"Flying Dragon" ... It is well-deserved that this plane can be called one of the symbols of the Japanese resistance, which has gained momentum in the American military machine. In 1944, when American bombers regularly began to make visits to the skies over Japanese cities, it was on these aircraft that they were bet on the counterplay that had begun.
Here I will start from a very piquant moment.
What actually happened? And the following happened: the Americans captured the Mariana Islands, from which it was much more convenient to fly and bomb Japan than from the territory of China or aircraft carriers. Moreover, the main aircraft, tyrannizing the Japanese, the B-29, demanded a decent airfield, and not a deck. And then the airfield appeared.
Very quickly, the Japanese commanders realized that fighting a “sausage” of fast, flying at high altitude, strong, well-armed (11 machine guns 12,7 mm), and most importantly, covered with B-29 fighters was not just difficult, but difficult catastrophically.
Actually, the Japanese’s not-so-successful Luftwaffe experience in combating bombers was known to the Japanese, therefore, unlike the Germans, they decided to counter raids on their cities with American aviation.
Which was pretty logical.
How did the raids of Japanese planes take place?
It was a rather difficult task. Airplanes took off from their airfields at the beginning of the evening and headed for Iwo Jima, where the “jump” airfield was built. 1250 kilometers. Three hours or more, depending on the wind. At Iwo Jima, the aircraft refueled, the crews dined and rested a bit, then took off and began a night flight to Saipan. This is about 1160 kilometers and a minimum of 2,5 hours of flight.
By morning, Japanese pilots flew up to the airfield on Saipan, dropped bombs and set off on the return trip.
Total, depending on the wind, we have about 12 (or more) hours of flight over the night Pacific Ocean, practically without any reference points. Almost five thousand kilometers.
Why am I focusing on this so much? Because these flights were carried out by the pilots of the JAAF Army land aviation, and not the marine JANF.
Amazing right? But that was exactly how the ground pilots did what the pilots of the shattered smithereens of Japanese naval aviation could no longer do. And they did it successfully, the intensity of raids on the Japanese islands in January-February 1945 sharply decreased.
In December 1944 alone, Americans in Saipan lost more than 50 B-29 bombers. The Japanese were just great at flying up precisely when the B-29s were the most vulnerable, that is, just before takeoff. And in order to stop the raids, the Americans had to start an operation to seize Iwo Jima in February 1945.
Of course, the courage and training of the Japanese army pilots only delayed the inevitable collapse of Japan, but the plane, which became a kind of shield, covering the hole that formed on the site of the virtually destroyed Japanese naval aviation is worthy of our attention.
So, the last, Mitsubishi dragon song, Ki-67, codenamed Peggy, has deservedly become one of the most famous Japanese aircraft in the last months of the Pacific War. Moreover, even the Americans (not to mention the Japanese) considered the Ki-67 the best bomber of the imperial army of World War II.
Very nice plane. No wonder, by the way, because Mitsubishi did not spare money for the training and education of its engineers in Europe and the United States. Mitsubishi had more experienced design engineers than other companies, had higher salaries, and experience in developing heavy bombers was not comparable to the rest of the Japanese aviation industry combined.
On the whole, Mitsubishi’s affairs went well, and if you do not take into account some of Nakajima’s successes, then we can say that the company was in fact the leading supplier of aircraft to both the army and navy. For this, Mitsubishi immediately had two independent design departments, the army and navy.
Hisanoyo Ozawa, who worked on all serial Japanese bombers since 1930, was appointed the chief designer of the new bomber project. Ozawa was assisted by two graduates of the California Institute of Aviation Technology, Teruo Toyo and Yoshio Tsubota.
The new plane made its first flight on December 17, 1942. The bomber turned out to be elegant and beautiful, almost without protruding parts, with smooth lines.
Another interesting point. For some reason, in many directories, the Ki-67 is called a heavy bomber. In fact, its parameters are somewhat unsuitable for this category. The Ki-67 with a bomb load of 1070 kg is a classic medium bomber.
B-25 Mitchell could carry up to 2722 kg of bombs, B-26 Marauder up to 1814 kg, He.111 up to 2000 kg.
In February 1943, the following copies joined the prototype and tests began in full. The tests gave a positive result, the plane was not too demanding to fly, it reached a speed of 537 km / h above sea level. This was slightly less than what the JAAF would like, but for a start they decided that was enough. The army of the land army urgently needed a new modern bomber, as the army fought heavy battles in Burma and the Dutch East Indies.
Ki-67, named "Hiryu", meaning "Flying Dragon", entered service with ground aviation in the summer of 1944. This was a landmark event, because for the first time since 1930 the army had a better bomber than the navy.
The Dragon was really good! Protected tanks, crew armor protection, excellent defensive weapons, impressive flight performance ... If the Ki-67 weren’t occupied by newcomers, but the crews destroyed in Rabaul and New Guinea, the bomber would have been more effective. Alas…
Even many modifications developed during the service did not help. Ki-67 was considered as a towing glider, and as a torpedo bomber, and as a plane for kamikaze.
In August 1944, manufacturers made changes to the design of bombers, including the Ki-67, to place them inside the bomb, which is fired by a fuse located in the nose of the aircraft.
The Hiru modification was called the Fugaku. The Special Attack Corps bombers have been finalized: all the rifle towers have been removed, their installation sites have been protected with plywood fairings to provide a more streamlined shape for greater speed. The crew was reduced to 2-3 people, the minimum required for navigation and radio communications. The activation of the bombs was automatic upon hitting the target.
Torpedo bombers underwent final crew training in October 1944, but received baptism of fire at the same time as the Fugaku during the defense of Formosa (today it is Taiwan). It so happened, it did not immediately become clear what the Americans would start with, from Formosa or the Philippines. But in any case, it was necessary to answer, so that the undereducated squadrons were transferred to southern Formosa in order to work from there on the Americans, regardless of where they direct the attack.
It was to Luzon and southern Formosa that the strike groups of the 3rd US fleet approached and struck Formosa from the air. So the battle began in the Philippine Sea, where they received the baptism of fire Ki-67.
The USN 3rd Fleet attack group approached Luzon and southern Formosa in the second week of October 1944, and carried out a series of distracting air strikes against Okinawa. On October 10, the JNAF Air Force units of the Second Air Fleet, including two Army Sentai HIRYU, were put on alert. On October 12, American carrier-based bombers and fighters attacked Formosa and its adjacent islands, provoking an unprecedentedly vigorous response from Japanese base aircraft. The time has come, and the air phase of the battle in the Philippine Sea has begun.
The first victory happened during air battles: Ki-67 torpedoes from 703 and 708 kokutai (air regiment) hit the heavy cruiser Canberra. The cruiser was miraculously towed for repair, there was an obvious miscalculation of the Japanese, who were unable to finish off the ship that was being dragged by another cruiser, Wichichita, at a speed of only 4 knots.
The next day, the cruiser Houston received a torpedo, a namesake drowned by the Japanese in the Java Sea.
Losses of the regiments amounted to 15 vehicles.
Let's just say that the achievements were not so hot, but it turned out quite well for the debut. Two disabled ships - this is quite good.
The debut of Fugaku was also not quite decent. Aircraft suffered heavy losses, because nevertheless the usual tactics against American formations of ships protected by both air defense and fighter squadrons are no longer suitable. But the suicide bombers were able to send the destroyers "Mehan" and "Ward" to the bottom.
During the battle of Okinawa in March 1945, the first modification of the Ki-67-1b appeared. The whole difference compared to the first model was that a second 12,7-mm machine gun appeared in the tail unit.
By the summer of 1945, the Ki-67 became the most important bomber in land aviation. There were modifications with a radar for searching and detecting ships, with a searchlight in the nose (a variant of a night fighter), but ...
But the end of Japan, and with it the Japanese aviation, was predetermined. The superiority in the air of American aviation simply did not make it possible to properly use even such good aircraft. Therefore, I even had to abandon the Ki-67-1s version, with more powerful engines and a bomb load increased to 1250 kg. There was no point.
There were only planes for suicide bombers. A small series of Ki-167s was built, an airplane in which a thermite bomb of the cumulative action “Sakura-dan” was mounted behind the pilot, which appeared thanks to the technical assistance of the German allies. “Sakura-dan” weighed 2900 kg and had a diameter of 1,6 meters, which allowed it to fit into the fuselage of a bomber.
History retained evidence of Ki-167 sorties, but there was no evidence of successful use.
The Ki-67 fast bomber was also used as the carrier of two Ki-140 gliding bombs. These were the first Japanese winged bombs in the series - “Mitsubishi Type I Glide bomb, model 1”. The bombs were supposed to be launched from a distance of about 10 kilometers from the target and controlled by radio. To do this, it was necessary to equip the Ki-67 carrier with instrumentation and radio control.
The bomb was a glider with short wings and a solid rocket engine, providing 75 seconds of traction. In addition, the bomb was equipped with stabilizing gyroscopic devices connected to the horizontal tail. The weight of the warhead was 800 kg.
Was driven weapon visually on the radio during the flight to its target using the control system on board the carrier aircraft. The first I-Go-IA bomb was completed in October 1944, was tested in November, and as a military weapon was planned for use in the summer of 1945.
There was a project of anti-ship weapons, an analogue of I-Go-IA, "Rikagun type I Glide bomb, model 1C", or I-Go-IC was also developed, tested and even assembled in a series of 20 pieces. For the use of I-Go-IC, ten "Dragons" were modified and at the time of surrender they were all ready for combat use.
There was an attempt to make the Ki-67 a heavy fighter in the image of the Junkers-88. Back in 1943, when Japanese intelligence received information about the B-29, they decided that something had to be done with the bomber. And when it turned out that a hundred Super Fortresses would be used during the day, a proposal was made to convert the Ki-67 into a heavy fighter, armed with an Army Type 75 88mm anti-aircraft gun in the nose.
Foreseeing that at long range B-29s would appear over Japan without fighter escorts, the radical idea was approved and embodied in reality. The horror got the name Ki-109, it differed from the standard Ki-67 with a new nose with a gun, and defensive weapons remained from the Ki-67.
But it turned out - it does not fly. The plane was too heavy. They tried to solve the problem with the help of powder accelerators, and found out empirically that the plane was practically uncontrollable during such a take-off. Then they removed all weapons from the plane, with the exception of the 12,7 mm machine gun in the tail tower.
By March 1945, 22 Ki-109 aircraft were manufactured. There are no data on the application and victories.
Another version of the fighter based on the Ki-67 was developed at the end of 1944, it was called the Ki-112 or "Experimental convoy fighter." The aircraft had a wooden structure, which was practical at the end of the war in the realities of aluminum shortages.
Ki-112 was to accompany unarmed aircraft such as Sakura-dan carriers and protect against enemy fighters with a battery of eight 12,7-mm machine guns and one 20-mm gun. The project was closed in the summer of 1945.
And the bulk of those more than 700 Ki-67, which did not die in battle, after the surrender of Japan were simply destroyed by the occupying forces. That is, simply burned.
So the story of the “Flying Dragon” Ki-67, an airplane that was simply unlucky with the time of its appearance, ended not very gloriously.
Wingspan, m: 22,50
Length, m: 18,70
Height, m: 7,70
Wing area, м2: 65,85
- empty aircraft: 8 649
- normal takeoff: 13 765
Engine: 2 x Army type 4 x 1900 hp
Maximum speed km / h: 537
Cruising speed, km / h: 400
Practical range, km: 3 800
Combat range, km: 2 800
Maximum rate of climb, m / min: 415
Practical ceiling, m: 9 470
Crew, prs: 8
- 20-mm gun Ho-5 in the upper tower;
- four 12,7 mm machine guns in the bow, tail and side mounts;
- bombs up to 1000 kg.