The Messerschmitt Me 262 "Schwalbe" jet-powered fighter was a wartime breakthrough in the field of military fighter aircraft when it was operational introduced with the German Luftwaffe as the world's first jet-powered fighter. However, its combat history was limited by many circumstances - unreliable engines, jamming guns, a weak nose landing gear, ill-equipped airfields and factories, lack of trained pilots, shortage of materials, production disruptions (due to the Allied bombing campaign), and political interference by Hitler and others. Nevertheless, the Me 262 was a revolution design for the period, able to outrun, out-climb, and out-dive any fighter then known. Its all-cannon armament provided enough firepower to bring down an enemy heavy bomber in a single burst of fire.
With this in mind, German allies in Japan was able to visit Germany during 1944 and see the progress on several promising projects including the Me 262. Satisfied with the possibilities, German authorities granted Japanese engineers access to the design and plans were shipped by German naval U-boat submarines to Japan for re-engineering and ultimate construction. The Nakajima concern was charged with a new naval fighter initiative based on the Me 262. Included in the specifications was a maximum speed of 430+ miles per hour, an operational range of no less than 125 miles with an 1,100lb war load. The Japanese knew they wanted a multi-role performer with their Me 262 derivative - to serve as a fighter and a fighter-bomber. To help keep runway requirements to a minimum, the standard twin turbojet engines would be supplemented through power from 2 x rocket boosters on take-off. One other key element was that the wings would be designed to fold along a hinged section - allowing the fighter to be made more compact for storage in fortified tunnels, safely away from the Allied bombers. Thought was also placed on the types of materials to be used in the aircraft's construction as well as assembly practices to better serve more unskilled labor. Nakajima engineers would have access to plans covering both the airframe and engines as well as the fuel used to feed said engines.
All was going to plan until, on May 15th, 1945, the German U-boat carrying a portion of the required plans was intercepted and taken over by the Allies. This left a noticeable gap in the paperwork that the Japanese engineers had before them - operating from an incomplete set of blueprints as well as from the memories of its visiting engineers in Berlin. Nevertheless, the project was furthered as best as possible and this produced a slightly altered, dimensionally smaller version of the Me 262. The aircraft became known as the Nakajima J9Y "Kikka" ("Orange Blossom").
As finalized, the aircraft took on the same general design form as the Me 262. However, the fuselage was decidedly thinner in the Japanese approach and more slab-sided. Unlike the swept-back wings featured in the Me 262, the Kikka was given straight wing assemblies while retaining the underslung turbojet engine nacelles as in the original. The tail unit was largely the same though the vertical tail section was noticeably smaller in overall area. The cockpit was centralized in the design and the pilot offered good views through the largely unobstructed placement. The tricycle undercarriage was also retained from the Me 262 design.
Originally, engineers had centered on using the Tsu-11 engine of 440lb thrust but these were soon believed to be too underpowered. They then moved to the Ishikawajima Ne-12 turbojet of 750lb ouput but these did not live up to the proposed performance figures, leading to the final selection of the Ishikawajima Ne-20 turbojet of 1,045lb thrust each. These were based on photographs held of the BMW 003 which was to originally power the Me 262 (Junkers Jumo 004s were used instead).
Construction of a flyable prototype moved at speed. Japan lost its German ally in May of 1945 with the death of Adolf Hitler by suicide and the formal surrender of Germany proper to end the war in Europe in full. The Nakajima prototype was ready in months and made its maiden flight on August 7th from the Kisarazu Naval Base. The design proved successful on the whole with no major issues reported. Four days later, a second test flight was undertaken but complicated by misaligned rocket boosters on take-off. The aircraft was able to land safely.
Performance figures for the Kikka included a maximum speed estimate of 435 miles per hour with a range out to 585 miles. Its service ceiling was in the 39,350 foot range while rate-of-climb was near 1,235 feet per minute. These were good figures for an early jet fighter, met only by the latest generation of fast piston-driven fighters like the North American P-51 Mustang, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, and the Supermarine Spitfire of the Allies. It is noteworthy that the figures were below the ones stated for the in-service Me 262.
How the Kikka may have fared against the new Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers and their high-altitude operating spaces is left to the imagination for the Japanese surrender followed on August 15th to officially end the Pacific Campaign. This marked the end of all progress on the Nakajima Kikka for the work was confiscated by the Americans and taken back stateside for dissection. Two flights were only ever completed by the prototype Kikka and a second airframe was undergoing construction at the time of the surrender. It is said that some eighteen other airframes were also being manufactured but these would have made no immediate impact in the short-term. None of the airframes had even been outfitted with its proposed cannon armament (2 x 30mm Type 5) in the nose nor their bomb carrying/release hardware for testing. The Americans did not even reassemble their Kikkas and fly them as they did the Me 262.
The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) followed suit with the IJN by requesting a version of the Me 262-based Kikka as the Nakajima Ki-201 "Karyu". This aircraft was at a more infant planning stage than the Kikka and never furthered beyond the paper stage before the end of the war. These were intended for delivery in March of 1946 should the war had proceeded this far.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
Ability to intercept inbound aerial threats by way of high-performance, typically speed and rate-of-climb.
✓Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
26.7 ft (8.13 m)
32.8 ft (10.00 m)
9.7 ft (2.95 m)
5,071 lb (2,300 kg)
9,017 lb (4,090 kg)
+3,946 lb (+1,790 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Nakajima J9Y production variant)
2 x Ishikawa Ne-20 turbojet engines developing 1,050 lb of thrust each.
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