The only canard (tail first) combat fighter seriously considered for mass production
during World War II, the Kyushu J7W1 Shinden (Magnificent Lighting) remains one of
the most futuristic-looking and menacing airplanes ever to fly, past or present. It's
shark-like profile oozed violence and if put in production could have wrought plenty of it
upon the hoards of Boeing B-29 Superfortresses which were incinerating dozens of
Japanese cities with impunity late in the war.
Development of the J7W1 came through a series of very careful aerodynamic studies
with three MXY6 gliders to prove the stability of canard wing flight. With a engineering
team lead by Imperial Japanese Navy Captain Masaoki Tsuruno, the all-metal J7W1
was designed around the 2,130 horsepower Mitsubishi [Ha-43] 12 (MK9D)
eighteen-cylinder air-cooled radial engine driving a six-blade metal pusher propeller. It
was one of the most powerful engines available and generated a great deal of torque
which strongly manifested itself on the airplane's first flight on August 3, 1945.
Only two J7W1s were produced during the spring of 1945 at the Kyushu Hikoki K.K.
Zasshonokuma plant. Quantity production in this plant and the Handa plant of Nakajima
Hikoki K.K. had been undertaken, but no production aircraft had been completed by
war's end. Only one of the two J7W1 prototypes had flown before the Japanese
surrender and then for just 45 minutes. One prototype survived the war and as of July 21,
1998 is stored in Building 7 of the U.S. National Air And Space Museum Garber Facility
in Silver Springs, Maryland.
The J7W1 had a wing span of 36.45 feet (11.11 meters) was 31.69 feet (9.66 meters) in
length and 12.86 feet (3.92 meters) high. Maximum weight was 11,526 pounds (5,228
kilograms) while maximum speed was estimated to be 466 miles per hour (mph, 750
kilometers per hour, km/h). Operational ceiling was 39,370 feet (12,000 meters) while
maximum range was 528 miles (850 kilometers). Armament consisted of four Type 5 30
millimeter cannons with 265 pounds (120 kilograms) of bombs, no weapons were
believed to have been installed on the J7W1 prototypes.
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