The Kawanishi Shiden may be the only case in history of an excellent land-based fighter (one of the best the Japanese fielded during WWII) being derived from a seaplane. The Kawanishi designers got the idea for the N1K1-J late in 1941, when work on the first prototype of their N1K Kyofu seaplane fighter was well advanced. On paper the new project looked very promising, and the company decided to go ahead with the land version of the aircraft even without the official authorization of the Japanese Navy. The prototype of the N1K1-J was ready a year later. It was not much different from the N1K floatplane, mainly just having the seaplane floats replaced with conventional landing gear. Testing showed the N1K1-J to be extremely fast, reliable, and maneuverable. By 1943 the initial teething difficulties were ironed out, and the plane went into production. Once the type became operational, the Shiden proved to be an outstanding aircraft. These planes were powerful, fast, well protected, and heavily armed and were among the few Japanese fighters that could stand up to the best enemy planes, including the American Hellcats and Corsairs. In the hands of aces, the Shiden ("Violet Lightning") could even outfly American planes. The aircraft were not perfect, however. One of the main problems with the aircraft was the complicated landing gear due to the mid-wing arrangement. A new version (the N1K2-J Shiden Kai) was designed that moved the wings to the bottom of the fuselage, which simplified the landing gear and improved visibility during ground movement. The N1K2-J took to the air on December 31, 1943, with full production beginning in June of 1944. Due to problems caused by American air raids during the last year of the war only 415 Shiden Kais were produced before the war ended. The Allies gave the N1K1-J and N1K2-J versions the codename of "George".
Kawanishi N1K1-J Shiden
Type: Land-based Interceptor Fighter Service: Japanese Navy Air Force (JNAF) Crew: Pilot Armament: two 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns in nose four wing-mounted 20mm Type 99 Model 2 cannons Reference: Francillon: 328, Mondey: 138 Specifications: Length: 29' 1.75" (8.885 m) Height: 13' 4.8" (4.06 m) Wingspan: 39' 4.5" (12 m) Wing area: 252.951 sq. ft (23.5 sq. m) Empty Weight: 6387 lbs (2897 kg) Loaded Weight: 8598 lbs (3900 kg) Max Weight: 9626 lbs (4321 kg) Propulsion: No. of Engines: 1 Powerplant: Nakajima NK9H Homore 21-cylinder radial Horsepower: 1990 hp Performance: Range (normal): 890 st miles (773 naut miles) Range (max): 1581 st miles (1374 naut miles) Cruise Speed: 230 mph (200 kt) at 6560 ft Max Speed: 363 mph (315 kt) at 19,355 ft Climb to/in: 19685 ft (6000 m) in 7 min 50 sec Ceiling: 41,010 ft (12,500 m)
Production: approximately 1435 Shiden and Shiden Kais total
Additional information on this aircraft
can be found at Wikipedia
For several very nice scale color drawings of this aircraft, see here (7 versions available on left).
Additional color schemes for this aircraft can be found here.
(go to Kawanishi page)
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