N1K "George", Japanese Fighter

                  of N1K2-J "George"

U.S. Air Force. Via Francillon (1979).

Three-view diagram of N1K2-J "George"

U.S. Navy

Kawanishi N1K1-Ja Shiden ("Violet Lightning") "George"


Crew 1
Dimensions 39'5" by 29'2" by 13'4"
12.01m by 8.89m by 4.06m
Wing area 253 square feet
23.5 square meters
Weight 6387-9526 lbs
2897-4321 kg
Maximum speed     
363 mph at 19,355 feet
583 km/h at 5900 meters
Cruise speed 230 mph at 6560 feet
370 km/h at 2000 meters
Climb rate 45 feet per second
13.7 meters per second
Service ceiling       41,010 feet
4270 meters
Power plant 1 1,990 hp (1484 kW) Nakajima NK9H Homare 21 eighteen-cylinder air-cooled radial engine driving a four-blade metal propeller
Armament 4 20mm Type 99 Model 2 fixed wing cannon
External stores 1 88 gallon (400 liter) drop tank or two 60 kg (132 lb) bombs
Range 890 miles (1430 km) normal
1581 miles (2544 km) maximum
190 gallons (720 liters) internal
Production A total of 1,435 Shidens and Shiden Kais were built as follows:
  Kawanishi Kokuki K. K. at Naruo:
    9 N1K1-J prototypes (1942-43)
    530 N1K1-J production aircraft (1943-44)
    8 N1K2-J prototypes (1943-44)
    351 N1K2-J and N1K2-K production aircraft (1944-45)
    2 N1K4-J prototypes (1945)
    1 N1K4-A prototype (1945)
    901 total

  Kawanishi Kokuki K. K. at Himeji:
    468 N1K1-J production aircraft (1943-45)
    42 N1K2-J production aircraft (1945)
    2 N1K3-J prototypes (1945)
    512 total

  Mitsubishi Jukogyo K. K. at Tsurashima:
    9 N1K2-J production aircraft (1945)

  Aichi Kokuki K. K. at Eitoku:
    1 N1K2-J production aircraft (1945)

  Showa Hikoki K. K. at Shinonoi:
    1 N1K2-J production aircraft (1945)

  Dai-Juichi Kaigun Kokusho at Hiro:
    1 N1K2-J production aircraft (1945)

  Omura Kaigun Kokusho at Omura:
    10 N1K2-J production aircraft (1945)
Variants The N1K1 Kyofo ("Mighty Wind") "Rex" was the original float plane model. It saw very little operational use.

The N1K1-J was armed with two 7.7mm Type 97 machine guns in addition to the wing cannon, but carried fewer rounds per gun.

Most later models could carry two 250 kg (551 lb) bombs.

The N1K1-Jc and N1K2-Ja could carry four 250 kg (551 lb) bombs.

The N1K2-J was a significant redesign that eliminated the long landing gear by moving the wings to the bottom of the fuselage.The aircraft was much simpler to construct, taking half the time of the N1K1-J.

The N1K2-K was a two-seat trainer version.

Possibly the finest Japanese naval fighter of the war, "George" originated as a float plane, the N1K1, which somewhat resembled the A6M2-N Rufe.  The N1K1's powerful engine torque required a great deal from the pilot during takeoff, but the design was otherwise sound, and the decision to cancel production after only 89 aircraft were produced reflected changes in aircraft priority rather than any dissatisfaction with the design. In December 1941 the design team proposed that the float plane be reengineered as a land-based fighter, based on predictions of its likely performance, and Kawanishi proceeded with this as a private venture.

The floats were replaced with landing gear and the original Kasei engine was replaced with a more powerful Homare. The new engine required a large four-bladed propeller, but rather than lower the mid-level wings of the seaplane design to get the necessary ground clearance, the design team gave the new aircraft long landing gear with complicated retraction mechanisms. The prototype made its first flight on 27 December 1942, and the aircraft showed excellent maneuverability and pleasant handling. However, both the engine and the landing gear proved problematic and the cockpit suffered from poor landing visibility. Nevertheless, the Navy was sufficiently impressed to order further development, and the modified design was rushed into production by the end of 1943 to meet the challenge of the Corsair and Hellcat.

The N1K1-J was seen as a stopgap, and design work continued on the N1K2-J, which went into production in June 1944. The most important design change in the N1K2-J was the lowering of the wings to simplify the landing gear. The airframe under the skin was also simplified. The result was an aircraft that was much easier to produce than the N1K1-J, and the Japanese Navy ordered the aircraft produced in large numbers at no less than eight factories. However, the U.S. strategic bombing campaign badly disrupted production, and it also prevented improved versions of the N1K2-J from entering combat before the surrender.

Both the N1K1-J and N1K2-J were also produced in ground attack versions fitted with bomb racks. These rapidly became the standard Japanese Navy land-based fighter-bombers.

"George" proved to be a balanced design, with adequate firepower and protection and astonishing maneuverability.The latter came in part from automatic combat flaps worked by mercury U-tubes. It was a match for any fighter in the Allied arsenal. In the hands of the veteran 343 Air Group, it scored well against Marine carrier-based Corsairs on 19 March 1945. Unfortunately, "George" lacked the climb rate and high-altitude performance required to successfully intercept the B-29, and the aircraft asked too much of the poorly-trained pilots available by the time it was in production. It also used a sophisticated engine whose production pushed the limits of Japanese industry, so that the engine proved quite mechanically unreliable. It did not help that, by this point in the war, the pilots were being asked to use 85-octane gasoline that included corrosive pine oil.

Photo Gallery

Original N1K seaplane

Wikimedia Commons

N1K2-J "George"


Captured N1K "George" in American colors

U.S. Navy

Captured N1K "George" in American colors
                with triview drawing

U.S. Navy

Intelligence model of N1K "George"

U.S. Navy

Captured N1K "George"

U.S. Navy

Restored N1K2-J "George" at the National
                Museum of the USAF


Exterior cockpit of N1K2-J "George" at
                the National Museum of the USAF


Cockpit of N1K2-J "George" undergoing
                restoration at the National Museum of the USAF



Francillon (1979)

National Museum of the USAF (accessed 2014-3-15)
Sharpe et al. (1999)

TACI 107A-1 (accessed 2014-3-15)

Tillman (2010)

Werneth (2008)

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