Paying attention to the ships of the Second World War, willy-nilly, you come across planes. Indeed, almost all self-respecting ships (we do not take into account floating aircraft carriers) were carried by planes until a certain moment. A certain moment is before its death or until the moment the plane replaced the radar.
But now we will talk about the time when radars were a strange and outlandish stray, to which it is not known how else it was necessary to approach. And the planes have already hinted that soon everyone will have no time for shells.
So, the Japanese Imperial Navy, mid-thirties. In the Japanese navy, there are two concepts of naval ejection reconnaissance aircraft: long-range and short-range reconnaissance seaplanes.
A long-range reconnaissance aircraft is an aircraft with a crew of three who carried out long-range reconnaissance in the interests of a fleet or squadron at a considerable distance from its ships.
The close scout was supposed to work for the benefit of his ship, and not the entire connection. Therefore, his duties included not only close reconnaissance, but also adjusting the artillery fire of his ship, anti-submarine patrolling and even working together with the ship's air defense. These seaplanes had forward-facing armament and could take part in air combat … nominally. A suspension of small-caliber bombs was also provided.
And the outbreak of the Japanese-Chinese war confirmed the correctness of such plans, because the seaplanes had to fly for reconnaissance, and bomb, and engage in battles with the aircraft of the Chinese Air Force, so in principle, given the lack of the proper number of aircraft carriers in the Japanese fleet, the seaplane turned out to be very useful in that conflict.
And, in general, they began to look at close scouts more like some kind of universal aircraft and even singled them out into a separate class.
First, the E8N Nakajima carried the strap of the universal and irreplaceable naval aircraft. In March last year, it was decided to develop a new aircraft to replace it. And then the fantasy of the naval customers was played out very seriously. They wanted a seaplane that would not be inferior in speed to modern fighters. The prescribed speed was 380-400 km / h! And the flight time at cruising speed should have been at least 8 hours. The bomb load had to be doubled (E8N could carry 2 bombs of 30 kg each), and the forward-facing armament had to be doubled (up to two machine guns). And plus the plane could throw dive bombs.
In general, the task is more than difficult. On the one hand, there seemed to be nothing so fantastic in it, all fighters of that time were armed with two synchronous rifle-caliber machine guns or four wing-mounted ones. On the other hand, bombs, diving, launching from a catapult - all this made the structure heavier, which was supposed to have good speed and flight range.
The design assignment was given to all the grandees of the Japanese aircraft industry: Aichi, Kawanishi, Nakajima and Mitsubishi. More precisely, no one called Mitsubishi too much, they themselves expressed a desire to participate, despite the fact that they did not have any successful seaplane projects.
The first company to refuse to participate in the competition was Nakajima. In reality, they had more than enough work. The second "merged" "Kawanishi", whose work simply did not go.
So in the final the brainchild of "Aichi" and "Mitsubishi" came together.
"Aichi" exhibited the AV-13 biplane, very aerodynamically clean, with the possibility of replacing the floats with a non-retractable wheeled chassis.
By the way, before the AV-13 there was another project, the AM-10, a monoplane with a retractable landing gear, which was placed on floats. The plane turned out to be too heavy for a deck ship.
Mitsubishi put up for the competition a prototype of the KA-17, also a biplane scheme, in which all the modern developments of the company in terms of aerodynamics were embodied. An interesting point, the chief designer of the aircraft, Joshi Hattori, never built seaplanes, and none of his subordinates built them. Therefore, the designer Sano Eitaro from the shipbuilding (!!!) department of the company was invited to help Hattori. Eitaro also did not build seaplanes, but it was very interesting for him to try.
And this group of enthusiasts designed the KA-17 …
The prototypes KA-17 and AV-13 flew almost simultaneously, in July 1936. Then the tests began in the fleet. The Mitsubishi prototype was assigned the F1M1 index, and its competitor from Aichi was assigned the F1A1 index.
In theory, the Aichi prototype had to win the competition. It was built by professionals, respectively, the plane flew clearly better. The speed was 20 km / h higher than that of the competitor, the flight range was as much as 300 km. Maneuverability was also better.
However, like a bolt from the blue, at the end of 1938, the news broke that F1M1 was recognized by the commission as the best aircraft. He, as it was stated, had better seakeeping and accelerating qualities.
However, a number of shortcomings were noted, such as directional instability, yaw during takeoff and landing (this is with the best seaworthiness), a long response to rudders and a tendency to stall into a flat spin.
It is clear that the "bad" merits of both aircraft had nothing to do with it, but simply in the undercover games "Mitsubishi" crushingly outplayed "Aichi". The F1M1 plane was clearly "raw", but Mitsubishi knew how to play big in the upper echelons and win. It happened this time too.
It is worth saying that Eitaro and Hattori were not newcomers and were well aware of what would be done to them if suddenly the plane did not fly as expected. The traditions of the Japanese empire to recoup those below are well known and do not require additional explanations. Because the would-be designers did everything. for F1M1 to fly humanly.
However, it was not possible to quickly eliminate all the shortcomings. As soon as one flaw was corrected, another arose. It took a year and a half for this war.
The float was replaced with the E8N1 tested from "Nakajima", the shape of the wing and its camber were changed, the areas of the keel and rudder were increased. Stability improved, but aerodynamics deteriorated and speed dropped. It was necessary to change the engine to a more powerful one.
Fortunately, Mitsubishi had such an engine. Air-cooled 14-cylinder, twin-row, radial Mitsubishi MK2C "Zuisei 13". This 28-liter engine was developed on the basis of the 14-cylinder radial A8 "Kinsei", which, in turn, was not quite a licensed copy of the American Pratt & Whitney R-1689 "Hornet".
In general, these copies of the American engine became one of the best Japanese aircraft engines. Its only drawback was its large (over 500 kg) weight.
The Zuisei 13 produced 780 hp at the ground and 875 hp at 4000 meters at 2540 rpm. In takeoff mode, the power reached 1080 hp at 2820 rpm. For a short time, the engine allowed an increase in speed to a maximum value of 3100 rpm, at which power at an altitude of 6 thousand meters reached about 950 hp.
The Lucky Star (translation) really saved F1M1. True, the engine compartment, weight distribution, engine hoods had to be redone. An unpleasant moment was that "Zuisei" was more voracious than "Hikari", therefore the flight range of the F1М1 decreased even further. But the time had already passed, the fleet needed a new seaplane, and at the end of 1939 the aircraft was adopted as "Type 0 Model 11 Observation Seaplane" or F1M2.
A few words about weapons.
The F1M2 was armed with three 7.7mm machine guns. Two synchronous machine guns "Type 97" were installed above the engine in the hood. A stock of 500 rounds of ammunition per barrel, cartridges were stored in boxes on the dashboard.
The machine guns were charged for the mid-30s in a very archaic way. The breeches of machine guns with charging handles were brought into the cockpit and he, while controlling the plane, had to somehow manually reload the machine guns.
In general, there were people in our time, not that …
The rear hemisphere of the aircraft was covered by a radio operator with another Type 92 machine gun, also of 7.7 mm caliber. Ammunition consisted of 679 rounds, drum magazines for 97 rounds, one in a machine gun and six were hung in canvas bags to the left and right of the gunner on the walls of the cockpit. The machine gun could be removed to a special niche in the gargrotto.
Bombs. Two holders under the wings could hang two bombs weighing up to 70 kg.
The assortment of bomb weapons was not bad:
- high-explosive bomb Type 97 No.6 weighing 60 kg;
- high-explosive bomb Type 98 No.7 Model 6 Mk. I weighing 72 kg;
- high-explosive bomb Type 98 No.7 Model 6 Mk.2 weighing 66 kg;
- high-explosive bomb Type 99 No.6 Model 1 weighing 62 kg;
- Anti-submarine bomb Type 99 No.6 Model 2 weighing 68 kg;
- semi-armor-piercing bomb Type 1 No.7 Model 6 Mk.3 weighing 67 kg;
- Type 99 No.3 Model 3 incendiary bomb weighing 33 kg;
- cluster bomb Type 2 No.6 Model 5 (5 bombs of 7 kg each) weighing 56 kg.
The unofficial nickname of the aircraft is "Reikan" / "Zerokan". That is, from the "observational zero series".
The production of aircraft was established at the Mitsubishi plant in Nagoya. When World War II began, the production of F1M2 was deployed at the Sasebo plant. The total output at the two factories was 1,118 aircraft, of which 528 were built in Nagoya, the rest in Sasebo. Mitsubishi F1M2 became the most massive Japanese seaplane of the Second World War.
But the release of "Zerokan" was more than leisurely, and at the time when Japan flew into the beginning of World War II, there were actually no more than 50 aircraft in service. As for the ships, and in general, everything was sad, the only ship that F1M2 tested was the aircraft carrier "Kiyokawa Maru", and even then, because naval pilots were trained on board this aircraft carrier.
And the artillery ships, which were to be blessed with a new seaplane, waited until 1942. And they received brand new F1M2 by no means the ships that have recently been commissioned. The first to receive the seaplanes were the veterans "Kirishima" and "Hiei". Old but popular battle cruisers of the Japanese fleet. Due to their age, they were not particularly taken care of, and while the new ships were wiping the sides in ports, the Kirishima, Hiei, Congo and Haruna took part in all the operations of the Japanese fleet.
If we take the life of ship scouts precisely on the Kirishima and Hieya, it turned out to be more than short. The battlecruisers were killed two days apart in the fighting off the Solomon Islands. F1M2 battlecruisers took the most direct part in the battles, carrying out reconnaissance, flew to bomb the marines on Guadalcanal (120 kg of bombs - not God knows what, but better than nothing), corrected the ships' fire at Henderson Field, the famous airfield on Guadalcanal.
There were even attempts to try their hand at being fighters. A pair of F1M2 from Kirishima intercepted the Catalina and tried to shoot it down. Alas, the American boat was turned into a sieve, but left, shooting down one seaplane. Four 7.7mm chiming machines were not enough to fill up such big game as Catalina.
Then all the ships of the Japanese fleet began to receive F1M2. From "Nagato" to "Yamato" plus all heavy cruisers during 1943 received scouts. Usually the air group on heavy cruisers consisted of three aircraft, two of which were F1M2. The exceptions were the heavy cruisers Tikuma and Tone, on which the air group consisted of five aircraft, three of which were F1M2.
And the heavy cruiser "Mogami", which, by removing the aft towers, was turned into an aircraft-carrying cruiser and a group of seven aircraft was placed on it. Three of which were F1M2.
On smaller ships F1M2 were not used, the size of the aircraft affected.
The plane turned out to be more than useful in the blitzkrieg concept that Japan began to implement. The army and navy seized just gigantic territories, half of which are island states with openly undeveloped infrastructure. And it so happened that it was seaplanes based on ships that became the main means of supporting landings and inflicting minimal bombing strikes from the air.
Cheap, versatile and reliable F1M2 have become just great helpers when capturing island territories. They had everything for this: offensive weapons (albeit weak), bombs (albeit not very many), the ability to bomb from a dive. The perfect assault support assault aircraft. And given the aggressiveness and innate recklessness of Japanese pilots who are ready to attack any aircraft, the American seaplanes also had an uncomfortable encounter with the F1M2.
In addition to being based on ships, the F1M2 seaplanes were part of various kokutai (regiments) of a mixed composition, which included aircraft of various types, including 6-10 F1M2, which were used from the coastal zone as reconnaissance aircraft and light bombers.
An example is the huge seaplane base at Shortland Harbor in the west of the Solomon Islands, where the largest Japanese naval aviation base in the Pacific operated from the moment of capture in the spring of 1942 to the end of 1943.
But the so-called Homen Koku Butai or Strike Force R, which also had a base in Shortland Harbor with a forward base in Recata Bay on Santa Isabel Island, northwest of Guadalcanal, deserves special mention.
Compound R was formed on 28 August 1942 as temporary compensation for the aircraft carriers killed at Midway. Four seaplane carriers (Chitose, Kamikawa Maru, Sanyo Maru, Sanuki Maru) were merged into the 11th seaplane carrier division. The division was equipped with three types of seaplanes, long-range reconnaissance aircraft Aichi E13A1, fighters Nakajima A6M2-N (Zero, put on floats) and Mitsubishi F1M2 as a light bomber.
In general, the history of the service of the seaplane carriers of the Japanese fleet is a separate page, which is not customary to pay attention to. Meanwhile, these inexpensive and technically uncomplicated ships had a more eventful life, they were not as cherished as their more expensive older brothers. Although, by and large, the Japanese took care of heavy aircraft carriers very conditionally, the aircraft carrier fleet was lost in literally six major battles.
And the seaplane carriers, or in other words, the air tenders, quietly and calmly conducted the entire war from the Solomon Islands to the Aleutian Islands, fulfilling the assigned tasks to the best of their ability. From the Chinese War to the end of World War II.
It is clear that even the most advanced seaplanes could not compete in speed and maneuver with US carrier-based fighters, therefore, as soon as the States launched the conveyor for the production of aircraft carriers (shock and escort), the song of the Japanese seaplane was sung.
F1M2s were present at all 16 Japanese air tenders. The number ranged from 6 to 14 units. Since the seaplane carriers were used very intensively, the work of F1M2 was enough. In general, the versatility of this seaplane has played an important role in its widespread use.
Of course, a full-fledged strike aircraft did not work out of the F1M2. Two 60 kg bombs are not something you can go with on a real combat ship. And with the smaller ones, too, it did not always turn out beautifully. An example is the battle of four F1M2s from the Sanuki Maru seaplane carrier, which captured the American RT-34 torpedo boat off Cahuit Island (Philippine Islands). The boat was damaged in battle at night. The Americans attacked the Japanese cruiser Kuma, but the latter dodged the torpedoes and caused some damage to the ship.
Alas, the boat dodged all 8 bombs dropped on it. Moreover, one of the seaplanes was shot down by the crew of the boat, fortunately, there was something out of it. The torpedo boats carried at least one 20-mm anti-aircraft gun from the Oerlikon and a pair of twin installations of the large-caliber Browning.
In general, one of the Japanese was unlucky and had to fall into the sea. The other three behaved in a very peculiar way: standing in a circle, on low level flight, they began to shoot the boat from their machine guns. As a result, the boat caught fire and could not be saved due to the wooden structure, there was something to burn. But from the crew, only two people died, the rest, however, were all wounded.
Pilots attacked on F1M2 and more serious ships. In general, with the level of courage and fighting madness, the Japanese were in complete order. 11 F1M2 from the seaplane carrier "Mizuho" attacked the old American destroyer "Pope" (this is from a flock of clear-deck destroyers of the "Clemson" class). Several 60-kg bombs fell very close to the side of the ship and caused the engine room to flood. The Pope lost speed. There was nothing to finish off, the machine guns were clearly not suitable here, because the pilots of the seaplanes simply pointed the heavy cruisers Mioko and Ashigara at the immobilized destroyer, which finished off the Pope.
At the beginning of the war, they tried to use F1M2 as fighters, for lack of a better one. But this was relevant only at the beginning of the war, when the Allies did not have such an advantage in the sky.
On the evening of 17 December 1941, two Dutch Dornier Do.24K-1 flying boats attacked the Japanese invasion forces in the Dutch East Indies. The first boat flew up unnoticed and dumped its entire stock of bombs on the destroyer Shinonome. Two 200-kg bombs very successfully hit the destroyer, and it exploded and sank to the bottom. The entire crew was killed, 228 people.
The second boat was unlucky and F1M2 riddled the large three-engined boat with its machine guns. The Dornier caught fire, fell into the sea and sank. In general, the Dutch were hit hard by F1M2 during the battles for their colonies.
It happened, however, that German quality prevailed. The battle of another Dornier Do.24 K-1 flying boat, accompanying a transport convoy to Java, was epic. The Dutch crew proved to be no less stubborn than the crews of the three F1M2s and repulsed all attacks from Japanese seaplanes. However, on the way back, the Japanese shot down another Dutch seaplane, "Fokker" T. IVA.
And in the battle that took place in February 1942, when six F1M2s from Kamikawa Maru and Sagara Maru came out against six Dutch Martin-139WH bombers attacking a transport convoy, Japanese pilots shot down four Martin out of six at the cost of one F1M2 …
But probably the craziest F1M2 fight took place on March 1, 1942. The Japanese fleet landed troops on the island of Java in three bays at once. F1M2s from the Sanye Maru and Kamikawa Maru aircraft groups patrolled the air without doing anything like that. The Dutch did not particularly resist.
On the way back, one F1M2 lagging behind was intercepted by FIVE Hurricane fighters from RAF 605 Squadron. An air battle took place, as a result of which … F1M2 survived !!!
The pilot, Warrant Officer Yatomaru, worked wonders in the air, dodging attacks from the Hurricanes. In general, not distinguished by excellent maneuverability, the Hurricane, naturally, was inferior to a biplane, albeit a float one, in maneuverability. In general, the midshipman turned out to be that nut, which was too tough for the pilots of the Hurricanes. Yes, and shot down one of the British fighters! 2 machine guns against 40 - and this is the result!
Moreover, honest British admitted the loss of Sergeant Kelly's plane. Yatomaru reported on the destruction of THREE "Hurricanes", but in that war all lied recklessly. But the victory over even one fighter (considering that there were five of them) of this class is very beautiful. And Yatomaru is gone! In general, he turned out to be a bun.
The enraged British Squadron Commander Wright then returned to the area to avenge his subordinate's death and shot down two F1M2s from the Kamikawa Maru Group. It seems to have kept its reputation, but the sediment remained. The fight was more than great, you must agree.
Let us compare with this battle the battle, which was conducted by the crew under the command of Chief Petty Officer Kiyomi Katsuki in F1M2 from the air group of the seaplane carrier "Chitose".
On October 4, 1942, Katsuki patrolled the airspace over a convoy heading towards Rabaul. A group of American aircraft, four F4F fighters and five B-17E bombers appeared on the horizon. How the fighters missed the Japanese seaplane is not entirely clear. But the fact is that while the B-17s were being prepared for the attack on the seaplane carrier "Nissin" (it was the largest ship in the convoy), Katsuki rose above the five B-17s and went on the attack.
The attack did not work out very well, Katsuki fired all the ammunition, and this did not make any impression on the B-17. In turn, the B-17 shooters notably perforated the F1M2 with their Browning. And then Katsuki went to ram, directing his airplane to the wing of the Flying Fortress. F1M2 collapsed in the air from the impact, but Katsuki and the gunner escaped by parachute and were picked up by the destroyer Akitsuki. But from the crew of the B-17, commanded by Lieutenant David Everight, not a single person escaped.
An indicative raid was carried out by four F1M2s from the Sanuki Maru to the American airfield at Del Monte in the Philippines. On April 12, 1942, four seaplanes came to visit and began by shooting down a Seversky P-35A fighter that was patrolling the sky over the airfield. A pair of P-40s on duty started urgently, but the Zerokans managed to drop bombs and destroy one B-17 and seriously disable two bombers.
The American pilots shot down one F1M2, but the three remaining were able to escape.
In general, probably until the middle of 1942, the F1M2 was relevant both as an interceptor for bombers and as a reconnaissance aircraft. But the further, the more "Zerokan" could not withstand modern aircraft, which began to enter service with the allies. It is no secret that before the outbreak of the war, not the newest aircraft were deployed in the Pacific Ocean, but rather the opposite.
And when the replacement took place, and the F1M2 began to meet with new models of the allies' equipment, the sadness began.
Here, as an example, we can cite the raid on March 29, 1943, of five P-38 Lightning, led by Captain Thomas Lanfier (the same one who took part in the dispatch of Admiral Yamamoto to the next world) to the largest air base in Shortland.
The Japanese spotted the approach of the Lightnings, raised eight F1M2s in advance, but as practice showed, they did it in vain. The Americans shot down all eight seaplanes in a few minutes, and then walked over the parking lots and shot several more planes.
In general, created according to the standards and objectives of 1935, in 1943 the F1M2 was hopelessly outdated. Especially as a fighter, because two rifle-caliber machine guns against the heavily armored American bombers and fighters were really about nothing. Ak bomber F1M2 in the light of the strengthening of air defense on ships and the emergence of more powerful fighters also lost relevance. As an anti-submarine aircraft, it could still be used, but again, during the day, F1M2 could easily become a victim of fighters, and the lack of a radar on board prevented it from working at night.
And even work as a spotter was becoming less and less valuable. Radars began to "see" farther and clearer. And they were allowed to fire regardless of the weather and light.
As a result, in the second half of the war, F1M2 turned into a kind of similarity to our Po-2, which worked in a guerrilla style.
The Zerokans were based on remote islets, near secondary combat areas, from where they could strike at areas where there was no total presence of enemy aircraft.
Low speed and payload did not open wide gates for F1M2 in the ranks of tokkotai, that is, kamikaze. Only a very small number of F1M2s became part of the kamikaze units, and there is no data on successful attacks at all. Most likely, if the planes took off on their last flight with a load of explosives, they were shot down.
So F1M2 ended the war very quietly and very modestly. The bulk of the heavy ships that housed the F1M2 were lost in the battles. F1M2 were based on the battleships Yamato, Musashi, Hiuga, Ise, Fuso, Yamashiro, Nagato, Mutsu, battle cruisers Kongo, Haruna, Hiei, Kirishima, all Japanese heavy cruisers.
In general, the F1M2 was quite good for a seaplane. But some doubt remains whether he was that much better than his competitor from Aichi, who was removed by dashing businessmen from Mitsubishi?
However, this would certainly not have affected the course of the war.
Today, there is not a single Mitsubishi F1M2 in the expositions of museums. But there are many of them in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean, at the bottom near the islands where the battles took place. The F1M2 are part of the world's diving exhibitions.
LTH "Mitsubishi" F1M2
Wingspan, m: 11, 00
Length, m: 9, 50
Height, m: 4, 16
Wing area, m2: 29, 54
- empty aircraft: 1 928
- normal takeoff: 2 550
Engine: 1 х Mitsubishi MK2C "Zuisei 13" х 875 HP
Maximum speed, km / h: 365
Cruising speed, km / h: 287
Practical range, km: 730
Rate of climb, m / min: 515
Practical ceiling, m: 9 440
Crew, people: 2
- two synchronous 7, 7-mm machine guns type 97;
- one 7, 7-mm machine gun type 92 on a movable installation at the end of the cockpit;
- up to 140 kg of bombs.