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Nakajima B5N (Kate)

Carrier-Borne Torpedo Bomber Aircraft [ 1941 ]

By the time of World War 2, the Nakajima B5N of the Imperial Japanese Navy was regarded as the best carrier-borne torpedo bomber anywhere in the world.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/12/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Nakajima B5N series of torpedo bombers originating from Japan were considered the best of their type anywhere in the world by the time of the American entry into the conflict during late-1941. The aircraft saw development against an Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) requirement in 1935 and a first-flight followed in January of 1937. It was in operational service at the outbreak of World War 2 (1939-1945) and was one of the more crucial and effective aircraft deployed by the Japanese Navy in its various attacks - including the assault on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in December of 1941. The B5N was produced across 1,149 examples and saw service through most of the global conflict.

The aircraft's general arrangement was conventional for the period and fitted the single air-cooled radial engine in the nose. The wing mainplanes were low-mounted along the fuselage sides and fitted slight ahead of midships. The tail used a single vertical plane with two low-mounted horizontal planes. The crew of three - pilot, bombardier-navigator, and rear machine gunner - were seated in line under a long-running "greenhouse-style" canopy. The main legs of the undercarriage were retractable and the tail wheel stayed exposed during flight.

The B5N was powered by a single in-house Nakajima radial piston engine - B5N1 models were given "Hikari" radials while B5N2s carried "Sakae 11" radials of 1,000. The B5N2 managed a maximum speed of 235 miles-per-hour, ranged out to 1,240 miles, and could reach a service ceiling of 27,100 feet.

Armament consisted of a single 7.7mm Type 92 machine gun set on a trainable mounting at the rear gunner's position. Some B5N1 models were equipped with 2 x 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns in the wings for a broader frontal "punch". For offensive work, the aircraft was cleared to carry a single Type 91 torpedo of 1,760lb or, in its place, 2 x 550lb bombs along with 6 x 295lb bombs for conventional bombing sorties.

The initial B5N form became the "Type K" prototype of 1937 and this was followed in 1938 by combat-quality B5N1 production models. The B5N1-K designation was used to signify B5N1s converted for the training role. The improved B5N2 - with more powerful Sakae engines and smaller cowlings - appeared in 1939 and marked the final production form.

Initial combat actions placed the B5N over China and these were used both as carrier-based attackers and land-based warplanes. The aircraft was quick to earn the respect of the world with its striking ability and accuracy and made up a portion of the Japanese attack force used at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. At least 144 B5N2 aircraft took part in the assault. The aircraft would find future successes at Coral Sea, Midway, and over the Santa Cruz Islands in the campaigns that followed - destroying many Allied vessels across the Pacific Theater and credited with the sinking of the important American aircraft carriers USS Hornet, USS Lexington, and the USS Yorktown.

Once Allied pilots became combat-tested and handed much improved fighters, the B5N's inherent deficiencies shown through - they were weakly-armed defensively, poorly protected overall, and suffered from weight issues when carrying their potent war loads. This meant that those unlocky enough to find themselves in the crosshairs of Allied gunners could very easily fall prey. As such, losses began to mount and the last major engagements involving B5N aircraft were recorded over the Philippine Islands during 1944. The series was being phased out towards the end of the war but active aircraft - due to their still-excellent operational ranges - were used in non-direct-combat roles such as anti-ship, reconnaissance, and maritime patrol sorties. Some were featured as Kamikaze attackers leading up to the war's final months.

The Nakajma B6N "Jill" (detailed elsewhere on this site) became the B5N's direct successor and appeared in August of 1943. It was produced to the tune of 1,268 examples and managed its own wartime combat record.©MilitaryFactory.com
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Service Year

Imperial Japan national flag graphic
Imperial Japan

Not in Service.


National flag of modern Japan Imperial Japan
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
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.
Maritime / Navy
Land-based or shipborne capability for operating over-water in various maritime-related roles while supported by allied naval surface elements.
Training (General)
Developed ability to be used as a dedicated trainer for student pilots (typically under the supervision of an instructor).

Mainplanes are designed to fold, improving storage on land and at sea.
Inherent ability of airframe to take considerable damage.
Capability to travel considerable distances through onboard fuel stores.
Ability to operate over ocean in addition to surviving the special rigors of the maritime environment.
Manual process of allowing its pilot and / or crew to exit in the event of an airborne emergency.
Beyond a pilot, the aircraft takes advantage of additional crew specialized in specific functions aboard the aircraft.
Defensive gun positions for engagement / suppression.
Defensive rear-facing gun position to neutralize enemy targets emerging from the rear.
Features partially- or wholly-enclosed crew workspaces.
Features retracting / retractable undercarriage to preserve aerodynamic efficiency.
Ability to launch / release torpedoes against ocean-going threats / targets.

33.8 ft
(10.30 m)
50.9 ft
(15.52 m)
12.1 ft
(3.70 m)
Empty Wgt
5,024 lb
(2,279 kg)
9,039 lb
(4,100 kg)
Wgt Diff
+4,015 lb
(+1,821 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Nakajima B5N2 (Kate) production variant)
monoplane / low-mounted / straight
Design utilizes a single primary wing mainplane; this represent the most popular mainplane arrangement.
Mainplanes are low-mounted along the sides of the fuselage.
The planform involves use of basic, straight mainplane members.
(Structural descriptors pertain to the Nakajima B5N2 (Kate) production variant)
Installed: 1 x Nakajima NK1B Sakae 11 air-cooled radial piston engine developing 1,000 horsepower driving three-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
Max Speed
236 mph
(380 kph | 205 kts)
Cruise Speed
162 mph
(260 kph | 140 kts)
Max. Speed Diff
+75 mph
(+120 kph | 65 kts)
27,100 ft
(8,260 m | 5 mi)
1,237 mi
(1,990 km | 3,685 nm)
1,230 ft/min
(375 m/min)

♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the Nakajima B5N2 (Kate) production variant. Performance specifications showcased above are subject to environmental factors as well as aircraft configuration. Estimates are made when Real Data not available. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database or View aircraft by powerplant type)
2 x 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns in wings (some B5N1 models).
1 x 7.7mm Type 92 machine gun in trainable position at rear cockpit.

1 x 1,760 lb torpedo OR 2 x 550lb OR 6 x 295lb conventional drop bombs.

Supported Types

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft aerial torpedo

(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 1

B5N ("Kate") - Base Model Series Designation.
Type K - Prototype Designation.
B5N1 - Initial Production Model.
B5N1-K - B5N1 aircraft converted for the training role.
B5N2 - Improved B5N1 with Sakae 11 radial engine and revised engine cowling.

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Image of the Nakajima B5N (Kate)
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