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Aichi D3A


By Sakhal

In the morning of that 7th December 1941 a pungent howl reached the ears of the military personnel based in Pearl Harbor, who prepared for another quiet Sunday. Apart from the momentary surprise caused by the unexpected noise, almost nobody turned the head to check who was the unknown disturbing. There was who pleasantly noted that the maneuvers that seemed to be in course were specially realistic; there was who, annoyed, thought that the pilots should give a show of their courage farther from there; and even who, noticing the red discs in the wings, thought that they were Soviet aircraft announcing the arrival of a Soviet aircraft carrier. The awakening of all of these delusions was rather unpleasant and very clear: the aircraft were Japanese and United States had just been thrown into the Second World War. The weapon that had started the conflict in the Pacific was an aircraft of which the Allies had already heard of in advance and with awe: The Aichi D3A, promptly identified by the codename "Val". Its origin dated back from the summer of 1936, when the Japanese Imperial Navy asked for a dive bomber destined to be embarked in aircraft carriers. Three well-known companies - Aichi, Nakajima and Mitsubishi - started the works, and the winner was the project presented by Aichi and designed by engineer Tokuhishiro Goake. So, in January 1938 were started the trials of the prototype.

Aichi D3A


Aichi D3A


The Aichi D3A1 was a low-winged monoplane of entirely metallic construction. The landing gear was fixed and fully faired. The wings had a characteristic elliptic shape, resembling the ones of the German airplane Heinkel 70. Certainly this was due to the intense data exchange between Germany and Japan. There were also two robust aerodynamic brakes, built according to the model of the ones used under the wings of the German dive bombers Junkers 87. The function to which the "Val" was destined along with the physiognomy of the landing gear, the brakes and the cockpit canopy, causedthis aircraft to be denominated as "the Stuka of the Pacific". Actually, apart from some slight external similarities, the "Val" had nothing from the "Stuka". Built in "semi-shell" with lining of light alloys, this aircraft did not have the heaviness of its German counterpart. Still, in any case it showed itself as very robust and also very maneuverable, being undoubtedly the best Japanese dive bomber of that time, remaining in production until the end of the war, despite of its formula being then already outdated. Singular, if not baffling, was the disposition of the fuel tanks, which allowed for a good operational range. One of them was placed precisely under the feet of the pilot, and unlike the rest of the aircraft, it was not protected by any armor. The defensive armament provided two 7.7-millimeter machine guns installed above the engine and an orientable machine gun for the radio operator. Under the fuselage it could be carried one 250-kilogram bomb and also other smaller bombs under the wings, up to 120 kilograms.

This was the standard carrier-borne dive bomber of the Imperial Navy during the first months of the war in the Pacific, participating in the attack against Pearl Harbor and sinking several British ships in the Indian (including two cruisers and the aircraft carrier Hermes along with her escort, in waters of Ceylon, the 9th April 1942, being this one the only British aircraft carrier lost during an aerial attack during the entire Second World War). Already outdated when participating in the battles of Coral Sea and Midway, in May-June 1942, it suffered severe losses, being from that moment gradually destined to land bases (equipping eight Kokutais) before being relegated to second line and training missions. But it reappeared in operations during the fight in Philippines, in October 1944. The end of the career of this good aircraft was the same that had almost all of the Japanese aircraft that could still fly at the end of the war. The "Val", which had sunk more Allied ships than any other aircraft, was used as suicide aircraft, albeit it was an easy prey for the enemy fighters. Despite of this, there was no lack of volunteers.

Aichi D3A

Aichi D3A1 "Val" (carrier-based bomber of the Navy, Type 99, Model 11) number 31, aboard the aircraft carrier Soryu, 2nd Koku Sentai, which took part in the attack against Pearl Harbor, the 7th December 1941; painted fully in clear grey. The code in the tail indicates: B = 2nd Koku Sentai; I = first aircraft carrier; 2 = carrier-based bomber; 31 = number of the airplane.

Development record

Two prototypes were made, in which different engines, wings and tail surfaces were tested. The six test models D3A1 were fitted with engine Kinsei 3 of 840 horsepower. The initial series model D3A1 (carrier-based bomber of the Navy, Type 99, Model 11) was fitted with engines Kinsei 43/44 of 1000/1080 horsepower and elongated dorsal tail; 470 units built. The D3A2 (Model 12) was a prototype fitted with engine Kinsei 54 of 1300 horsepower, increased fuel capacity and redesigned rear cockpit. The series model D3A2 (Model 22) had 815 units built by Aichi and 201 by Showa Hikoki Kogyo. The D3A2-K (bombing trainer of the Navy, Type 99, Model 12) was the training version, converted from the D3A1/2. Total production for all the versions reached 1495 exemplars.

Specifications for D3A1

First flight: January 1938

Wingspan: 14.36 meters

Wing area: 34.90 square meters

Length: 10.19 meters

Height: 3.84 meters

Weight (empty): 2408 kilograms

Weight (full load): 3650 kilograms

Engine: Mitsubishi MK8 Kinsei 43 of 1000 horsepower or Kinsei 44 of 1080 horsepower

Time to reach 3000 meters of altitude: 6 minutes 27 seconds

Service ceiling: 9300 meters

Maximum speed at 3000 meters of altitude: 386 kilometers/hour

Cruising speed: 296 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 1473 kilometers

Defensive armament: Two Type 97 7.7-millimeter machine guns installed above the engine and one Type 92 7.7-millimeter machine gun installed in an orientable mounting in the rear cockpit

Bombs load: 370 kilograms



Specifications for D3A2

First flight: June 1942

Wingspan: 14.36 meters

Wing area: 34.90 square meters

Length: 10.19 meters

Height: 3.84 meters

Weight (empty): 2570 kilograms

Weight (full load): 3800 kilograms

Engine: Mitsubishi MK8 Kinsei 54 of 1300 horsepower

Time to reach 3000 meters of altitude: 5 minutes 48 seconds

Service ceiling: 10500 meters

Maximum speed at 6200 meters of altitude: 430 kilometers/hour

Cruising speed: 296 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 1353 kilometers

Defensive armament: Two Type 97 7.7-millimeter machine guns installed above the engine and one Type 92 7.7-millimeter machine gun installed in an orientable mounting in the rear cockpit

Bombs load: 370 kilograms





Article updated: 2015-07-07

Categories: Aircraft - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]

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Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-05-11


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