Marushin MARS029 Imperial Japanese Army Kawanishi N1K2 "George" Fighter - Chief Keijiro Hayashi, 343 Kokutai, Okinawa, 1945 (1:48 Scale)
"We have resolved to endure the unendurable and suffer what is insufferable."
- Japanese Emperor Hirohito speaking to the Japanese people after the atomic bombings, August 1945
The Kawanishi Shiden-Kai ("Violet Lightning") was one of the best fighters produced for the Japanese Navy during WWII, essentially a ground-based variant of the Kawanishi N1K1 Kyofu "Rex" seaplane. The N1K2-J and its predecessor, the N1K1-J, derived from Kawanishi N1K1 seaplane fighter (code name "Rex"), arose from a development ordered by the Imperial Navy in 1940. On its own initiative, however, Kawanishi modified the seaplane design by turning it into a land-based plane, which it later called "George."
After several successful tests, it offered the experimental model to the Navy for further testing, but was greeted with skepticism, no doubt due to the success of the Zero. Not officially accepted by the Navy until 1943 and put into production after a series of modifications to its engine and landing gear, its entry into front line service was further delayed by difficulties in pilot training and logistical problems, reflecting Japan's military and economic reverses. Once operational, the George proved itself to be a superb aircraft which was respected by Allied pilots.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of an Imperial Japanese Army Kawanishi N1K2 "George" fighter that was piloted by Chief Keijiro Hayashi, who was attached to 343 Kokutai during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945.
Wingspan: 9 inches
Length: 7-1/4 inches
Release Date: October 2008
Historical Account: "Violet Lightning" - Because of production difficulties and damage caused by B-29 Superfortress raids on Japanese factories, only 415 fighters were produced, consequently, N1K-J fighters were mainly used by units like the elite IJN 343rd Air Group (343 Kokutai), commanded by Minoru Genda. The new Shiden was principally involved in the battles fought in the last year of war. The 343 Kokutai (343 Naval Fighter Group) was constituted on December 25th, 1944, by Captain Minoru Genda, the veteran naval aviator who had previously masterminded the attack on Pearl Harbor. Another unit bearing the number had previously existed, but was disbanded in July 1944. The new 343rd Kokutai consisted of the best pilots and the best fighters available. One of the more prominent 343rd Kokutai pilots was Kaneyoshi Muto reputed to have single handedly shot down four Hellcats. The unit was also equipped with the new C6N Saiun ("Myrt") long range reconnaissance aircraft. One of the Saiuns managed, on March 18th, 1945, to spot the U.S. carriers, and the 343 Kokutai was ready to fight the day after.
That morning, 300 American aircraft were met by the Shidens. Many of these Shiden were N1K2s which were approximately 250 kg lighter, faster, structurally simpler and more reliable than the previous N1K1 version. The battle started when some Shiden dived on the VBF-17 Hellcats. Three aircraft were lost on both sides in the initial attack. One Hellcat and two Shiden were downed by enemy fire, two fighters collided, and one Hellcat crashed trying to land. Then, the other Shiden dived on the Hellcats, downing another. In the end, the 407 Hitokai lost six fighters versus eight VBF-17 Hellcats.