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Nakajima Ki-87


High-Altitude Fighter / Interceptor


Imperial Japan | 1945



"The Nakajima Ki-87 had origins in work begun during 1942 but the arrival of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bomber by the Allies accelerated interceptor designs like it."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/06/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Even as early as 1942, Japanese Army engineers were fleshing out a new high-altitude fighter design. This required a relatively strong airframe for the needed internal components with a pressurized cockpit for the pilot and an engine of considerable power for high-altitude work. The designation of "Ki-87" was applied to the type and the Nakajima concern was commissioned to produce three prototypes of a standard design for the development phase.

Progress for the new fighter proved slow and the greater American commitment in the Pacific worsened the situation for Japan. Coupled with this were mounting losses by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) which put a good amount of pressure on Army forces attempting to hold onto various strategic points in the Pacific region. The turbo-supercharger of the Ki-87 also presented a technological challenge and ended delaying the maturation of the project for the near future. A prototype was finally unveiled in February of 1945 and a first flight eventually had in April of that year. The prototype was fitted with a Nakajima Ha-44-12 18-cylinder radial piston engine which was not to become the intended production-quality powerplant.

The design of the fighter included a conventional arrangement featuring a low-set monoplane wing form fitted ahead of midships. The air-cooled radial engine lay in a compartment at the front of the fuselage and the fuselage tapered to the rear in the usual way - the cockpit set over the center of the design. The empennage was typical with a single vertical fin fitted between two low-mounted horizontal planes. The planes were noticeably set forwards of the tail fin. The engine would drive a four-bladed propeller unit which featured a large spinner at its center and the undercarriage was retractable and of the "tail-dragger" configuration. The pilot sat under a framed canopy which featured a sliding center section for entry/exit.

Proposed armament for the aircraft was 2 x 30mm Ho-105 series cannons installed in the out wing sections while 2 x 20mm Ho-5 canons were to be seated closer to the fuselage at the wing roots, these guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades due to their close proximity to the fuselage and nose. Beyond this fixed, standard arrangement was provision to carry 1 x 550lb bomb under fuselage centerline which was a rather interesting quality for an interceptor-minded design.

Dimensions of the Ki-87 included an overall length of 38.9 feet, a wingspan of 44 feet and a height of 14.9 feet. Empty weight was 9,672 lb versus a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 13,450 lb.

The engine of choice for the production Ki-87 form became the Mitsubishi Ha-219 "Ru", an 18-cylinder, air-cooled system driving the four-bladed propeller assembly at 2,400 horsepower output. Performance specifications included a maximum speed of 433 miles per hour (cruising being about 292mph) and a service ceiling of 42,175 feet.

By 1945, the American Boeing B-29 "Superfortress" high-altitude heavy bomber was making its presence known against Japanese-held territories and the Japanese home islands so this placed a premium on getting any and all capable interceptors into the air for the Japanese. The slow development phase of the Ki-87 did not help the situation and of the 500 planned for procurement by the Army, only the sole prototype was all that was realized before the Japanese surrender of August 1945 - the aircraft accounting for five test flights at that.

The Ki-87 was not assigned a nickname/codename by the Allies.

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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 Nakajima Ki-87 High-Altitude Fighter / Interceptor.
1 x Mitsubishi Ha-219 Ru (Ha-44/11) 18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine developing 2,400 horsepower.
Propulsion
435 mph
700 kph | 378 kts
Max Speed
42,175 ft
12,855 m | 8 miles
Service Ceiling
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Nakajima Ki-87 High-Altitude Fighter / Interceptor.
1
(MANNED)
Crew
38.8 ft
11.82 m
O/A Length
44.0 ft
(13.42 m)
O/A Width
14.8 ft
(4.50 m)
O/A Height
9,678 lb
(4,390 kg)
Empty Weight
13,448 lb
(6,100 kg)
MTOW
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Nakajima Ki-87 High-Altitude Fighter / Interceptor .
STANDARD:
2 x 30mm Ho-105 cannons in outer wing sections (one per wing).
2 x 20mm Ho-5 cannons in wing roots (one per wing root)

OPTIONAL:
1 x 550 lb bomb centerline fuselage
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Nakajima Ki-87 family line.
Ki-87 - Base Series Designation
Ki-87-II - Proposed, improved version with Nakajima Ha-217 (Ha-46) turbosupercharged engine of 3,000 horsepower.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Nakajima Ki-87. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1 Units

Contractor(s): Nakajima Aircraft Company - Imperial Japan
National flag of modern Japan

[ Imperial Japan (cancelled) ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (435mph).

Graph Average of 375 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
1
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
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Image of the Nakajima Ki-87
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.
AIR-TO-AIR COMBAT
INTERCEPTION
X-PLANE
Recognition
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 Nakajima Ki-87 High-Altitude Fighter / Interceptor appears in the following collections:
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