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Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi (剣 Sabre) — ultimate Kamikaze?

6 November 2013

Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi (剣 Sabre) — ultimate Kamikaze?

Late in World War II, Imperial Japan began a strategy of what know of today as asymmetric warfare with the Special Attack Units, better know as Kamikaze in the West. Kamikazes were effective and were getting more effective as the Allies approached Japan’s home islands. Ironically, as the war wore on Japan began using older aircraft which had little use otherwise. These were old and slow, made of wood and, surprisingly, potentially a greater threat than prior Kamikaze aircraft. These aircraft were all but immune to radar at the time, especially with volcanic ridges as background (i.e., making it probable they could hide in the radar clutter until the last possible moment) — radar detection and radar fused ordnance often failed making the Mark I eyeballs of patrolling pilots ever so important. It was the Kamikaze threat which instigated the hot rod version of the Grumman F6F Hellcat, the Grumman F8F Bearcat. The U.S. Navy was equipping ships with larger and more plentiful antiaircraft armament, as well. Though hardly believable the twin 40mm Bofors gun mounts were then considered too lightweight and efforts were made to re-equip these mounts with 4 x 40mm as well as moving upwards in caliber to much greater than 40mm. Kamikazes flying out from passes in the ridgelines to fall upon ships close ashore were a threat of the highest priority.

Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurgi (剣 Sabre) — San Diego Air & Space Museum archive photo

Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi (剣 Sabre) — San Diego Air & Space Museum archive photo

Emphasizing the above, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force had Nakajima build a somewhat fast single engine fighter-type aircraft expressly for kamikaze purposes — the Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi (剣, Sabre). Simple construction was the rule, wooden and circular in cross-section (for simpler construction effort) with the ability to install almost any radial engine available. Tsurugis did not have landing gear, per se, as the wheels and struts would be jettisoned after taking off.

Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurgi (剣 Sabre) — San Diego Air & Space Museum archive photo

Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi (剣 Sabre) — San Diego Air & Space Museum archive photo

Thankfully, we will never know if the Tsurugi would have been the ultimate kamikaze aircraft — it certainly had the potential to be so.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 6 November 2013 01:43

    I had never seen this aircraft before. Thanks for the post

  2. Rick permalink
    23 March 2014 19:28

    A couple of minor corrections. “Ordnance” has no “i’ in it – ordinance has to do with laws and such. The 20mm guns you refer to are actually 40mm. The U.S. Navy never had 20mm Bofors, but used Oerlikons. The 40mm guns were Bofors. Here’s a link for more details:

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      23 March 2014 20:53

      You are right, of course. Thanks for pointing out what needs correction and also for the reference link — more than kind of you and quite professional, as well. I’ll amend the copy now. Joe

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