Aviation of World War II
In July 1935, Japan's Koku Hombu experts formulated requirements for a two-seat reconnaissance aircraft, which was commissioned to design by Mitsubishi. Soon, a design team consisting of engineers Fumihiko Kono, Tomio Kubo and Sokichi Mizumo presented to the customer a project of a cantilever low-wing aircraft with a fixed landing gear and a 9-cylinder air-cooled Nakajima Na-8 engine, which developed 750 hp at an altitude of 4000 m. With. After his approval, in December of the same 1935, Mitsubishi began assembling the prototype. Five months later he was ready and in May 1936 he made his first flight. During flight tests, the aircraft, which received the designation Ki-15, demonstrated performance that fully met the requirements of the specification, and in many respects surpassed them. In particular, the speed of 481 km/h reached at an altitude of 4050 m was more than 30 km/h higher than the speed indicated in the task. The impression of the car was so favorable that the military turned a blind eye to some of the aircraft's shortcomings, for example, poor forward visibility, especially during takeoff and landing, and a sharp loss of speed on turns, and launched it into mass production as the "Army Scout Type 9" Model 1 » (K-15-I).
In May 1937, the first production aircraft entered the army, and shortly before that (April 6-9), one aircraft of this type, bought by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, made a record flight from Japan to Great Britain, having covered in 94 hours 17 minutes and 56 seconds (net flight time 51 hours 17 minutes and 23 seconds) 15,315 km at an average speed of 162.5 km/h. This flight demonstrated to the whole world the increased level of Japanese aviation in general and the high performance of the new aircraft in particular. Soon in the skies of China, these characteristics were confirmed in combat conditions. The high speed allowed the Ki-15-I to operate successfully in the depths of Chinese territory and provide the army with all the necessary data on the movements of the enemy, while leaving almost all Chinese fighters, with the possible exception of the I-16.
However, just a year after the Ki-15 entered service, work began on an improved version of it. This is how the Ki-15-II variant appeared with an 850-horsepower Mitsubishi Na 26-1 engine, which had a smaller diameter than the Na-8, due to which the visibility from the cockpit was significantly improved. The first Ki-15-II was completed in June 1938. During the tests, he developed a maximum speed of 510 km / h, but, despite such high flight data, the improved version was put into production only in September 1939.
The high performance of the Ki-15 in performing reconnaissance missions attracted the attention of the Fleet Aviation Command to the aircraft. As a result, in 1938 Kaigun Koku Hombu ordered 20 aircraft modeled on the Ki-15-II. Together with the designation "Fleet Scout Type 98 Model 1" (C5M1), they received their own set of photographic and radio equipment. Another 30 such machines were ordered in 1940 under the designation C5M2. This was already a special modification for the Nakajima Sakae 12 engine with a power of 950 hp. With. with a three-blade propeller. Despite the more powerful engine, the C5M2 proved to be slower than the Ki-15-II due to its higher takeoff weight.
In 1939, two experimental aircraft of the Ki-15-III variant were built. They were equipped with Mitsubishi Na-102 engines with an HP 1050 power. and became the fastest of all Ki-15s (maximum speed 530 km/h). But since by that time the tests of the Mitsubishi Ki-46 reconnaissance aircraft, which was supposed to replace the Ki-15, were already underway, the Ki-15-III did not go into the series. Everything was limited to the release of 439 Ki-15-I and Ki-15-II aircraft.
The start of hostilities in the Pacific Ki-15 and S5M met as part of the first line units. They were actively and successfully used in all areas of the huge theater of operations, coping with their duties with honor. It was the C5M reconnaissance officer who discovered on December 10, 1941, the British battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse that left Singapore. A few hours later, thanks to the skillful aiming of the formation of the Fleet Air Force bombers, both ships were sunk. But gradually the effectiveness of the Ki-15 and C5M began to decrease. Their speed was not enough to escape the pursuit of more modern Allied fighters, and the chances of surviving a meeting with them in an aircraft armed with a single 7.7-mm machine gun without pilot armor and protected tanks were negligible. In 1943, reconnaissance aircraft of this type were withdrawn from combat units in training and support units.At the end of the war, some machines were used by kamikaze pilots.
Construction. The low-lying wing of the Ki-15 consisted of a rectangular center section and two trapezoidal consoles, characterized by a positive transverse V.
The cockpits of the pilot and gunner/observer are closed by a common long canopy with a large glass area. Under it, in the rear part on a mobile installation, a 7.7-m machine gun Type 89 was mounted, used to protect the rear hemisphere.
The power plant is a 14-cylinder Mitsubishi Na-26-1 air-cooled engine with a capacity of 850 hp.
Landing gear. To simplify the design of the aircraft, the struts of the main landing gear were made non-retractable, and to reduce aerodynamic drag, the wheels were covered with massive fairings. The tail strut was not retracted into the fuselage in flight.
Combat use. From the middle of 1941, the new Ki.46 aircraft began to gradually replace the old single-engine aircraft from combat units. However, by the end of 1941, quite a few reconnaissance types of Ki.15 and C5M were still in service with the Japanese army and navy. They continued to fight in China. Scouts who were part of the aviation of the Kwantung Army periodically invaded the airspace of the USSR and conducted reconnaissance of border areas.
In preparation for the invasion of Malaya, a number of Ki.15-II and C5M2 were redeployed to airfields in Tonkin and Cochin (in modern Vietnam). They then took part in the rapid thrust of the Japanese troops to the south, conducting reconnaissance on the paths of advance of the troops and behind enemy lines. Later, these aircraft were used in operations in the Philippines, Burma (now Myanmar) and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). In particular, 24 C5M, which were part of the 21st and 23rd air fleets, were involved in the initial phase of operations in the Philippines.
The allies in the Pacific Theater of Operations did not see the difference between the army and naval modifications of the Japanese intelligence officer. They both gave them the code name "Babs" (a female name derived from "Barbara").
Naval C5Ms tracked the movement of Allied ships in Southeast Asia. The British naval base in Singapore enjoyed their special attention. On December 10, 1941, one C5M2 from the 22nd Air Squadron discovered "Compound Z" in the sea as part of the Prince of Knot battleship and the Repulse battlecruiser. The ships were attacked by bombers and torpedo bombers and were sunk.
Ki.15 and S5M were used in combat units until the end of 1942. They were used for the longest time in China, where Japanese aviation continued to maintain air superiority. Now the flight data of these aircraft no longer gave them the opportunity to escape from enemy fighters, and weak defensive weapons, the absence of armor and protectors on gas tanks reduced combat survivability to an unacceptable limit.
In 1943-44, obsolete reconnaissance aircraft continued to serve as training vehicles and communications aircraft. Some of them survived until the end of the war, when the Japanese were forced to resort to "kamikaze" tactics. Quite often, suicide pilots made their last flight in obsolete or unsuitable for combat vehicles. These included a small number of Ki.15s. At the same time, they were equipped with a ventral suspension for a large-caliber bomb.
The actions of the "kamikaze" did not become the final chapter in the history of the once very promising combat aircraft. About a dozen old "Babs" were captured near Harbin by the communists of Mao Tse Tung and used by the Chinese as training. The last two Ki.15s were retired in 1951.
The appearance of long-range scouts in the Air Force aroused the envy of the command of the imperial fleet. The army and navy in Japan have always competed, demonstrating independence from each other. Things got ridiculous: the sailors ordered their own tanks, and the army - aircraft carriers. Both the army and the navy had their own aviation, but the aircraft of both departments differed in everything - their types of engines, radio stations, machine guns. They were made, of course, by the same firms, so they were based on the same designs, but due to differences in requirements, products for different customers never repeated each other.
Here is the C5M1, ordered by naval aviation in the likeness of Ki. 15-II, did not correspond to it in everything. It was equipped with a Zuisei 12 engine with a power of 875 hp. and made a number of changes to the equipment. But outwardly, the C5M1 practically did not differ from the Ki.15-II.
A total of 20 C5M1s were built. In 1940, the fleet command requested another 30 vehicles of the improved C5M2 type with a more powerful Nakajima Sakae 12 engine of 950 hp. and a three-blade variable pitch propeller. This modification did not have a coke on the screw hub. The hood was made somewhat more rounded, and the radio antenna rack was moved from the front of the fuselage to the gas tank cap in the cockpit. The post, tilted forward, passed through the fixed section of the lantern. The glazing of the rear cabin was slightly increased, extending back. The order for the C5M2 series was completed in 1940-41.
C5M naval reconnaissance aircraft were actively used in China along with army Ki.15s. Five or six aircraft of this type received various air fleets. So, the 2nd air flotilla, operating at the front in the central part of China, near the Yangtze River, had six C5M1, the 3rd in the south - six more. In particular, they conducted reconnaissance before a series of raids by naval bombers on Nunzia in September 1940. On September 13, one C5M1 directed a group of Japanese A6M2 Zero fighters to the location of Chinese I-16s and I-15bis. The Japanese managed to destroy 13 aircraft and damage another 11. The Chinese lost 10 killed and 8 wounded. The southern group used the C5M1 during the occupation of French Indochina (now Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea) in 1941.
But the C5M1 at the front was much smaller than the Ki.15. The latter were deployed in significant numbers in Japan itself, China, Korea and the puppet state of Manchukuo (Manchuria). From May to September 1939, they participated in the battles on the Khalkhin Gol River.
The production of C5M2 was stopped at the beginning of 1941. A total of 50 C5M were manufactured.
September 03, 2018