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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.1,2,3,4,5 Work on the design began privately in early 1942.2,4 The airframe was the basically the same.2

Undercarriage Weakness

The Shiden's undercarriage was rather weak.1,2,5 The retraction system was complex and caused many problems.2

Engine Issues

The Nakajima Homare radial engine's production qualities were rather poor and caused many problems.1,5

Wings

There were special wing flaps control systems on the wings.4

N1K2 Changes

In 1943 Kawanishi started making changes to the N1K1.2

The wing was lowered3 and the forward fuselage was lengthened to move the engine and center of balance forward.2,4 The cowling was modified.2 The tail surfaces were new.2,4 The frame was simplified to make construction easier and the N1K2 weighed 500 lb / 227 kg less.2

Prototype

The first prototype of the Shiden was finished in December 1942.3 The prototype of the N1K1-J first flew on December 27, 1942.1,2,4,5

The N1K1 had a Homare 11 engine (1,820 HP).2 The Homare 11 didn't deliver the power it was supposed to and it was 45 mph / 72 kph slower than anticipated.2

The mid wing also restricted pilot's vision.2,4 The undercarriage was shown to be very weak.2

Three prototypes were given to the Japanese Navy but they stalled as they didn't want to acknowledge a privately developed aircraft.4

The N1K2 prototype first flew on December 31, 1943.2,3,4

Production

  • Prototypes: 92
  • Kawanishi N1K1-J: 9982, 1,0073
  • Kawanishi N1K2: ~4003, 4154, 4282
    • Kawanishi N1K2-J and Kawanishi N1K2-Ja: 4232
  • Total: 1,0072, 1,4351,4,5
    • Manufacturer: Kawanishi Kokuki K.K.4
    • Production: 1943 - ?1,5, 1943 - 19454

Variants

  • Kawanishi N1K1: Cannons mounted under wings in gondolas.2
  • Kawanishi N1K1-Ja: No nose guns.1,5 All cannons mounted in the wings.1,5 Two more 20 mm cannons mounted under the wings.2
  • Kawanishi N1K1-Jb: Racks under the wings for two 551 lb / 250 kg bombs.1,2,5
  • Kawanishi N1K1-Jc: Racks under the wings for four 551 lb / 250 kg bombs.1,2,5
  • Kawanishi N1K2-J: Fighter.2 Had better landing gear.1,2,5 Tail surfaces were improved.1,2 Engine cowling was cleaner.1,2
  • Kawanishi N1K2-Ja: Fighter bomber.2
  • Kawanishi N1K2-K: Two seat trainer.2
  • Kawanishi N1K3-J: Machine guns mounted in the fuselage.2
  • Kawanishi N1K4-J: Had Homare 23 engine (2,000 HP).2
  • Kawanishi N1K4-A: Carrier fighter.2

Usage

N1K1s started appearing in early 1944.2,3 N1K2s started being delivered in July 1944.2

It's first major action was the defense of the Philippines in October 1944.2

Held Its Own

In February 1945, Warrant Officer Kinsuke Muto of the 343rd Kokutai, fought twelve United States Navy Hellcats by himself.1,2,4,5 He shot down four of them.1,2,4

Production Disruption

It was planned to produce the N1K2 in eight factories, but B-29 raids disrupted production.2

Specifications

  Kawanishi N1K1-J Shiden, "George"1,2,4,5
Type Fighter1,2,4,5
Crew 11,2,4,5
Engine (Type) Nakajima NK9H Homare 21 piston1,2,4,5
Homare Model 213
Cylinders Radial 181,2,4,5
Cooling Air4
Net HP 1,8253, 1,9901,2,4,5
Propeller blades 41,2,4
Dimensions  
Span 39' 4"4, 39' 4.25"1,2, 39' 4.4"5
12 m1,2,5
Length 29' 1.75"1, 29' 2"2,4,5
8.89 m1,2,5
Height 13' 3.8"5, 13' 3 7/8"1, 13' 4"2,4
4.06 m1,2,5
Wing area 252.95 ft2 1,5
23.5 m2 1,5
Weight  
Empty 6,387 lb1,2,5
2,897 kg1,2,5
Loaded 8,598 lb2,4
3,900 kg2
Maximum load 9,526 lb1,2,5
4,321 kg1,2,5
Performance  
Speed 574 kph3
Speed @ 19,355' /
5,900 m
363 mph1,4
584 kph1
Speed @ 19,357' /
5,900 m
363 mph2,5
584 kph2,5
Cruising speed  
Cruise speed @ 19,685' /
6,000 m
230 mph2
370 kph2
Climb 3,300'/minute2
1,006 m/minute2
Climb to 19,685' /
6,000 m
7.8 minutes1,5, 7.9 minutes2
Service ceiling 41,010'1,2,4,5
12,500 m1,2,5
Range 890 miles1,2,5
1,432 km1,2,5
Range with drop tanks 1,581 miles2,4
2,544 km2
Armament 4: 20 mm3,4
2: MG4
Nose 2: 7.7 mm MG2
2: 7.7 mm Type 97 MG1,5
Wings 2: 20 mm2
4: 20 mm Type 991,5
Bombs 264 lb4
  Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden Kai2,4, "George 21"2
Type Fighter4, Fighter bomber2
Crew 12
Engine (Type) Nakajima NK9H Homare 212,4
Cylinders Radial 182,4
Cooling Air4
Net HP 1,9902,4
Propeller blades 42,4
Dimensions  
Span 39' 4"4, 39' 4.5"2
12 m2
Length 30' 8"2,4
9.35 m2
Height 12' 11"4, 13'2
3.96 m2
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty 5,858 lb2
2,657 kg2
Loaded 8,818 lb2,4
4,000 kg2
Maximum load 10,714 lb2
4,860 kg2
Performance  
Speed 595 kph3
Speed @ 18,370' /
5,600 m
369 mph2
594 kph2
Speed @ 18,375' 369 mph4
Cruising speed 230 mph2
370 kph2
Climb 3,300'/minute2
1,006 m/minute2
Climb to 19,685' /
6,000 m
7.4 minutes2
Service ceiling 35,300'2,4
10,760 m2
Range 1,066 miles2, 1,488 miles4
1,715 km2
Range with drop tanks 1,488 miles2
2,395 km2
Armament 4: 20 mm4
Wings 4: 20 mm2
Bombs 551 lb2, 1,100 lb4
250 kg2

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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