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August 10, 2016

Book Review: J2M Raiden and N1K1/2 Shinden/Shinden-Kai Aces

Filed under: Modeling — dknights @ 12:23 am
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Book Review: J2M Raiden and N1K1/2 Shinden/Shinden-Kai Aces
Osprey Aircraft of the Aces Series #129
By Yasuho Izawa with Tony Holmes
96 Pgs, 6 pgs of color profiles
ISBN 978 1 4728 1261 2

The volumes in the Osprey Aircraft of the Aces that cover WWII Japanese Army and Navy aces and their aircraft have been consistently some of the best books in the series.  That said, this latest title is probably the best of the series, and that is a real accomplishment.

The J2M Raiden was unusual for a naval fighter.  It wasn’t designed to operate off of a carrier.  Furthermore it wasn’t really designed as a fighter, rather it was designed as an interceptor.  The Japanese knew that eventually US Bombers would appear over Japan and that the current naval fighter, the famed Zero was not very good as a bomber killer.  The Raiden was designed from the start as an interceptor, with speed, hitting power and rate of climb emphasized over turn rate.  As with many of the later Japanese aircraft, the Raiden had teething troubles mainly due to its engine.   By the time that the J2M came into service, Japan was hard pressed and there was little that could be done to stem the tide of US bombers pounding Japan.

The N1K1/2 had an even stranger development, starting life as a floatplane.  While it wasn’t overly successful as a floatplane fighter, its designers realized that it could be adapted to be a cutting edge fighter.  The initial version the N1K2, was successful from the start, but it was plagued by landing gear failures due to its overly long landing gear, a remnant of its mid-wing design as a float plane.  The plane was quickly redesigned as a low wing monoplane, the N1K2-J “Shinden-Kai”. The N1K2-J was the most effective Japanese navy fighter of the last years of the war.  It could hold its own against the F6F and the F4U, its main fighter opponents.  In fact it was so good that the Japanese Navy’s elite unit, the 343rd Kokutai, used it as its aircraft of choice.

The authors due a very good job of explaining the development of these two aircraft and their subsequent use by the JNAF (Japanese Naval Air Force).  Many JNAF aces flew the J2M or the N1K2 at the end of their careers, but both aircraft were deployed so late and in such small numbers that only 5 pilots achieved 5 or more kills while flying the J2M or N1K2.  A number of other Japanese aces claimed their last kills in one of these two aircraft.

The book has many black and white photos of pilots who are the subjects of the stories in this book or their aircraft.  In addition there are 8 pages of color profiles that will serve as inspiration to the model builder.  The book is filled with descriptions of combat by J2M and N1K2 pilots, including several in which their opponents are identified making dogfight doubles easy to produce.

There are several good kits of the J2M and N1K2 in my preferred scale 72nd, so this book served to motivate me to take a lot of detail photos of the N1K2-J at the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola during a recent visit. I am sure I’ll end up re-reading this book while building a Shinden-Kai.  In short, buy this book.

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