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Kawanishi H8K2 Emily

5 January 2011

Kawanishi  H8K2 “Emily” — 二式大型飛行艇 二式大艇

31° 22′ 55″ N / 130º 50′ 11″ E

Kawanishi H8K2 "Emily" — 二式大型飛行艇, 二式大艇 — photo by Joe May

Of the large and long-ranged flying boats one of the best was the Kawanishi  H8K2 — 二式大型飛行艇, 二式大艇 — that also is known by the Allied codename of Emily. Back in the day before satellites sea space had to be patrolled, both by ship and aircraft. The absence of large airfields prior to WW II also meant that aircraft which could operate from land bases alongshore had advantages. Flying boats could also be serviced by seaplane tenders, thus making for a patrol force that had great range and could re-deploy with relative ease. These flying boats were required to have endurance, carry a large crew (eyes for observation as well as to man the defensive armaments), and were expected to fly alone. Two flying boats in WW II were known for their defensive firepower — the Short Brothers Sunderland and the Kawanishi Emily. The Emily, though, had no peers in this category with her 5 x 20mm cannon supplemented by 5 x 0.303 caliber machine guns. Flying boats did not have ventral gun positions since the hull integrity would be compromised so the defensive tactic was to get down low so that attacks from below were no longer possible.

Unusually for Japanese aircraft in WW II this aircraft had protected fuel tanks. The four powerful engines made for record speeds for this category of aircraft — in the neighborhood of 280 mph (~450kph) —with a range of slightly over 4400 miles (~7040km). These are reasons why an aircrew could fly so far, for so long and alone over the ocean.

Few flying boats were greater in size but none of these were manufactured in a similar number to Kawanishi’s 112 Emily aircraft. Those that were larger are the: Dornier-X, Boeing 314, Latécoère 611, Blohm & Voss 222 Wiking, Latécoère 631, Blohm & Voss 238, Martin Mars, Hughes H-4 Hercules “Spruce Goose”, Saunders Roe Princess, Martin P6M SeaMaster and Harbin SH-5 Shuishang Hongzhaji 海上轰炸机. All of the flying boats larger than the Emily together would not add up to 112 examples — pragmatically, the Emily was the best of the era.

Thankfully there is one example in the world and it is exhibited in Kanoya 鹿屋 Japan at the Kanoya Naval Air Base Museum 鹿屋海軍航空基地の博物館. This aircraft is spectacular, looking as if new off the production line. This Emily is a joy to see since it sits in a field with almost nothing in proximity to her, save for some decorative small palm trees arranged in a tight semicircle around the aircraft’s front.

Here are photos from my visit, taken on a slightly rainy day:

Frontal aspect of the Kawanishi H8K2 known to the Allies as "Emily" — photo by Joe May

Port side profile of the Emily — photo by Joe May

Detail of the bow, cockpit and two of the 1850 hp (1380kW) engines — photo by Joe May

Viewing down the fuselage of the Kawanishi H8K2 — photo by Joe May

View of the dorsal turret and port gun position — photo by Joe May

The best seat in the house — photo by Joe May

View of the tail and tail gun position, note the beaching gear mid fuselage — photo by Joe May

The Emily's portside forward and beaching gear — photo by Joe May

3 Comments leave one →
  1. shortfinals permalink
    13 July 2011 11:46

    What a joy for you to see an Emily! I remember seeing guncamera film of one being shot-down……a very difficult feat, I should think. The hydrodynamics of the hull were truly excellent – it is a huge improvement on its predecessor, the H6K ‘Mavis’.

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      23 July 2011 17:05

      Thanks. The Mavis also had good lines, I think. I once read of an Emily being shot down by either a B-24 or a B-17 and that I could not understand given the 20mm cannon of the Emily versus the 0.50 caliber machine guns of the American bombers.

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