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Naval air strength has been built up more extensively than other branches of Japanese air power



TWIN-ENGINED LONG-DISTANCE BOMBER of the Mitsubishi army type 93. Aircraft of this type were built to an official specification and have two Bristol Jupiter engines. Their maximum speed is 155 miles an hour and they can climb to 9,840 feet in ten minutes. The ceiling of the aircraft is 26,240 feet. The wing span is 65 ft. 7 in. and the length 42 ft. 7 in.

IN the same way as the United States of America, Japan has tended to concentrate upon naval air strength. The Japanese Army, however, has its own air force, which has made considerable progress recently.

So far as aircraft are concerned, Japan began, like certain other Oriental countries, by copying designs originally produced in Europe and America. Until a few years ago all Japanese naval and military machines were direct copies of foreign types. The same was true of their engines. But more recently Japanese engineers are said to have begun originating their own designs and, although little is yet known of these, it seems that they have made some progress.

The Japanese Navy has six aircraft carriers, two of modern construction, and it also has specially adapted seaplane carriers. The number of embarked aircraft is not exactly known, but it is probably more than 300, and so the fleet air arm of Japan must be reckoned among the most powerful in existence. Moreover, Japan is using the catapult to an increasing extent and her navy is as well supplied as any other navy with aircraft of various types for reconnaissance, gun spotting, torpedo carrying and fighting.

In addition, flying boats have been developed to a considerable extent. Again the beginning was made by imitating foreign designs, but original designs have since been executed. As yet, however, Japan has not shown any special technical aptitude in aviation and she has not been responsible for any major performance improvements or constructional change.

Details of the latest aircraft carriers, the Soryu and the Hiryu are still incomplete; but the older ships such as the Hosho, the Akagi and the Kaga are worthy of note. The Hosho, which was launched in 1921, is a vessel of 7,470 tons, with a speed of 25 knots. She carries twenty aircraft. The Akagi, which was designed as a battle-cruiser, is of 26,900 tons, has a speed of 28½ knots and carries forty-eight aircraft. She was launched in 1925. The Kaga is of 26,900 tons, has a speed of 23 knots and carries sixty aircraft. She was designed as a battleship. The headquarters of the Naval Air Service are in Tokyo. Training methods follow closely those used in Great Britain. Japanese Naval Air Service officers have been attached to the Royal Air Force for instructional purposes.

Best known among the Japanese manufacturers of aircraft is the Mitsubishi Company, with head offices in Tokyo. The company was evolved from the Mitsubishi Shipbuilding and Engineering Company and it makes all types of aeroplanes, including fighters, bombers, deck fighters, deck reconnaissance machines, and trainers. It also makes aero engines.

Hispano-Suiza engines are made in Japan under licence and so are Lorraine engines. Armstrong Siddeley engines were formerly manufactured in Japan, as well as Cirrus and B.M.W. engines. Also under licence are the rights to use various foreign inventions, including the famous Handley Page wing slot (see the chapter “How an Aeroplane Flies”).

Japanese air equipment is noteworthy for the quality of its workmanship. American influence has recently had a beneficial effect upon Japanese machines and today the cult of the low-wing monoplane is at its height. The operations in China have prevented much information from going outside Japan as to the performance qualities of the latest types; but certain noteworthy flights have been made within the past two or three years which suggest that the new low-wing monoplanes are of better quality than the earlier machines.

A remarkable flight by Japanese aviators was made on April 5-9, 1937. Masaaki Iinuma and Kenji Tsukagoshi, in their Japanese monoplane Kamekaze (“Divine Wind”), flew from Tokyo to Croydon in the record time of 3 days 22 hours 18 minutes.

In addition, the Japanese now produce their own engines, but these still follow the lines of those they were formerly building under licence and little fundamental change of design has taken place. If an attempt is made to note any particular field of technical success, it would probably be in the lightness of the Japanese airframe constructions.

It seems as if the Japanese, whether by accuracy of detail work or for some other reason, are able to build particularly light aeroplanes with a given wing area and a sufficient load factor. This has enabled them to obtain exceptionally long range in some of their machines.

All modern devices such as wing flaps, retractable undercarriages and variable pitch airscrews are adopted in Japan and are used on the latest machines. Metal construction has been developed, though wood is still used. Research is being forced ahead in the attempt to free the Japanese constructors from the need for copying foreign designs and the work of some of the Japanese investigators is receiving increasing recognition abroad.

Papers prepared in the Japanese research centres and descriptions of Japanese wind-tunnel and other experimental work are now studied by engineers in the United States of America, France and Great Britain. That is an indication of the advances that have been made in the problems of research and experiment.

Advanced Scientific Equipment

Some of the scientific equipment used in Japan is stated to be of high quality and to enable much valuable information to be acquired.

The quality of Japanese personnel is difficult to estimate. Although Japanese naval officers have been attached to the Royal Air Force for training, they do not give a sufficient basis for estimating the general quality of the Japanese pilots. But it is clear that training methods follow British methods closely and that there have been signs that the Japanese pilots are fully capable of learning.

No reason appears, therefore, to give grounds for the theory sometimes advanced that the quality of the Japanese personnel is low and that, even if the latest types of European machines were available, they would be incapable of handling them to the best advantage. On the other hand there is no more reason to suppose that the Japanese have shown or are showing any special aptitude for military and naval aviation or that their pilots are better than those of other countries.

The mark of the Japanese service aircraft consists of the red disk. It appears on wings and tail. Strategically Japanese air problems are largely conditioned by the need to import fuel. Seven-eighths of the fuel used in Japan must be imported and that fact alone gives a clue to the intense energy which is expended in Japan in building up the naval side of its air force.

It was in 1937 that the large-scale attacks by the Japanese on China began; but before then Japanese aeroplanes had frequently been in action. The Chinese air force, against which the Japanese were fighting, is mainly equipped with American material. But Japanese naval strength has hampered the supply to China of fresh equipment.

A TWO-SEAT RECONNAISSANCE MONOPLANE being started by a motor-driven turning device. The aircraft is a Mitsubishi army 92 type with a 420 horse-power Mitsubishi Jaguar engine made under Armstrong Siddeley licence. The aircraft has a speed of 136 miles an hour and climbs to 9,840 feet in twelve minutes. The service ceiling is 19,680 feet. The length of the monoplane is 27 ft 10 in. and the wing span is 41 ft. 8 in.

You can read more on “Evolution of a British Aircraft Carrier”, “Seaplanes and Their Work” and “United States Air Force” on this website.

The Japanese Air Force