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Kawanishi N1K1-J / N1K2 Shiden-Kai



In 1941 Kawanishi was still designing the float-equipped N1K1, and Kawanishi undertook a wheel-landing gear version, designated the N1K1-J Shiden (Violet Lightning). The prototype of the new fighter was flown on 27 December 1942 powered by the new 18-cylinder Nakajima Homare radial.
Production got under way in 1943 of the N1K1-J with Homare 21 radial and an armament of two 7.7-mm nose guns and four 20-mm wing cannon (two of which were carried in underwing fairings). Despite being plagued by constant engine troubles and an inherently weak landing gear, the Shiden was an excellent aircraft in combat, proving an equal match for the Grumman F6F Hellcat. Given the reporting name 'George' by the Allies, three other main production versions were produced: the N1K1-Ja with nose guns deleted and all cannon mounted inside the wings; the N1K1-Jb with underwmg racks for two 250-kg bombs; and the N1K1-Jc with racks for four 250-kg bombs.
Kawanishi and Himeji combined to produce 1007 machines of this model, with one of three standard armaments: two 7.7, fuselage guns and four 20mm cannon (two in, two under, the wings) in the N1K1-J; the four cannon only in the –Ja; and four cannon within the wings of the –Jb. Later modifications included a ventral bomb attachment, and a few aircraft were experimentally equipped with a booster rocket.
Meanwhile the parent company had recast and simplified the original design, resulting in the N1K2-J Shiden-Kai (George 21) which possessed an extremely rapid climb rate and first class manoeuvrability. It employed only two-thirds as many constructional parts as the N1K1-J, reducing the all-up weight by nearly 500 lb, and differed considerably in appearance from its predecessor with improved landing gear and cleaner engine cowling. The latter’s mid-wing gave way to a low-mounted one, the fuselage was streamlined and extended, and the fin and rudder re-shaped.
Orders for a small prototype batch quickly materialised and the first flew on 31 December 1943.
Despite the sharing of production among eight different assembly plants, B-29 raids on Japanese industry restricted the number of Shiden-Kais completed to 428. An instance occurred when a single Japanese pilot, Warrant Officer Konsuke Muto, fought off 12 Hellcats, shooting down four.
A total of 1,435 N1K Shiden landplane fighters were produced. A few N1K2-K two-seat trainers were completed.
Engine: 1 x Nakajima NK9H "Homare 21", 1990 hp / 1365kW
Wingspan: 12.0 m / 39 ft 4 in
Length: 9.35 m / 30 ft 8 in
Height: 3.96 m / 13 ft 0 in
Wing area: 23.5 sq.m / 252.95 sq ft
Max take-off weight: 4000-4860 kg / 8819 - 10715 lb
Empty weight: 2657 kg / 5858 lb
Max. Speed: 585 km/h / 364 mphat 1,370 ft
Cruise speed: 365 km/h / 227 mph
Service ceiling: 10760 m / 35300 ft
Range: 1700 km / 1056 miles
Crew: 1
Armament: 4 x 20mm cannon
Bombload: 2 x 550 lb







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