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Japan's Imperial Navy flag

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

Photos

  • Mitsubishi J2M Raiden fighter
  • Mitsubishi J2M Raiden fighter
  • Mitsubishi J2M Raiden fighter
  • Mitsubishi J2M Raiden fighter

Design

In 1939 a requirement, 14-Shi, was given by the Imperial Japanese Navy 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 14-Shi requirements were:

  • Speed at 19,685' / 6,000 m: 373 mph / 600 kph
  • Climb to 19,685' / 6,000 m: 5 1/2 minutes
  • Landing speed: 81 mph / 130 kph
  • Endurance: 45 minutes
  • Armor behind pilot's seat

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.

To reduce the amount of drag an extension shaft was added to allow for a more tapered cowling.

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, with Katsuzo Shima piloting. 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 prototypes: 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, Service Airplane Development Program M-20: 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 J2M3a Model 21a: Two 20 mm Type 99 Model 1 in wing and two 20 mm Type 99 Model 2 in pods under the wings.
  • Mitsubishi J2M4: Had turbocharger.
  • Mitsubishi J2M4 Model 32: Used turbocharged Kasei 23c engine (1,820 HP).
  • Mitsubishi J2M4 Model 34: Use turbocharged MK4R-C Kasei 23c engine (1,420 HP). Two 20 mm cannons were mounted obliquely to allow for the aircraft to come under a B-29 and fire at it.
  • Mitsubishi J2M5: Had a Mitsubishi Kasei 26a radial engine (1,820 HP).
  • Mitsubishi J2M5 Model 33: Used Kasei 26a with three-stage supercharger.
  • Mitsubishi J2M5a Model 33A: Was to use the Kasei 26a engine and have four 20 mm Type 99 Model 2 cannons. Never built.
  • Mitsubishi J2M6 Model 31: Wider cockpit.
  • Mitsubishi J2M7 Model 23: Was to use the Kasei 26a engine. Never built.
  • Mitsubishi J2M7a Model 23A: Was to use the Kasei 26a engine and have four 20 mm Type 99 Model 2 cannons. Never built.

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.

Units

  • Kokutais: 302nd, 332nd, 352nd, 381st, Genzan, Tainan

First Kokutai

The 381st Kokutai received the first J2M1 Model 11s in late 1943 at Nagoya.

Specifications

  J2M
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Dimensions  
Span 35' 5.25"
10.8 m
  J2M1
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Mitsubishi MK4A-R Kasei 23a
Mitsubishi MK4C Kasei 13
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
Net HP 23a: 1,800
13: 1,430
Propeller blades 3 metal constant speed, 4
Dimensions  
Span 35' 5 3/16", 35' 5.25"
10.8 m
Length 31' 9.75", 32' 5.75"
9.69 m, 9.9 m
Height 12' 6 13/32", 12' 8.5"
3.82 m, 3.87 m
Wing area 215.816 sq ft
20.05 sq m
Weight  
Empty 4,830 lb, 5,176 lb
2,191 kg, 2,348 kg
Loaded 6,307 lb, 7,077 lb
2,861 kg, 3,210 kg
Performance  
Speed at 19,685' / 6,000 m 359 mph
312 knots
Service ceiling 36,090'
11,000 m
Armament  
Wings 2: 20 mm
2: 20 mm Type 99 Model 2
Nose 2: 7.7 mm MG
2: 7.7 mm Type 97
  J2M2
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Mitsubishi MK4R-A Kasei 23a
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
Net HP 1,800
Propeller blades 4 metal constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 35' 5 3/16"
10.8 m
Length 31' 9 11/16"
9.695 m
Height 12' 8 9/16"
3.875 m
Wing area 215.816 sq ft
20.05 sq m
Weight  
Empty 5,176 lb
2,348 kg
Loaded 7,077 lb
3,210 kg
Performance  
Speed at 17,880' / 5,450 m 371 mph
322 knots
Climb to 19,685' / 6,000 m 5 minutes 38 seconds
Armament  
Nose 2: 7.7 mm Type 97
Wings 2: 20 mm Type 99 Model 2
  J2M3
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, 4 metal constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 35' 5", 35' 5.2", 35' 5 3/16", 35' 5.25"
10.8 m
Length 32' 7", 32' 7.5", 32' 7.7", 32' 7 17/32"
9.94 m, 9.945 m, 9.95 m
Height 12' 11", 12' 11.25", 12' 11 5/16", 12' 11.5"
3.94 m, 3.945 m , 3.95 m
Wing area 215.816 sq ft, 215.82 sq ft
20.05 sq m
Weight  
Empty 5,423 lb
2,460 kg
Loaded 7,573 lb
3,435 kg
Performance  
Speed 610 kph
Speed at 17,388' / 17,390' / 5,300 m 365 mph
588 kph
317 knots
Speed at 17,880' / 5,550 m 363 mph
584 kph
Cruising Speed 219 mph
352 kph
190 knots
Climb 3,838'/minute
1,170 m/minute
Climb to 19,685' / 6,000 m 5.6 minutes, 5' 50", 6 minutes 14 seconds
Climb to 32,808' / 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
1,180 statute miles
1,025 nautical miles
Armament 4: 20 mm
Wings 4: 20 mm
4: 20 mm Type 99
2: 20 mm Type 99 Model 2
2: 20 mm Type 99 Model 1
Upward firing 2: 20 mm
2: 20 mm Type 99
Bombs 264 lb
Bombs under wings 2: 132 lb
2: 60 kg
  J2M4
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Mitsubishi MK4R-C Kasei 23 c
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
Net HP 1,820
Propeller blades 4 metal constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 35' 5 3/16"
10.8 m
Length 33' 3 13/32"
10.145 m
Height 12' 11 5/16"
3.945 m
Wing area 215.816 sq ft
20.05 sq m
Weight  
Empty 6,202 lb
2,823 kg
Loaded 8,702 lb
3,947 kg
Performance  
Speed at 30,185' / 9,200 m 362 mph
315 knots
Cruising Speed 230 mph
200 knots
Climb to 32,810' / 10,000 m 19 minutes 30 seconds
Service ceiling 37,895'
11,550 m
Range 575 statute miles
500 nautical miles
Armament  
  J2M5
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Mitsubishi MK4U-4 Kasei 26a
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
Net HP 1,820
Propeller blades 4 metal constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 35' 5 3/16"
10.8 m
Length 32' 7 17/32"
9.945 m
Height 12' 11 5/16"
3.945 m
Wing area 215.816 sq ft
20.05 sq m
Weight  
Empty 5,534 lb
2,510 kg
Loaded 7,676 lb
3,482 kg
Performance  
Speed at 22,310' / 6,800 m 382 mph
332 knots
Cruising Speed 230 mph
200 knots
Climb to 19,685' / 6,000 m 6 minutes 20 seconds
Service ceiling 36,910'
11,250 m
Range 783 statute miles
680 nautical miles
Armament  
Wings 2: 20 mm Type 99 Model 2
2: 20 mm Type 99 Model 1
  J2M6
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Mitsubishi MK4R-A Kasei 23a
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
Net HP 1,800
Propeller blades 4 metal constant speed
Armament  
Wings 2: 20 mm Type 99 Model 2
2: 20 mm Type 99 Model 1
  J2M7
Type Fighter
Crew 1
Engine (Type) Mitsubishi MK4U-4 Kasei 26a
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
Net HP 1,820
Propeller blades 4 metal constant speed
Armament  
Wings 2: 20 mm Type 99 Model 2
2: 20 mm Type 99 Model 1

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
  6. Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War, René J Francillon, 1970
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site