Aichi S1A Denko (Bolt of Light) Night Fighter

Aichi S1A Denko (Bolt of Light) Night Fighter

Aichi S1A Denko (Bolt of Light) Night Fighter

The Aichi S1A Denko (Bolt of Light) was a Japanese Navy night fighter that was at an advanced stage of development before US bombing destroyed the two prototypes, effectively ending the programme.

The Japanese Navy issued a specification for a night fighter late in 1943. This called for an aircraft with a top speed of 426mph at 29,530ft, a rate of climb of 8 minutes to 19,685 and an endurance of 5 hours. The new aircraft was to be armed with two 30mm cannon and it was to carry airborne radar.

Aichi responded with a twin-engined two-man aircraft with the designation Navy Experimental 18-Shi Night Fighter Denko (Bolt of Light). The basic layout was fairly conventional. The thick tapered wings were low mounted. The engines were carried below the wings, with the retractable landing gear sharing the nacelles.

More advanced features were built into the wings, which had drooping ailerons that could act as extra landing flaps and air breaks to prevent the fighter from overshooting its target.

The S1A was to be armed with two 30mm Type 5 and two 20mm Type 99 Model 2 cannon carried in the lower forward fuselage and two rearward firing 20mm Type 99 Model 2 cannon in a remotely controlled turret between the radar operator and the tail.

The crew of two were given separate cockpits. The pilot had a long canopy over the wing leading edge. The radar operator/ rear gunner was at the trailing edge, with a small dome over his position.

Aichi and the Japanese Navy disagreed over the correct engine to use. The Navy favoured the Nakajima Homare engine, but this didn't perform well at altitude. Top speed with two 2,000 NK9K-2 Homare 22 twin-row radial engines was estimated at 391mph early in the design process, then dropped to 366mph. If turbosupercharged Homare 24 engines had been available, a top speed of 422mpg was estimated.

Two prototypes were under construction, and both reached quite an advanced stage before being destroyed in Allied bombing raids. The first prototype was 70% complete and the second 90% complete. No replacement prototypes were produced and the type never flew.

Performance estimates
Engine: Two Nakajima NK9K-S Homare 22 eighteen cylinder air-cooled radial engines
Power: 2,000hp each at take-off, 1,885hp each at 5,740ft, 1,620hp each at 21,000ft
Crew: 2
Span: 57ft 31/32in
Length: 49ft 6 1/2in
Height: 15ft 1 1/2in
Empty weight: 16,138lb
Loaded weight: 22,443lb
Maximum take-off weight: 25,375ft
Max speed: 366mpg at 26,245ft
Climb Rate: 14min 45sec to 29,530ft
Service ceiling: 39,370ft
Normal range: 1,054 miles
Maximum range: 1,580 miles
Armament: Two forward firing 30mm cannon, two forward firing 20mm cannon and two rear firing 20mm cannon
Bomb load: 551lb


Aichi S1A

The Aichi S1A Denko (Bolt of Light) was a Japanese night fighter, intended to replace the Nakajima J1N1-S Gekkou (Allied code name Irving). It was to be, like the Gekkou, equipped with radar to counter the B-29 air raids over the Japan. Development time increased while trying to overcome design shortcomings, such as the insufficient power of the Navy's requested Nakajima Homare engines, resulting in no aircraft being completed before the war ended.


Aichi S1A "Denko"

As this airplane went under our radar, we consider that we have to publish it now.

The Aichi S1A Denko (Japanese word for Bolt of Light) was the prototype of a Japanese night fighter designed to replace the Nakajima J1N1-S Gekkou.

As it was full of special equipment, like a mounted-in radar (something very rare for a Japanese aircraft) it's weight exceded in ten thousand kilograms and the initial prototype's engines didn't pass the Navy's standards only two of them were manufactured, and the designers at Aichi expended the rest of the time trying to fix the design shortcomings, specially the excess of weight.

As it was a very rare design for a Japanese, it's worth to mention that, it was the first IJN designed airplane to serve specifically as a night fighter (the previous Gekkou was just a heavy fighter devoid of any radar), it featured a powerful armament, something that wasn't usual for the Japanese planes of those years. In fact in the fuselage, configured for a forward firing position it had two 30mm type 5 cannons plus another two 20mm type 99 model 1 cannon. As a defensive armament it had a remote-controlled turret equipped with a 20mm type 99 model 2 cannon.
It's worth to point that the turret was something like a fake defensive turret as it was configured to shoot in the 'Schräge Musik' tactic which fired in an elevation angle of up to 30º from the horizontal position and allowed to aim and shoot without changing the flight direction of the airplane.

The prototypes were powered by two 2000hp Nakajima NK9K-S and, as those weren't good enough for the Navy's standards, plans were set for a version powered by either the more powerful Mitsubishi HI MK9A Ru or MK10A Ru engines.

The development was really catastrophic as the first prototype was badly damaged in the Tonankai earthquake of 1944 and then, on 9th June 1945 an American air strike destroyed completely the first prototype and the development was concentrated on the second one, but just one month later on 9th July 1945, another air strike destroyed the second one too.


ISBN 13: 9786135505832

Please note that the content of this book primarily consists of articles available from Wikipedia or other free sources online. The Aichi S1A Denko (Bolt of Light) was a Japanese night fighter, intended to replace the Nakajima J1N1-S Gekkou (Allied code name Irving). It was to be, like the Gekkou, equipped with radar to counter the B-29 air raids over the Japan. Development time increased while trying to overcome design shortcomings, such as the insufficient power of the Navy's requested Nakajima Homare engines, resulting in no aircraft being completed before the war ended.

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JAPANESE SECRET PROJECTS BOOK 2

Continua la trattazione degli aerei sperimentali segrete delle Forze Aree nipponiche dal 1922 alla fine della seconda guerra mondiale. Riccamente illustrato come il primo volume e con tutti i dati tecnici degli oltre 40 progetti descritti. Tra gli aerei presentati: Tachikawa Ki-104, Kawasaki Ki-48-II Kai, Nakajima Ki-117, Kawasaki Ki-199, Hitachi 'He-Type', Aichi S1A Denko, Mitsubishi Q2M1 ASW, Kawanishi K-60, Yokosuka D5y1 Myojo kai.

This is the second volume in the Japanese Secret Project series, compiled by popular demand after the great success of the first volume. In this book the authors have gone back to the earliest yearas to show the development of secret and x-plane aircraft projects in Japan since 1922 as well as show further projects during the World War 2 years. This popularity reveals that Secret and X-Plane aircraft projects remain highly popular with historians, enthusiasts, modellers and the flight sim community. Surprisingly, secret Japanese planes of World War 2 remain an area which has not been extensively covered due to scarcity of information. They do, however, have a large base of interest as unlike the majority of secret Luftwaffe programs that were resigned to the drawing board, the vast number of aircraft featured within this book actually flew or were in development. As with the first volume, the book is divided into two sections dedicated to the two air forces of the IJA and IJN, with over 40 aircraft examined, each with its history, variants, performance, and any combat records laid out in an easy to read fashion. This is beautifully complimented by stunning colour renditions of the aircraft in combat and colour profiles of genuine markings and camouflage. The majority of the book is dedicated to aircraft that were under development or in service during the war years, but there are examples of pre-war experimental aircraft, and a selection of missile projects. Sample aircraft projects include: Imperial Japanese Army Air Force Tachikawa Ki-104 fighter Kawasaki Ki-48-II Kai and Ki-174 suicide light bomber Nakajima Ki-117 high altitude fighter Kawasaki Ki-119 light bomber Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force Hitachi 'He-Type' heavy bomber Aichi S1A Denko night fighter Mitsubishi Q2M1 ASW bomber Kawanishi K-60 flying boat Yokosuka D5Y1 Myojo Kai suicide aircraft


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Contents

Early examples

At the start of World War I, most combatants had little capability of flying at night, and little need to do so. The only targets that could be attacked with any possibility of being hit in limited visibility would be cities, an unthinkable target at the time. The general assumption of a quick war meant there was no need for strategic attacks. [2]

Things changed on 22 September and 8 October 1914, when the Royal Naval Air Service bombed the production line and hangars of the Zeppelin facilities in Cologne and Düsseldorf. [3] Although defences had been set up, all of them proved woefully inadequate. As early as 1915, [N 1] a number of B.E.2c aircraft (the infamous "Fokker Fodder") were modified into the first night fighters. After lack of success while using darts and small incendiary bombs to attack Zeppelins from above, ultimately a Lewis gun loaded with novel incendiary ammunition, was mounted at an angle of 45° to fire upwards, to attack the enemy from below. This technique would prove to be very effective. [5]

After over a year of night Zeppelin raids, on the night of 2&ndash3 September 1916, a B.E.2c flown by Captain William Leefe Robinson downed the SL 11, the first German airship to be shot down over Britain. [6] This action won the pilot a Victoria Cross and cash prizes totaling £3,500 put up by a number of individuals. This downing was not an isolated victory five more German airships were similarly destroyed between October and December 1916, and caused the airship campaign to gradually be diminished over the next year with fewer raids mounted. [N 2] [8]

Because of airships' limitations, the Luftstreitkräfte began to introduce long-range heavy bombers, starting with the Gotha G.IV aircraft that gradually took over the offensive. While their early daylight raids in May 1917 were able to easily evade the weak defenses of London, the strengthening of the home defence fighter force led to the Germans switching to night raids from 3 September 1917. [7] To counter night attacks, Sopwith Camel day fighters were deployed in the night fighter role. The Camels' Vickers guns were replaced by Lewis guns mounted over the wings as the flash from the Vickers tended to dazzle the pilot when they were fired, and synchronised guns were considered unsafe for firing incendiary ammunition. Further modification led to the cockpit being moved rearwards. The modified aircraft were nicknamed the "Sopwith Comic". [9] To provide suitable equipment for Home Defence squadrons in the north of the UK, Avro 504K trainers were converted to night fighters by removing the front cockpit and mounting a Lewis gun on the top wing. [10]

Interwar period

With little money to spend on development, especially during the great depression, night fighting techniques changed little until just prior to World War II.

In the meantime, aircraft performance had improved tremendously compared to World War I versions, modern bombers could fly about twice as fast, at over twice the altitude, with much greater bomb loads. They flew fast enough that the time between detecting them and the bombers reaching their targets left little time to launch interceptors to shoot them down. Anti-aircraft guns were similarly affected by the altitudes they flew at, which required extremely large and heavy guns to attack them, which limited the number available to the point of being rendered impotent. At night, or with limited visibility, these problems were compounded. The widespread conclusion was that "the bomber will always get through", and the Royal Air Force invested almost all of their efforts in developing a night bomber force, with the Central Flying School responsible for one of the most important developments in the period by introducing "blind flying" training. [11]

The Spanish Republican Air Force used some Polikarpov I-15 as night fighters. Pilot José Falcó had equipped his fighter with a radio receiver for land-based guidance for interception. One of the I-15s configured for night operations, fitted with tracer and explosive .30 rounds, scored a daylight double victory against Bf 109s in the closing stages of the war. [12]

Nevertheless, there were some new technologies that appeared to offer potential ways to improve night fighting capability. During the 1930s there was considerable development of infrared detectors among all of the major forces, but in practice these proved almost unusable. The only such system to see any sort of widespread operational use was the Spanner Anlage system used on the Dornier Do 17Z night fighters of the Luftwaffe. These were often also fitted with a large IR searchlight to improve the amount of light being returned. [13]

Immediately prior to the opening of the war, radar was introduced operationally for the first time. Initially these systems were unwieldy and development of IR systems continued. Realizing that radar was a far more practical solution to the problem, Robert Watson-Watt handed the task of developing a radar suitable for aircraft use to 'Taffy' Bowen in the mid-1930s. In September 1937 he gave a working demonstration of the concept when a test aircraft was able to detect three Home Fleet capital ships in the North Sea in bad weather. [14]

The promising implications of the test were not lost on planners, who re-organized radar efforts and gave them increased priority. This led to efforts to develop an operational unit for "Airborne Interception" (AI). The size of these early AI radars required a large aircraft to lift them, and their complex controls required a multi-person crew to operate them. This naturally led to the use of light bombers as the preferred platform for airborne radars, and in May 1939 the first experimental flight took place, on a Fairey Battle. [15]

World War II

The war opened on 1 September 1939, and by this time the RAF was well advanced with plans to build a radar &ndash then called 'RDF' in Britain &ndash equipped night fighter fleet. The Airborne Interception Mk. II radar (AI Mk. II) was well on its way to becoming operational, and the Bristol Blenheim was increasingly available for fitting. The first operational system went into service in November 1939, long before the opening of major British operations. Several improved versions followed, and by the time The Blitz opened in 1940, the AI Mk.IV was available and offered greatly improved performance with a range between 20,000 feet down to a minimum range of 400 feet. This greatly reduced the load on the Chain Home ground GCI component of the night fighter system, who only had to get the fighter within four miles before the fighter's radar would be able to let them take over during the attack. Due to the relatively low performance of the Blenheim (a converted bomber) the British experimented with using RDF-equipped Douglas Havoc bombers converted to carry a searchlight, illuminating the enemy aircraft for accompanying Hurricane single-engine fighters to shoot down. Known as the Turbinlite, the idea was not a success, and in time, both the Blenheim and the Turbinlite were replaced, first by night fighter versions of the Beaufighter and then by the even higher-performing de Havilland Mosquito, which would later accompany the Bomber stream on raids over Germany. In this role support was provided by No. 100 Group RAF with Mosquitos fitted with an assortment of devices, such as Perfectos and Serrate, for homing-in on German night fighters. [16] The British also experimented with mounting pilot-operated AI Mark 6 radar sets in single-seat fighters, and the Hurricane II C(NF), a dozen of which were produced in 1942, became the first radar-equipped single-seat night-fighter in the world. It served with 245 and 247 Squadrons briefly and unsuccessfully before being sent to India to 176 Squadron, with which it served till end-1943. [17] [18] A similarly radar-equipped Hawker Typhoon was also produced but no production followed.

German efforts at this point were years behind the British. Unlike Britain, where the major targets lay only a few minutes flight time from the coast, Germany was protected by large tracts of neutral territory that gave them long times to deal with intruding bombers. Instead of airborne radar, they relied on ground-based systems the targets would first be picked up by radar assigned to a "cell", the radar would then direct a searchlight to "paint" the target, allowing the fighters to attack them without on-board aids. The searchlights were later supplanted with short-range radars that tracked both the fighters and bombers, allowing ground operators to direct the fighters to their targets. By July 1940 this system was well developed as the Kammhuber Line, and proved able to deal with the small raids by isolated bombers the RAF was carrying out at the time. [19]

At the urging of R.V. Jones, the RAF changed their raid tactics to gather all of their bombers into a single "stream". This meant that the ground-based portion of the system was overwhelmed &ndash with only one or two searchlights or radars available per "cell", the system was able to handle perhaps six interceptions per hour. By flying all of the bombers over a cell in a short period, the vast majority of the bombers flew right over them without ever having been plotted, let alone attacked. German success against the RAF plummeted, reaching a nadir on 30/31 May 1942 when the first 1,000 bomber raid attacked Cologne, losing only four aircraft to German night fighters. [20]

It was not until 1942 that the Germans first started deploying the initial B/C low UHF-band version of the Lichtenstein radar, and at that time in extremely limited numbers, using a thirty-two dipole element Matratze (mattress) antenna array. This late date, and slow introduction, combined with the capture of a Ju 88R-1 night fighter equipped with it in April 1943 when flown to RAF Dyce, Scotland by a defecting Luftwaffe crew allowed British radio engineers to develop jamming equipment to counter it. A race developed with the Germans attempting to introduce new sets and the British attempting to jam them, with the British holding the upper hand throughout. The early Lichtenstein B/C was replaced by the similar UHF-band Lichtenstein C-1, but when the German night fighter defected and landed in Scotland in April 1943, that radar was quickly jammed. The low VHF-band SN-2 unit that replaced the C-1 remained relatively secure until July 1944, but only at the cost of using huge, eight-dipole element Hirschgeweih (stag's antlers) antennas that slowed their fighters as much as 25 mph, making them easy prey for British night fighters who had turned to the offensive role. The capture in July 1944 of a Ju 88G-1 night fighter of NJG 2 equipped with an SN-2 Lichtenstein set, flown by mistake into RAF Woodbridge, revealed the secrets of the later, longer-wavelength replacement for the earlier B/C and C-1 sets. [21]

The Luftwaffe also experimented with single-engine aircraft in the night fighter role, which they referred to as Wilde Sau (wild boar). In this case, the fighters, typically Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, were equipped only with a direction finder and landing lights in order to allow them to return to base at night. In order for the fighter to find their targets, other aircraft which were guided from the ground would drop strings of flares in front of the bombers. In other cases, the burning cities below would provide enough light to see their targets. [22] Messerschmitt Bf 109G variants had G6N and similar models fitted with FuG 350 Naxos "Z" radar receivers for homing in on the three gigahertz band H2S emissions of RAF bombers &mdash the April 1944 combat debut of the American-designed H2X bomb-aiming radar, operating at a higher 10 GHz frequency for both RAF Pathfinder Mosquitos and USAAF B-24 Liberators that premiered their use over Europe, deployed a bombing radar that could not be detected by the German Naxos equipment. The Bf 109G series aircraft fitted with the Naxos radar detectors also were fitted with the low-to-mid-VHF band FuG 217/218 Neptun active search radars, as were Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-6/R11 aircraft: these served as radar-equipped night-fighters with NJGr 10 and NJG 11. A sole Fw 190 A-6 Wk.Nr.550214 fitted with FuG 217 is a rare survivor. [23]

The effective Schräge Musik [N 3] offensive armament fitment was the German name given to installations of upward-firing autocannon mounted in large, twin-engine night fighters by the Luftwaffe and both the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and Imperial Japanese Army Air Service during World War II, with the first victories for the Luftwaffe and IJNAS each occurring in May 1943. This innovation allowed the night fighters to approach and attack bombers from below, where they would be outside the bomber crew's field of view. Few bombers of that era carried defensive guns in the ventral position. An attack by a Schräge Musik-equipped fighter was typically a complete surprise to the bomber crew, who would only realize that a fighter was close by when they came under fire. Particularly in the initial stage of operational use until early 1944, the sudden fire from below was often attributed to ground fire rather than a fighter. [24]

Rather than nighttime raids, the US Army Air Forces were dedicated to daytime bombing over Germany and Axis allies, that statistically were much more effective. [25] The British night-bombing raids showed a success rate of only one out of 100 targets successfully hit. [26] [ page needed ] At the urging of the British who were looking to purchase U.S. made aircraft, US day fighters were initially adapted to a night role, including the Douglas P-70 and later Lockheed P-38M "Night Lightning". The only purpose-built night fighter design deployed during the war, the American Northrop P-61 Black Widow was introduced first in Europe and then saw action in the Pacific, but it was given such a low priority that the British had ample supplies of their own designs by the time it was ready for production. The first USAAF unit using the P-61 did not move to Britain until February 1944 operational use did not start until the summer, and was limited throughout the war. Colonel Winston Kratz, director of night fighter training in the USAAF, considered the P-61 as adequate in its role, "It was a good night fighter. It did not have enough speed". [27]

The U.S. Navy was forced into the night fighting role when Japanese aircraft successfully harassed their units on night raids. The Japanese Navy had long screened new recruits for exceptional night vision, using the best on their ships and aircraft instead of developing new equipment for this role. To counter these raids, the Navy fitted microwave-band, compact radar sets to the wings of its single-engined Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair fighters by the close of the war, operating them successfully in the Pacific. [N 4] In several cases these aircraft were used on raids of their own. [29]

Postwar

Even while the war raged, the jet engine so seriously upset aircraft design that the need for dedicated jet-powered night fighters became clear. Both the British and Germans spent some effort on the topic, but as the Germans were on the defensive their work was given a much higher priority. Their Messerschmitt Me 262 was adapted to the role and Oberleutnant Kurt Welter claimed 25 Mosquitos at night.

Other forces did not have the pressing need to move to the jet engine Britain and the U.S. were facing enemies with aircraft of even lower performance than their existing night fighters. However, the need for new designs was evident, and some low-level work started in the closing stages of the war, including the US contract for the Northrop F-89 Scorpion. When the Soviet plans to build an atomic bomb became known in the west in 1948, this project was still long from being ready to produce even a prototype, and in March 1949 they started development of the North American F-86D Sabre and Lockheed F-94 Starfire as stop-gap measures. All of them entered service around the same time in the early 1950s. In the Korean war, after Starfires proved ineffective, Marine Corps Douglas F3D Skyknights shot down six aircraft, including five Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15s without loss as the MiG-15s lacked radar to shoot down individual fighters though they were effective against bomber formations at night.

The RAF began studies into new fighter designs in the immediate post-war era, but gave these projects relatively low priority. By the time of the Soviet bomb test, the night fighter design was still strictly a paper project, and the existing Mosquito fleet was generally unable to successfully intercept the Tupolev Tu-4 bomber it was expected to face. This led to rushed programs to introduce new, interim night fighter designs, leading to night fighter versions of their Gloster Meteor in 1951, along with a similar conversion of the de Havilland Vampire. These were followed by the de Havilland Venom in 1953 and then Navy's de Havilland Sea Venom. The advanced night fighter design was eventually introduced in 1956 as the Gloster Javelin, by this time essentially outdated. In Canada, Avro Canada introduced the CF-100 Canuck, which entered service in 1952.

Night fighters existed as a separate class into the 1960s. As aircraft grew in capability, radar-equipped interceptors could take on the role of night fighters and the class went into decline. Examples of these latter-day interceptor/night-fighters include the Avro Arrow, Convair F-106 Delta Dart and the English Electric Lightning.

At the time the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was offered to the Navy, the Vought F-8 Crusader had already been accepted as a "day" dogfighter, while the subsonic McDonnell F3H Demon was the Navy's all-weather fighter. The Phantom was developed as the Navy's first supersonic all-weather radar-equipped fighter armed with radar-guided missiles. However, compared to early air-superiority designs such as the F-100 or F-8, the massive Phantom nevertheless had enough raw twin-J79 power to prove adaptable as the preferred platform for tangling with agile MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighters over the skies of Vietnam, as well as replacing the US Air Force Convair F-102 Delta Dagger and Convair F-106 Delta Dart for continental interception duties and the Republic F-105 Thunderchief as a medium fighter-bomber. The need for close-in dogfighting spelled the end for the specialized Grumman F-111B which was armed only with long-range AIM-54 Phoenix missiles for fleet defence against bombers. The Navy instead developed the Grumman F-14 Tomcat which on top of the heavy Phoenix, retained the Phantom's versatility and improved agility for dogfighting. The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle was also an interceptor with enhanced agility, but did not carry the Phoenix in preference to the role of an air-superiority fighter.

The reduced size and cost of avionics has allowed even smaller modern fighters to have night interception capability. In the US Air Force's Lightweight Fighter (LWF) program, the F-16 was originally envisaged as inexpensive day fighter, but quickly converted to an all-weather role. The similar McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet in its CF-18 variant for the RCAF, was ordered with a 0.6 Mcd night identification light to enhance its night interception capabilities.


Japanese Aircraft of WWII

By 1943, the bombers then in service were not adequate to the task. For too long Japanese designers remained with twin engined bombers and these had reached a point where no more capability could be squeezed out of them, regardless of modifications tried. Service aircraft such as the Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu ( Storm Dragon ) and the older Mitsubishi Ki-21 "Sally" could not keep pace with and survive in the face of allied fighter power. The Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryu ( Flying Dragon ) proved better able to cope to a degree but it arrived in the war area much too late to make much of an impact. What was needed was something more capable with a greater range, heavier bomb load, and most importantly, something faster than those bombers in the field. And to do this required the use of more engines.

While the Navy struggled with the Nakajima G8M Renzan ( Mountain Range ) four engined bomber ( which was hampered by allied air attacks and material shortages ), Kawasaki undertook a four engined design for the Army and this was the Ki-91.

Kawasaki began investigating this design in May of 1943 but progress was slow. The Ki-91 featured a fully pressurized cabin and had a radius of action of 2,796 miles with a 8,818lb. bomb load. While this range was 436 miles more than the Ki-67 Hiryu, the bomb load able to be carried by the Ki-91 was 7,053lbs. more than the Ki-67, a substantial payload improvement. If the bomb load was less, a maximum range of 6,214 miles could have been reached. The estimated speed of 360mph for the Ki-91 was 26mph faster than the Ki-67. All around, the Ki-91 was proving to be a superior airplane to the best of the bombers then in service.

The defensive armaments for the Ki-91 were heavy, easily outgunning the weapon fits of the Ki-67. There were five power-operated turrets, all but one of them mounting two 20mm cannon. The remaining turret, mounted in the tail, was equipped with four 20mm cannon. There was a turret in the nose, one on the top of the fuselage, and two beneath the fuselage along with the tail position.

The engine array consisted of four Mitsubishi Ha-214 Ru engines, each developing 2,500hp which would drive the plane at its maximum speed of 360mph. Two engines were mounted in each wing in streamlined cowling/nacelles.

Overall, the Ki-91 would have been 108ft . and 3in. long, have a span of 157ft. and 5in., and have a loaded weight of 127,868lbs.


Aircraft similar to or like Nakajima J1N

Two-seat, twin-engine heavy fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. The army gave it the designation "Type 2 Two-Seat Fighter" the Allied reporting name was "Nick". Wikipedia

Twin-engine medium bomber produced by Mitsubishi and used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in World War II. Its Army long designation was "Army Type 4 Heavy Bomber" (四式重爆撃機). Wikipedia

Single-engine land-based tactical fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in World War II. Often called the "Army Zero" by American pilots because it bore a certain resemblance to the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the Imperial Japanese Navy's counterpart to the Ki-43. Wikipedia

Purpose-built, rocket-powered human-guided kamikaze attack aircraft employed by Japan against Allied ships towards the end of the Pacific War during World War II. Itself vulnerable to carrier-borne fighters. Wikipedia

The standard carrier-based torpedo bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) for much of World War II. Substantially faster and more capable than its Allied counterparts, the American Douglas TBD Devastator monoplane , and the British Fairey Swordfish and Fairey Albacore torpedo biplanes, it was nearing obsolescence by 1941. Wikipedia

Japanese World War II fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service. The Japanese Army designation was "Army Type 3 Fighter" (三式戦闘機). Wikipedia

The main fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force up until 1940. Called "Abdul" in the "China Burma India" theater by many post war sources Allied Intelligence had reserved that name for the nonexistent Mitsubishi Navy Type 97 fighter, expected to be the successor to the carrier-borne Type 96 (Mitsubishi A5M) with retractable landing gear and an enclosed cockpit. Wikipedia

Single-seat single-engine monoplane fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service during World War II. The Japanese Army designation was "Type 5 Fighter" (五式戦闘機). Wikipedia


Contents

Early examples

At the start of World War I, most combatants had little capability of flying at night, and little need to do so. The only targets that could be attacked with any possibility of being hit in limited visibility would be cities, an unthinkable target at the time. [ 2 ] The general assumption of a quick war meant there was no need for strategic attacks. [ 3 ]

Things changed on the night of 20-21 March 1915 with the first Zeppelin airship attacks on Paris. The first night bombing of London followed on 31 May 1915. Although defences had been set up, all of them proved woefully inadequate. As early as 1915, [ N 1 ] a number of B.E.2c aircraft (the infamous "Fokker Fodder") were modified into the first night fighters. After lack of success while using darts and small incendiary bombs to attack Zeppelins from above, ultimately a Lewis gun loaded with novel incendiary ammunition, was mounted at an angle of 45° to fire upwards, to attack the enemy from below. This technique would prove to be very effective. [ 5 ]

After over a year of night Zeppelin raids, on the night of 2–3 September 1916, a B.E.2c flown by Captain William Leefe Robinson downed the SL 11, the first German airship to be shot down over Britain. [ 6 ] This action won the pilot a Victoria Cross and cash prizes totaling £3,500 put up by a number of individuals. This downing was not an isolated victory five more German airships were similarly destroyed between October and December 1916, and caused the airship campaign to gradually be diminished over the next year with fewer raids mounted. [ N 2 ] [ 8 ]

Because of airships' limitations, the Luftstreitkräfte began to introduce long-range heavy bombers, starting with the Gotha G.IV aircraft that gradually took over the offensive. While their early daylight raids in May 1917 were able to easily evade the weak defenses of London, the strengthening of the home defence fighter force led to the Germans switching to night raids from 3 September 1917. [ 7 ] To counter night attacks, Sopwith Camel day fighters were deployed in the night fighter role. The Camels' Vickers guns were replaced by Lewis guns mounted over the wings as the flash from the Vickers tended to dazzle the pilot when they were fired, and synchronised guns were considered unsafe for firing incendiary ammunition. Further modification led to the cockpit moved rearwards. The modified aircraft were nicknamed the "Sopwith Comic". [ 9 ] To provide suitable equipment for Home Defence squadrons in the north of the UK, Avro 504K trainers were converted to night fighters by removing the front cockpit and mounting a Lewis gun on the top wing. [ 10 ]

Interwar period

With little money to spend on development, especially during the great depression, night fighting techniques changed little until just prior to World War II.

In the meantime, aircraft performance had improved tremendously compared to World War I versions, modern bombers could fly about twice as fast, at over twice the altitude, with much greater bomb loads. They flew fast enough that the time between detecting them and the bombers reaching their targets left little time to launch interceptors to shoot them down. Anti-aircraft guns were similarly affected by the altitudes they flew at, which required extremely large and heavy guns to attack them, which limited the number available to the point of being rendered impotent. At night, or with limited visibility, these problems were compounded. The widespread conclusion was that the bomber will always get through, and the Royal Air Force invested almost all of their efforts in developing a night bomber force, with the Central Flying School responsible for one of the most important developments in the period by introducing "blind flying" training. [ 11 ]

Nevertheless there were some new technologies that appeared to offer potential ways to improve night fighting capability. During the 1930s there was considerable development of infrared detectors among all of the major forces, but in practice these proved almost unusable. The only such system to see any sort of widespread operational use was the Spanner Anlage system used on the Dornier Do 17Z night fighters of the Luftwaffe. These were often also fitted with a large IR searchlight to improve the amount of light being returned. [ 12 ]

Immediately prior to the opening of the war, radar was introduced operationally for the first time. Initially these systems were unwieldy and development of IR systems continued. Realizing that radar was a far more practical solution to the problem, Robert Watson-Watt handed the task of developing a radar suitable for aircraft use to 'Taffy' Bowen in the mid-1930s. In September 1937 he gave a working demonstration of the concept when a test aircraft was able to detect three Home Fleet capital ships in the North Sea in bad weather. [ 13 ]

The worrying implications of the test were not lost on planners, who re-organized radar efforts and gave them increased priority. This led to efforts to develop an operational unit for "Airborne Interception" (AI). The size of these early AI radars required a large aircraft to lift them, and their complex controls required a multi-person crew to operate them. This naturally led to the use of light bombers as the preferred platform for airborne radars, and in May 1939 the first experimental fit took place, on a Fairey Battle. [ 14 ]

World War II

The war opened on 1 September 1939, and by this time the RAF was well advanced with plans to build a night fighter fleet. The Airborne Interception Mk. II radar (AI Mk. II) was well on its way to becoming operational, and the Bristol Blenheim was increasingly available for fitting. The first operational system went into service on November 1939, long before the opening of major British operations. Several improved versions followed, and by the time The Blitz opened in 1941, the AI Mk.IV was available and offered greatly improved performance with a range between 20,000 feet down to a minimum range of 400 feet. This greatly reduced the load on the ground component of the night fighter system, who only had to get the fighter within four miles before the fighter's radar would be able to let them take over during the attack. Due to the relatively low performance of the Blenheim (a converted bomber) the British experimented with using RDF-equipped Douglas Havoc bombers converted to carry a searchlight, illuminating the enemy aircraft for accompanying Hurricane single-engine fighters to shoot down. Known as the Turbinlite, the idea was not a success, and in time, both the Blenheim and the Turbinlite were replaced, first by night fighter versions of the Beaufighter and then by the even higher-performing de Havilland Mosquito, which would later accompany the Bomber stream on raids over Germany. In this role support was provided by No. 100 Group RAF with Mosquitos fitted with an assortment of devices, such as Perfectos and Serrate, for homing-in on German night fighters. [ 15 ] The British also experimented with mounting pilot-operated AI Mark 6 radar sets in single-seat fighters, and the Hurricane II C(NF), a dozen of which were produced in 1942, became the first radar-equipped single-seat night-fighter in the world.It served with 245 and 247 Squadrons briefly and unsuccessfully before being sent to India to 176 Squadron, with which it served till end-1943. [ 16 ] [ 17 ]

German efforts at this point were years behind the British. Unlike Britain, where the major targets lay only a few minutes flight time from the coast, Germany was protected by large tracts of neutral territory that gave them long times to deal with intruding bombers. Instead of airborne radar, they relied on ground based systems the targets would first be picked up by radar assigned to a "cell", the radar would then direct a searchlight to "paint" the target, allowing the fighters to attack them without on-board aids. The searchlights were later supplanted with short-range radars that tracked both the fighters and bombers, allowing ground operators to direct the fighters to their targets. By July 1940 this system was well developed as the Kammhuber Line, and proved able to deal with the small raids by isolated bombers the RAF was carrying out at the time. [ 18 ]

At the urging of R.V. Jones, the RAF changed their raid tactics to gather all of their bombers into a single "stream". This meant that the ground based portion of the system was overwhelmed - with only one or two searchlights or radars available per "cell", the system was able to handle perhaps six interceptions per hour. By flying all of the bombers over a cell in a short period, the vast majority of the bombers flew right over them without ever having been plotted, let alone attacked. German success against the RAF plummeted, reaching a nadir on 30/31 May 1942 when the first 1,000 bomber raid attacked Cologne, losing only four aircraft to German night fighters. [ 19 ]

It was not until 1942 that the Germans first started deploying their Lichtenstein radar, and at that time in extremely limited numbers. This late date, and slow introduction, allowed British radio engineers to develop jamming equipment to counter it. A race developed with the Germans attempting to introduce new sets and the British attempting to jam them, with the British holding the upper hand throughout. The early Lichtenstein B was replaced by the Lichtenstein C-1, but when a German night fighter defected and landed in Scotland in April 1943, it was quickly jammed. The SN-2 unit that replaced the C-1 remained relatively secure until the end of the war, but only at the cost of using huge antennas that slowed their fighters as much as 25 mph, making them easy prey for British night fighters who had turned to the offensive role. Even this radar was eventually jammed when another German aircraft landed in England in July 1944. [ 20 ]

The Luftwaffe also experimented with single-engine aircraft in the night fighter role, which they referred to as Wilde Sau (wild boar). In this case, the fighters, typically Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, were equipped only with a direction finder and landing lights in order to allow them to return to base at night. In order for the fighter to find their targets, other aircraft which were guided from the ground would drop strings of flares in front of the bombers. In other cases, the burning cities below would provide enough light to see their targets. [ 21 ] Messerschmitt Bf 109G variants had G6N and similar models fitted with FuG 350 Naxos "Z" radar receivers for homing on to H2S emissions of RAF bombers. The Bf 109G series aircraft also were fitted with FuG 217/218 Neptun active search radars, as were Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-6/R11 aircraft: these served as radar-equipped night-fighters with NJGr 10 and NJG 11. A sole Fw 190 A-6 Wk.Nr.550214 fitted with FuG 217 is a rare survivor. [ 22 ]

The effective Schräge Musik [ N 3 ] was the name given to installations of upward-firing autocannon mounted in large, twin-engine night fighters by the Luftwaffe and Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service during World War II, with the first victories for each occurring in May 1943. This innovation allowed the night fighters to approach and attack bombers from below, where they would be outside the bomber crew's field of view. Few bombers of that era carried defensive guns in the ventral position. An attack by a Schräge Musik-equipped fighter was typically a complete surprise to the bomber crew, who would only realize that a fighter was close by when they came under fire. Particularly in the initial stage of operational use until early 1944, the sudden fire from below was often attributed to ground fire rather than a fighter. [ 23 ]

Rather than nighttime raids, the US Army Air Forces were dedicated to daytime bombing over Germany and Axis allies, that statistically were much more effective. [ 24 ] The British night-bombing raids showed a success rate of only one out of 100 targets successfully hit. [ 25 ] [ page needed ] At the urging of the British who were looking to purchase U.S. made aircraft, US day fighters were initially adopted to a night role, including the Douglas P-70 and later Lockheed P-38M "Night Lightning". The first dedicated US night fighter design, the Northrop P-61 Black Widow was introduced first in Europe and then saw action in the Pacific, but it was given such a low priority that the British had ample supplies of their own designs by the time it was ready for production. The first USAAF unit did not move to Britain until February 1944 operational use did not start until the summer, and was limited throughout the war. Colonel Winston Kratz, director of night fighter training in the USAAF, considered the P-61 as adequate in its role, "It was a good night fighter. It did not have enough speed". [ 26 ]

The U.S. Navy was forced into the night fighting role when Japanese aircraft successfully harassed their units on night raids. The Japanese Navy had long screened new recruits for exceptional night vision, using the best on their ships and aircraft instead of developing new equipment for this role. To counter these raids, the Navy fitted radar sets to the wings of its single-engined Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair fighters by the close of the war, operating them successfully in the Pacific. [ N 4 ] In several cases these aircraft were used on raids of their own. [ 28 ]

Postwar

Even while the war raged, the jet engine so seriously upset aircraft design that the need for dedicated jet-powered night fighters became clear. Both the British and Germans spent some effort on the topic, but as the Germans were on the defensive their work was given a much higher priority. Their Messerschmitt Me 262 was adapted to the role and Oberleutnant Kurt Welter claimed 25 Mosquitos at night.

Other forces did not have the pressing need to move to the jet engine Britain and the U.S. were facing enemies with aircraft of even lower performance than their existing night fighters. However, the need for new designs was evident, and some low-level work started in the closing stages of the war, including the US contract for the Northrop F-89 Scorpion. When the Soviet plans to build an atomic bomb became known in the west in 1948, this project was still long from being ready to produce even a prototype, and in March 1949 they started development of the North American F-86D Sabre and Lockheed F-94 Starfire as stop-gap measures. All of them entered service around the same time in the early 1950s. In the Korean war, after Starfires proved ineffective, Marine Corps Douglas F3D Skyknights shot down six aircraft, including five Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15s without loss as the MiG-15s lacked radar to shoot down individual fighters though they were effective against bomber formations at night.

The RAF introduced night fighter versions of their Gloster Meteor in 1951, along with a similar conversion of the de Havilland Vampire. These were followed by the de Havilland Venom in 1953 and then Navy's de Havilland Sea Venom. In Canada, Avro Canada introduced the CF-100 Canuck, which entered service in 1952.

Night fighters existed as a separate class into the 1960s. As aircraft grew in capability, radar-equipped interceptors could take on the role of night fighters and the class went into decline. Examples of these latter-day interceptor/night-fighters include the Avro Arrow, Convair F-106 Delta Dart and the English Electric Lightning.

At the time the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was offered to the Navy, the Vought F-8 Crusader had already been accepted as a "day" dogfighter, while the subsonic McDonnell F3H Demon was the Navy's all-weather fighter. The Phantom was developed as the Navy's first supersonic all-weather radar-equipped fighter armed with radar-guided missiles. However compared to early air-superiority designs such as the F-100 or F-8, the massive Phantom nevertheless had enough raw twin-J79 power to prove adaptable as the preferred platform for tangling with agile MiG-17 and MiG-21 fighters over the skies of Vietnam, as well as replacing the US Air Force Convair F-102 Delta Dagger and Convair F-106 Delta Dart for continental interception duties and the Republic F-105 Thunderchief as a medium fighter-bomber. The need for close-in dogfighting spelled the end for the specialized Grumman F-111B which was armed only with long-range Phoenix missiles for fleet defence against bombers. The Navy instead developed the Grumman F-14 Tomcat which on top of the heavy Phoenix, retained the Phantom's versatility and improved agility for dogfighting. The McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle was also an interceptor with enhanced agility, but did not carry the Phoenix in preference to the role of an air-superiority fighter.

The reduced size and cost of avionics has allowed even smaller modern fighters to have night interception capability. In the US Air Force's Lightweight Fighter (LWF) program, the F-16 was originally envisaged as inexpensive day fighter, but quickly converted to an all-weather role. The similar McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet in its CF-18 variant, was ordered with a the 0.6 Mcd night identification light to enhance its night interception capabilities.


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