POWER PLANT: One Wright R-2600-20 “Twin Cyclone” radial engine, rated at 1,900 hp
PERFORMANCE: 276 mph at 16,500 ft
COMMENT: By 1943, Grumman began to slowly phase out production of the TBF “Avenger” to produce Grumman F6F “Hellcat” fighters, and the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors took over production, with these aircraft being designated TBM. The Eastern Aircraft plant was located in Ewing, NJ. Grumman delivered a TBF-1, held together with sheet metal screws, so that the automotive engineers could disassemble it, a part at a time, and redesign the aircraft for automotive style production. This aircraft was known as the “P-K Avenger” (P-K = Parker-Kalon, manufacturer of sheet metal screws). Starting in mid-1944, the TBM-3 began production with a more powerful power plant and wing hard points for drop tanks and rockets. The dash-3 was the most numerous of the “Avengers” with about 4,664 produced. However, most of the “Avengers” in service were dash-1s until near the end of the war in 1945.
Besides the traditional surface role (torpedoing surface ships), “Avengers” claimed about 30 submarine kills. They were one of the most effective sub-killers in the Pacific theatre, as well as in the Atlantic, when escort carriers were finally available to escort Allied convoys. There, the “Avengers” contributed to the warding off of German submarines while providing air cover for the convoys (Ref.: 24).
ACCOMMODATION: Crew of two + 12 troops or 1,600 kg freight
POWER PLANT: None
PERFORMANCE: 200 mph
COMMENT: The Gotha Ka 430 was a medium assault and freight glider, first built in 1944. The glider was designed by A. Kalkert and Gotha design team as a potential successor of the Gotha Go 242 glider. Somewhat smaller than the earlier glider, the new design introduced a rear loading ramp, some armor protection for the crew and a manually-operated gun turret.
The Ka 430 had a conventional structure with a wing of laminated plywood construction and plywood and fabric cowering, and a welded steel-tube fuselage covered by fabric aft of the cockpit, the nose being a moulded plywood shell fitting over the metal frame work and bolted in place. The undercarriage was of fixed, levered-suspension tricycle type, and the cargo hold extended from the cockpit to just aft of the mainwheels and terminated in a loading ramp hinged at the point where the rear fuselage swept upwards to merge with the tail-carrying boom, a section of the decking aft of the ramp hinged upwards to enlarge the opening. Slatted airbrakes were provided in the wings to steepen the glide angle and provision was made in the extreme nose for the installation of a battery of braking rockets.
To evaluate the rear fuselage and integral loading ramp a Go 242A-2 was modified to serve as a Ka 430 prototype, and the successful trials led to the placing of an order for 30 pre-production Ka 430A-0 gliders which were to be built by the Mitteldeutsche Metallwerke (MMW) at Erfurt.
The first Ka 430 A-0 (without gun turret) were completed late in 1944, successful towing trials being performed with Heinkel He 111H and Junkers Ju 88A as tugs, but only 12 of the pre-production gliders had been completed when the war situation necessitated the abandoning of the construction program (Ref.: 7)
POWER PLANT: One Nakajima NK9H “Homare” radial engine, rated at 1,990 hp
PERFORMANCE: 363 mph at 19,355 ft
COMMENT: The Kawanishi N1K1-J “Shiden” (“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. Kawanishi’s N1K was originally built as a single pontoon floatplane fighter to support forward offensive operations where no airstrips were available, but by 1943 when the aircraft entered service, Japan was firmly on the defensive, and there was no more need for a fighter to fulfil this role.
The requirement to carry a bulky, heavy float essentially crippled the N1K against contemporary American fighters. Kawanishi engineers, however, had proposed in late 1941 that the N1K would be the basis of a formidable land-based fighter too, and a land-based version was produced as a private venture by the company. This version flew on 27 December 1942, powered by a Nakajima NK9A “Homare 11” radial engine, replacing the less powerful Mitsubishi MK4C “Kasei 13” of the N1K. The aircraft retained the mid-mounted wing of the floatplane, and combined with the large propeller necessitated a long, stalky main landing gear. A unique feature was the aircraft’s combat flaps that adjusted their angle in response to acceleration; thus freeing up the pilot’s concentration and reducing the chance of stalling in combat. The N1K1-J did have temperamental flight characteristics, however, that required an experienced touch at the controls
The Nakajima “Homare” was powerful, but had been rushed into production before it was sufficiently developed, and proved troublesome. Another problem was that, due to poor heat treatment of the wheels, their failure on landing would result in the landing gear being torn off. Apart from engine problems and the landing gear the flight test program showed that the aircraft was promising. Prototypes were evaluated by the Navy, and since the aircraft was faster than the Zero and had a much longer range than the Mitsubishi J2M “Raiden”, it was ordered into production as the N1K1-J, the -J indicating a land-based fighter modification of the original floatplane fighter. The N1K1-J aircraft were used very effectively over Formosa (Taiwan), the Philippines, and, later, Okinawa. Before production was switched to the improved Kawanishi N1K2-J “Shiden-Kai”, 1,007 aircraft were produced, including prototypes (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-2800-2 “Double Wasp 2” radial engine, rated at 2,000 hp
PERFORMANCE: 306 mph
COMMENT: The Chance-Vought XTBU-1 “Sea Wolf” was a torpedo bomber designed as a rival to the Grumman TBF “Avenger”, and that entered production as the Consolidated TBY-“Sea Wolf”.
In October 1939 the US Navy issued a request for proposals for a new torpedo bomber to the US aircraft industry. The new aircraft was to carry a crew of three, have a top speed of 300mph, be able to carry one torpedo or three 500lb bombs internally, have self-sealing fuel tanks and armor and a powered dorsal gun turret.
A number of companies submitted designs to satisfy this specification, but only Grumman and Chance-Vought received orders to build prototypes. The Chance-Vought design resembled a less ‘chunky’ version of the Grumman TBF “Avenger”, with a longer greenhouse canopy, although it took up more space with its wings folded than the Grumman design. The prototype was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-2800-6 engine for its first flight, then by an R-2800-2. One unusual feature was a single control that lowered undercarriage and flaps and set propeller pitch and fuel mixture ready for landing.
Chance-Vought received an order on April 1940, and the prototype made its first flight on December 1941. By this time it was already almost too late. Grumman had received a production order for the TBF-1 “Avenger” in December 1940, and the first prototype made its maiden flight in August 1941. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the resulting US entry into the WW II meant that the need for a new torpedo bomber was suddenly very urgent. The XTBU-1 reached NAS Anacostia for trials in March 1942, but despite proving to be 30 mph faster than the “Avenger” it was not put into production until the following year.
The XTBU-1 was armed with one fixed forward firing 0.50in gun in the engine cowling, one 0.50in gun in the power operated dorsal turret and one 0.30in gun mounted in the ‘stinger’ or ventral tunnel position (the same defensive layout as the original “Avenger”).
By 1942 Chance Vought was building fighter aircraft, most famously the F4U “Corsair”. When the Navy finally decided to put their torpedo-bomber into production in 1943 they had to find an alternative manufacturer, and so in September 1943 Consolidated Vultee received an order to produce 1,100 aircraft with the new designation TBY-2 “Sea Wolf” (Ref.: 23, 24).
POWER PLANT: Two Junkers Jumo 004C turbojet engines, rated at 1.100 kp each
PERFORMANCE: 600 mph at 40,000 ft
COMMENT: The Horten/Gotha Go 229B-1 was a night- and all-weather fighter variant of the basic Horten/ Gotha- Go 229A-0. The design based on the projected Horten Ho 229B V-7. Again the fuselage was lengthened to accommodate two crew members in tandem and FuG 240 Berlin radar. The flight characteristics were unchanged compared with the Horten/Gotha Go 229A-0. The project never left the drawing board.
POWER PLANT: One Nakajima NK1C “Sakae” 12 radial engine, rated at 950 hp
PERFORMANCE: 270 mph at 16,400 ft
COMMENT: The Nakajima A6M2-N (Navy Type 2 Interceptor/Fighter-Bomber) was a single-crew floatplane based on the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” Model 11. The Allied reporting name for the aircraft was “Rufe”.
The A6M2-N floatplane was developed from the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” Type 0, mainly to support amphibious operations and defend remote bases. It was based on the A6M-2 Model 11 fuselage, with a modified tail and added floats.
The aircraft was deployed in 1942, referred to as the “Suisen 2” (“Hydro fighter type 2”), and was only utilized in defensive actions in the Aleutians and Salomon Islands operations. Such seaplanes were effective in harassing American PT boats at night. They could also drop flares to illuminate the PTs which were vulnerable to destroyer gunfire, and depended on cover of darkness.
The seaplane also served as an interceptor for protecting fueling depots they also served as fighters aboard seaplane carriers “Kamikawa Maru” in the Salomons and Kuriles areas and aboard Japanese raiders “Hokaku Maru” and “Aikoku Mari” in Indian Ocean raids. In the Aleutian Campaign this fighter engaged with RCAF Curtiss P-40 “Warhawk”, Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” fighters and Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” bombers. The aircraft was used for interceptor, fighter-bomber, and short reconnaissance support for amphibious landing, among other uses.
Later in the conflict the Otsu Air Group utilized the A6M2gs-N as an interceptor alongside Kawanishi N1K1 “Kyofu”(“Rex”) aircraft based in Biwa lake in the Honshū area.
The large float and wing pontoons of the A6M2-N degraded its performance by only about 20%. However, this caused the A6M2-N to be unable to confront the first generation of Allied fighters. A total of 327 were built, including the original prototype (Ref. 24).
POWER PLANT: One Wright R-2600-8 radial engine, rated at 1,700 hp
PERFORMANCE: 275 mph at 12,000 ft
COMMENT: Grumman TBF “Avenger” in mid-1942 Grumman’s first torpedo bomber was the heaviest single-engine aircraft of World War II, and only the USAAF’s Republic P-47 “Thunderbolt” came close to equaling it in maximum loaded weight among all single-engine fighters, being only some 181 kg lighter than the TBF, by the end of World War II. To ease carrier storage concerns, simultaneously with the Grumman F4F-4 “Wildcat” carrier-borne fighter, Grumman designed the “Avenger” to also use the new “Sto-Wing” patented compound angle wing-folding mechanism, intended to maximize storage space on an aircraft carrier; in addition to the “Wildcat” and “Avenger”, the “Wildcat’s” replacement, the Grumman F6F “Hellcat” also employed this mechanism as well. There were three crew members: pilot, turret gunner and radioman/bombardier/ventral gunner. One .30 caliber machine gun was mounted in the nose, a .50 caliber (12.7 mm) gun was mounted right next to the turret gunner’s head in a rear-facing electrically powered turret, and a single .30 caliber hand-fired machine gun mounted ventrally (under the tail), which was used to defend against enemy fighters attacking from below and to the rear. This gun was fired by the radioman/bombardier while standing up and bending over in the belly of the tail section, though he usually sat on a folding bench facing forward to operate the radio and to sight in bombing runs. The TBF-1C model dispensed with the nose-mounted gun for one .50 caliber gun in each wing per pilots’ requests for better forward firepower and increased strafing ability. There was only one set of controls on the aircraft, and no access to the pilot’s position from the rest of the aircraft. The radio equipment was massive, especially by today’s standards, and filled the length of the well-framed “greenhouse” canopy to the rear of the pilot. The “Avenger” had a large bomb bay, allowing for one Bliss-Leavitt “Mark 13” torpedo, a single 907 kg bomb, or up to four 227 kg bombs. The aircraft had overall ruggedness and stability, and pilots say it flew like a truck, for better or worse. With its good radio facilities, docile handling, and long range, the Grumman Avenger also made an ideal command aircraft for Commanders Air Group (CAGs). With a 30,000 ft ceiling and a fully loaded range of 1,610 km, it was better than any previous American torpedo bomber, and better than its Japanese counterpart, the obsolete Nakajima B5N “Kate”. Later “Avenger” models carried radar equipment for the ASW and AEW roles. Escort carriers sailors referred to the TBF as the “turkey” because of its size and maneuverability in comparison to the F4F “Wildcat” fighters in CVE air groups.
A total of 2,290 Grumman TBF “Avengers” have been produced until early 1944 when the production switched over to General Motors Company to produce 4,664 additional TBM “Avengers” (Ref.: 24).
ACCOMMODATION: None. Pilot only in Heinkel He 162 A-1
POWER PLANT: Two BMW 003A-1 turbojet engines, rated at 800 kp each
PERFORMANCE: No data available
COMMENT: This “Mistel 5” project was designed as a simple glide bomb that would be powered by two turbojet engines (version B) and carried in pick-a-pack combination beneath a Heinkel He 162 “Spatz” interceptor. Since the single turbojet engine of the He 162 would not have been powerful enough to carry the heavy “Mistel 5” composition two BMW turbojet engines were mounted under the wings of the Arado Ar E. 377. This version was known as Arado Ar E.377B and was similar in all other aspects to the unpowered glide bomb Arado Ar E.377A.
Take-off of the “Mistel 5” composition was accomplished by means of a releasable trolley, sometimes additionally boosted by two Walter HWK 109-500 take-off rockets. The trolley was similar to the one that Rheinmetall-Borsig had designed for the Arado Ar 234A “Blitz” bomber and reconnaissance versions. Since the “Mistel 5” composition was heavier an extra set of wheels were added to the new trolley. Once the composition reached take-off speed the trolley was released and slowed-down by means of one to five parachutes.
A piloted version was also planned as suicide weapon but not realized. The Arado Ar E.377, neither version A nor version B, ever reached prototype status (Ref.: 17).
POWER PLANT: Two Nakajima “Homare 21” radial engines, rated at 1,990 hp each
PERFORMANCE: 371 mph at 19,685 ft
COMMENT: The Nakajima J5N was a Japanese fighter aircraft of WW II. The J5N was developed as twin-engine interceptor for countering attacks by Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” bombers.
During the spring of 1943, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force (IJNAF) issued an 18-Shi specification for a single-seat twin-engine interceptor capable of reaching a top speed of 414 mph at 19,690 ft. Nakajima submitted a proposal based on the earlier Nakajima N1N1 “Gekko” three-seat night fighter, although this new aircraft – designated Nakajima J5N1 – was slightly smaller. The layout of the J5N was similar to the J1N: a low set wing on which were mounted the two power plants, 1,990 hp Nakajima “Homare 21” air-cooled radial engines, with a long fuselage ending in a conventional tail arrangement. For maximum utilization of the power from the twin engines, large four-blade propellers were fitted which also featured large spinners (as fitted to the J1N). The main wheels retracted rearwards into the engine nacelles, and the tailwheel was fixed. The cockpit was set above the wing, and featured a starboard-opening canopy. The nose was streamlined to offer the pilot an excellent forward view during landing, takeoff and taxiing.
Impressed with the design, the JNAF authorized the development of the J5N1, assigned the name “Tenrai” (“Heavenly Thunder”), and six prototypes were requested to be built. Progress was impeded by the failure of the engines to produce their promised power, and by a steady increase in the weight of the airframe as the need to reverse the long-standing policy of giving low priority to armor protection led to a buildup of weight and a drop in performance. The first prototype – shown here – lacking its armament – made its first flight July 13, 1944, and was something of a disappointment. The top speed attained was only 371 mph – far below the specified 414 mph of the requirement. Despite the other five prototypes also having flown with numerous enhancements, the aircraft never achieved its design speed, and the project was abandoned soon after in February 1945. Four of the six experimental aircraft were lost to accidents (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-1830-56 radial engine, rated at 1,350 hp
PERFORMANCE: 320 mph
COMMENT: Grumman’s F4F “Wildcat” production ceased in early 1943 to make way for the newer F6F “Hellcat”, but General Motors/Eastern Aircraft continued producing “Wildcats” for both U.S. Navy and (British) Fleet Air Arm use. At first, General Motors produced the FM-1 (identical to the F4F-4, but with four guns). Production later switched to the improved FM-2 (based on Grumman’s XF4F-8 prototype, informally known as the “Wilder Wildcat”) optimized for small-carrier operations, with a more powerful engine, and a taller tail to cope with the increased torque.
From 1943 onward, “Wildcats” equipped with bomb racks were primarily assigned to escort carriers for use against submarines and attacking ground targets, though they would also continue to score kills against Japanese fighters, bombers and kamikaze aircraft. Larger fighters such as the “Hellcat” and the Vought F4U “Corsair” and dedicated dive bombers were needed aboard fleet carriers, and the “Wildcat’s” slower landing speed and its size made it more suitable for shorter flight decks of escort carriers.
General Motors / Eastern Aircraft produced 5,280 FM-1 and FM-2 variants out of total production of 7,860 “Wildcats” (Ref.: 24).