Kawanishi N1K1 Kyofu
Anticipation of a need for single-seat float-equipped interceptor seaplanes prompted the Japanese navy to initiate a development programme for such aircraft in 1940, the Nakajima A6M2-N floatplane adaptation of the famous Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero being intended as a stopgap until a purpose-designed aircraft could be introduced. This was to be the Kawanishi N1K Kyofu (mighty wind), whose design was started in September of that year.
Featuring a central float and twin wing-mounted stabilizing floats, the new prototype retained the same gun armament as the A6M2 but was powered by a 1089kW Kasei 14 radial engine driving two-blade contraprops in an attempt to counter the torque-induced swing on take-off. The wing-mounted floats were originally intended to be retractable but design problems led to these being fixed before the aircraft's first flight. Persistent trouble with the contraprop gearbox resulted in a change to the Kasei 13 engine driving a single three blade propeller from the second prototype onwards.
First flown on 6 May 1942, the N1K1 went on to trials with the navy, although with tricky take-off characteristics, in the air, with its combat flaps, the Kyofu handled and manoeuvred well. The N1K1 Kyofu reached the Imperial Navy in August 1942. At a time (the end of 1942), the N1K1 was ordered into production, but the delivery rate was slow to accelerate and fortunes changed rapidly during 1943. By December 1942, with only 15 aircraft being completed each month and Japanese offensive initiative dwindling, it was decided to end production of the aircraft, and in March 1944 the last of 89 Kyofus was delivered to the service.
Codenamed 'Rex' by the Allies, the N1K1 was first deployed for the defence of Balikpapan in Borneo. In the final weeks of the war N1K1s flew alongside the 'Rufes' of the Otsu Kokutai from Lake Biwa in defence of central Honshu against the increasing American raids on Japan.
In 1941 Kawanishi was still engaged in design of the N1K1, and while their design was still in progress Kawanishi undertook a wheel-landing gear version, designated the N1K1-J Shiden (Violet Lightning).
Engine: 1 x Mitsubishi MK4E "Kasei-15", 1150kW
Wingspan: 12 m / 39 ft 4 in
Length: 10.59 m / 34 ft 9 in
Height: 4.75 m / 15 ft 7 in
Wing area: 23.5 sq.m / 252.95 sq ft
Max take-off weight: 3500-3712 kg / 7716 - 8184 lb
Empty weight: 2752 kg / 6067 lb
Max. speed: 480 km/h / 298 mph
Cruise speed: 365 km/h / 227 mph
Ceiling: 10560 m / 34650 ft
Range w/max.fuel: 1650 km / 1025 miles
Armament: 2 x 20mm cannons, 2 x 7.7mm machine-guns