Kawanishi Baika (Ume Blossom) Pilot-Guided, Pulsejet-Powered Expendable Suicide Aircraft
Powered by a pulsejet engine, the Kawanishi Baika was to serve in the kamikaze attack role - none were built by the end of World War 2.
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The Japanese benefitted greatly from the alliance struck with Nazi Germany during World War 2 (1939-1945). The Germans sent complete examples of both aircraft and engines along with engineering paperwork to Japan in an effort to help their ally in the Pacific region stave off elimination during the years-long war. The Japanese were only able to do so much amidst a worsening war situation and copied several designs (including the Messerschmitt Me 163 "Komet" rocket-powered fighter and the Messerschmitt Me 262 "Schwalbe" jet-powered fighter) while beginning development of offshoots based on these German concepts. Among the technologies passed onto Japanese engineers was the pulsejet engine.
The pulsejets offered considerable performance improvements over traditional piston-powered aircraft types. They were also lighter and less complex than turbojets of the period. However, one limitation lay in the inability for the pulsejet to generate its own thrust from zero airspeed, requiring an additional, external power source such as rocket booster to achieve take-off. Once at a certain minimum airspeed, the rockets were jettisoned and the pulsejet could take over.
Pulsejets produced their thrust by way of its own forward motion with air being drawn through the intake at front and exhausted as hot gas through the rear port. In between, valves ensured a proper closure of the combustion chamber where ignition of the air mixed with fuel took place. The result was forward thrust suitable for use in high-speed military aircraft delivered in pulses, hence its name - Pulsejet.
The German Argus As 014 pulsejet came to the Japanese and it was this propulsion system that was featured in the V-1 terror rockets killing London citizens in the war. The manned counterpart of the V-1 was the Fieseler Fi 103R "Reichenberg" which retained the basic form and function of the V-1 but added a single-seat cockpit. The same engine would be used to power a new Japanese suicide attack platform in the Kawanishi "Baika" ("Ume Blossom") - itself developed as a single-seat, single-engine attack platform similar to the Fi 103R.
While the Kawanishi aircraft took on a largely conventional appearance with its low-set monoplane wings, mid-set cockpit, single-finned tail unit and tail-dragger (jettisonable) undercarriage, a pulsejet engine installation was installed over the aft dorsal section of the fuselage. Rocket boosters would have given it the take-off power needed. It was intended for service with the Imperial Japanese Navy whose power during the war was ebbing away weekly. The original design was known as Type I.
Type II followed and was a revision of the basic approach, the pulsejet engine moved slightly forwards over the dorsal spine. This variant was intended for launching from IJN submarines giving the weapon and a direct line to vital American and British warships operating in the theater. From this came the final proposed iteration of the Baika concept - the Type III. This design was more of a radical departure from the previous two offerings, its pulsejet engine to be mounted ventrally and, lacking any undercarriage system, was to be air-launched by a Japanese bomber.
Regardless of the planning and physical work put into the Baika project, nothing came of it save for prototypes of the Argus pulsejet engine - known locally as the Maru Ka 10 series and promising an output rating of 795 lb thrust. The end of the war ended all work on these suicide aircraft and their respective engines.
Estimated performance included a maximum speed of 405 mph, a cruising speed of 300 mph, a range out to 175 miles and a service ceiling of 6565 feet. As its intended over-battlefield role was in kamikaze strikes, high altitude operation was of little concern. Armament was to become a 550lb explosive warhead built into the airframe. As with other kamikaze weapons of the war, the pilot was to sacrifice himself along with his aircraft - a costly investment in war.