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Japan's Imperial Navy flag

Japan's Kawanishi N1K Shiden (violent lightning / lightning flash) fighter
Allied code name: George, George 21

Design

Kawanishi based the design for the N1K1-J Shiden on the N1K1 floatplane. Work on the design began privately in early 1942. The airframe was the basically the same.

Undercarriage Weakness

The Shiden's undercarriage was rather weak. The retraction system was complex and caused many problems.

Engine Issues

The Nakajima Homare radial engine's production qualities were rather poor and caused many problems.

Wings

There were special wing flaps control systems on the wings.

N1K2 Changes

In 1943 Kawanishi started making changes to the N1K1.

The wing was lowered and the forward fuselage was lengthened to move the engine and center of balance forward. The cowling was modified. The tail surfaces were new. The frame was simplified to make construction easier and the N1K2 weighed 500 lb / 227 kg less.

Prototype

The first prototype of the Shiden was finished in December 1942. The prototype of the N1K1-J first flew on December 27, 1942.

The N1K1 had a Homare 11 engine (1,820 HP). The Homare 11 didn't deliver the power it was supposed to and it was 45 mph / 72 kph slower than anticipated.

The mid wing also restricted pilot's vision. The undercarriage was shown to be very weak.

Three prototypes were given to the Japanese Navy but they stalled as they didn't want to acknowledge a privately developed aircraft.

The N1K2 prototype first flew on December 31, 1943.

Production

  • Prototypes: 9
  • Kawanishi N1K1-J: 998, 1,007
  • Kawanishi N1K2: ~400, 415, 428
    • Kawanishi N1K2-J and Kawanishi N1K2-Ja: 423
  • Total: 1,007, 1,435
    • Manufacturer: Kawanishi Kokuki K.K.
    • Production: 1943 - ?, 1943 - 1945

Variants

  • Kawanishi N1K1: Cannons mounted under wings in gondolas.
  • Kawanishi N1K1-Ja: No nose guns. All cannons mounted in the wings. Two more 20 mm cannons mounted under the wings.
  • Kawanishi N1K1-Jb: Racks under the wings for two 551 lb / 250 kg bombs.
  • Kawanishi N1K1-Jc: Racks under the wings for four 551 lb / 250 kg bombs.
  • Kawanishi N1K2-J: Fighter. Had better landing gear. Tail surfaces were improved. Engine cowling was cleaner.
  • Kawanishi N1K2-Ja: Fighter bomber.
  • Kawanishi N1K2-K: Two seat trainer.
  • Kawanishi N1K3-J: Machine guns mounted in the fuselage.
  • Kawanishi N1K4-J: Had Homare 23 engine (2,000 HP).
  • Kawanishi N1K4-A: Carrier fighter.

Usage

N1K1s started appearing in early 1944. N1K2s started being delivered in July 1944.

It's first major action was the defense of the Philippines in October 1944.

Held Its Own

In February 1945, Warrant Officer Kinsuke Muto of the 343rd Kokutai, fought twelve United States Navy Hellcats by himself. He shot down four of them.

Production Disruption

It was planned to produce the N1K2 in eight factories, but B-29 raids disrupted production.

Specifications

  Kawanishi N1K1-J Shiden, "George"
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Nakajima NK9H Homare 21 piston
Homare Model 21
Cylinders Radial 18
Cooling Air
Net HP 1,825, 1,990
Propeller blades 4
Dimensions  
Span 39' 4", 39' 4.25", 39' 4.4"
12 m
Length 29' 1.75", 29' 2"
8.89 m
Height 13' 3.8", 13' 3 7/8", 13' 4"
4.06 m
Wing area 252.95 ft2
23.5 m2
Weight  
Empty 6,387 lb
2,897 kg
Loaded 8,598 lb
3,900 kg
Maximum load 9,526 lb
4,321 kg
Performance  
Speed 574 kph
Speed @ 19,355' /
5,900 m
363 mph
584 kph
Speed @ 19,357' /
5,900 m
363 mph
584 kph
Cruising speed  
Cruise speed @ 19,685' /
6,000 m
230 mph
370 kph
Climb 3,300'/minute
1,006 m/minute
Climb to 19,685' /
6,000 m
7.8 minutes, 7.9 minutes
Service ceiling 41,010'
12,500 m
Range 890 miles
1,432 km
Range with drop tanks 1,581 miles
2,544 km
Armament 4: 20 mm
2: MG
Nose 2: 7.7 mm MG
2: 7.7 mm Type 97 MG
Wings 2: 20 mm
4: 20 mm Type 99
Bombs 264 lb
  Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden Kai, "George 21"
Type Fighter, Fighter bomber
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Nakajima NK9H Homare 21
Cylinders Radial 18
Cooling Air
Net HP 1,990
Propeller blades 4
Dimensions  
Span 39' 4", 39' 4.5"
12 m
Length 30' 8"
9.35 m
Height 12' 11", 13'
3.96 m
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty 5,858 lb
2,657 kg
Loaded 8,818 lb
4,000 kg
Maximum load 10,714 lb
4,860 kg
Performance  
Speed 595 kph
Speed @ 18,370' /
5,600 m
369 mph
594 kph
Speed @ 18,375' 369 mph
Cruising speed 230 mph
370 kph
Climb 3,300'/minute
1,006 m/minute
Climb to 19,685' /
6,000 m
7.4 minutes
Service ceiling 35,300'
10,760 m
Range 1,066 miles, 1,488 miles
1,715 km
Range with drop tanks 1,488 miles
2,395 km
Armament 4: 20 mm
Wings 4: 20 mm
Bombs 551 lb, 1,100 lb
250 kg

Sources:

  1. Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Editor: Karen Leverington, 1995
  2. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  3. Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II, Ikuhiko Hata, Yasuho Izawa, 1989
  4. World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  5. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
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