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Japan's Imperial Navy flag

Japan's Nakajima J1N Gekko / Gekkō (moonlight); ; Navy Type 2
Allied code name: Irving

Design

The design of the Nakajima J1N started in 1938 and it was to be a land based long range escort for the Imperial Japanese Navy bombers in China.

Specifications

In 1938 the Japanese Navy issued 13-Shi specifications for a twin engine long range fighter with a crew of three.

  • Speed: 322 mph
  • Range: 2,302 miles
  • Armament: forward firing 20 mm and 7.7 mm guns, and a 7.7 mm machine gun in the rear of the cockpit

Katsuji Nakamura designed the aircraft with two Nakajima Sakae (1,130 HP) engines with propellers rotating in opposite directions.

Night Fighter

LCDR Kozono / Commander Yasuna Kozono, of the 251st Kokutai based at Rabaul, equipped a J1N with oblique firing machines guns. It proved successful and more planes were converted.

Prototype

The first flight of the J1N prototype was in May 1941. The second prototype included better flaps for improved maneuverability.

Flight trials with the two prototypes by the Japanese Navy showed that they were failures.

The following improvements were made to the design (J1N1-C):

  • Fuel capacity was reduced to save weight. Drop tanks were fitted.
  • Engines became the Sakae 21 and the propellers rotated in the same direction.
  • The cockpit was split into two sections. The front had the pilot and radio operator who had a rear firing 13 mm Type 2 machine gun. The rear cockpit had the navigator.

Production

J1Ns were first delivered in August 1942. The J1N1-S was first delivered in August 1943.

Production ended in December 1944.

  • Prototypes: 2
    • Production: Spring 1941
  • Nakajima J1N:
  • Nakajima J1N1-C Prototypes: 7
    • Production: 1941 - 1942
  • Nakajima J1N1-C: 54
    • Production: April 1942 - March 1943
  • Nakajima J1N1-S/Sa: ~420
    • Production: August 1943 - December 1944
    • Manufacturer: Nakajima at Koizumi
  • Total: 420, 470, 477, 479
    • Manufacturer: Nakajima Hikoki K.K.
    • Production: July 1942 - December 1944

Variants

  • Navy Experimental 13-Shi Three-Seat Escort Fighter: Prototype. Had Sakae 21/22 engines. The propellers rotated in opposite directions. There were dorsal barbettes that were remotely controlled that contained the armament.
  • Nakajima J1N1-C, Navy Type 2 Reconnaissance Plane: Reconnaissance. Armament was removed. Drop tanks could be placed under the center sections of the wings.
  • Nakajima J1N1-C KAI: Night fighter. Field modified. Obliquely mounted 20 mm cannon.
  • Nakajima J1N1-R: Reconnaissance. The C model became the R model.
  • Nakajima J1N1-S Model 11: Night fighter. The step in the upper rear fuselage was removed. Had two downward firing 20 mm cannons, but these were often removed in the field.
  • Nakajima J1N1-Sa: Night fighter. No downward firing guns.

Usage

Deliveries started arriving to reconnaissance units in April 1942.

Units

  • Kokutais: 251st, 302nd, 322nd

Solomons

Allied forces first encountered the J1N over the Solomons.

Anti-Bomber

The J1N1-S Gekkos were able to go up against the B-24 Liberators used in the southwest Pacific.

Later when used as home island defensive fighters the J1N1-S were unable to be effective against the B-29 Superfortresses.

Kamikaze

Some J1Ns were equipped with two 551 lb / 250 kg bombs for kamikaze attacks.

Specifications

  Nakajima J1N
Crew 2 or 3
Engine (Type) 2: Nakajima Nk1F Sakae 21
Cylinders Radial 14
Net HP 1,130 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 55' 8.5"
16.98 m
Length 39' 11.5"
12.18 m
Height 14' 11.5"
4.56 m
  Nakajima J1N1
Type Escort fighter
Engine (Type) 1: Nakajima NK1F Sakae 21
1: Nakajima NK1F Sakae 22
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
Net HP 1,130 each
Propeller blades 3 blade constant speed counter rotating
Dimensions  
Span 55' 8.5"
16.98 m
Length 39' 11.772"
12.18 m
Height 14' 11.594"
4.562 m
Wing Area 430.555 sq ft
40 sq m
Weight  
Empty 11,067 lb
5,020 kg
Loaded 15,984 lb
8,030 kg
Performance  
Speed at 16,405' / 5,000 m 315 mph
Speed - Cruising at 13,125' / 4,000 m 207 mph
  Nakajima J1N1-C/R, Nakajima J1N1-C
Type Reconnaissance
Crew 3
Engine (Type) 2: Nakajima NK1F Sakae 21
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
Net HP 1,130 each
Propeller Blades 3 metal constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 55' 8", 55' 8.5"
16.98 m
Length 39' 11", 39' 11.531"
12.18 m
Height 14' 11", 14' 11.594"
4.562 m
Wing Area 430.555 sq ft
40 sq m
Weight  
Empty 10,697 lb
4,852 kg
Loaded 15,190 lb
6,890 kg
Performance  
Speed at 19,685' / 6,000 m 329 mph
Speed - Cruising at 13,125' / 4,000 m 173 mph
Climb to 13,125' / 4,000 m 5 minutes 37 seconds
Service ceiling 33,795'
10,300 m
Range 1,677 miles
Armament 1: MG
Cockpit - Rear 1: 13 mm Type 2
  Nakajima J1N1-S/Sa
Type Night fighter
Crew 2
Engine (Type) 2: Homare Model 21
2: Nakajima NK1F Sakae 21
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
Net HP Homare: 1,100 each
Nakajima: 1,130 each
Propeller Blades 3 metal constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 55' 8.5"
16.98 m
Length 41' 10.75"
12.77 m
Height 14' 11.66"
4.56 m
Wing area 430.56 sq ft
40 sq m
Weight  
Empty 10,670 lb
4,840 kg
Loaded 15,454 lb
7,010 kg
Maximum load 18,043 lb, 18,045
8,184 kg, 8,185 kg
Performance  
Speed 500 kph
Speed at 19,160' / 5,840 m 314 mph, 315 mph
505 kph, 507 kph
Speed - Cruising 207 mph
333 kph
Speed - Cruising at 13,125' / 4,000 m 207 mph
Climb to 16,405' / 5,000 m 9.6 minutes, 9 minutes 35 seconds, 9 minutes 36 seconds
Service ceiling 30,610'
9,320 m, 9,330 m
Range 1,578 miles, 1,585 miles
2,540 km, 2,550 km
Maximum range 2,330 miles
3,750 km
Armament  
Upward Firing 2: 20 mm
2 or 3 20 mm Type 99
Downward Firing 2: 20 mm
Forward Firing 1: 20 mm

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  2. Japanese Naval Aces and Fighter Units in World War II, Ikuhiko Hata, Yasuho Izawa, 1989
  3. World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  4. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  5. Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War, René J Francillon, 1970
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site