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Kyushu J7W Shinden (Magnificent Lightning)

Single-Seat, Single-Engine Interceptor Prototype Aircraft [ 1945 ]

The Kyushu J7W Shinden was specifically developed to combat the destructive Boeing B-29 Superfortresses wreaking havoc on Japanese infrastructure.

Authored By: Dan Alex | Last Edited: 07/30/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The unorthodox Kyushu J7W Shinden ("Magnificent Lightning") was a "wonder-weapon" of the Empire of Japan in the closing months of World War 2. It utilized a "canard configuration" and was intended as a high-speed, high-agility interceptor developed specifically to counter the B-29 Superfortress scourge devastating Japanese infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities. Though flown, only two were ever constructed before the end of the war signified the end of the Shinden legacy. As such, the little interceptor was never made operational for the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was, however, the only canard configuration aircraft to be ordered in quantity production during the war.

The Canard Concept - Nothing New Under the Sun

The canard concept was trialled by a variety of manufacturers around the globe during the war. Most notably was perhaps the American Curtiss XP-55 Ascender first flying in 1943. Like the Shinden, the Curtiss design fitted the powerplant to the rear of the short and slim fuselage, had swept-back wings and was built in a handful of examples (3) before the project was cancelled. Only one of the three Ascenders survived without accident. Regardless, the two aircraft essentially shared many common design principles.


The J7W idea was devised by Captain Massaoki Tsuruno and, from the outset, envisioned as a jet-powered interceptor to be its culminating form. As turbojet technology everywhere was trying to progress under wartime constraints, the idea would have to wait. Nevertheless, Tsuruno's idea was presented to the First Naval Air Technical Arsenal in April of 1943 and accepted for development. Three evaluation glider models were developed and constructed under the collective designation of MXY6. These systems proved vital in validating the handling capabilities of a canard-based design and one was even fitted with a single Ha-90 series 4-cylinder 22 horsepower air-cooled engine. Testing started sometime in 1943 and proved the design sound. In June of 1944, the construction of the first JW1 prototype began at Kyushu Aircraft Company facilities. Within a short 10 month period, the Shinden prototype was completed in April of 1945 and first flight was achieved on August 3rd, 1945. A second prototype entered construction but was never to fly. The first prototype took to the air two more times and netted a total of just 45 minutes flight time. A quantitative production contract was signed with high expectations. However, the deteriorating condition in the Japanese mainland and the American atomic bombs dropping on two major Japanese cities - Hiroshima and Nagasaki - on August 6th and August 9th - ended all hope for the Shinden. The Empire's war effort concluded on August 28th, the Allied occupation of the Japanese mainland.

Kyushu J7W1 Shinden Walk-Around

The fuselage was relatively conventional, featuring a long nose assembly and the cockpit fitted at center mass. The forward fuselage held a pair of small canard wings acting as the airframe's stabilizers. The engine was fitted to the extreme aft of the fuselage housing as a "pusher" arrangement and powered a four-bladed propeller system. The engine was aspirated via intakes immediately aft and to the sides of the cockpit. The wings were low-mounted assemblies with swept-back features while containing vertical surfaces acting as the airplane's rudders. Diminutive wheels were added to the rudder bases to protect them during ground actions. Armament was contained in a central battery fitted to the long nose housing. Armament would have been an arrangement of 4 x 30mm Type 5 series cannons. The undercarriage was something of a conventional tricycle design albeit with very tall landing gear legs. The front was supported by a single-wheeled leg retracting forwards into the fuselage while the main body was support by a pair of single-wheeled landing gear legs retracting inwards towards fuselage centerline. In all, the Shinden maintained a most unique design with promising specifications to back it up.©MilitaryFactory.com

The 4 x 30mm cannon armament would have made an imprint on the invading B-29 Superfortress crews for the British, Germans, Soviets and Japanese were quick to find out the importance of cannon armament in their fighter aircraft in respect to bringing down larger aircraft. A concentrated blast from these four Type 5 cannons would have surely caused significant damage to the internal workings of the four-engined, wholly-pressurized and technologically-advanced bombers of the United States Army Air Force.


Estimated performance specifications placed the J7W1 in the upper registers of fighter performance during the war. Top speed would have been 469 miles per hour while range was a respectable 531 miles. Service ceiling was reported to be in the vicinity of 39,360 feet. As a quick responding interceptor, the J7W1 would have made use of its 2,460 feet-per-minute climb rate. Power was to be supplied from a single Mitsubishi Ha-43 12 series engine delivering some 2,130 horsepower to the 8,019lb frame and powering a unique six-bladed propelled system. When fully-loaded, the J7W1 weighed in at 11,663lbs.


As an aside, the Imperial Japanese Navy made use of the letter "J" in their designations while the letter "W" stood for the Watanabe factory. A jet-powered version of the J7W existed as a "paper" airplane but never acted upon. This model would have fallen under the designation of "J7W2 Shinden Kai" and fitted an Ne-130 series axial-flow turbojet providing 1,984lbs of thrust.

Like the Curtiss XP-55 Ascender, one J7W1 prototype was shipped to storage at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. while the second one was known to be scrapped. The Ascender, however, now remains on long-term loan to the Air Zoo of Kalamazoo, Michigan.©MilitaryFactory.com
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Kyushu Hikoki K.K. - Japan
Imperial Japan (cancelled)
Operators National flag of modern Japan
Service Year
Imperial Japan
National Origin
Project Status

General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
Ability to intercept inbound aerial threats by way of high-performance, typically speed and rate-of-climb.
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.

31.7 ft
(9.66 meters)
36.5 ft
(11.11 meters)
12.9 ft
(3.92 meters)
8,036 lb
(3,645 kilograms)
Empty Weight
11,658 lb
(5,288 kilograms)
Maximum Take-Off Weight
+3,622 lb
(+1,643 kg)
Weight Difference

1 x Mitsubishi Ha-43 12 inline piston engine of 2,130 horsepower driving a four- or six-bladed propeller unit at the rear of the fuselage in "pusher" configuration.
466 mph
(750 kph | 405 knots)
Max Speed
39,370 ft
(12,000 m | 7 miles)
528 miles
(850 km | 459 nm)
2,460 ft/min
(750 m/min)

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

4 x 30mm Type 5 automatic cannons.

4 x 66lb bombs OR 2 x 132lb bombs.

Up to 264lb of external drop ordnance.


J7W - Base Series Designation
J7W1 - Prototype Designation; only two constructed.
J7W2 (Shinden Kai) - Proposed jet-powered variant; never developed nor produced.

General Assessment
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
Overall Rating
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (466mph).

Graph average of 375 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected above are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Pie graph section
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (2)
Compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian).

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Image of the Kyushu J7W Shinden (Magnificent Lightning)
Front left side view of the Kyushu J7W1 Shinden fighter
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Image of the Kyushu J7W Shinden (Magnificent Lightning)
Rear view of the Kyushu J7W1 Shinden fighter

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