. О Aichi D3A Japan

Type: Dive-Bomber

Dimensions: wingspan, 47 feet, 2 inches; length, 33 feet, 7 inches; height, 10 feet, 11 inches

Weights: empty, 5,310 pounds; gross, 5,772 pounds

Power plant: 1 x 1,080-horsepower Mitsubishi Kinsei 44 radial engine

Performance: maximum speed, 242 miles per hour; ceiling, 30,050 feet; range, 970 miles

Armament: 3 x 7.7mm machine guns; 816 pounds of bombs

Service dates: 1938-1945


espite its obsolete appearance, the Val was re­sponsible for sinking more Allied warships than any other Axis aircraft during World War II. It was subsequently employed in great numbers as a sui­cide plane (the dreaded kamikazes).

In 1936 the Imperial Japanese Navy decided to replace its aging Aichi D1A biplane dive – bombers with a more modern craft. A competition was held among several firms, and Aichi entered the winning design. It was the first all-metal mono­plane bomber employed by the Japanese navy and owed much to the earlier Heinkel He 70. The D3A was a radial-engine low-wing monoplane with spat­ted fix undercarriage. Like the He 70, the large wing was elliptically shaped and canted slightly up­ward past the midsection. Test flights indicated the need for enhanced stability, so production models were fitted with a lengthy dorsal fin. D3As became operational in 1938 and were popular with crews. They were robust, highly maneuverable, and could dogfight once bombs were dropped. After Decem­
ber 1941, D3As formed the front ranks of Japan’s elite carrier-based aviation squadrons.

The D3A, or Val, as it was code-named, quickly emerged as the terror of Allied shipping. Commenc­ing with the attack on Pearl Harbor, they accompa­nied the first wave, inflicting heavy damage on nu­merous U. S. battleships. D3As then ventured to the Indian Ocean, sinking the British carrier HMS Her­mes and cruisers Dorsetshire and Cornwall. They proved uncannily accurate: No less than 82 percent of bombs dropped by Vals struck their intended victims! Vals remained a potent force through the first half of 1942 before sustaining heavy losses at the Battles of Coral Sea and Midway. Thereafter, Japanese naval aviation could not replace their highly trained air­crews, and efficiency waned. By 1943 an improved version, the D3A2, arrived, featuring a cleaner cowl and a spinner, but Vals suffered greatly at the hands of improved Allied fighters. Those not hacked down in combat spent their last days as kamikazes. A total of 1,495 of these impressive bombers were produced.