Aviation of World War II
Given the good flight performance of the "96 Rikko" and the relatively high payload of the aircraft, conversion into a transport aircraft based on it was conceived at the very beginning of his career. In 1937, when the G3M1 Model 1 bomber was just put into production, at the 1st Naval Arsenal in Yokosuka, later known as the Kugisho company, and in the west of Yokosuka, it was developed and launched on its basis in a series of civilian version of the bomber as L3Y1 "Type 96, model 11" (there was also the designation G3M1d and "96 Yu"). The aircraft was equipped with Kinsei 3 engines with an HP 910 power. and differed from the basic model by the complete absence of weapons, although crews often preferred to carry one or two 7.7-mm machine guns with them. The narrow fuselage was liberated to accommodate a small cabin for 10 passengers and equipped with a number of small rectangular windows on each side, the aircraft crew consisted of 5 people. These high-speed transport aircraft traveled between all the bases of the Japanese fleet, performing the functions of VIP transports, flying conference rooms, and simply transferring troops. However, the total number of L3Y1s produced was relatively small, although there is no exact data, but most likely their number was several dozen.
In 1942, the 11th transport air fleet was formed. The scale of the Japanese Empire at that time reached gigantic proportions, the connection with many corners of which without aviation would have been unthinkable. Then transport aircraft, more than a third of which were L3Y1, began to make regular flights between various bases of the Japanese fleet. Twice a week, planes flew between Tokyo and Rabaul. Regular flights were to other locations in New Britain, New Ireland, the Solomon Islands, and eastern New Guinea. Spotted one day on a voyage from Japan to Saipan by the Allies, the L3Y1 was given the codename "Tina". There were three or four slightly different versions of the L3Y.
In 1943, after the Allied victory in the area of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea, Rabaul was completely isolated, the only connection of the blockaded garrison of which were submarines and transport aircraft. However, nearly unarmed L3Y1 flights there became almost suicidal. Aircraft flew through the space controlled by allied aviation and losses in transport aviation began to grow rapidly. Only individual planes could break through there with loads of much-needed medicines and spare parts.
The next and last variant of the G3M-based transport aircraft was the "Kugisho" L3Y2, Model 12, also known as the G3M2d, which appeared in the summer of 1939. The L3Y2 was derived from the G3M2 Model 21 airframe, although it was powered by the more powerful Kinsei 45 engine from the later G3M2 Model 22. Externally and internally, the new aircraft did not differ from the L3Y1 version, although the L3Y2 was somewhat faster. The new L3Y2s were tested at the Naval Aviation Center in Yokosuka, and after operational testing at the Japanese base of Qingdao on the Chinese coast, in the "Yokohama" kokutai, and eventually entered almost every kokutai.
Transport aircraft were used for emergency delivery of special orders, small parts and personnel. Almost all IJNAF units had L3Y2 aircraft, in particular, the 201st, 204th, 221st, and 253rd fighter kokutai; 501st, 552nd assault; 801st, 938th and 958th reconnaissance kokutai; 1001st and 1006th transport kokutai.
The most specialized use of the L3Y2 was in the parachute drop assigned to the 12th troop transport kokutai beginning in 1940. L3Y transports were deployed in preparation for the invasion of the Philippines and Balikpapan. In preparation for the attack on Pearl Harbor, 600 paratroopers were ready for battle, with the L3Y2 as the delivery vehicle. The first use in combat of the 12th kokutai took place on January 11, 1942, when 20 L3Y2s landed over 200 paratroopers at the airfield at Menado in the Philippines. A little over a month later, on February 20, the 12th kokutai dropped paratroopers-saboteurs on the island of Timor, in northwestern Australia. However, in the future, airborne operations by the fleet were not carried out.
The good performance of the G3M transport version attracted the civilian airline Nippon Koku KK (Japan Airlines), which was later renamed Dai Nippon Koku KK (Greater Japan Airlines) with international routes between Japan, Korea, China and the Pacific islands. The civilian version was almost indistinguishable from the military transport L3Y, powered by Mitsubishi Kinsei 41 engines and designated "Twin-Engine Civil Transport" model 1 ("So-Yu"), using a modified airframe of the standard G3M2 Model 21, which had an 8-passenger cabin in the fuselage. "So-Yu" began to operate their flights in 1938. In April 1939, one of them, with tail number J-BEOA and its own name "Soyokaze" (Marshmallow), flew from Tokyo to India, then to Tehran and back. Earlier, at the end of 1937, the editors of the Mainichi Shimbun petitioned the Imperial Navy to obtain the transfer of an experimental Mitsubishi Ka-9 G1M1 to the newspaper for an advertising round-the-world flight in order to surpass its competitor, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper (Asahi Press), which sponsored a promotional flight from Tokyo to London in April 1937 of a prototype Army reconnaissance Ki-15 called "Kamikaze". The Imperial Navy complied with the Mainichi Shimbun's request, offering the more modern G3M2 Model 21 as a replacement. Aircraft no. 328 was given to the editors of the newspaper.
In parallel, the necessary changes were made for a round-the-world flight. The capacity of the fuel tank has been increased; inside, a cabin was placed for carrying passengers, civilian landing equipment was installed, and weapons were removed. By July 1939, the aircraft was ready and seven specially selected crew members began to familiarize themselves with it. On August 3, the aircraft received the registration number J-BACI and the proper name "Nippon" (Japan) at a ceremony at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Under the command of flight commander Sumitoshi Nakao (who later became president of Tokyo International Airport in the mid-1950s), it left Japan on August 27, 1939, en route to Seattle, Washington. On the way, news was received of the outbreak of war in Europe. The route was urgently changed so as not to fly through the warring Europe, and now ran through South America and Africa. Nippon returned to Japan on October 20 after covering 52,860 km. The demonstration was magnificent, it proved that Japanese bombers could operate across the ocean. But this information was either lost, or the military was simply not interested in it. Two years later, the quality of Japanese air power came as a complete surprise to the Allies.
However, in Japan itself, the success of the Nippon aircraft was significant in terms of future orders for civilian aircraft, which received the designation "Soyu" in the service of airlines. From August 1939, a total of 24 "Soyu Model 2" civilian transport aircraft, based on the G3M2 Model 22 design, were produced. They served on civilian lines throughout the war. Several combat and civilian copies of the "96 Rikko" survived the war to be burned in October-November 1945 along with the rest of the surviving Japanese aircraft.