Brief description: This picture gallery contains aircraft models of World War II on a scale 1:72 as injection moulded, resin- and vacu- formed kits as well as home-made conversions.
Here, you will find photos of aircraft models of World War II on a scale 1:72. e.g. those of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF), the United States Navy (USN), the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Royal Navy (RN) , the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force (IJAAF), the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force (IJNAF), the German Air Force (Luftwaffe, GAF) and the Air Force of the Soviet Union. Within these branches of the services you can select between fighters, fighter-bombers, bombers, trainers etc. Also you can select projects, designed on the drawing board as well as post-war developments, whose origin dated back into the time of WW II.
Important notice: Among the aircraft models shown here there are many aircraft from the former German Air Force (Deutsche Luftwaffe). They all show the swastika as a national symbol of that time. I would like to point out that this is not a political statement, but rather a source of historical information on the types of aircraft flown by the German Luftwaffe before and during the Second World War. It is to be taken as a reference for all aviation enthusiasts, and not taken as an expression of any sympathy for the Nazi regime or any Neo-Nazi or Right wing hate Groups.
I have built all these models just for fun and never, it has been my intention to show them anybody or to present them at a show. Over the years more then 1.500 models have emerged, and many more kits have not been completed yet, or are still waiting for the finish or the last little detail.
POWER PLANT: Four Heinkel/Hirth HeS 011 turbojet engines, rated at 1,200 kp each
PERFORMANCE: 528 mph
COMMENT: In January/February 1945, only four month before the German “Third Reich” surrendered, Messerschmitt proposed two designs of a “Fernbomber” (Long-distant range/long-range bomber), the Me P.1108/I and –II. Although no post-war information provided by Messerschmitt’s employees could be independently verified, since all data had already been removed by the French it seems that both projects were designed by Dr. Wurster from Messerschmitt to a concept by Dr. Alexander Lippisch.
While the Messerschmitt Me P.1108/I, (design drawing Nr. IX-126 from 28th February, 1945) was a more conventional design with a fuselage, 35 degree back-swept wings and a butterfly-type tailplane, the Me P.1108/II (design drawing Nr.117 from January 12th, 1945) was a flying wing concept with 40 degrees sweep of the leading edge without any tailplane. Common to both projects were the installation of four Heinkel/Hirth HeS 011 turbojet engines, the air intakes were under the wings or in the wings leading edge. Calculated fully loaded weight was to be 30 tons, a range of 4,300 mi at a speed of 500–530 mph and a height of 30,000–39,000 ft. was estimated.
The Messerschmitt Me P.1108/I design had an aerodynamic clear fuselage with circular cross section and low positioned swept back wing with four He S 011 turbojet engines in paired nacelles half-embedded in the wing trailing edge. These were fed by a common intake on each lower wing surface. A two man crew sat in tandem position in a pressurized cockpit in the extreme nose of the aircraft. A tricycle landing gear arrangement was designed, with the main wheels retracting into the fuselage. It was planned that the armament of the production aircraft should consist of three twin 20mm cannon turrets, two located on the back of the fuselage and aft of the cockpit and one under the fuselage. All were remotely controlled from the cockpit.
Understandably, at the end of March 1945, only few weeks before the total collapse of the “Third Reich” Messerschmitt was ordered by the RLM to cease all development on long range bomber designs (Ref.: 15, 20).
POWER PLANT: One Nakajima NK9B “Homare 11” radial engine, rated at 1,560 hp at 21,000 ft
PERFORMANCE: 367 mph
COMMENT: The Aichi B7A “Ryusei” (“Shooting Star”, Allied reporting name “Grace”) was a large and powerful carrier-borne torpedo-dive bomber produced by Aichi Kokuki KK for the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service during the Second World War. Built in only small numbers and deprived of the aircraft carriers it was intended to operate from, the type had little chance to distinguish itself in combat before the war ended in August 1945.
The B7A “Ryusei” (originally designated AM-23 by Aichi) was designed in response to a 1941 16-Shi requirement issued by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service for a carrier attack bomber that would replace both the Nakajima B6N “Tenzan” torpedo plane and the Yokosuka D4Y “Suisei” dive bomber in IJN service. It was intended for use aboard a new generation of “Taihō”-class aircraft carriers, the first of which was laid down in July 1941. Because the deck elevators on the “Taihōs” had a larger square area than those of older Japanese carriers, the longstanding maximum limit of 11 m (36 ft) on carrier aircraft length could now be lifted.
The Aichi’s designers chose a mid-wing arrangement for the B7A to provide for an internal bomb-bay and to ensure enough clearance for the plane’s 3.5 m four-bladed propeller. This in turn necessitated the adoption of an inverted gull wing, reminiscent of the Vought F4U “Corsair”, in order to shorten the length of the main landing gear. The wing featured extendable ailerons with a ten-degree range of deflection, enabling them to act as auxiliary flaps. Dive brakes were fitted underneath just outboard of the fuselage. The B7A’s outer wing panels were designed to fold upwards hydraulically for carrier stowage, reducing its overall span from 14.4 m to approximately 7.9 m.
Selection of a power plant was dictated by the Japanese Navy which requested that Aichi design the aircraft around the 1,825 hp Nakajima NK9C “Homare 12” 18-cylinder two-row air-cooled radial engine. This was expected to become the Navy’s standard aircraft engine in the 1,800 hp to 2,200 hp range. The B7A had a weight-carrying capacity stemming from its requirements, resulting in a weapons load no greater than its predecessors. The presence of an internal bomb bay with two high-load-capability attachment points allowed the aircraft to carry two 250 kg or six 60 kg bombs. Alternatively, it could carry a single externally mounted Type 91 torpedo, weighing up to 848 kg.
Defensive armament initially consisted of two 20mm Type 99 Model 2 cannons in the wing roots and one flexible 7.92mm Type 1 machine-gun mounted in the rear cockpit. Later production models of the B7A2 featured a 13mm Type 2 machine-gun in place of the 7.92mm gun.
Despite the plane’s weight and size, it displayed fighter-like handling and performance, besting the version of the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” in service at the time. It was fast and highly maneuverable.
Given the codename “Grace” by the Allies, the B7A1 first flew as a prototype in May 1942, but teething problems with the experimental NK9C “Homare” engine and necessary modifications to the airframe meant that the type did not enter into production until two years later in May 1944. Nine prototype B7A1s (the second prototype is shown here) were built and were progressively modified to eradicate minor airframe and equipment problems.
In April 1944 an improved engine version, the 1,825 hp “Homare 12”, became available and powered by this engine the aircraft was finally placed in production as the Aichi B7A2 “Ryusei” (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: Four Pratt & Whitney R-4360-31 “Wasp Major” radial engines, rated at 3,250 hp each
PERFORMANCE: 470 mph
COMMENT: The Republic XF-12 “Rainbow” was an American four-engine, all-metal reconnaissance aircraft designed by the Republic Aviation Company in the late 1940s. The aircraft was designed with maximum aerodynamic efficiency in mind. The XF-12 was referred to as an aircraft that was “flying on all fours” meaning: four engines, 400 mph cruise, 4,000 miles range, at 40,000 feet. It is still the fastest piston-engined airplane of this size, exceeding by some 50 mph the Boeing XB-39 of 1944. Although highly innovative, the postwar XF-12 “Rainbow” had to compete against more modern turbojet engine technology, and did not enter production.
In August 1943, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s son, Colonel Elliot Roosevelt, commander of the F-5 (modified P-38) “recon” unit, recommended the acquisition of a dedicated high-performance photo reconnaissance aircraft, capable of providing pre-strike target acquisition and photo interpretation. Followed by additional overflights to provide post-strike analysis of their subsequent destruction, this would give commanders the ability to make pivotal strategic decisions and set up subsequent raids. The XF-12 “Rainbow” was Republic Aviation’s attempt to meet those goals. Its primary competition during this time was the Hughes XF-11. Both were introduced at the same time, and both were powered by the new Pratt & Whitney R-4360. The XF-12’s first flight was made on 4 February 1946. During the XF-12’s subsequent flight testing and development period, it demonstrated the capability of operating at 45,000 feet, at a speed of 470 mph, over a range of 4,500 mi, so it met and exceeded the design goals for which it had been designed. Neither the XF-11 nor the XF-12 was purchased in any quantity by the U.S. Army Air Forces (two each), as their need evaporated after hostilities ended in World War II.
When the XF-12 was modified with increased “all weather” equipment and outfitted with its new engines capable of providing short burst of extra power, it suddenly assumed tremendous importance in the eyes of both the U.S. Air Force and the State Department. As a potent intelligence weapon, the XF-12 had the ability to obtain photographs both in daylight and under conditions of restricted visibility at high altitudes over long ranges and with great speed. In theory, operating from northern bases (Alaska and Canada), this “flying photo laboratory” was capable of mapping broad stretches of territory in the Arctic regions performing reconnaissance with near-invulnerability.
Low drag was a primary consideration throughout the design of the XF-12. Many of its features were taken directly from Republic’s considerable experience with fighter plane design. In an extremely rare case of design direction, absolutely no compromise with aerodynamics was made in the shape of its fuselage, the sharp nose and cylindrical cigar shape of the XF-12 fulfilled a designer’s dream of a no compromise design with aerodynamic considerations.
To fulfill its reconnaissance role, the XF-12 contained three separate photographic compartments aft of the wing. One vertical, one split vertical, and one trimetrogon each using a six-inch Fairchild K-17 camera. For night reconnaissance missions, the XF-12 had a large hold in the belly which accommodated 18 high-intensity photo-flash bombs; these were ejected over the target area. All of the bays were equipped with electrically operated, inward retracting doors (again designed for maximum aerodynamic cleanliness). The camera lenses were electrically heated to eliminate distortion. All of this combined to allow full photo operations during high speed flights. The XF-12 also carried a variety of photographic equipment, including complete darkroom facilities to permit the development and printing of films in flight. This was augmented by adjustable storage racks, able to handle any size film containers and additional photo equipment. This allowed the Army Intelligence units to have immediate access to the intelligence the aircraft was able to collect, with no delay in processing.
The XF-12 “Rainbow” featured a wing of straight taper with squared tips and high aspect ratio for maximum efficiency. The engines featured a sliding cowl arrangement to facilitate cooling airflow instead of the normal cowl flaps, which caused too much drag. At the front of the cowls, the engines were also fitted with a two-stage “impeller fan” directly behind the propeller hub and prop spinner. This allowed the engines to be tightly cowled for aerodynamic efficiency, but still provide the cooling airflow the engines required. When the sliding cowl ring was closed (during flight), the air used for cooling the engine was ducted through the nacelle to the rear exhaust orifice for a net thrust gain, as opposed to the usual cooling drag penalty.
All of the air for the engine intakes, oil coolers and intercoolers was drawn through the front of each wing between the inboard and outboard engines. This allowed less drag than with individual intakes for each component. In addition, because the air was taken from a high-pressure area at the front of the wing, this provided a “ram air” benefit for increased power at high speeds, and more effective cooling of the oil and intercoolers. The intake portion of the wing comprised 25% of the total wingspan. They were extensively wind tunnel tested for intake efficiency and inlet contour efficiency. This cooling air, after being utilized, was ducted toward the rear of the nacelle, to provide additional net thrust. The entire engine nacelle was the length of a Republic P-47 “Thunderbolt”. Each engine featured twin General Electric turbochargers, situated at the aft end of the nacelle. All of the exhaust from the engines was ducted straight out of the back of the nacelles. This provided additional thrust. Research showed that roughly 250 equivalent horsepower was generated by each engine exhaust during high speed cruise at 40,000 ft.
The original design of the XF-12 called for contra-rotating propellers, similar to those used on the original XF-11. However, due to the added complexity and reliability issues, the propellers were never installed. They would have been twin three-bladed propellers (rotating in opposite directions). As it was, the aircraft used standard four-bladed Curtiss Electric propellers for all flights.
Had the XF-12 “Rainbow” been available in 1944, it almost inevitably would have been ordered in quantity, and along with its civilian counterpart, the whole postwar structure of aircraft markets might have been altered. As it was, the XF-12 disappeared into oblivion, despite its graceful lines and high performance. The “Rainbow” remains the ultimate expression of multi-engine, piston-powered aircraft design. Its high speed, near-perfect streamlined form, and neatly cowled engines make it a design classic, often unappreciated, and not very well known. The XF-12 was the fastest, four engine pure piston-powered aircraft of its day, and the only one ever to exceed 450 mph in level flight. (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: Six Junkers Jumo 012 turbojet engines, rated at 2,500 kp thrust each
PERFORMANCE: 578 mph
COMMENT: The Junkers EF 132 was one of the last aircraft project developments undertaken by Junkers in WWII, and was the culmination of the Junkers Ju 287 design started in 1942. The shoulder-mounted wings were swept back at a 35 degree angle and featured a small amount of anhedral. Six Junkers Jumo 012 jet engines, each of which developed 2,500 kp of thrust, were buried in the wing roots. Wind tunnel results showed the advantages of having the engines within the wing, rather than causing drag by being mounted below the wing surfaces. Several wooden mockups were built of the wing sections, in order to find the best way to mount the engines without wasting too much space while at the same time providing maintenance accessibility. The landing flaps were designed to be split flaps, and the goal was to make the gearing and operation simple. Because of the high placement of the wings to the fuselage, an unbroken bomb bay of 12 meters could be utilized in the center fuselage. The tail plane was also swept back and the EF 132 had a normal vertical fin and rudder. An interesting landing gear arrangement was planned, that consisted of a nose wheel, two tandem main wheels beneath the center rear fuselage, and outrigger-type wheels under each outer wing. A fully glazed, pressurized cockpit located in the extreme fuselage nose held a crew of five. Armament consisted of two twin 20mm cannon turrets (one located aft of the cockpit, the other beneath the fuselage) and a tail turret containing another twin 20mm cannon. All of the defensive armaments were remotely controlled from the cockpit, and a bomb load of 4000-5000 kg was envisioned to be carried.
A wind tunnel model was tested in early 1945, and a 1:1 scale wooden mockup was also built at the Dessau Junkers facility to test the placement of various components, and also to check different air intake openings in the wing leading edge for the turbojet engines. The development stage had progressed far when the Soviets overran the Dessau complex and took possession of all of the Ju 287 and Junkers EF 131 and Junkers EF132 designs and components. The Soviets gave its approval for the bombed out Junkers Dessau factory to be partially rebuilt, the wind tunnels repaired and the turbojet engine test and manufacturing facilities to be put back into operation. In October 1946, the whole complex and the German engineers were transferred to GOZ No.1 (Gosoodarstvenny Opytnyy Zavod, State Experimental Plant), at Dubna in the Soviet Union, to continue development of the EF 131 and EF 132. Design work on the EF 132 continued under Dr. B. Baade at OKB-1 (the design bureau attached to GOZ No.1), under order of Council of Ministers (COM) directive No.874-266, an unpowered example was constructed to gather additional data, but only slow progress was made before the project was terminated on June 1948, by COM directive 2058-805 (Ref.: 17. 24).
POWER PLANT: One Nakajima NK1F “Sakae 21” radial engine, rated at 1,100 hp at 9,350 ft
PERFORMANCE: 351 mph at 19,685 ft
COMMENT: The Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” was the best known Japanese warplane of WW II. A6M “Zeros” were predominantly used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJN) on aircraft carriers, and also by its land-based fighter units. At the start of the Pacific War in 1941, the A6M constituted about 60% of the IJN fighter force. It took part in carrier operations throughout much of the Pacific Ocean, as well as over the northeast Indian Ocean
The Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” is a long-range fighter aircraft formerly manufactured by Mitsubishi Aircraft Company. Officially, the A6M was designated as the Mitsubishi Navy Type 0 carrier fighter (“Rei-shiki-kanjō-sentōki”), or the Mitsubishi A6M “Rei-sen”. The A6M was usually referred to by its pilots as the “Reisen” (Zero fighter), “0” being the last digit of the Imperial Year 2600 (1940) when it entered service with the Imperial Navy. The official Allied reporting name was “Zeke”, although the use of the name “Zero” was later adopted by the Allies as well.
The “Zero” was considered the most capable carrier-based fighter in the world when it was introduced early in WW II, combining excellent maneuverability and very long range. The IJN also frequently used it as a land-based fighter.
With its low-wing cantilever monoplane layout, retractable, wide-set conventional landing gear and enclosed cockpit, the “Zero” was one of the most modern carrier based aircraft in the world at the time of its introduction. It had a fairly high-lift, low-speed wing with very low wing loading. This, combined with its light weight, resulted in a very low stalling speed of well below 69 mph. This was the main reason for its phenomenal maneuverability, allowing it to out-turn any Allied fighter of the time.
The “Zero” quickly gained a fearsome reputation. Thanks to a combination of unsurpassed maneuverability — even when compared to other contemporary Axis fighters — and excellent firepower, it easily disposed the motley collection of Allied aircraft sent against it in the Pacific in 1941. It proved a difficult opponent even for the British Supermarine “Spitfire”. Although not as fast as the British fighter, the “Zero” could out-turn the “Spitfire” with ease, sustain a climb at a very steep angle, and stay in the air for three times as long. In early combat operations, the “Zero” gained a legendary reputation as a dogfight achieving an outstanding kill ratio of 12 to 1, but by mid-1942 a combination of new tactics and the introduction of better equipment enabled Allied pilots to engage the “Zero” on generally equal terms. By 1943, due to inherent design weaknesses and an inability to equip it with a more powerful aircraft engine, the “Zero” gradually became less effective against newer Allied fighters. By 1944, with opposing Allied fighters approaching its levels of maneuverability and consistently exceeding its firepower, armor, and speed, the A6M had largely become outdated as a fighter aircraft. However, due to design delays and production difficulties, which hampered the introduction of newer Japanese aircraft models, the “Zero” continued to serve in a front line role until the end of the war in the Pacific. During the final phases, it was also adapted for use in Kamikaze operations.
Japan produced more “Zeros” than any other model of combat aircraft during the war. When the war in the Pacific Area of Action ended, 10,939 aircraft have been built by Mitsubishi Jukogyo K.K. and Nakajima Hikoki K.K. in four major variants A6M2, A6M3, A6M5, and A6M8, each variant including several subtypes. Nakajima built a float-plane variant, the Nakajima A6M2-N, Allied reporting name “Rufe”.
The Mitsubishi A6M5c, Model 52 Hei, featured an armament change: One 13.2 mm Type 3 machine gun was added in each wing outboard of the cannon, and the 7.7 mm gun on the left side of the cowl was deleted. Four racks for rockets or small bombs were installed outboard of the 13 mm gun in each wing. Engine changed to a Nakajima NK1F “Sakae21” although some sources state that the A6M5c had a more powerful “Sakae 31” engine. In addition, a 55 mm thick piece of armored glass was installed at the headrest and an 8 mm thick plate of armor was installed behind the seat. The mounting of the central 300 l (79 US gal) drop tank changed to a four-post design. Wing skin was thickened further. The first of this variant was completed in September 1944 (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: Two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 “Twin-Wasp” radial engines, rated at 1,200 hp each
PERFORMANCE: 196 mph at 6.700 ft
COMMENT: The PBY was originally designed as a patrol bomber, an aircraft with a long operational range intended to locate and attack enemy transport ships at sea in order to disrupt enemy supply lines. With a mind to a potential conflict in the Pacific Ocean, where troops would require resupply over great distances, the US Navy in the 1930s invested millions of dollars in developing long-range flying boats for this purpose. Flying boats had the advantage of not requiring runways, in effect having the entire ocean available. Several different flying boats were adopted by the Navy, but the PBY was the most widely used and produced.
Although slow and ungainly, Consolidated PBY “Catalinas” distinguished themselves in World War II. Allied forces used them successfully in a wide variety of roles for which the aircraft was never intended. PBYs are remembered for their rescue role, in which they saved the lives of thousands of aircrew downed over water. “Catalina” airmen called their aircraft the “Cat” on combat missions and “Dumbo” in air-rescue service.
Consolidated and Douglas both delivered single prototypes of their new designs, the XP3Y-1 and XP3D-1, respectively. Consolidated’s XP3Y-1 was an evolution of the XPY-1 design that had originally competed unsuccessfully for the P3M contract two years earlier and of the XP2Y design that the Navy had authorized for a limited production run. Although the Douglas aircraft was a good design, the Navy opted for Consolidated because the projected cost was only $90,000 per aircraft.
Consolidated XP3Y-1 design (company Model 28) had a parasol wing with external bracing struts, mounted on a pylon over the fuselage. Wingtip stabilizing floats were retractable in flight to form streamlined wingtips and had been licensed from the British Saunders-Roe company. The two-step hull design was similar to that of the P2Y, but the Model 28 had a cantilever cruciform tail unit instead of a strut-braced twin tail. Cleaner aerodynamics gave the Model 28 better performance than earlier designs. Construction is all-metal, stressed-skin, of aluminum sheet, except the ailerons and wing trailing edge, which are fabric covered
The Consolidated XP3Y-1 had its maiden flight on March 1935, after which it was transferred to the US Navy for service trials. The XP3Y-1 was a significant performance improvement over previous patrol flying boats. The Navy requested further development in order to bring the aircraft into the category of patrol bomber, and in October 1935, the prototype was returned to Consolidated for further work, including installation of 900 hp R-1830-64 engines. For the redesignated XPBY-1, Consolidated introduced redesigned vertical tail surfaces which resolved a problem with the tail becoming submerged on takeoff, which had made lift-off impossible under some conditions. The XPBY-1 had its maiden flight on May 1936, during which a record non-stop distance flight of 3,443 miles was achieved.
Around 4.051 aircraft were built, and these operated in nearly all operational theatres of World War II. The “Catalina” served with distinction and played a prominent and invaluable role against the Japanese. This was especially true during the first year of the war in the Pacific, because the Consolidated PBY “Catalina” and the Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” were the only aircraft available with the range to be effective in the Pacific.
The Consolidated PBY “Catalina” was built in seven major variants, the last, PBY-6A, was equipped with search radar in a radome above the cockpit, a taller fin and rudder and amphibious undercarriage (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: Four Junkers Jumo 004C turbojet engines, rated at 1,020 kp each
PERFORMANCE: 510 mph
COMMENT: With its Blohm & Voss Bv P.188 bomber projects the aircraft company proposed several different designs that would have been powered by four powerful turbojet engines. Most unusual was a long, specifically W-shaped wing design. The wings were placed – differing of project – from high to low on the fuselage side. Common to all projects was the layout of wings: their inner halves were swept back 20 degrees while the outer halves were swept 20 degrees forward. It was hoped that this arrangement would provide a better performance, both at high and low speeds.
The Blohm & Voss Bv P.188 bomber project had three different known variants. Blohm & Voss Bv P.188.01 was powered by four turbojets placed in separate nacelles under the wings. The W-shaped wing was placed high on the fuselage, the tail section was of a conventional type.
Very similar in design was the Blohm & Voss Bv P.188 02 except for a smaller, slightly raised cockpit, the wings were placed in mid-fuselage and a tail with a twin rudder arrangement.
The last design was the Blohm und Voss P.188.04 turbojet bomber. The fuselage center section was designed as an armored steel shell which was to hold the fuel supply, with the forward and rear sections being bays for the tandem twin main landing gear wheels. The W-shaped wing was place low on the fuselage and had a constant 3 degree dihedral. A crew of two sat in tandem in an extensively glazed, pressurized cockpit, which was flush with the fuselage. Four Junkers Jumo 004C turbojet engines were mounted in two nacelles, which were located beneath each wing, very similar to the Arado Ar 234C “Blitz” (“Lightning”) turbojet bomber. There were also an auxiliary ‘outrigger’ type landing gear outboard of the engine nacelles, these being more to steady the aircraft, and did not touch the ground when it was on an even keel. The tail was of a twin fin and rudder design, with a dihedral tail plane and the extreme tail had an airbrake. Armament consisted of two remote-controlled FDL 131 Z twin 13mm machine guns, guided by two PVE 11 periscopes aft of the cockpit, and firing to the rear. A bombload of 2000 kg could be carried externally. None of these futuristic projects were realized (Ref: 17, 24).
POWER PLANT: Two Mitsubishi Ha-112 radial engines, rated at 1,080 hp each
PERFORMANCE: 375 mph at 19,000 ft
COMMENT: To the Allied aircrews ”Dinah” was known as the aircraft with the nice “linah”. Indeed, the Mitsubishi Ki-46 had probably the most graceful lines of any fighting aircraft of WW II. Cleanly designed, reliable and fast, this airplane performed its unspectacular tasks of high-altitude reconnaissance with considerable success from the first unauthorized overflight of Malaya before the Japanese invasion of that country to the surveillance flights over the US 20th Air Force’s bases in the Marianas during the closing stage of the war. Respected by its foes and trusted by its crews, the Ki-46 also captured the attention of the German Luftwaffe with fruitlessly negotiated the acquisition of a manufacturing license under the Japanese-German Technical Exchange Programme.
Because of the geographical location of Japan and the vastness of the area in which a potential conflict requiring their participation would be fought, the Imperial Japanese Army had a constant requirement for reconnaissance aircraft combining high speed with substantial range performance.
On 12 December 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force issued a specification to Mitsubishi for a long-range strategic reconnaissance aircraft to replace the Mitsubishi Ki-15. The specification demanded an endurance of six hours and sufficient speed to evade interception by any fighter in existence or development. The resulting design was a twin-engined, low-winged monoplane with a retractable tailwheel undercarriage. It had a small diameter oval fuselage which accommodated a crew of two, with the pilot and observer situated in individual cockpits separated by a large fuel tank. Further fuel tanks were situated in the thin wings both inboard and outboard of the engines. The engines, two Mitsubishi Ha-26s, were housed in close fitting cowlings developed by the Aeronautical Research Institute of the Tokyo Imperial University to reduce drag and improve pilot view.
The first prototype aircraft, with the designation Ki-46, flew in November 1939 from the Mitsubishi factory at Kakamigahara, Gifu. Tests showed that the Ki-46 was underpowered, and slower than required, only reaching 336 mph rather than the specified 373 mph. Otherwise, the aircraft tests were successful. As the type was still faster than the Army’s latest fighter, the Nakajima Ki-43 “Hayabusa” (“Peregrine falcon”, Allied code “Oscar”), as well as the Navy’s new Mitsubishi A6M2 “Zero”, an initial production batch was ordered as the Army Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Plane Model 1 (Ki-41-I).
While testing of the Ki-46-I was going on, the engine plant of Mitsubishi had under development an advanced version of the Ha-26-I engine, the Ha-102, with two-speed supercharger which was expected to boost take-off rating to1,080 hp. With this powerplant it was anticipated that the Ki-46 could easily meet its speed requirement and consequently Mitsubishi were instructed to proceed with the design of the Ki-46-II to be powered by a pair of Ha-102s. The first Ki-46-II was completed in March 1941 and the test progressed satisfying so the production started.
The new aircraft was first used by the Japanese Army in Manchukuo and China, where seven units were equipped with it, and also at times by the Imperial Japanese Navy in certain reconnaissance missions over the northern coasts of Australia and New Guinea. The Imperial Japanese Army Air Force used this aircraft for the same type of missions over present-day Malaysia during the months before the Pacific War. Later, it was used for high altitude reconnaissance over Burma, Indochina, Thailand, and the Indian Ocean. The Mitsubishi Ki-46 was regarded by the Allied as a difficult aircraft to counter, only occasionally intercepting them successfully.
During WW II Mitsubishi factories produced 34 units Mitsubishi Ki-46-I, and 1093 units Mitsubishi Ki-46-II (Ref.: 1, 24).
POWER PLANT: One Bristol “Centaurus” IX radial engine, rated at 2,520 hp
PERFORMANCE: 342 mph
COMMENT: The Blackburn “Firebrand” was a British single-engine strike fighter for the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy designed during World War II by Blackburn Aircraft. Originally intended to serve as a pure fighter, its unimpressive performance and the allocation of its Napier “Sabre” piston engine by the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) for the Hawker “Typhoon” caused it to be redesigned as a strike fighter to take advantage of its load-carrying capability. Development was slow and the first production aircraft was not delivered until after the end of the war. Only a few hundred were built before it was withdrawn from front-line service in 1953
The B-37, given the service name “Firebrand” on July 1941, was a low-winged, all-metal monoplane. Aft of the cockpit the fuselage was an oval-shaped stressed-skin semi monocoque, but forward it had a circular-section, tubular-steel frame that housed the main fuel tank and the auxiliary fuel tank behind the engine. The radiators for the neatly cowled “Sabre” engine were housed in wing-root extensions. The large wing consisted of a two-spar centre section with manually folded outer panels to allow more compact storage in the hangar decks of aircraft carriers. To increase lift and reduce landing speed the wing was fitted with large, hydraulically powered flaps that extended to the edges of the ailerons. The fixed armament of four 20 mm cannon was fitted in the outer wing panels. The fin and rudder were positioned forward of the elevator to ensure spin recovery and that the rudder would retain its effectiveness. The mainwheels of the landing gear were mounted at the ends of the centre wing section and retracted inwards.The “Firebrand” was unusual in the fact that there was an airspeed gauge mounted outside of the cockpit so that during landing the pilot would not have to look down into the cockpit to take instrument readings, foreshadowing the modern heads-up display.
The unarmed first prototype first flew on February 1942 using the “Sabre II”, the first of two armed prototypes following on July same year. The initial flight trials were a disappointment as the aircraft could only reach 32 mph below Blackburn’s estimated maximum speed. Replacement of the “Sabre II” with a “Sabre III”, an engine built specifically for the “Firebrand” improved its top speed to 358 mph at 17,000 ft. The second prototype conducted deck-landing trials aboard the fleet carrier HMS “Illustrious” in February 1943.The “Sabre” engine was also used in the Hawker “Typhoon”, a fighter already in production and the MAP decided that the “Typhoon” had priority for the “Sabre”. The “Sabre” was also experiencing production problems and so a new engine was needed, along with the necessary airframe adaptations. To use the time and effort invested in the design, the MAP decided to convert the “Firebrand” into an interim strike fighter, to meet a Fleet Air Arm requirement for a single-seat torpedo bomber capable of carrying bombs, rockets and being capable of air-to-air combat. Nine production “Firebrand” F. Mk I aircraft were built to the original specifications and were retained for trials and development work
A new specification was issued as S.8/43 to cover the development of the “Firebrand” T.F. Mk III with the 2,400 hp Bristol “Centaurus” VII radial engine. Two prototypes were converted from incomplete F Mk Is and 27 additional aircraft were delivered, completing the first batch of 50 aircraft. The first prototype flew on December 1943, but construction of the new aircraft was very slow with the first flight not being made until November 1944. Most changes were related to the installation of the larger-diameter “Centaurus” engine, including air intakes for the carburetor and oil cooler in the wing-root extensions that formerly housed the engine’s radiators. Production aircraft after the first 10 were fitted with the improved “Centaurus” IX engine. The “Firebrand” T.F. Mk III was found to be unsuitable for carrier operations for a variety of reasons. The new engine produced more torque than the “Sabre”, and rudder control was insufficient on takeoff with the full flaps needed for carrier use. Visibility while landing was very poor, the tailhook attachment to the airframe was too weak, and the aircraft had a tendency to drop a wing at the stall while landing, so development continued to rectify these issues.
The “Firebrand” T.F. Mk IV, as the new development was designated, featured larger tail surfaces for better low-speed control. The enlarged rudder was horn balanced and the vertical stabilizer was offset three degrees to port to counteract the four-bladed Rotol propeller’s torque. The wings now featured hydraulically operated dive brakes on both upper and lower surfaces. The aircraft’s wings were now stressed to carry heavy bombs, drop tanks or RP-3 rockets. The frame that held the torpedo was connected to the undercarriage so that it pivoted nose-downward to increase ground clearance with the landing gear extended and pivoted upward to reduce drag while in flight. The “Firebrand” T.F. Mk IV first flew on May 1945, and 250 aircraft were ordered. But only 170 aircraft were completed and 50 more aircraft were cancelled (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Daimler-Benz DB 601A liquid-cooled engine, rated at 1,175 hp
PERFORMANCE: 370 mph app.
COMMENT: The designation Messerschmitt Me 209 was used for two separate projects during World War II. The first was a record-setting, single-engine race aircraft, for which little or no consideration was given to adaptation for combat (Messerschmitt Me 209 V1). The second Me 209 was a proposal for a follow-up to the highly successful Messerschmitt Bf 109 which served as the Luftwaffe’s primary fighter throughout World War II.
In late 1939, after three prototypes of the record-breaking aircraft were built the fourth prototype, the Messerschmitt Me 209 V4, was adapted to a fighter aircraft. The fuselage was essentially similar to that of the record-speed aircraft but the vertical tail surfaces were substantially increased in area, the main undercarriage legs were shortened, an entirely new wing was fitted, and the maximum gross weight was reduced.
For initial flight trials, the Me 209 V4 was fitted with a standard Daimler-Benz DB 601A engine and retained the surface evaporation cooling system employed by its high-speed predecessors, but this system was far from perfection and continuously troublesome, and after the eighth test flight was removed and replaced by shallow, low drag radiators beneath the inboard wing panels. The resumption of flying trials immediately revealed inadequacy of the cooling provided by the underwing radiators, and the handling characteristics of both on the ground and in the air proved extremely poor. By 1940, the overall wing span had been increased and both horizontal and vertical tail surfaces had been enlarged, but trial revealed no major improvement of the characteristics of the fighter.
With each successive modification weight escalated and performance diminished, and as the Me 209 V4 was by now decidedly underpowered, the DB 601A was replaced by a DB 601N affording 1,200 hp for take-off. But troubles still continued and further tests proved that speed performance was marginally lower than that of the standard Messerschmitt Me 109E. Finally all further development was abandoned.
However, combat actions with British Supermarine “Spitfires” showed an urgent need for a successor of the Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitt Me 109. So the Messerschmitt design bureau had been engaged in developing a modernized, more powerful derivative of the Me 109 and the RLM transferred the designation Me 209 to the new fighter which should employ a large portion of a standard Me 109 components. In fact, at the outset it was envisaged that there would be approximately 65 per cent airframe communality between the Me 109G and what now referred to as Messerschmitt Me 209-II (Ref.: 7).
Scale 1:72 aircraft models of World War II
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