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Nakajima J5N Tenrai (Heavenly Thunder)


Prototype Heavy Fighter / Interceptor


Imperial Japan | 1944



"The Nakajima J5N interceptor prototype never managed to live up to its IJN requirements - managing just six prototypes before its end came in February of 1945."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/19/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Japanese aircraft engineers made some notable contributions to military air power prior to, and during, World War 2 (1939-1945). However, as with any nation growing with technology and experience, the small Pacific nation also failed to deliver on some of its ventures. The J5N was one such forgotten design which netted the Nakajima program just six total prototypes before abandonment was ordered. The twin-engine heavy fighter was developed to an Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) requirement calling for a new interceptor to counter the threat of much-improved Allied warplanes appearing over the Pacific Theater in number.

The Navy requirement came in the early half of 1943 and specified a single-seat, twin-engined platform with a maximum speed near the 415 mark when cruising at 19,700 feet. Unlike previous Japanese naval fighters, this new aircraft was to benefit from the protection offered by armor plating. Armament was to have been potent - a battery of cannon being installed - and a provision for bomb-carrying was also an added bonus.

Nakajima returned with a modified, dimensionally smaller version of their J1N1 "Gekko", a three-seat platform intended as a dedicated night-fighter. The new aircraft was known as the "J5N" and carried straight wing mainplanes, each with underslung engine nacelles driving four-bladed propellers. The cockpit was set well-forward along the long, tapering fuselage to provide for excellent vision out-of-the-cockpit. Additionally, the cannon battery would be concentrated in the nose assembly. The tail relied on a single vertical tail fin and the undercarriage utilized a "tail-dragger" arrangement.

In terms of armament, the J5N was to feature either 2 x 20mm Type 99-2 cannons or 2 x 30mm cannons in its nose. The listed bombload was 551lb consisting of a sole drop bomb held under the belly.

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The engines of choice became the in-house Nakajima Homare 21 series 18-cylinder air-cooled radial offering up to 1,990 horsepower output each. Radials required air cooling and larger engine nacelles but were less delicate than their inline brethren. The pilot's location in the design offered clear vision to each engine installation while still keeping forward vision rather excellent for carrier deck approaches and take-offs.

Satisfied with the Nakajima offering, the IJN ordered full development of the aircraft and contracted for six prototypes to prove the design sound. Engineers fought consistently against weight gains being incurred from the specified armament fit as well as cockpit, systems and fuel stores armoring. With the ballooning weight, the aircraft was further hampered by the less-than-desired output of the engine pair and handling was deemed unsatisfactory to boot. A gun-less prototype went to the air for the first time on July 13th, 1944 and managed only 371 miles per hour as its top speed.

This led to a period of hasty refinement for the design until it was realized that a full reworking was in order to truly meet the IJN demand. Six aircraft were ultimately completed - two interestingly finalized as two-seaters - but four of the stock were eventually lost to various accidents, proving that the J5N needed much more work than time allowed. The constraints of a failing war effort and the changing fortunes of Japan in the Pacific ultimately led to project cancellation in February of 1945. The unconditional Japanese surrender then arrived in August officially ending World War 2 in full.

The J5N was to carry the name "Tenrai" in service, this translating to "Heavenly Thunder".

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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 J5N1 Tenrai (Heavenly Thunder) Prototype Heavy Fighter / Interceptor.
2 x Nakajima Homare 21 18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines developing 1,990 horsepower each.
Propulsion
370 mph
595 kph | 321 kts
Max Speed
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Nakajima J5N1 Tenrai (Heavenly Thunder) Prototype Heavy Fighter / Interceptor.
1
(MANNED)
Crew
37.6 ft
11.45 m
O/A Length
47.2 ft
(14.40 m)
O/A Width
7.8 ft
(2.38 m)
O/A Height
16,094 lb
(7,300 kg)
MTOW
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Nakajima J5N Tenrai (Heavenly Thunder) Prototype Heavy Fighter / Interceptor .
PROPOSED, FIXED:
2 x 20mm Type 99-2 cannons OR 2 x 30mm cannons in nose.

PROPOSED, OPTIONAL:
1 x 551lb conventional drop bomb.
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Nakajima J5N Tenrai (Heavenly Thunder) family line.
J5N "Tenrai" - Base Series Designation
J5N1 - Prototype form; six completed in all with four lost to accidents during testing; at least two prototypes completed as two-seat platforms.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Nakajima J5N Tenrai (Heavenly Thunder). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 6 Units

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

[ Imperial Japan (cancelled) ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (370mph).

Graph Average of 300 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Production Comparison
6
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
Aviation Timeline
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1 / 1
Image of the Nakajima J5N Tenrai (Heavenly Thunder)
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.

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
GROUND ATTACK
MARITIME / NAVY
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 J5N Tenrai (Heavenly Thunder) Prototype Heavy Fighter / Interceptor appears in the following collections:
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