Japanese Secret Projects - Experimental Aircraft of the IJA and the IJN 1939-1945 (Volume 1)

Published: April 14th, 2015     
Product Image
Book Cover
Author: Edwin M. Dwyer III
Reviewed by: Paul R. Brown - IPMS# 24085
ISBN #: 978-1-85780-317-4
Other Publication Information: hardcover, 160 pages (plus covers), development history, three view drawings, hypothetical color schemes, color photographs
Price: $42.95
Product / Stock #: MC317
Product provided by: Specialty Press

Originally published in 2009 as a single volume, this book has now been republished as Volume 1 of a multi-volume set. The author has had access to previously unpublished information regarding Japanese Army and Navy aircraft designs during World War II and has put together a very interesting look at what could have been.

The book is a hardbound volume with a nice dust jacket cover that has color illustrations of several of the designs discussed in the book. The book is printed on glossy paper which helps the many illustrations and color photographs to stand out. It includes not only color illustrations of the each design, often in hypothetical squadron markings, based on squadrons that actually existed during the war, but also includes numerous color photographs of surviving airframes, many of which are in a sad state of repairs while awaiting restoration.

The book is divided into five chapters. The first two chapters discuss the designs intended for the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy respectively. Within these two chapters the aircraft are covered alphabetically based on their primary designer or manufacturer, rather than by the mission of the aircraft. While this was initially confusing, it made much more sense when I realized that for many of the designs, there were multiple variations of the design as modifications were proposed to make the design fit the changing needs and missions of Japanese military aviation in World War II. As a result, floatplanes are mixed in with fighters, long range bombers and special mission aircraft.

Each design is briefly discussed with respect to the genesis of the design, the missions it was intended to fulfill and the limitations that the designer or manufacturer had to work with, such as limitations on available materials or in production methods. Each design is fleshed out with a brief listing of the known specifications of the design and a listing of contemporary or similar designs by other countries. Most descriptions also include color 3-view drawings of the design and several also include artist's impressions of the aircraft in combat. A bonus is that the author has managed to track down surviving examples of several of the designs, primarily the better known ones - the Mitsubishi J8M Syusui, the Nakajima Kitsuka, and the Kyushu J7W Shinden - and has included color photographs of the aircraft. While many of the designs never left the drawing board, I was surprised to see how many actually made it to the prototype stage or for which prototypes were under construction when the war ended. For several of these, the author lists the locations of surviving airframes which are scattered around the world.

The next chapter discusses aircraft that do not fit in either of the first two chapters or which the Allies thought existed based on their interpretation of Japanese aviation magazines in the late 30's and during the war. Most of these are very interesting designs that in reality were just fanciful dreams of designers.

The chapter on Japanese weapons systems was interesting and included brief descriptions of advanced or just plain odd weapons systems developed or proposed during the war, including advanced aerial torpedoes, air-to-air bombs, rockets and missiles, as well as a nice description of the Japanese balloon-bomb delivery system. My only complaint would be that it is not always clear which of the weapons actually made it into production.

The final chapter pertains to Germany's technical exchange with Japan during the war. The author points out that while the intent may have been for Germany and Japan to exchange information and designs, in reality it was pretty much a one-way street with information flowing from Germany to Japan. The chapter includes a brief discussion of the various German aircraft types that were either provided to Japan for evaluation or actually sold to Japan and how some of them were in turn used or even manufactured by the Japanese.

I found the book to be a very enjoyable read and I was surprised to see how advanced many of the designs actually were. It is a treasure trove for scratchbuilders wanting to do something different as most of these designs will probably never make it into kit form. Fortunately, manufacturers such as Meng, RS Models and Anigrand have discovered some of these designs and recent years have seen some of them appear as injected molded kits in 1/72 scale or resin kits in 1/144 for some of the larger designs.

Highly recommended!!

Thank you to Specialty Press for the review sample and to IPMS/USA for allowing me to review it.

  • Back Book Cover
    Back Book Cover
  • Sample book content - Kayaba Katsuodori
    Sample book content - Kayaba Katsuodori
  • Sample book content - Kayaba Katsuodori
    Sample book content - Kayaba Katsuodori
  • Sample book content - Illustrations of aircraft.
    Sample book content - Illustrations of aircraft.
  • Sample book content - color photos of actual prototype aircraft.
    Sample book content - color photos of actual prototype aircraft.

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