As an island nation with a primary military focus placed on a powerful navy, the Empire of Japan was forced to rely upon a healthy stable of floatplane and flying boat aircraft during its conquest of the Pacific during World War 2 (1939-1945). In 1940, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) commissioned for a dedicated "fighting floatplane" - a floatplane aircraft capable of operating from water while retaining the abilities and firepower of a modern military fighter. This sort of fighter type was brought about by the need for Japan to field forward-operating elements not relying on fixed airfields or aircraft carriers for their general operation and support. The nation was the only one of the war to put a premium on "fighting floatplanes" as a result.
Kawanishi headed the charge to produce the new fighting floatplane (becoming the N1K "Kyofu" detailed elsewhere on this site) while Nakajima was selected to provide an interim solution which was based on the famous Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" carrier-based fighter platform. The model of choice became the A6M2 and saw its retractable, wheeled undercarriage completely removed. In its place, a triple-float arrangement was added utilizing a large central float section with two underwing floats for additional stability on the water. The float arrangement would remain fixed in flight which added drag and reduced performance some. The cockpit seated one under a greenhouse-style canopy with generally adequate views around the airframe. The original A6M armament of 2 x 20mm cannons and 2 x 7.7mm machine guns was retained which had already proven sufficient against enemy aircraft over Asia and the Pacific in the early campaigns of the war. While IJN forces were busy enacting their surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7th, 1941, the new fighting floatplane recorded its first flight in prototype form. It was subsequently adopted into IJN service as the "A6M2-N" and eventually given the Allied codename of "Rufe".
Entering service in 1942, the A6M2-N was pressed into immediate action in several of the mid-war campaigns including the Aleutians and the Solomon Islands Campaign. The A6M2-N inventory suffered a severe setback when, on August 7th, 1942, a seaplane base was destroyed by Allied fighter-bombers, taking with it most of the available A6M2-Ns stationed there. Nevertheless, total production was able to net 327 aircraft and these were used with good efficiency against Allied positions - marking patrol elements, aiding warship guns, engaging convoys, and reconnoitering areas over-the-horizon. However, when Allied fighter coverage became more numerous and effective, the value of the A6M2-N dwindled and losses began to naturally mount. For the final months of the war, the series was used in defense of the Japanese homeland as an interceptor where the aircraft's capabilities were severely hampered against high-flying Allied bombers and faster, better performing enemy fighters.
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.
Nakajima Aircraft Company - Imperial Japan Manufacturer(s)
France (single examples, post war); Imperial Japan Operators
The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content; site is 100% curated by humans.