Profile Publications No. 141 The Nakajima B5N Kate

The Nakajima B5N 'by Dr. .F.M Hawkins Fine study o f a B5N2 inflight this variant differed from the initial production model in being powered by the Nakajima Sakae engine o f 1,000 li.p., in place o f the BSN Ts 770 li.p. Hikari 3. (Photo: Rene J. Francillon Collection. Unless otherwise indicated, all photos in this Profile were supplied from the author’s collection). On 7th December 1941, the Western world was reminded sharply o f the oldest rule o f warfare— “Never underestimate the enemy” .The forces of Imperial Japan, dismissed for decades as obsolete and faintly humorous, were launched on a series of whirlwind victories which engulfed a quarter of the globe in a matter o f months it was nearly four years before the Allies could claw their way to victory, four years o f savagery unparalleled in recorded history. In the end only the unleashing of a totally new and totally horrible weapon restored peace and in that final bitter victory many people tended to forget that the conventional forces o f Japan still held vast tracts of Asia up to the moment of surrender, territory which the conventional forces of the West had been unable to recapture in four long years. The weapon which spearheaded the Japanese con­quests washer Naval Air Force and it is perhaps relevant to consider the growth o f that weapon as a background to the history o f the Nakajima B5N, the aircraft from which the order to attack Pearl Harbour was given, and thus the aircraft which maybe said to have launched the whole Pacific war at 07.49 hours on that December morning 25 years ago. THE I.J .N.A .F .AND THE 10 -SH I SPECIFIC A T ION SIn September 1914 the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Service carried out its first war operations when the seaplane tender Wakctmiya Main sailed to Kiaochow Bay in China, with four Maurice Farman floatplanes, for operations against the German Navy. These operations included reconnaissance flights and an attempt at bombing. As a result of these, and other, actions, German possessions in the Marshall and Caroline Islands were given to Japan at the end o f the war: a gift that was to have great importance twenty years later. Author and publishers wish to express their gratitude to Mitsuo Fuchida for his assistance in the preparation o f the illustration on the opposite page. At the end of the First World War the Japanese Navy decided that America was the main potential enemy, whereas the Army considered Russia the most likely adversary. As there was little co-operation between the two, and as both the Army and the Navy regarded their air forces only as extensions of the striking power o f their main forces, it is not surprising that in the interwar period Army aircraft were developed with a view to land warfare against the Russians, while Naval aircraft were designed for a sea war against the United States. The early Japanese aircraft were mainly imported, but in 1918 Lt. Chikuhei Nakajima resigned from the Navy to setup his own aircraft firm, together with Seibei Kawanishi, at Ota in the Gumma Prefecture. In a year, however, disagreements developed, and Kawanishi left to form his own company, whilst Nakajima continued to build foreign aircraft under licence and design his own entries for competitions sponsored by both Army and Navy for their aircraft requirements. In 1921 Capt. Sempill led a team o f 30 British instructors to form the nucleus of the new Naval Air Force, and Mr. Herbert Smith, previously with the The “Kate's" predecessor as standard torpedo bomber o f the I.J.N.A.F. the Yokosuka B4 Y "Jean” ,which came into service in 1936, is roughly comparable to the Royal Navy's Fairey Swordfish. 3
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