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Kyushu J7W Shinden (Magnificent Lightning)

Imperial Japan (1945)
Picture of Kyushu J7W Shinden (Magnificent Lightning) Single-Seat, Single-Engine Interceptor Prototype Aircraft
Picture of Kyushu J7W Shinden (Magnificent Lightning) Single-Seat, Single-Engine Interceptor Prototype Aircraft

The Kyushu J7W Shinden was specifically developed to combat the destructive Boeing B-29 Superfortresses wreaking havoc on Japanese infrastructure.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Kyushu J7W Shinden (Magnificent Lightning) Single-Seat, Single-Engine Interceptor Prototype Aircraft .  Entry last updated on 5/14/2018. Authored by Dan Alex. Content ©

The unorthodox Kyushu J7W Shinden ("Magnificent Lightning") was a "wonder-weapon" of the Empire of Japan in the closing months of World War 2. It utilized a "canard configuration" and was intended as a high-speed, high-agility interceptor developed specifically to counter the B-29 Superfortress scourge devastating Japanese infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities. Though flown, only two were ever constructed before the end of the war signified the end of the Shinden legacy. As such, the little interceptor was never made operational for the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was, however, the only canard configuration aircraft to be ordered in quantity production during the war.

The Canard Concept - Nothing New Under the Sun

The canard concept was trialled by a variety of manufacturers around the globe during the war. Most notably was perhaps the American Curtiss XP-55 Ascender first flying in 1943. Like the Shinden, the Curtiss design fitted the powerplant to the rear of the short and slim fuselage, had swept-back wings and was built in a handful of examples (3) before the project was cancelled. Only one of the three Ascenders survived without accident. Regardless, the two aircraft essentially shared many common design principles.


The J7W idea was devised by Captain Massaoki Tsuruno and, from the outset, envisioned as a jet-powered interceptor to be its culminating form. As turbojet technology everywhere was trying to progress under wartime constraints, the idea would have to wait. Nevertheless, Tsuruno's idea was presented to the First Naval Air Technical Arsenal in April of 1943 and accepted for development. Three evaluation glider models were developed and constructed under the collective designation of MXY6. These systems proved vital in validating the handling capabilities of a canard-based design and one was even fitted with a single Ha-90 series 4-cylinder 22 horsepower air-cooled engine. Testing started sometime in 1943 and proved the design sound. In June of 1944, the construction of the first JW1 prototype began at Kyushu Aircraft Company facilities. Within a short 10 month period, the Shinden prototype was completed in April of 1945 and first flight was achieved on August 3rd, 1945. A second prototype entered construction but was never to fly. The first prototype took to the air two more times and netted a total of just 45 minutes flight time. A quantitative production contract was signed with high expectations. However, the deteriorating condition in the Japanese mainland and the American atomic bombs dropping on two major Japanese cities - Hiroshima and Nagasaki - on August 6th and August 9th - ended all hope for the Shinden. The Empire's war effort concluded on August 28th, the Allied occupation of the Japanese mainland.
Kyushu J7W1 Shinden Walk-Around

The fuselage was relatively conventional, featuring a long nose assembly and the cockpit fitted at center mass. The forward fuselage held a pair of small canard wings acting as the airframe's stabilizers. The engine was fitted to the extreme aft of the fuselage housing as a "pusher" arrangement and powered a four-bladed propeller system. The engine was aspirated via intakes immediately aft and to the sides of the cockpit. The wings were low-mounted assemblies with swept-back features while containing vertical surfaces acting as the airplane's rudders. Diminutive wheels were added to the rudder bases to protect them during ground actions. Armament was contained in a central battery fitted to the long nose housing. Armament would have been an arrangement of 4 x 30mm Type 5 series cannons. The undercarriage was something of a conventional tricycle design albeit with very tall landing gear legs. The front was supported by a single-wheeled leg retracting forwards into the fuselage while the main body was support by a pair of single-wheeled landing gear legs retracting inwards towards fuselage centerline. In all, the Shinden maintained a most unique design with promising specifications to back it up.


The 4 x 30mm cannon armament would have made an imprint on the invading B-29 Superfortress crews for the British, Germans, Soviets and Japanese were quick to find out the importance of cannon armament in their fighter aircraft in respect to bringing down larger aircraft. A concentrated blast from these four Type 5 cannons would have surely caused significant damage to the internal workings of the four-engined, wholly-pressurized and technologically-advanced bombers of the United States Army Air Force.


Estimated performance specifications placed the J7W1 in the upper registers of fighter performance during the war. Top speed would have been 469 miles per hour while range was a respectable 531 miles. Service ceiling was reported to be in the vicinity of 39,360 feet. As a quick responding interceptor, the J7W1 would have made use of its 2,460 feet-per-minute climb rate. Power was to be supplied from a single Mitsubishi Ha-43 12 series engine delivering some 2,130 horsepower to the 8,019lb frame and powering a unique six-bladed propelled system. When fully-loaded, the J7W1 weighed in at 11,663lbs.


As an aside, the Imperial Japanese Navy made use of the letter "J" in their designations while the letter "W" stood for the Watanabe factory. A jet-powered version of the J7W existed as a "paper" airplane but never acted upon. This model would have fallen under the designation of "J7W2 Shinden Kai" and fitted an Ne-130 series axial-flow turbojet providing 1,984lbs of thrust.

Like the Curtiss XP-55 Ascender, one J7W1 prototype was shipped to storage at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. while the second one was known to be scrapped. The Ascender, however, now remains on long-term loan to the Air Zoo of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

General Assessment (BETA)
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Rating: 52 (of 100)
The rating is an internal assessment derived from forty factors pertaining to this entry.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (466mph).

    Graph average of 375 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Kyushu J7W1 Shinden (Magnificent Lightning)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
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Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
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Origin: Imperial Japan
Year: 1945
Type: Single-Seat, Single-Engine Interceptor Prototype Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Kyushu Hikoki K.K. - Japan
Production: 2
Status: Cancelled
Global Operators:
Imperial Japan (cancelled)
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Kyushu J7W1 Shinden (Magnificent Lightning) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.




31.69 ft

9.66 m


36.45 ft

11.11 m


12.86 ft

3.92 m


8,036 lb

3,645 kg


11,658 lb

5,288 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Mitsubishi Ha-43 12 inline piston engine of 2,130 horsepower.


466 mph

750 kph

405 kts


528 mi

850 km

Nautical Miles
459 nm


39,370 ft

12,000 m

7.46 mi


2,460 ft/min

750 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (4):

4 x 30mm Type 5 cannons

4 x 66lb bombs OR 2 x 132lb bombs. Up to 264lbs of external ordnance.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• J7W - Base Series Designation
• J7W1 - Prototype Designation; only two constructed.
• J7W2 (Shinden Kai) - Proposed jet-powered variant; never developed nor produced.