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Aichi D3A (Val) Carrier-Borne Bomber / Dive Bomber (1940)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 12/5/2014

Thought to be obsolescent at the beginning of World War 2, the D3A Val none-the-less made its presence known in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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The D3A series of aircraft (dubbed "Val" by the Allies) were thought to be all but extinct when the war in the Pacific began. The rude awakening came in the form of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii - home to the US Navy's Pacific Fleet - as D3A's made up the principle attack air arm in that assault. Though appearing very much from the image of a bygone era of aviation, complete with a fixed undercarriage in spatted housings, the D3A was used effectively as carrier-based bombers and dive bombers in the Imperial Japanese Navy throughout the early portion of the Second World War.

Aichi (along with Nakajima and Mitsubishi) submitted their monoplane design to a 1936 Japanese Navy specification (11-Shi) for a carrier-based dive-bomber to replace the aging D1A biplane series. Only Aichi's and Nakajima's submissions were pressed for further development with the request for a full working prototype.

The initial prototype was completed in December of 1937 and first flew in 1938 and fitted with Nakajima Hikari 710 horsepower engines. Despite a poor showing, a second improved prototype was made in an attempt to address issues in stability, strength and power. The second prototype hit the mark and was selected for production over the Nakajima model. This new version from Aichi, now designated D3A1, would feature revised wings of a larger span, improved dive brakes, a 1,000 horsepower Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 radial piston engine in a redesigned cowling and improvements to maneuverability via the lengthening of the dorsal fin.

Standard armament of production models would consist of an assortment of 3 x 7.7mm machine guns. Two Type 97 Light Machine Guns were fixed to fire forward and controlled by the pilot while a single Type 92 Heavy Machine Gun was fitted in a flexible mount in the rear cockpit. As a dive bomber, the Aichi D3A could sport a single 550lb bomb under the fuselage or 2 x 130lb bombs under each wing.

Early "Vals" were flown in limited land-based operations in the Indo-China theater though the rest of the war would see them operating in unison with her Imperial Japanese Navy carrier-based counterparts. D3As, in fact, would end up being responsible for the destruction of more Allied shipping vessels than any other Axis aircraft during the war - such was the reach of this "obsolete" aircraft.

The D3A's were maintained in frontline service up until the Battle of Coral Sea which saw disastrous results for the type - effectively signaling the end of the aircraft's usefulness. Vals, therefore, were systematically phased out from much frontline action as, by 1944, the D3A was simply outclassed by the plethora of American fighters appearing throughout the theater. Many Vals therefore ended up as dual-control, two-seat trainers while some were featured in Kamikaze attacks, the latter focusing in and around the areas of Leyte and Okinawa during the final year of the war.

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Specifications for the
Aichi D3A (Val)
Carrier-Borne Bomber / Dive Bomber


Focus Model: Aichi D3A2 (Val)
Country of Origin: Imperial Japan
Manufacturer: Aichi Kokuki KK - Japan
Initial Year of Service: 1940
Production: 1,495


Crew: 2


Length: 33.46 ft (10.2 m)
Width: 47.18 ft (14.38 m)
Height: 12.63ft (3.85 m)
Weight (Empty): 5,666 lb (2,570 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 8,378 lb (3,800 kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Mitsubishi Kinsei 54 radial piston engine generating 1,300 horsepower.


Maximum Speed: 267 mph (430kmh; 232 kts)
Maximum Range: 840 miles (1,352km)
Service Ceiling: 34,449 ft (10,500 m; 6.5 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,640 feet per minute (500 m/min)


Hardpoints: 3
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
2 x 7.7mm fixed forward-firing machine guns
1 x 7.7mm trainable machine gun in rear cockpit position.

OPTIONAL:
1 x 551lb bomb under-fuselage OR 2 x 132lb bombs under wings


Variants:
D3A - Base Series Designation; prototypes fitted with 710 horsepower Nakajima Hikari radial piston engine.


D3A1 - Initial Production Model fitted with 1,000 horsepower Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 or 1,070 horsepower Mitsubishi Kinsei 44 radial piston engines; dorsal fin extension; 476 produced.

D3A2 - Fitted with 1,300 horsepower Kinsei 54 engine; increased fuel capacity; 1,016 produced becoming major series production version.

D3A2-K - Trainer Model Variant; dual-controls.

Navy Type 99 Carrier Bomber Model 11 - Full Imperial Navy Designation.

Model 12 - Designation of test D3A2.

Model 22 - Later Model Designation of D3A2.

Navy Type 99 Bomber Trainer Model 12 - Full Imperial Navy Designation of D3A2-K trainers.


Operators:
Imperial Japan; Indonesia