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  • Nakajima J5N Tenrai (Heavenly Thunder) Prototype Heavy Fighter / Interceptor


    The Nakajima J5N interceptor prototype never managed to live up to its IJN requirements - managing just six prototypes before its end came in February of 1945.

     Updated: 5/19/2016; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com


    Japanese aircraft engineers made some notable contributions to military air power prior to, and during, World War 2 (1939-1945). However, as with any nation growing with technology and experience, the small Pacific nation also failed to deliver on some of its ventures. The J5N was one such forgotten design which netted the Nakajima program just six total prototypes before abandonment was ordered. The twin-engine heavy fighter was developed to an Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) requirement calling for a new interceptor to counter the threat of much-improved Allied warplanes appearing over the Pacific Theater in number.

    The Navy requirement came in the early half of 1943 and specified a single-seat, twin-engined platform with a maximum speed near the 415 mark when cruising at 19,700 feet. Unlike previous Japanese naval fighters, this new aircraft was to benefit from the protection offered by armor plating. Armament was to have been potent - a battery of cannon being installed - and a provision for bomb-carrying was also an added bonus.

    Nakajima returned with a modified, dimensionally smaller version of their J1N1 "Gekko", a three-seat platform intended as a dedicated night-fighter. The new aircraft was known as the "J5N" and carried straight wing mainplanes, each with underslung engine nacelles driving four-bladed propellers. The cockpit was set well-forward along the long, tapering fuselage to provide for excellent vision out-of-the-cockpit. Additionally, the cannon battery would be concentrated in the nose assembly. The tail relied on a single vertical tail fin and the undercarriage utilized a "tail-dragger" arrangement.

    In terms of armament, the J5N was to feature either 2 x 20mm Type 99-2 cannons or 2 x 30mm cannons in its nose. The listed bombload was 551lb consisting of a sole drop bomb held under the belly.


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    Nakajima J5N1 Tenrai (Heavenly Thunder) Technical Specifications


    Service Year: 1944
    Type: Prototype Heavy Fighter / Interceptor
    National Origin: Imperial Japan
    Manufacturer(s): Nakajima Aircraft Company - Imperial Japan
    Production Total: 6



    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)


    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 37.57 feet (11.45 meters)
    Width: 47.24 feet (14.40 meters)
    Height: 7.81 feet (2.38 meters)

    Weight (MTOW): 16,094 lb (7,300 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance


    Engine(s): 2 x Nakajima Homare 21 18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines developing 1,990 horsepower each.

    Maximum Speed: 370 mph (595 kph; 321 knots)

    Armament / Mission Payload


    PROPOSED, FIXED:
    2 x 20mm Type 99-2 cannons OR 2 x 30mm cannons in nose.

    PROPOSED, OPTIONAL:
    1 x 551lb conventional drop bomb.

    Global Operators / Customers


    Imperial Japan (cancelled)

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)


    J5N "Tenrai" - Base Series Designation

    J5N1 - Prototype form; six completed in all with four lost to accidents during testing; at least two prototypes completed as two-seat platforms.