The Mitsubishi F1M development started in 1934, and first flown in June 1936. The F1M1 embodied all the efforts of its designers to achieve an exceptionally clean aerodynamic shape, including low-drag float mountings, single interplane struts and all-metal construction, only the control surfaces being fabric-covered. The early aircraft displayed poor water handling and a lack of in-flight directional stability but after fairly extensive alterations the production F1M2 emerged as a thoroughly efficient aircraft, acceptable in all respects.
Initial production by Mitsubishi, begun in 1938, amounted to 524 aircraft before it was transferred to the 21st Naval Air Arsenal (Dai-Nijuichi Kaigun Kokusho) at Sasebo, where a further 590 were built.
The F1M2 equipped all but one of the K-Maru (6,900-ton) and S-Maru (7,200/8,300-ton) classes of converted merchant seaplane tenders, as well as numerous battleships and cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Codenamed 'Pete' by the Allies, F1M2s were present at the Battle of Midway, two aircraft being launched from the battleship Kirishima (but being lost when the Japanese scuttled the crippled ship at the end of the Battle of the Solomons). The battleships Musashi and Yamato each carried several 'Petes' to spot for their 460mm main gun armament at the time of the Marianas battles, but none was used in earnest. The Musashi succumbed to American bombs and torpedoes in the Sibuyan Sea; the Yamato followed her to the bottom on 7 April 1945.
'Pete' seaplanes were widely used throughout the Pacific war, accompanying every seaborne landing by Japanese forces, providing gunnery spotting during preliminary bombardment by supporting warships and subsequently serving as covering fighters (and even dive-bombers) once the assault forces were ashore. It was also flown on convoy escort duties with the many supply convoys sailed by the Japanese during the mid-war period.
In the last stages of the war, the type was committed to the unequal task of defending the Japanese homeland from the devastating American raids, serving alongside 'Rex' and 'Rufe' seaplane fighters with the Otsu Kokutai in 1945.
Engine: 1 x Mitsubishi Tsuisei-13, 655kW
Max take-off weight: 2550 kg / 5622 lb
Empty weight: 1928 kg / 4251 lb
Wingspan: 11 m / 36 ft 1 in
Length: 9.5 m / 31 ft 2 in
Height: 4 m / 13 ft 1 in
Wing area: 29.54 sq.m / 317.97 sq ft
Max. speed: 365 km/h / 227 mph
Ceiling: 9440 m / 30950 ft
Range: 730 km / 454 miles
Armament: 3 x 7.7mm machine-guns, 120kg of bombs