Anticipation of a need for single-seat
float-equipped interceptor seaplanes
prompted the Japanese navy to initiate
a development programme for such
aircraft in 1940, the Nakajima A6M2-N
floatplane adaptation of the famous
Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero being intended
as a stopgap until a purpose-designed
aircraft could be introduced. This was
to be the highly-imaginative and
attractive Kawanishi N1K Kyofu
(mighty wind), whose design was
started in September of that year.
Featuring a central float and twin wing-mounted
stabilizing floats, the new
prototype retained the same gun
armament as the A6M2 but was powered
by a 1089kW Kasei
14 radial engine driving two-blade
contraprops in an attempt to counter
the torque-induced swing on take-off.
The wing-mounted floats were originally
intended to be retractable but
design problems led to these being
fixed before the aircraft's first flight.
Persistent trouble with the contraprop
gearbox resulted in a change to the
Kasei 13 engine driving a single threeblade
propeller from the second prototype
First flown on 6 May 1942, the N1K1
went on to trials with the navy, whose
pilots were enthusiastic about the performance,
although expressing misgivings
over the tricky take-off characteristics.
In the air, with its combat
flaps, the Kyofu handled beautifully
and possessed excellent manoeuvrability.
At a time (the end of 1942) when
the Zero naval fighter had effectively
won air superiority for the Japanese in
the Pacific, the N1K1 was ordered into
production, but the delivery rate was
slow to accelerate and fortunes
changed rapidly during 1943. Thus in
December of that year, with only 15
aircraft being completed each month
and Japanese offensive initiative
dwindling, it was decided to end production
of the aircraft, and in March
1944 the last of 89 Kyofus was delivered
to the service.
Codenamed 'Rex' by the Allies, the
N1K1 was first deployed for the defence
of Balikpapan in Borneo, whose
recovery by the Allies was regarded
as no longer pressing as American
forces surged closer to the Japanese
homeland, while the Japanese then
lacked the carriers with which to protect
their isolated garrisons. In the final
weeks of the war NlKls flew alongside
the 'Rufes' of the Otsu Kokutai from
Lake Biwa in defence of central Honshu
against the increasing American
raids on Japan. It was ironic that so
promising was the N1K1 that the
Japanese had reversed the process of
adaptation, and with it produced the
N1K2-J 'George' landplane fighter,
certainly one of the best Japanese aircraft
to see combat during the war.
| ENGINE||1 x Mitsubishi MK4E "Kasei-15", 1150kW|
| Take-off weight||3500-3712 kg||7716 - 8184 lb|
| Empty weight||2752 kg||6067 lb|
| Wingspan||12 m||39 ft 4 in|
| Length||10.59 m||35 ft 9 in|
| Height||4.75 m||16 ft 7 in|
| Wing area||23.5 m2||252.95 sq ft|
| Max. speed||480 km/h||298 mph|
| Cruise speed||365 km/h||227 mph|
| Ceiling||10560 m||34650 ft|
| Range w/max.fuel||1650 km||1025 miles|
| ARMAMENT||2 x 20mm cannons, 2 x 7.7mm machine-guns|
|A three-view drawing (750 x 1230)|
|Ken Wiley, 06.12.2013|
The aircraft in the Nimitz Museum had been in storage at NAS Norfolk, Virginia until the summer of 1975, when it was delivered to the museum for restoration.
Are we sure this is the aircraft at Pensacola? I've heard that it is now at the Nimitz Museum in Texas (in the George Bush Gallery).
NAS Pensacola, awaiting resoration at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
Kawanishi N1K Kyofu / Rex
As a kid, I used to climb all over the aircraft that lined the fence at NAS Willow Grove. I was glad to see this page, as I couldn't remember what aircraft it was. I hope to see it restored soon!
The floatplane fighter was not quite the oddity that it seems on the surface. Although such an aircraft would lack the performance to deal with opposing fighters, it would be a useful counter to attack or recon aircraft where carrier-based fighters were not available for whatever reason. A floatplane launched from a CAM ship against a FW-200 Condor would be one, as would a launch from a German raiding cruiser or battleship against Swordfish/Albacores/Barracudas.
|Kevin A. Lawton, 24.09.2007|
I grew up not too far from Willow Grove NAS and remember passing the Kyofu mant times. I'm happy to hear it is now (hopefully) indoors and awaiting restoration. It was getting pretty beat-up by the time I left PA in 1978.
The aircraftt formerly displayed at NAS Willow Grove is currently stored at NAS Pensacola, awaiting resoration at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
Do you have any comments about this aircraft ?