Mitsubishi G4M (Betty) Land-Based Medium Navy Bomber Aircraft
The Mitsubishi G4M Betty will forever be linked to the ill-fated flight which saw the death of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto at the hands of American Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters over Bougainville in 1943.
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Like most of Imperial Japan's aircraft in the early stages of World War 2, the Mitsubishi G4M (codenamed "Betty" by the Allies) was a potent performer in operation as a land-based naval bomber. The system was of a strong design and featured impressive range for the time and would see combat action throughout the entire war. Though appearing in limited numbers, the G4M - at least for a time - was a weapon to be reckoned with. Despite its wartime success, the type is universally remembered as one of two "Betty" aircraft downed by a pair of American P-38 Lightnings and with it, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto - mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack - a disastrous blow to Imperial Japanese operations in the Pacific Theater. The P-38 pilots the day of April 18, 1943 were 1st Lt. Rex T. Barber and Captain Thomas G. Lamphier intercepting from Henderson Field, Guadalcanal.
The G4M started as a product of the Mitsubishi company, charged with filling the 1937 requirement calling for a capable long-range bomber aircraft. The system first flew in mid-October of 1939 and did not disappoint - proving the design capable of possessing both above average speed and range. Defensive armament consisted of a combination of cannon and machine guns. 2 x 7.7mm machine guns were positioned in the nose and two side blisters (one gun per blister). A single cannon was placed in the dorsal turret and in the tail gun position. Crew accommodations amounted to seven personnel and an internal bomb load of up to 2,205 pounds was afforded. With this design being of naval origins, the Betty was also slated to carry up to 1 x 1,764 anti-ship torpedo in place of the traditional bomb load.
By any regard, the Japanese Navy had found itself a capable performer and the G4M began to prove its worth in early entanglements that included the sinking of the British warships HMS Repulse and the HMS Prince of Wales, both occurring in the first year of the aircrafts service. In addition to successful action against the Allies, the G4M was also seen in combat against China.
If the G4M "Betty" contained any weakness in its design, it was a weakness that was common among many of the Japanese aircraft of the Second World War. Protection in the way of additional armor given to the crew and the fuel tanks were usually sub-standard when compared to its contemporaries. As such, the system proved to be highly susceptible to Allied gunfire with relative ease. Any sort of dominance that the G4M exhibited in the opening years of the conflict were soon reversed as the newer and better Allied fighters were made available in any kind of concentrated number across the Pacific. The days of the G4M were numbered from then on, despite seeing operational service through to the end of the war. The system was fielded in a few variants, each seen as a general improvement over the previous marks. Total production amounted to only a few thousand examples.
Note the whole number dimensions of the aircraft design (in meters).