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Mitsubishi F1M (Pete)

Reconnaissance Biplane Floatplane Aircraft

Imperial Japan | 1941

"The Mitsubishi F1M floatplane made exceptional use of aerodyanmic design to produce an elegant and useful military aircraft."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/18/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The Empire of Japan's military aviation industry played catch up to the world on its path to World War 2 (1939-1945). This meant a period of purchasing foreign-originated products while also observing the changes undertaken by major military powers of the period with some being directly visited by Japanese representatives. All this occurred while attempting to grow a viable local aviation industry that would bring Japanese air power to the modern age. The commitment eventually proved fruitful for the early-war aircraft exhibited by the Empire were some of the best of their type anywhere in the world, serving the massive Japanese war machine well during its campaigns to conquer swathes of territory across the Pacific and Asia.

The Mitsubishi concern became primarily recognized by war's end for its classic A6M "Zero" fighter but the company also produced several notable bombers and experimental aircraft. One of its seemingly lesser known - or largely forgotten - contributions became the popular F1M seaplane developed primarily for the over-water reconnaissance and warship gunfire direction roles. Work on the aircraft began in 1934 and first flight of this biplane was recorded during June of 1936 with service introduction following in 1941. Some 1,118 examples were operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in the World War that followed.

The F1M joined many other biplane floatplane reconnaissance types to emerged in the 1930s and 1940s. All were based on the same floatplane concept in which aircraft could be launched at sea from warships via catapults, land on water on the return trip, and be recovered by shipboard crane. These types of aircraft generally exhibited excellent handling and optimal operational ranges to cover the vast expanses often seen with ocean travel and hand to hold strong water handling characteristics to boot. Over-the-horizon reconnaissance was also an extremely valuable asset to have in-the-field during war as was an airborne spotting platform to help make shipborne guns more accurate at range.

The F1M utilized a main float under its central mass with two smaller floats held outboard under the wings (one to a wing). The wings were of a biplane arrangement which added drag but made for excellent lift qualities and sound controlling. The choice was made to utilize single interplane struts with fine contouring for maximizing aerodynamics. The fuselage was well-streamlined itself, owing much to the research Japanese engineers delved into during the interwar years. A radial piston engine was fitted at front with the cockpit just aft (and below) the upper wing assembly. Metal construction was used throughout the design with fabric found only on the control surfaces. The fuselage used a traditional tail unit featuring a single vertical fin. The F1M showcased a standard crew complement of two consisting of a pilot in the front cockpit and a machine gunner/observer in the rear cockpit - both "open air" placements. One of the key design qualities of the F1M became its compact form which played well on the decks of space-strapped Japanese warships.

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Power was derived from an in-house Mitsubishi brand "Zuisei" Model 13 fourteen cylinder, twin-row radial piston engine of 875 horsepower. This helped to provide a maximum speed of 230 miles per hour, a range of 460 miles, and a service ceiling of 9,440 feet.

In terms of armament, the F1M carried 2 x 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns in fixed, forward-firing positions (to be managed by the pilot) and 1 x 7.7mm Type 2 machine gun on a trainable mount in the rear cockpit (for the observer). Its bombload tipped the scales at 265 pounds with a typical load out being 2 x 132lb weapons carried under the wings (one bomb to a wing).

Four prototypes of the F1M1 model emerged and these proved the design was not without flaws. Directional stability left something to be desired and water-handling characteristics were not entirely acceptable which forced an extensive period of testing and revision in which many facets of the aircraft were revised - often times for the better. The additional commitment led to the much improved F1M2 mark which became an excellent aircraft under the stresses of war. A two-seat version of this mark then appeared as the F1M2-K.

Mitsubishi managed the early production initiative for the IJN and totaled 524 aircraft before the charge fell to the 21st Naval Air Arsenal (Sasebo) and the remaining 590 aircraft followed to complete the 1,118 aircraft total (this total to include the four prototypes). The aircraft served on all manner of Japanese warships and became a proven performer, playing major and minor roles (including that of submarine-hunter and Search and Rescue) across a variety of major entanglements - from supporting amphibious assault operations to participation in famous battles such as the Battle of Midway during June of 1942. They were in play across the vastness of the Pacific campaign up until the end of the war in August of 1945 - such was its field value. By the end of the war, with the Japanese initiative all but lost to the advancing Allied tide, the remaining stock of F1M floatplanes was used as a local defense measure over the Japanese homeland where its value was decidedly reduced against better-performing, higher-flying aircraft used by the enemy.

To the Allies, the F1M was recognized under the codename of "Pete". The aircraft was also used by the forces of Indonesia and Thailand to an extent.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Mitsubishi F1M2 Reconnaissance Biplane Floatplane Aircraft.
1 x Mitsubishi Zuisei XIII 14-cylinder radial piston engine developing 875 horsepower.
230 mph
370 kph | 200 kts
Max Speed
30,971 ft
9,440 m | 6 miles
Service Ceiling
460 miles
740 km | 400 nm
Operational Range
1,725 ft/min
526 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Mitsubishi F1M2 Reconnaissance Biplane Floatplane Aircraft.
31.2 ft
9.50 m
O/A Length
36.1 ft
(11.00 m)
O/A Width
13.1 ft
(4.00 m)
O/A Height
4,255 lb
(1,930 kg)
Empty Weight
6,294 lb
(2,855 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Mitsubishi F1M (Pete) Reconnaissance Biplane Floatplane Aircraft .
2 x 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns in fixed, forward-firing mounts on the fuselage.
1 x 7.7mm Type 92 machine gun on a trainable mount in the rear cockpit.

2 x 132 lb conventional drop bombs under the wings (one per wing).
Notable series variants as part of the Mitsubishi F1M (Pete) family line.
F1M - Base Series Designation
F1M1 - Initial mark covering four prototypes
F1M2 - Improved mark for serial production
F1M2-K - Two-seat trainer variant based on the F1M2 production model.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Mitsubishi F1M (Pete). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1,118 Units

Contractor(s): Mitsubishi - Imperial Japan
National flag of Indonesia National flag of modern Japan National flag of Thailand

[ Imperial Japan; Indonesia; Thailand ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (230mph).

Graph Average of 225 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 1
Image of the Mitsubishi F1M (Pete)
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Mitsubishi F1M (Pete) Reconnaissance Biplane Floatplane Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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