The Kyushu J7W1 Shinden: Japan's Last Secret Fighter
Japanese engineering by all standards even just with the ancient metallurgical techniques employed in the design and fabrication of the samurai sword is simply in a class by itself. This skill combined with the discipline and spirit of the samurai warrior becomes the ultimate force to reckon with in such a way that one need not wonder why a small country in size compared to most countries in the world would take the odds to seize that opportunity to gain a hand in an attempt for world domination.
The Kyushu J7W1 Shinden (Magnificent Lightning) was an unusual aircraft configuration in the Japanese arsenal which equally compares to most of Germany’s secret aircraft designs which didn’t made it to the air in time to contribute to the outcome of World War II. Its pusher configuration was advance in its own time considering only few aircraft designs during the period utilized that engine and propeller set up ever since the Wright Brothers pioneered its feasibility by way of the Wright Flyer which demonstrated the first manned powered flight in 1903.
Comparable to the German built Dornier Do 335 Pfeil (Arrow) which took flight in 1943 and introduced in small numbers with only 37 completed following its introduction in 1944 a year before World War II ended in 1945, it may have been influenced partly by the pusher design of the former while Japanese engineers combined it with blended wing and rudder design of their own. Then there was this possibility that maybe some intelligence information may have leaked which owed this aircraft’s inception relative to the US built Curtiss Wright XP-55 Ascender which took flight in 1943 but never reached production.
Dornier Do 335 Pfeil
Curtiss Wright XP-55 Ascender
The J7W1 Shinden was built as a short range interceptor to counter the attack of B-29 Superfortress, a task assigned to the Imperial Japanese Navy. Captain Masayoshi Tsuruno who headed the technical staff of the Imperial Japanese Navy chose the canard configuration, a forerunner of today’s canard designs visible in Rutan’s Vari-Eze and Beechcraft’s Starship design.
After utilizing glider models with similar lay out to prove the feasibility of the concept, a full scale prototype was completed in April 1945 powered by a Mitsubishi MK9D radial engine rated at 2,130 horsepower driving a six bladed propeller. Captain Tsuruno himself took the prototype to its first test flight on 3 August 1945 following delays owing to unavailability of spare parts.
The success of the design was impressive despite torque pull to starboard and vibrations owing to the propeller requiring minimal adjustments. With the formal surrender of Japan on 2 September 1945 however, the J7W1 Shinden’s production had been confined to the two prototypes, the first left to be scrapped and the last seized by the US Forces for shipment back home. As the rest of the story showed, we knew who got the rest of the puzzles completed and made the absolute best out of these crude pieces as manifested in today’s cutting edge aircraft designs.
Kyushu J7W1 Shinden Performance Specifications:
Maximum Speed: 750 km/h (469 mph)
Range: 850 km (531 miles)
Service Ceiling: 12,000 m (39,360 ft)
Powerplant: 1 Mitsubishi Ha-43 12(MK9D) 18 cylinder air-cooled radial engine
Cover photo / Wikimedia Commons public domain