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Sometimes Plato (427 BC – 347 BCE) hit the nail on the head; when he said ‘necessity (who) is the mother of invention’, he was obviously predicting what would happen to certain WW2 fighter aircraft and their engines! After the prototype Grumman F6F Hellcat flew, someone thought it would be a good idea to replace the Wright R-2600 Cyclone with the magnificent Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp.

The Hawker Tornado programme was dumped because the Rolls-Royce Vulture engine it shared with the Avro Manchester was failing (engine fires in the Avro Manchester – although it could have been sorted for a fighter application, maybe), so the Napier Sabre engine won out and the RAF got it’s sister aircraft, the Typhoon.

It was 1945, and the Japanese were losing the war – badly. Boeing B-29s were razing their cities to the ground, and they need a high-flying interceptor, fast. Using the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hein as a basis, the IJAAF try to build a manouverable fighter with genuine high-altitude performance, the Ki-61-II-KAI. Unfortunately, the temperamental inline of the new fighter – the Kawasaki Ha-140 - was unreliable, and when the factory where most were being built was flattened by a B-29 raid, the IJAAF was left with several hundred engineless airframes laying around. In desperation, the slim fuselage of three of these useless airframes were modified to take the only high-performance engine available, the 1,500 hp Mitsubishi Ha-112-II Kinsei …..the result wa the Ki-100-1b Goshikisentoki (or ‘Type 5 Fighter’). This was an absolute winner of a fighter ‘plane – the first examples of which reached Homeland Defence units in July, 1945 - and despite having a maximum speed of only 360 mph, they were manouverable, hard-hitting (2 x 20 mm Ho-5 cannon in the nose, 2 x 12.7 mm Ho-103 machineguns in the wings) and a danger not just to B-29s but even Mustangs, Hellcats and Corsairs. Fortunately for the Allies, the number of conversions and new-built aircraft were only enough to equip a handful of  IJAAF Sentai because of  the general disruption and destruction of the war industries.

The example you can see here was on display in the ‘Milestones of Flight’ Gallery at the RAF Museum, London, during my visit earlier this year (it is now on its way to RAF Museum,Cosford, as part of a general movement of airframes between the two sites). It was one of only four captured Japanese aircraft brought back to the U.K. after the end of the war for further study, out of over 60 selected by Air Intelligence Units - shipping space was given over to returning PoWs, of course. Two of the others ended up in museums –  a superb Mitsubishi Ki-46 “Dinah” at  the RAF Museum, Cosford, and the cockpit section of a Mitsubishi A6M5 “Zeke” in the Imperial War Museum, London. I have a distant link to the fourth airframe, in that the Kokusai Ki-86a Army Type 4 biplane trainer, a licence-built version of the Bücker Bü 131 Jungmann (and which would now be the only survivor) was burnt by RAF authorities at the then-RAF Wroughton in the 1950s - long before I got there as part of the Science Museum staff.

This Ki-100-1b is now the sole survivor of its type in the world, and its current state of preservation is a credit to the staff of the RAF Museum. If you are visiting the U.K. track it down, and view a marvellous example of aeronautical improvisation.

Originally posted to Kossack Air Force on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:00 PM PST.

Also republished by History for Kossacks and World War Two Aircraft.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Here ya go. (10+ / 0-)

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:07:18 PM PST

  •  Fun with large scale radio control. Not! (5+ / 0-)

    Here are a two large scale RC planes, a Corsair and Kawasaki Ki-100-1b in a mock air race.  It is very realistic, but like many things in life, does not end well.  This makes my wallet ache just to watch it.

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:12:59 PM PST

  •  Please excuse me for a short while, one and all... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, blueyedace2, KenBee

    ...I must do something savage to my endocrine system! chuckle

    Back soon!

  •  Republished to History for Kossacks. (6+ / 0-)

    Once again, thanks for this series. I've visited a couple of the air museums in Oregon and, thanks to your essays, I'm looking forward to going back and seeing the aircraft with new eyes.

  •  About twenty five years ago, (8+ / 0-)

    I was at the Air & Space Museum at the Smithsonian.  At that time, in the WW-II display, they had a Mitsubishi Zero hanging by wires from the ceiling, even with the mezzanine level.  There was an elderly Japanese man with his tiny wife standing at the railing.  He was pointing out various features on the plane to her.  As I got closer, I could see tears running down his weathered cheeks.  You could see the memories, and the pain, in his eyes.  I felt I was intruding on something special, so I moved away from them to give them their time with memories and history.  

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 04:21:02 PM PST

  •  Many thanks, SF. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, shortfinals, KenBee

    It's actually a pretty good looking plane for something that was cobbled together from what was on hand, and to have the performance that it did says a lot about wartime Japanese ingenuity.

    I seem to recall something about 'making a silk purse out of a sow's ear' from days past, and I think it applies here.

    •  The Japanese did some pretty amazing things at ... (4+ / 0-)

      ...end. There was a copy of the Me163, a 'near' copy of the Me262, and an amazing pusher fighter, the Kyushu J7W Shinden

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 07:44:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Flying Them Was the Most Amazing (5+ / 0-)

        By the start of the summer of 1945, the Japanese merchant marine didn't exist, which meant no oil tankers bringing that sweet, sweet crude from the Dutch East Indies.  Of course, the Japanese had started the war to be able to seize that oil source in their effort to establish petroleum autarky for their Empire.

        I recall reading that the Japanese were forcing women and students to go into the hills to dig up the roots from pines and similar conifers so that the roots could be rendered down into a type of oil to used for their air forces.  The sheer inefficiency of this just boggles the mind.  The utter desperation of such a program must have telegraphed to all that the war effort was not going well.

        Even if the Japanese had been able to build more airframes, their inability to fly the planes into combat and their inability to train pilots would have restricted their air defense.  It would seem that their best approach to air defense by the end would have been interceptors designed to climb quickly in order to engage the bombers with a single strike - as in collide with the bombers.  Essentially, make each plane a human-guided SAM.  That way one would not have wasted fuel on dog-fighting with the bombers' protective screen of escort fighters and simply proceeded with business - kamikazes in the sky.

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 08:22:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Aerial ramming was tried... (4+ / 0-)

          General wiki article here.

          Relevant section:

          Starting in August 1944, several Japanese pilots flying Kawasaki Ki-45 and other fighters engaging B-29 Superfortresses found that ramming the very heavy bomber was a practical tactic.[18] From that experience, in November 1944 a "Special Attack Unit" was formed using Kawasaki Ki-61s that had been stripped of most of their weapons and armor so as to quickly achieve high altitude. Three successful, surviving ramming pilots were the first recipients of the Bukosho, Japan's equivalent to the Victoria Cross or Medal of Honor, an award which had been inaugurated on 7 December 1944 as an Imperial Edict by Emperor Hirohito.[19][20] Membership in the Special Attack Unit was seen as a final assignment; the pilots were expected to perform ramming attacks until death or serious injury stopped their service.
        •  Whenever I think of the Japanese (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shortfinals, Otteray Scribe

          decision to attack the U.S., I wonder what they were thinking. I gather from what I have read that some of their high ranking military leaders had a pretty good grasp of what the eventual outcome would be. But as in our own case on later occasions, the top leaders proved to be overoptimistic.

          Moderation in most things.

          by billmosby on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 09:56:38 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yamamoto said that he could give ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            billmosby, Otteray Scribe

            the Japanese High Command 6 months..after that there was no telling what would happen. He was right.

            'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

            by shortfinals on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 10:20:17 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Should Have Re-Examined Their Midway Wargame (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              shortfinals, Otteray Scribe, lazybum

              Apparently the Japanese wargamed their attack on Midway, with some rather unfavorable results.  In the wargame, the Strike Force lost two carriers to American air action, which the wargame judges deemed too onerous to be realistic.  So, the re-surfaced the two carriers and continued with the air assault and troop landings  on Midway.  Big success, much back slapping all the way around, and, I'm sure, a few toasts of sake to celebrate the conclusion of the wargame.

              Of course, the Strike Force lost four carriers at Midway.  The American plan actually mirrored the plan the Japanese admiral playing the Americans in the wargame had used - staying just out of range to the north of Midway as the Japanese force approached from the northwest.  The Japanese had learned almost nothing from their wargame about what they should do to avoid a setback.  Yamamoto had actually delivered on his promise and then some.  Without Midway as it happened, the Japanese likely would have had another six months to solidify their position.  With the real Midway, their six months lead was actually weaker than it should have been. Victory disease ran rampant that spring and it cost them dearly.

              "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

              by PrahaPartizan on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 07:03:45 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Akagi model.... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Otteray Scribe, PrahaPartizan

                The Empire State Aerosciences Museum (visited on 'The Infamous Ice Road Trip') has an incredible, floatable, powered scale model of the Akagi from the film 'Tora, Tora, Tora'. It is 32 long, and was 'piloted' by a small individual from a reclining position!

                'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

                by shortfinals on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 07:47:36 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Great Idea (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  I was unaware that they had created an aviation museum up in the Capital Region, since most of the aviation history in NY state is located on Long Island.  Thanks for bringing this site to my attention.  

                  "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

                  by PrahaPartizan on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 08:59:45 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Since David & I visited with them, I've been in... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    contact with the members several times, particularly over the Scimitar. I'll be travelling there, again, when the weather gets better. A GREAT bunch of people - can't speak too highly of them, and their preservation efforts. Much more on their collection later, including the Akagi model, and their HAL Ajeet! (Painted as a Gnat in Red Arrows markings, despite being a single-seater...everything always is, not their fault!)

                    'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

                    by shortfinals on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 09:10:02 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

  •  Very cool (4+ / 0-)

    I didn't know any of these things still existed.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 07:18:08 PM PST

  •  Thanks SF! (5+ / 0-)

    Desperate people do desperate things.  I hadn't heard that there was any creditable threat to the B-29's over Japan in the late war months.

    FWIW, a former co-worker was a B-29 Navigator.  He got shot down on a mine-laying mission in March of 45.  Thirty years later, we has still receiving free dental care due to his captivity.

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 07:23:01 PM PST

  •  Once you get above a two-row radial,... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    billmosby, Otteray Scribe are almost assured of major cooling problems. Some of these could be lessened by use of an engine-driven fan, as in the 12-bladed unit on the BMW801 engines in the Fw 190.

    •  From my reading, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe, shortfinals

      the R-4360's four rows were pretty efficiently cooled as far as I have read. Also, a number of versions of the R-3350 were rated almost at the same power output as the R-4360 on 1000 fewer cubic inches and 10 fewer cylinders. I wonder if those differences made it harder to cool.

      Do you know if the Deerhound showed any cooling problems? I have never found all that much on it in print.

      Moderation in most things.

      by billmosby on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 05:24:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Given the fact that only 11 engines were built in (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the whole series, and that it DID initially encounter cooling problems we don't have a big sample. They did try forced cooling from the rear of the engine (where, of course, you always find the rear banks of cylinders running hotter and hotter, normally).

        A pity that the programme died, plus the fact that R/R got the data and did nothing with it - they were not about to, of course!

        I can't find an image of the Whitley testbed, unfortunately....

        Here is only reference in Flight International (go to bottom of page)

        'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

        by shortfinals on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 08:38:32 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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