Aviation of World War II
C6N Saiun. Combat Use.
Initially, it should be noted that designed as a carrier-based reconnaissance aircraft for use from aircraft carriers of the Taiho C6N Saiun class, it never flew from the deck. The first aviation unit to receive new vehicles was the 121st kokutai, formed on October 1, 1943. This regiment was armed with Kugisho D4Y1-C scouts converted from D4Y1 bombers. Retraining for new equipment was carried out at the Katori Air Force Base.
In February 1944, in anticipation of another American offensive, the 121st kokutai was stationed on Tinian Island in the Marianas. The first three C6N1s flew to the regimental airfield in mid-May 1944, and then the number of new reconnaissance aircraft was increased to seven. All aircraft included in the 121st kokutai belonged to an experimental series.
The first sorties of reconnaissance aircraft were carried out in the area of the Marshall Islands on May 30 and 31. Much to the regret of the Japanese pilots, the prototype series did not have external fuel tanks, and flights over such long distances were possible only with intermediate landings, which were carried out at the Truk airbase on the island of Nauru.
At dawn on May 30, Captain 3rd Rank Chihaya's C6N1 of the Hi-kotaho unit headed for Macjuro Island. Two hours later, the plane flew over the American naval base. The crew managed to locate and identify five aircraft carriers, several cruisers and battleships. Patrolling American carrier-based fighters tried to intercept the reconnaissance, but Chihaya, using his advantage in speed, easily broke away from the pursuit and successfully landed the plane on Nauru. The next day, Chihaya made a reconnaissance raid in the area of Quaijelin Atoll, where a large formation of eight destroyers and two dozen transport ships was discovered. And this time the plane was able to successfully return to base.
On June 5, the crew of another C6N1 distinguished themselves. In the area of \u200b\u200bthe Macjuro base, he discovered a large formation of American ships. Until June 9, Japanese reconnaissance aircraft appeared three more times with impunity over American naval bases. The F6F Hellcat fighters, whose maximum speed was 611 km / h, were unable to resist the new C6N1.
Despite successful reconnaissance raids, the major naval battle that took place in June 1944 in the Philippine Sea was lost by the Japanese. On June 15, three C6N1 Saiun from the Yokosuka division flew to the island of Iwo Jima. They wanted to use the planes in operation "A", the purpose of which was to strike at an American aircraft carrier formation. But bad weather conditions in the Iwo Jima region did not allow reconnaissance aircraft to operate. On June 20, the weather improved and two C6N1s took off, heading for the Marianas. Along the flight route, the crews had to deal not only with bad weather, but also with a large unit of F6F HELLCAT fighters, which did not allow the Japanese pilots to complete the reconnaissance flight.
Although operation "A" ended in failure, the Japanese headquarters continued to believe that the war could still be won as a result of one decisive blow. For its implementation in the summer of 1944, a special air group T-kogeki Butai was created. It included the most experienced crews of the Imperial Navy aviation, and the best at that time Mitsubishi KI-67 HI RYU bombers from the 762nd kokutai were assigned to the group's armament. Aerial reconnaissance in the interests of the group was entrusted to the 11th hikotai. The squadron was commanded by the captain of the 3rd rank Takagi. In addition to the D4Y1-C and KI-46, the 11th hikotai also had C6N1 Saiun aircraft in service.
The crews of the special air group T-kogeki Butai first came into action during the Battle of Formosa, which lasted from October 12 to 16, 1944. On the first day of the battle, three C6N1s took off to perform reconnaissance, two of which were intercepted and shot down.
Two days later, another C6N1 successfully completed a reconnaissance flight. At 4:32 p.m., his crew discovered American ships near Ishigaki Island, and after another 45 minutes of flight, two aircraft carriers. As a result, over the next few days, torpedo bombers from the T-kogeki Butai attacked the discovered ships.
In the autumn of 1944, the main battles unfolded in the area of the Philippine Islands. C6N1 from the 12th and 4th hikotai also took an active part in these battles. The first four C6N1s flew to Negros Island on October 27 and made a reconnaissance flight the very next day. Under conditions of complete air supremacy by US aviation, the 12th and 4th kokotai suffered significant losses, and by mid-November there were practically no serviceable C6N1s left in them. However, the Japanese command did not withdraw the reconnaissance units from the combat zone. Soon ten C6N1s and several D4Y1-Cs arrived for their resupply.
But by January 1945, no more than three serviceable C6N1s remained in the Philippines again, and in early February their personnel were transferred to Formosa (Taiwan). The only reconnaissance unit that remained by this time in the area of the Philippine archipelago was the 102nd hikotai, which was armed with D4Y1-C and KI-46 aircraft. But these machines were soon quickly lost in air battles.
Beginning in June 1944, Japanese cities and industrial areas began to be massively bombed by heavy American B-29 bombers. Initially operating from China, these aircraft only reached parts of Japan. After the Americans captured the Mariana Islands and equipped them with B-29 air bases, they became able to reach any point on Japanese territory.
The headquarters of the Imperial Navy developed an operation to attack American airfields in order to disable them and destroy the B-29s located there. The operation was designated Mitate No. 1. Its goal was to destroy the maximum number of B-29s at the time they were on the ground. To accomplish the task, the Japanese formed a unit of twelve pilots of the 317th hikotai, who were temporarily reassigned to the 252nd kokutai. The task was formulated quite simply - to deliver a bombing and machine-gun attack on the aircraft stands, and having used up all the ammunition, send our aircraft to them.
At 08:00 hours on November 27, 1944, twelve Reisen bombers took off from Chidori Airfield on Iwo Jima. In order to avoid a navigational error, the group was led by two C6N1s from the 12th hikotai. In addition to navigational support, the C6N1 crews were tasked with recording the results of the strike. After two hours of flight to the target, one of the C6N1s was forced to return due to engine problems. The flight was continued only by another C6N1. At 1040 he changed course and separated from the battle formation of the strike group to approach the Mariana Islands from the south, while the Reisen of the strike group approached from the north. Before starting to observe the attack, the reconnaissance crew photographed military installations on the islands of Tinian and Saipan.
The attack on the American air base began at 13.10. From the first approach, the Japanese managed to destroy two B-29s and seriously damage the third. It was also possible to set fire to several P-47 fighters. After making two passes, the surviving Reisen pilots directed their planes to the aircraft stands and ultimately doubled the losses of the Americans. All Japanese pilots from the strike group were killed, and the C6N1 crew returned to Iwo Jima at 15.17. On December 1, 1944, the commander of the 3rd kantai, Vice Admiral Teraoka, presented the C6N1 pilot Hiroshi with a certificate of commendation for exceptional courage and skill.
The Japanese General Staff, seeing that the front was gradually approaching the mother country, made desperate attempts to change the situation. One of these attempts was to be Operation Asuza, which included an attack by the American fleet in the Ulithi area. At the end of January 1945, seven C6N1s from the 3rd hikotai and 752nd kokutai flew to the air base in Truk. The operation began on 11 February. The link of reconnaissance flew out on the first and, as it turned out, the last reconnaissance flight. Due to technical problems, two aircraft had to return to base, and the third fell into the waters of the Pacific Ocean, never reaching the target. At the end of all the troubles, the 3rd hikotai lost its commander, who died in one of the subsequent sorties.
Thus, by February 12, only three C6N1s remained in service. Of these, only one was able to carry out a combat mission. In such a situation, he had to make several reconnaissance flights a day. Due to the loss of almost all materiel, the remnants of the 3rd kokutai were taken to the rear for reorganization, replacing it with the 102nd kokutai, which successfully operated from February 13 to May 12, performing reconnaissance flights for enemy naval formations and monitoring situations at B-based airfields -29.
On February 13, the C6N1 crew discovered the ships of the American strike group heading to attack Iwo Jima and the Japanese Islands. The reconnaissance aircraft also included the new commander of the 3rd kokutai, Takuma Miki. On March 14, C6N1 crews completed seven reconnaissance flights of an American strike group heading to attack Okinawa. One of the crews managed to detect it and direct the air strike at the ships. But in the current situation, the Asuza operation had to be postponed and focused on the defense of the mother country. However, C6N1s from the 3rd kokutai carried out reconnaissance flights on March 9 and 11 in order to detect formations of the American fleet.
As a result of four reconnaissance flights, 23 aircraft carriers, 18 battleships, 32 cruisers and a large number of other ships were found. Two days later, Japanese Kugisho P1Y1 Ginga bombers attacked the American ships. But only one Japanese pilot managed to break through to the aircraft carrier Randolph. To determine the results of the attack, the Saiun aircraft carried out six reconnaissance flights.
In the battle for Okinawa, C6N1 crews successfully solved a wide variety of tasks: reconnaissance of enemy troops, designation of their forward units, determination of damage inflicted on the enemy, weather reconnaissance and passive jamming of American radars. The 11th hikotai was the most active in the fighting sector. C6N1 from the 132nd, 653rd and 765th kokutai took part in the battles. Similar tasks were assigned to the C6N1, based on the territory of Japan itself.
Great success accompanied the crew of Mitsuru Takeda from the 4th hikotai of the 343rd kokutai. On March 19, 1945, his crew discovered a group of American aircraft heading for Cape Kure, which allowed the Japanese to prepare for an enemy meeting. Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-KAI fighters flew to intercept. Japanese pilots managed to destroy 52 American carrier-based aircraft in one battle, among which were 48 Hellcat and Corsaur fighters and four Helldiver bombers. The Japanese lost only six of their vehicles, including one C6N1 Saiun reconnaissance aircraft.
Cases of combat use of C6N1-S night fighters were noted in the late summer of 1945. The first modified C6N1 Saiun flew on a combat mission on the night of August 1-2, 1945. The crew of the aircraft managed to detect the B-29 bomber and fire on it from the onboard guns. The B-29 was damaged, but there is no exact data on its destruction.
On July 24 and 25, 1945, Japanese fighters in the Kure area attacked British carrier-based aircraft from aircraft carriers from the TF-57 group. The crew of the C6N1 Saiun from the 102nd hikotai, observing the British aircraft, also managed to determine the location of the aircraft carriers, which were soon attacked by Japanese Aichi B7A1 Ryusei bombers from the 5th hikotai. The plane of Lieutenant Eichi Fujii managed to overcome the air defense system and strike at one of the aircraft carriers. A second strike on the carrier formation was carried out on August 9 and 13 by Ryusei aircraft. The results of the strike were determined by a pair of C6N1 Saiun of the 102nd hikotai.
On the last day of the war, August 15, 1945, four C6N1 Saiuns from the 11th hikotai flew reconnaissance missions for enemy ship formations. shot down in World War II.
After the surrender of Japan, the Americans got five C6N1 Saiun aircraft, which were transported to the United States for testing. To date, the only copy of C6N1 with serial number 4161 has been preserved. It is located in the USA, at the National Air and Space Museum in Dayton.