If you browse any major book seller, you tend to see a good many works on the experimental aircraft developed by Germany both before and, particularly, during World War 2. Also, you’d find a fine selection of books on the topic of American experimental planes. From time to time, you could find mention of such ‘X-planes’ of other nations amongst the text describing more well known aircraft. But you did not often see, if at all, books dedicated to Japanese experimental aircraft. Usually, one had to visit specialty book dealers, hobby shops, or be fortunate enough to be able to read another language in order to find books on the subject of Japanese X-planes.
I was first exposed to the world of Japanese experimental aircraft in 1988 through the classic book Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War by Rene J. Francillon. I found the book on the shelf in your typical mall bookstore. Sure, before then, I knew about the classic Japanese planes such as the Mitsubishi A6M Reisen and the Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa. But Francillon’s book brought to me such planes as the Nakajima Kitsuka, Mitsubishi J8M Syusui and the Tachikawa Ki-94.
My interest in military technology sat on the kerb through my college years but afterwards it slowly ramped back up. I found that I focused my reading on the military machine of Germany and the sheer breadth of technological innovation their engineers and scientists churned out. Small arms, armour, artillery, missiles, submarines, aircraft, rocketry and much more – no stone was left unturned by Germany’s scientists. It was during my studies of German aviation that I would see the Japanese pop up from time to time. Most often, it was the acquisition of German technology for development in Japan, or German plane designs offered for the Japanese to purchase. This piqued my interest in learning about what the Japanese had brewing in their aviation cauldron.
By this time, the World Wide Web was becoming the engine of information that it is today. While I was able to find bits of information regarding Japanese X-planes, it was never anything substantive. Stops into the local hobby shop or major book retailers did not turn up anything above and beyond what I already knew. I found a rather large gap in the online data pool on Japanese X-planes, at least in English, and so I sought about correcting that.
In 1998, I began to assemble a website inspired by Dan Johnson’s Luft ’46 which started in 1997 as a one-stop site about German X-planes. In 1999, my site, Hikoki: 1946, went live to the world. During its first few years, Hikoki: 1946 expanded to encompass 31 Japanese experimental aircraft and sections on engine specifications, German aircraft the Japanese were interested in or bought, missiles and more. Support for the site was great. Such people as artist Ted Nomura, Polish author Tadeusz Januszewski and J-Air – craft. com contributors Mike Goodwin, George Elephtheriou and D. Karacay helped the site by providing both artwork and data on some of the planes presented. By 2002, I felt that I’d exhausted what there was on the subject and the site entered a state of finality with no further updates having been done since.
Fast forward to the fall of 2007. Jay Slater of Ian Allan Publishing e-mailed me to discuss the prospect of writing a book on Japanese experimental aircraft. This was not the first time someone had approached me to do so. But unlike the others, Jay had a well known publisher behind him who had a number of X-plane books in print, many of which 1 had in my own library. It seemed natural to him that a book on Japanese X-planes would be a welcome complement to their existing titles as well as providing the English aviation historian or enthusiast with a ready source of dedicated information on Japanese X-planes. I certainly agreed.
The work you hold is not simply my Hikoki: 1946 website in book form. Yes, some of the aircraft in these pages can be found on the site but the information here has been further researched and revised. This means the data in these pages is far more up to date than the site. And for sure, the outstanding artwork provided makes this a spectacular publication and investment for your library.
Because of the constraints on the number of pages, there had to be a process of selecting aircraft for inclusion. The planes selected for this volume have been chosen based on several factors. The first was the nature of the plane in terms of being a conventional or a more radical design. Thus, while the Kugisho D3Y Myojo may be a relatively obscure plane of which only two were built, it was a very conventional aircraft in terms of design. The same applied to the Mitsubishi Ki-83. Therefore, these more conventional designs or prototypes received a lower selection priority over more advanced concepts. Another factor concerned aircraft which were derivatives of established production planes in the Japanese arsenal. As such, designs such as the Ki-116, which was derived from the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate, are also excluded. A third factor revolved around the pool of information available for a certain design. The more obscure or unknown the design was, the higher it was considered over other planes. For example, the scope of the Rikugun Kogiken designs were of far more interest and of a lesser known nature than the prototypes of the Nakajima G8N Renzan or the Aichi SI A Denko of which more information is readily available. Finally, X-planes that were purely research aircraft such as the Kawasaki Ki-78, those experimental planes constructed prior to the start of the war, and most of the non-combat aircraft (transports, gliders and the like) were generally excluded from contention. Perhaps in a future publication, those designs that did not make the cut for this book will get their chance.
It may appear that few aircraft remained with such pruning but it still left a significant number of planes to choose from, from the historically important Nakajima Kitsuka and Mitsubishi J8M Syusui, to more unknown types such as the Kugisho Tenga and Kawan – ishi K-200.
In so far as the book layout, aircraft are separated by service (IJA and UN) and then alphabetised by manufacturer. Those aircraft that were not of either service (or were joint projects) are listed last. Missiles and a selection of some of the more interesting aircraft munitions that were deployed or were in development are included along with a brief discourse on German technical exchange with Japan before and during World War 2. A feature in each aircraft chapter is the inclusion of a ‘Contemporaries’ section. The purpose of this is to illustrate to the reader that designs didn’t occur in a vacuum and similar concepts could be found in other Allied nations as well as Axis ones. This section should not in any way be construed as pointing to the Japanese as simply copying the work of other nations. While it is true that the Japanese air forces prior to the war were very keen on obtaining as much information on aviation technology as possible (and, in some cases, built and flew versions of foreign aircraft), once hostilities began Japan knew she could no longer rely on outside assistance for their aircraft industry and ensured it could stand on its own. This it did, producing many successful aircraft that were indigenous. The influx of German technology during the war can be viewed as another means by which Japanese aviation technology was boosted through a wartime ally, but more often than not it was an expediency to rapidly increase the capability of Japanese aircraft in the face of a worsening war situation and ever improving Allied fighters and bombers. It is hoped the information in this section will be a catalyst to learn more about the aircraft presented to expand one’s knowledge of aviation by other nations. Also keep in mind that this section does not list each and every plane that could be considered a contemporary. Instead, I have picked the more interesting and have intentionally listed only the aircraft name(s) in order to not take away from the main topic at hand. The reader will also find with certain aircraft a section called ‘Survivors’. Listed here are those aircraft that survived the war and what their fates were, either being scrapped or escaping the cutting torch. Where known, the Hepburn Romani – sation system is utilised for Japanese words.
Every attempt has been made to ensure
accuracy in the information provided in this book. Even as the writing of the book was underway, I was acquiring additional sources and checking and rechecking data to make sure nothing was amiss. Of course, at some point I had to ‘let it go’. If I held on to chapters waiting on the next titbit of information to appear, the book would never get finished and you wouldn’t be holding it in your hands. Thus, invariably, there is the risk of omitting something, interpreting a translation or source incorrectly, or just plain making an error. To that end, corrections, new information and any and all comments can be directed to the author at the e-mail address below.
I hope you, the reader, enjoy the book and find it a worthwhile addition to your library as a ready resource on some of the most interesting Japanese airplanes of the war.
Edwin M. Dyer III