Profile Publications No. 141 The Nakajima B5N Kate

The B5N's rival for the lU-Slii Carrier Attack Bomber contract was the Mitsubishi Type 97 Model 2, B5M. It was more con­servative in design than the Nakajima, and wing folding was manual, as demonstrated in this photograph. The common features o f the B5M and the A 5M “Claude" are apparent a fixed spatted undercarriage and an eliptical wing. Sopwith company, led the Mitsubishi design team, being responsible for the Type 10 series o f shipboard fighters, bombers and torpedo aircraft. The first Japanese aircraft carrier entered service in 1923. This was the Hosho, although at this time, the hey-day of the battleship, few saw much future for the carrier. An exception was Capt. Yamamoto, C.O.o f the Kasumigaura Naval Pilot School, who predicted that the carrier would bethe most important ship in future naval warfare. During the late 1920’s development was slow and the Imperial Naval Air Service tended to be regarded as an eccentric and rather unnecessary part of the fleet. The planes were inefficient, and new models, produced by Japanese design teams with assistance from foreign advisers such as Dr. Vogt with Kawasaki, and Mr. Petty of Blackburns with Mitsubishi, showed only slight improvement over the aircraft that they were to replace. All the time, however, the Japanese designers were gaining experience from building planes under licence and developing their own. They also followed a policy of buying examples of contemporary foreign aircraft to test alongside their own designs, and copy any features that they felt might improve their own aircraft. As a result of this policy the story went round the Western world that Japanese aircraft were inferior copies o f Western types. This story suited the Imperial Navy welland they did nothing to discourage it until 7th December, 1941. In the early 1930's, Capt. Yam am oto, having returned from aspell at the Embassy in Washington, and now promoted Vice Admiral, became Chief of the Technical Bureau of Naval Aviation and set about the development of aircraft suitable for a Pacific naval war. The result was the rapid development o f a scries of highly efficient naval aircraft, culminating in 1941 with the largest and most powerful naval air force in the world. The development of fighters proceeded through the 9-Shi carrier fighter to the A5M 4 (Claude) which was widely used in China and then the Zero. (See Profile 129, The Mitsubishi A6M2.) Dive bomber development produced the Navy Type 99 Carrier Dive Bomber (Aichi D3A, Val) and Admiral Yam am oto’s plan fora land based long range naval bomber resulted in the Navy Type 96 Attack Bomber (Mitsubishi G 3M ,Nell) and later the Navy Type 1 Attack Bomber (Mitsubishi G4M ,Betty) which sank H.M Prince.S. of Wales and H.M Repulse.S. when they thought themselves far out of range of land based air attack. In the field o f torpedo bombers, or Carrier Based Attack Bombers, the unreliable Navy Type 89 Carrier Attack Bomber (Mitsubishi B2M )was replaced in 1936 by the Navy Type 96 Carrier Attack Bomber (Yokosuka B4Y, Jean). This was a biplane with a speed of 172 m.p.h. and a range of 978 miles, both quite good for the time. Two hundred o f these aircraft were Inbuilt. 1935, however, a 10-Shi specification had been issued, calling for a radical new approach to torpedo bomber design. A plane was required with a per­formance far in advance of anything previously developed. Both Mitsubishi and Nakajima dccided to compete for the contract. The Mitsubishi B5M was produced in small numbers in parallel with the B5N desig­nated "Kate" by the Allies in common with its more widely- used Nakajima counterpart, it saw service with the I.J.N.A.F. from late 1937 onwards. DEVELOPMENT O F THE TYPE 97 ATTACK BOMBER The 10-Shi Carrier Attack Bomber specification called for a speed o fat least 205 m.p.h. and allan round in­crease in performance that could not be met by a bi­plane design. In 1935, Jiro H orikoshi’s 9-Shi Fighter, later developed into the Mitsubishi A5M ,Navy Type 96 Carrier Fighter (Claude), had made its 4
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