Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Nagato-class On-board Aircraft

The Nagato class carried three observation planes launched by catapult forward of the "C" turret.

Mitsubishi F1M
Under the designation Mitsubishi Ka-17 the company designed during 1935 a two-seat aircraft to meet an Imperial Japanese Navy requirement for a catapult-launched short-range observation floatplane. A very clean equal-span single-bay biplane, the Ka-17 had a large central float and strut-mounted stabilising floats beneath the lower wings, adjacent to the wingtips. The fuselage accommodated the crew of two in tandem open cockpits, the pilot seated forward beneath a large cut-out in the trailing edge of the upper wing. Powerplant of the first prototype, flown during June 1936, was an 820-hp (611-kW) Nakajima Hikari (splendour) 1 radial engine, but early tests showed that performance on the water left much to be desired. After four F1M1 prototypes had been completed a number of changes were introduced to eradicate the shortcomings revealed in flight testing, including redesigned wings and increased vertical tail surface area, plus installation of the more powerful Mitsubishi Zuisei (holy star) 13 radial engine. Subsequent company testing showed that the remedial action had been successful, and service trials led to the type being ordered into production as the Navy Type 0 Observation Seaplane Model 11, Mitsubishi designation F1M2. A total of 1,118 was built by Mitsubishi (528) and the Sasebo Naval Air Arsenal (590), and in addition to the standard production aircraft, a small number was converted to serve as two-seat trainers under the designation F1M2-K. Allocated the Allied codename 'Pete', and used extensively from both ships and shore bases, because of their excellent performance F1M2s found employment in the unexpected roles of fighter and dive-bomber, as well as their intended use for coastal patrol, convoy escort and reconnaissance. In addition to those delivered to the Japanese navy, a small number was supplied to Thailand for use on coastal patrol duties.

Kawanishi E7K2
During 1938 the company built a prototype E7K2 which was generally similar to the earlier production aircraft, but with the unreliable Hiro engine replaced by a Mitsubishi Zuisei (holy star) 11 radial engine. Flown for the first time during August 1938, this was ordered into production by the navy some three months later under the designation Navy Type 94 Reconnaissance Seaplane Model 2; at the same time the E7K1 version was retrospectively redesignated as the Navy Type 94 Reconnaissance Seaplane Model l. Production of the E7K2 totalled about 350 aircraft, some 60 built by Nippon, and the E7K as a type saw extensive use for both beach- and ship-based operations from 1935 until the beginning of the Pacific war. By that time the E7K1s had been relegated to second-line duties, but the radial engined higher-performance (some 23 mph/37 km/h faster) E7K2s remained in first-line roles until early 1943. These included antisubmarine patrol and inshore convoy escort, tasks for which they had never been intended, and many were still in use in liaison and training roles when the war ended. One more job remained, for like many obsolete types the E7Ks were pressed into service during the late stages of the war to take part in desperate kamikaze attacks. When, in the second half of 1942, codenames began to be allocated to Japanese aircraft to provide a simple and easily pronounceable means of referring to a type, the E7K2 became known as 'AIf', male Christian names being allocated to aircraft that were deployed basically as fighters or reconnaissance seaplanes.

Nakajima E4N
The first prototype of this equal-span biplane reconnaissance aircraft appeared in 1930 as the Type 90-2 Reconnaissance Floatplane, company designation NZ. Intended for navy service as the Nakajima E4N1, it had twin floats and an uncowled Kotobuki radial engine. This first prototype, however, was rejected in favour of the NJ or Navy Type 90-2-2 Reconnaissance Floatplane. This was a complete redesign, with a single main float and twin wingtip stabilising floats. It closely resembles the US Vought O3U-1 Corsair biplane and, like it, was intended for shipboard use and catapult launching. Powered by a 336kW Nakajima Kotobuki radial engine, the Type 90-2-2 had a maximum speed of 222km/h and 85 went into service with the Japanese navy as the E4N2 between 1931 and 1933, a version with fixed wheel landing gear going into service as the E4N2-C; 67 of the latter were completed. In 1933 nine of the E4N2-C landplanes were converted as night mail carriers, for use between the main islands of Japan. Designated P-1, the mail carrier was a single-seater with the pilot accommodated in an enclosed cockpit.

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