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Japan's Imperial Navy flag

Japan's Mitsubishi J2M Raiden (thunderbolt) fighter
Allied code name: Jack

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Mitsubishi J2M Raiden, "Jack", fighter:
Japan's Mitsubishi J2M Raiden fighter

Design

In 1939 a requirement was given and the Mitsubishi J2M Raiden was designed for it by Jiro Hirikoshi. Development started in October 1938, but was delayed a year while Mitsubishi concentrated on the A6M Zero.

The J2M was to be a land based fighter for the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was to have more speed and climb than maneuverability as previous designs. Many felt it was the best of the land based Navy fighters produced by Japan during World War II.

Engine

There were issues with the early engines and they were replaced by the Mitsubishi MK4R-A Kasei 23a (1,800 HP) which had water injection to temporarily increase speeds when needed. However, the water injection has problems of its own.

Tail Wheel Problems

In 1943 there were two accidents with J2M2s that was caused by the mechanism that retracted the tail wheel had been installed incorrectly. The mechanism, in a dive, would block the controls.

Fighting B-29s

To help the J2M fight the B-29 bombers at altitude two upward firing 20 mm guns were installed.

Prototype

There were 14 prototypes completed by February 1942.

The J2M1 prototype first flew on March 20, 1942. It took so long because there were issues with the cooling system for the engine and the laminar flow wing. Issues with the mechanism that retracted the landing gear also cropped up during testing. There was also the fact that the A6M Zero had priority as well.

Pilots found that it was hard to see out of the cockpit.

Production

The J2M2's production started in late 1942. The J2M3's production started in March 1943.

Volume production didn't start until September 1943 as there were issues with the engines and visibility problems.

The J2M5 first flew in May 1944.

  • Mitsubishi J2M1: 3
  • Mitsubishi J2M2: 155
    • Production: ? - March 1944
  • Mitsubishi J2M3: 260
  • Mitsubishi J2M3a: 21
  • Mitsubishi J2M4: 2
  • Mitsubishi J2M5: 34
    • Some manufactured by Koza Naval Air Arsenal.
  • Mitsubishi J2M6: 1
  • Total: 470, 476
    • Manufacturer: Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi Jukogyo K.K.

Variants

  • Mitsubishi J2M1: Prototype. Used Kasei 13 engine (1,430 HP).
  • Mitsubishi J2M2: Production.
  • Mitsubishi J2M2 Model 11: Production. Had water-methanol injected Kasei 23a engine.
  • Mitsubishi J2M3: Stronger wing. Had four 20 mm guns.
  • Mitsubishi J2M3 Model 21: Had four 20 mm guns.
  • Mitsubishi J2M4: Had turbocharger.
  • Mitsubishi J2M4 Model 32: Used turbocharged Kasei 23c engine (1,820 HP).
  • Mitsubishi J2M5: Had a Mitsubishi Kasei 26a radial engine (1,820 HP).
  • Mitsubishi J2M5 Model 33: Used Kasei 26a with three-stage supercharger.

Usage

Primarily used in home island defense. Since the J2M Raiden could climb fast and had a deadly punch it was used against the B-29s. Though the J2M couldn't reach the operational heights of the B-29.

Some were deployed in the Philippines in late 1944.

First Kokutai

The 381st Kokutai received the first J2Ms in late 1943.

Specifications

  Mitsubishi J2M Raiden
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type)  
Cylinders  
Cooling  
Net HP  
Propeller blades  
Dimensions  
Span 35' 5.25"
10.8 m
Length  
Height  
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty  
Loaded  
Performance  
Speed  
Cruising Speed  
Climb  
Service ceiling  
Range  
Armament  
  Mitsubishi J2M1 Raiden
Type  
Crew  
Engine (Type) Mitsubishi MK4A-R Kasei 23a
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling  
Net HP 1,800
Propeller blades 4
Dimensions  
Span 35' 5.25"
10.8 m
Length 31' 9.75"
9.69 m
Height 12' 8.5"
3.87 m
Wing area  
Weight  
Empty 5,176 lb
2,348 kg
Loaded 7,077 lb
3,210 kg
Performance  
Speed  
Cruising Speed  
Climb  
Service ceiling  
Range  
Armament  
Wings 2: 20 mm
Nose 2: 7.7 mm MG
  Mitsubishi J2M3 Raiden
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Kasei Model 23
Mitsubishi Kasei 23a piston
Mitsubishi MK4A-R Kasei 23a
Cylinders Radial, Radial 14
Cooling Air
Net HP 1,575, 1,800
Propeller blades 4
Dimensions  
Span 35' 5", 35' 5.2", 35' 5.25"
10.8 m
Length 32' 7", 32' 7.5", 32' 7.7"
9.94 m, 9.95 m
Height 12' 11", 12' 11.25", 12' 11.5"
3.94 m, 3.95 m
Wing area 215.82 ft2
20.05 m2
Weight  
Empty 5,423 lb
2,460 kg
Loaded 7,573 lb
3,435 kg
Performance  
Speed 610 kph
Speed @ 17,388' /
5,300 m
365 mph
588 kph
Speed @ 17,390' /
5,300 m
365 mph
588 kph
Speed @ 17,880' /
5,550 m
363 mph
584 kph
Cruising Speed 219 mph
352 kph
Climb 3,838'/minute
1,170 m/minute
Climb to 19,685' /
6,000 m
5.6 minutes, 5' 50"
Climb to 32,808' /
10,000 m
19.5 minutes
Climb to 32,810' /
10,000 m
19.5 minutes
Service ceiling 38,385', 38,386'
11,700 m
Range 575 miles, 655 - 1,180 miles, 1,180 miles
925 km, 1,054 - 1,900 km
Armament 4: 20 mm
Wings 4: 20 mm
4: 20 mm Type 99
Upward firing 2: 20 mm
2: 20 mm Type 99
Bombs 264 lb
Bombs under wings 2: 132 lb
2: 60 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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