Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday With Tony (and George and Frank and Jack)

Kawasaki Ki-61-I Hien by Bazyli Kot
The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (飛燕, "flying swallow") was a Japanese World War II fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. The first encounter reports claimed Ki-61s were Messerschmitt Bf 109s: further reports claimed that the new aircraft was an Italian design, which led to the Allied reporting name of "Tony", assigned by the United States War Department. The Japanese Army designation was "Army Type 3 Fighter" (三式戦闘機). It was the only mass-produced Japanese fighter of the war to use a liquid-cooled inline V engine. Over 2,500 Ki-61s were produced, first seeing action around New Guinea in 1943, and continuing to fly combat missions throughout the war. - Wikipedia
Frequent reader and valued member of the Commentariat, Virgil Xenophon, left this comment on the last Friday Flyby -
Too bad there are so few surviving late-war high performance Japanese fighters like the in-line liquid-cooled Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien, the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (looked a lot like a P-47), The Kawanishi N1K-2J "Shiden-Kai" or the Mitsubishi J2m Raiden. (of which only one survives)
Now Virgil speaks the truth here. Doing a little research I discovered this note at the foot of the Wikipedia article on the Hien -
Three airframes are known to exist:
  • A Ki-61-II-Kai (Ser. no. 5017 ) is on static display at the Tokko Heiwa Kaikan Museum in Chiran Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan.
  • A Ki-61 (unknown type and serial number) is owned by Kermit Week's Fantasy of Flight museum. It is currently stored and in need of restoration.
  • A Ki-61-II-Otsu ( Ser. no. 640 ) is currently under restoration to flying condition and will become part of the Military Aviation Museum collection in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.
Some of you may recognize that last entry as the Old AF Sarge's favorite little air museum, yup, Pungo. So that's a development I'll be tracking with great interest. (And may mention in these spaces from time to time, as data becomes available.)

Now the Hien was a favorite of mine as a kid. Nearly everybody had a model of the Zero, very few kids of my acquaintance had a Ki-61! So Virgil's comment brought back some memories.

Again I am surprised at the dearth of photos from the Japanese side. Especially considering the high quality cameras Japan is now famous for.

Of course, when I was a kid, "Made in Japan" was an insult. Not anymore! Said the guy who drives a Honda (ホンダ)!

So how about those other aircraft Virgil mentioned?

Kawanishi N1K-2J "George"

The Kawanishi N1K Kyōfū (強風 "strong wind", Allied reporting name "Rex") was an Imperial Japanese Navy floatplane fighter. The Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden (紫電 "Violet Lightning") was an Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service land-based version of the N1K. Assigned the Allied codename "George", the N1K-J was considered by both its pilots and opponents to be one of the finest land-based fighters flown by the Japanese during World War II. - Wikipedia
Nakajima Ki-84 "Frank"

The Nakajima Ki-84 "Hayate" (キ84 疾風"Gale") was a single-seat fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in World War II. The Allied reporting name was "Frank"; the Japanese Army designation was Army Type 4 Fighter (四式戦闘機 yon-shiki-sentō-ki). Featuring excellent performance and high maneuverability, the Ki-84 was considered to be the best Japanese fighter to see large scale operations during World War II. It was able to match any Allied fighter, and to intercept the high-flying B-29 Superfortresses. Its powerful armament (that could include two 30 mm and two 20 mm cannon) increased its lethality. Though hampered by poor production quality in later models, a high-maintenance engine, a landing gear prone to buckle, and lack of experienced pilots above all else, Hayates proved to be fearsome opponents; a total of 3,514 were built. - Wikipedia
Mitsubishi J2m "Jack"

The Mitsubishi J2M Raiden (雷電, "Thunderbolt") was a single-engined land-based fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in World War II. The Allied reporting name was "Jack". The J2M was designed by Jiro Horikoshi, creator of the A6M Zero to meet the 14-Shi (14th year of the Showa reign, or 1939) official specification. It was to be a strictly local-defense interceptor, intended to counter the threat of high-altitude bomber raids, and thus relied on speed, climb performance, and armament at the expense of manoeuvrability. The J2M was a sleek, but stubby craft with its over-sized Mitsubishi Kasei engine buried behind a long cowling, cooled by an intake fan and connected to the propeller with an extension shaft. Pilot visibility was poor, but a domed canopy introduced later in production partially alleviated this concern. - Wikipedia
Sadly, as Virgil mentioned, there aren't many of these birds left.
One Hayate was operated and flown by the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California, before being returned to Japan for display at the Arashiyama Museum in Kyoto. This aircraft is now exhibited at the Tokko Heiwa Kinen-kan Museum at Chiran, Japan. It is the only surviving Ki-84.
At least three Shiden Kai aircraft survive in American museums. One is at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.
A surviving J2M is on display at the Planes of Fame museum in Chino, California. - Wikipedia
Pity that...

The following clip is from my favorite flight sim. Not real, I know, but actual footage of the Hien is rare, and this was too cool not to post. (Did I mention that it's from my favorite flight sim?)


  1. Interesting, From certain angles, the Tony looks similar to a P-51.

    BTW, what is your favorite flight sim called? IMWTK

    1. Now that you mention it, it does bear a certain similarity to the Mustang. At first the Tony was confused with the Me-109. B-17 gunners sometimes confused the Mustang and the Me-109, in the heat of the moment I can see why.

      My favorite flight simulator is IL-2 Sturmovik, which was developed by 1C:Maddox Games and published by Ubisoft.

      The best version of it is IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946, which (while billed as an "expansion pack") actually includes every earlier version of the sim plus a number of add-on aircraft (think aircraft which were in the prototype stages but didn't make it into the air before the war ended).

      I also have IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover which covers the Battle of Britain. I don't recommend it. While it's pretty, I didn't think the flight model or the user interface was as good as the original. Which to me ended with 1946. There is another version coming out this year IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad. Which I am not all that thrilled about at this point in thime. It doesn't use the same flight engine as the original. While I've heard some people whine about the original flight model, I took that with a grain of salt. Most of the bitching seemed to come from non-pilot gamer geeks.

      Having "flown" it a lot, it just felt right. The Zero was nimble and quick and packed a tremendous punch, but couldn't take one. A joy to fly though. As were the P-51 and the Spitfire. The Fw-190 rolled and screamed like a banshee, loved that aircraft. Most of the WWII fighters I had read about performed in the sim exactly the way I expected them to. (Roll the early Spitfire onto it's back to perform a Split-S and don't be surprised when the engine cuts out! Carburetor versus fuel injector like in the Me-109.)

      Great game. I could go on and on about it. Of course ya gotta have a good control set-up. The kids dropped some serious bucks on that for me one Christmas. All I'm missing is rudder pedals. At first that didn't bother me. After "flying" the FA-18 sim out at Lemoore, I absolutely need a set of rudder pedals. I have rudder control via twisting my joystick, but it's not the same. Not even close! (As a pilot, I'm sure you get that.)

      Any way, my two cents on flight sims. Hhmm, perhaps this topic deserves a post of its own?

  2. That lil video was pretty good. Even the cheesy music didn't bother me.

    In re: simulators. I'm not tryin' to give ya ideers or anything...

    1. I have to admit, whenever I screen a potential video, I do weigh the "footage" versus the music. Odd, I actually thought, "Hhmm, Buck may not like this!" But then I realized, you DO have a volume control. Right?

      OMG. You HAVE given me ideas. Not to worry, I'll convince The Missus Herself that it was all my idea. She never reads the blog. (Hhmm, but my kids do.)

  3. Huh, they've come a LONG way since I played with some of the early ones... Details are MUCH better!!!

  4. I'm waiting for one with a good Mig-19 "Farmer".....Mig-17 maneuverability w. Mig-21 speed...one of the unrecognized most dangerous ac that ever flew. Nice twin 30mm cannon (Engine life was the weak point, tho)

    1. I swear I remember a flight sim that had a MiG-19. And you're right the SOB had a mean punch with those cannon. I'll have to do some research but I'm pretty sure I remember "flying" that beast. But right now I can't recall.

      I'll have to get back to you on that. Thanks for reminding me Virgil.

  5. I like these late model fighters. I guess because not everyone knows much about them, like they do the Zero.
    I know the Ki 84 can complete a full left turn (360) in 17 seconds. That is in the A6M5 Zero ballpark.
    Problem with these fighters was they were unreliable. The reliable ones were the Zero, Oscar, Tojo, and Ki 100 Tony. And 34 J2M5s. The high-flying Ki 61-II had a lot of potential, but the engine was the most unreliable. The Ki 44-II Tojo was a contender with decent numbers but it couldn't out-turn a P-51B. It was a good match for the P-38 they say.
    It's Navy counterpart, the Jack was the best vs the USN fighters. They just needed more of the reliable J2M5 version. The A6M5 should have been powered by the 1500 hp Ha-112-II in 1943 as called for by the design crew. But the Brass didn't permit that until they were soundly chastised by US pilots, and the A6M8 finally got it but too late. Thus the most mass produced fighter, the A6M5 was obsolete from the start. That effort was so misplaced. All these worthy late-war fighters could have used the production from 1943 on. I like the Ki 100 Tony and experimental Ki 116 Frank both with that same reliable Ha-112-II motor. It did power the fast Ki 46 Dinah in 1943. So a 385 mph Ki 116 was feasible mid-war! It had agility like the Zero too. However, the Ki 100 was better protected and more responsive at speed. Both could have debuted in 1943 in place of the A6M5. Can you imagine 7,000 of those bad boys in the fight until the A7M3-J Reppu was ready?


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.