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Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Mitsubishi Sword Stroke

Check out this bad boy Japanese plane.

This is the Mitsubishi J8M Shusui ( 三菱 J8M 秋水 - literally 'Autumn Water', but poetically was meant to mean 'Sword Stroke') that was to have been a single-seat rocket-powered interceptor for Japan in World War II.

According to those in the know, in 1943 Japan purchased the manufacturing rights to Germany's Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet rocket powered plane. Yes... despite being "Allies" as part of the Evil Axis, Japan had to purchase the plans for this plane.

Just so you know, the Me 163 Komet was a fast bastard. Designed in 1938, prototypes were flown in 1941 by Germany, with it reaching the then world-record air-speed of 1,000 kilometers per hour (620 miles per hour).

Now that's fast! So you can tell Japan was pretty pumped about getting its hands on these plans.

While I am unsure about the total price paid, Japan did shell out 20,000,000 Reichsmarks (about US $4.2-million back in the 1940s) for the engine license... which would have been the larger sum.

The plan called for Japan to receive by 1944 (according to Wikipedia):
  • Complete blueprints of the Me 163B Komet and the HWK 509A engine;
  • One complete Komet; two sets of sub-assemblies and components;
  • Three complete HWK 509A engines;
  • Inform Japan of any improvements and developments of the Komet;
  • Allow the Japanese to study the manufacturing processes for both the Komet and the engine;
  • Allow the Japanese to study Luftwaffe operational procedures for the Komet.
Since this was in the days before e-mail and fax, Germany sent the plans to Japan by submarine. Two submarines, in fact... to ensure that the capture of one wouldn't be dangerous for the Axis.

En route to Kobe, Japan, via Japanese submarines: RO-501 and I-29, both were sunk.

RO-501 is rumored to have had the airframe, while I-29 had the engines and plans. D'oh!

So... what did Japan get? A Flight Manual.

Yes... a flight manual that was taken by Commander Iwaya Eiichi (surname first) who had traveled aboard the I-29, but had disembarked at Singapore before it had been sunk.

Why Germany couldn't send another submarine or two with the plans is beyond me, but Mitsubishi won the contract to built the J8M Shusui Sword Stroke (cool name!), and set about designing a plane that looked similar to the German one.

Looks-wise, they succeed quite well, as the Japanese plane looked quite similar to its German counterpart.

But internally...

They made several tests with an unpowered glider and then built seven (7) prototypes of the jet-propelled variety... with the first read for testing on July 7, 1945.

The test flight was a complete disaster as the rocket motor failed just after take-off destroying the plane and killing its pilot.

The pilot was Lt. Commander Inuzuka Toyohiko (surname first). After take-off, he climbed up at a 45-degree angle. At an altitude of 396 meters (1,300 feet), the engine cut out causing the plane to stall.

Give Inuzaka credit. He glided the plane back down, but unfortunately struck a small building at the edge of the runway causing the plane to explode into flames. Inuzaka died the next day.

Back to the drawing board, the war ended before a second test flight could be undertaken.

Specifications:
  • Engine: a single 1,500 kilogram (3,307 pound) thrust Toko Ro2 bifuel rocket motor;
  • Maximum speed proposed: 900 kilometers per hour (559 miles per hour) at an altitude of 10,000 meters (32,810 feet);
  • Service ceiling: 12,000 meters (39,370 feet);
  • Rocket endurance: 5-minutes and 30-seconds;
  • Wingspan: 9.5 meters (31-feet 2-inches);
  • Length: 6.05 meters (19-feet 10-inches;
  • Height: 2.7 meters (8-feet 10-inches);
  • Weight loaded: 3,885 kilograms (8,565 pounds);
  • Armament (proposed): one or two wing-mounted 30-mm (1.19-inch) cannons.
Cheers
Andrew Joseph

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