Mitsubishi J2M Raiden (Jack) Interceptor
The Mitsubishi J2M series Raiden became Japan's first dedicated interceptor of World War 2 when introduced in 1942.
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The J2M Raiden (translating to "Thunderbolt" and codenamed "Jack" by the Allies) was primarily used as a local defense fighter / interceptor by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN). The aircraft was developed to combat the growing threat of high-flying American bombers - primarily the new Boeing B-29 "Superfortresses" being used during daylight raids over Japan. The J2M's design was attributed to Jiro Horikoshi, famous engineer of the fabled A6M "Zero" IJN fighter aircraft that provided near-complete air dominance for the Empire during the early years of the war. Introduced in December of 1942, the Raiden fought on well into 1945 (the final year of World War 2) where it was eventually retired from service in August with the fall of the Japanese Empire itself.
Design of the J2M was traditional, with the cockpit seated in the middle of the stubby fuselage, a single vertical fin at rear and the powerplant up hled up front. Wings were rounded monoplanes and low-mounted just forward and under the cockpit seating area, which had accommodations for a single pilot. The engine was of a Mitsubishi design, an MK4R-A Kasei 23a 14-cylinder 2-row radial piston engine, developing 1,800 horsepower.
As an interceptor, the J2M design centered around a powerful armament array. This consisted of 4 x 20mm Type 99-2 cannons in the wings. Fuel drop tanks could added for increased range at the expense of weight and performance. By all accounts, the Raiden offered up poor visibility for the pilot but made up for it in performance, firepower and rate of climb - factors vital in the success of any interceptor of the time. Production of the Raiden totaled some 621 aircraft and covered six variants from J2M1 through J2M6.
Initially, the service models of the J2M were plagued by engine issues that limited the reach of the aircraft, delaying outright production by up to a year or more. Some J2M's fought on in the Battle of Philippine Sea but were mostly relegated to homeland defense as the war progressed. Their use became increasingly light as the Americans would adapt to nighttime bombing raids, effectively rendering further development of the J2M's a moot point.