese airfields and delivered them to Yokosuka Naval Shipyard for shipment to the United States. The NASM GEORGE came from Omura or Oppama Naval Air Station, Japan, and the fighter arrived stateside aboard the escort carrier "USS Barnes." It was probably evaluated at the Naval Aircraft Factory at Philadelphia, and then moved to Willow Grove Naval Air Station. The GEORGE remained outdoors on display and steadily deteriorated along with a group of German and Japanese airplanes until 1983 when the Smithsonian Institution acquired it. The airplane was stored at the Paul Garber Facility until NASM loaned it to the Champlin Fighter Museum in Mesa, Arizona, for restoration in December 1991 and the project was completed in November 1994. The restored Shiden-kai wears the colors and markings of the 343rd Kokutai, a unit commanded by the man who had planned the 1941 attack on Pearl Harber, Minoru Genda.

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