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Kamikaze weapons of Japan

Written by Sakhal

After the Second World War, very many journalists and writers have dedicated dozens of books trying to explain to the western mentality the causes of the kamikaze phenomenon. But nobody managed to give a valid explanation to the questions that our curiosity and convictions encourage us to formulate. Actually this is logic. Nobody can demonstrate to whom has lived in an enviroment soaked with a certain culture and civilization, the feelings of whom otherwise has lived in a society marked by a different culture. It is useless to try to judge with western perspectives the actions of those who, by free will, have killed while killing themselves. The only way of observing the phenomenon in question is fitting it in the period in which it developed, accepting its reality as it is. But something less known is that along with the most famous kamikaze, the suicidal pilots, there were many others that acted in sea and land. Despite being different the scenario that witnessed their last action, they were not different the modalities and intentions of their actions. To obtain the destruction of the enemy, they were frequently used artifacts purposedly built to achieve this goal, that only allowed to achieve it at the expense of the death of the operator. Let's see some of those weapons.

The aircraft employed by the suicidal pilots were of the most diverse types, for it was used what was available in each moment. Only three aircraft were projected for suicidal usage: a rocket- propelled bomb, a twin-engine jet and a piston-engine aircraft. The last two had no chance to enter service.

Kamikaze weapons of Japan

Nakajima J9Y Kikka (Azahar)

This twin-engine jet, whose ordinary name was Kitsuka, albeit undoubtly derived from the German Me 262, was of clearly national inspiration. Originally planned as interceptor and bomber, it was adapted to the suicidal warfare because of the needs in those moments. Aircraft fitted with excellent characteristics, the last days of the war saw it still in the phase of prototype.

Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka (Cherry Blossom)

This was an artifact that carried an ogive filled with 1200 kg of explosive, propelled by a battery of three rockets that allowed it to reach a maximum speed of 925 kilometers/hour, at the end of the dive. But this one demonstrated to be an artifact of limited effectiveness, and only 852 exemplars were produced.

Nakajima Ki 115 Tsurugi (Sword)

This piston-engine aircraft, monoplane and monomotor of conventional type, was capable of carrying a 500 kg bomb at a maximum speed of 522 kilometers/hour. Of very economical construction, it allowed to save other types of aircraft. A good number of exemplars were prepared, but never used.

Kaiten (Return to Heaven)

Pocket submarine manned by a single pilot that should launch its attack similarly as the Italian Maiali (Pigs), but with the difference that we already know. They were deployed near the target by submarines or fast surface ships specially adapted for the task. They were used in diverse attacks, specially at night, but apparently without result. Only at the end of the war it was known that the Kaiten had damaged some American ships, among them an aircraft carrier.

Shinyo (Sea Quake)

These were small boats, less than six meters long, built like the assault barchini of the Italian Navy. The difference was that in this case the pilot should not abandon the boat before the impact against the enemy vessel, but keep control of it until crashing against the target at a speed of 30 knots. They were built some more than 5000, but very few were used and the results were not significative.

Anti-Tank Pole Bombs

These were generally Type 3 hollow-charge anti-tank hand grenades attached to the end of a wooden pole to distantiate them two or three meters from the operator. These bombs, benefiting from the effect of the hollow charge, were capable of perforating up to 150 mm of steel if the operator, after removing the safety device, pushed them with strenght against the more or less vertical armor of the tank. Being directional the effect of these charges, the explosion should develop before the weapon, but actually, even destroying the tank, it killed also the operator.

Yokosuka MXY-7 "Ohka"

When the utilization of the kamikaze techniques intensified, the Japanese industry and Air Force started to resent from the extraordinary effort that the military authorities had decided to face. The Navy and the Army, which had put their aircraft at the disposal of the suicidal pilots, saw how the number of their effectives decreased due to the non-return missions. It is true that the number of available aircraft was larger than the number of volunteers, but this was not due to the lack of men, but because an aircraft could be built in a matter of days, while the training of a pilot requires a much longer period. On the other hand, attention had to be put also in the problems of the defense of the metropolitan territory, problems increasingly pressing due to the increment of the American incursions over Japan. Finally, it was the problem of the very aeronautical industry which, in full crisis of lack of metals and raw materials, had to deliver an increasing number of aircraft, in a moment in which it was rather difficult to keep the normal average production.

Because of all of this it was started to think about the possibility of building aircraft able to solve the destructive necessities with a wide margin of reliability, and which could be built in little time using cheap materials that would not raise their cost. Several companies started to work immediately, trying to find a solution for such difficult problem, and finally it was the Yokosuka shipyard which found the most practical solution. The result was a self-propelled contraption which, manned by a pilot, would be crashed against the enemy ships at a speed of 925 kilometers/hour. The so called "Ohka" (Cherry Blossom) had a torpedo-shaped fuselage; the wings, attached to its central part, just before the cockpit, were of small area, just enough to grant a minimum lift during the long dive towards the target; the tail had two ailerons disposed in the shape of double T. The construction was almost entirely in wood and hence very economical. In the nose were fitted 1200 kilograms of TNT and the propulsion was given by three rockets.

Kamikaze weapons of Japan

The Ohka was transported in the ventral part of a bomber until it was about 40 kilometers afar from its target; then it was disengaged from the mother aircraft, which returned to base. So far this was the theory, apparently not very difficult. The pilots were trained with gliders similar to the Ohka before entering action. However, the aircraft was not at the level of the expectations of the projectists. In the first place, they were the cause of the loss of a large number of bombers which, due to the large weight that they transported under the fuselage, were easy prey for the enemy fighters. Moreover, at the moment of truth, they were quite difficult to pilot and the high speed reached during the dive, albeit helping to protect the aircraft from the enemy fighters and anti- aircraft artillery, rendered very difficult the handling, which caused that the victims from the Ohka could be counted with the fingers of a hand. On the other hand, it was impossible to benefit from the experiences of the pilots, because they never returned. The 755 units produced of this aircraft supported desperately the cause of an agonizing Japan, but in the end they only contributed to the vanishing of the dream of seeing all Asia grouped with the flag of the Rising Sun.

Kamikaze weapons of Japan


Projectist: Lieutenant Ohta

First flight: Spring 1945

Wingspan: 5.12 meters

Length: 6.06 meters

Height: 1.16 meters

Wing area: 6 square meters

Weight: 440 kilograms if empty, 2140 kilograms with full load (explosive charge of 1200 kilograms and fuel)

Propulsion plant: Three solid-fuel rocket engines Type 4 Mk 1, Model 20, with a total thrust of 800 kilograms

Maximum speed: 648 kilometers/hour in horizontal flight at an altitude of 3500 meters, 925 kilometers/hour at the end of dive

Operational range: About 37 kilometers


MXY-7 Ohka, Model 11: Initial series model, including one with steel wings; 155 units built in the 1st Technical Naval Arsenal of Yokosuka and 600 units built in the Kasumigaura Naval Arsenal.

MXY-7 Ohka, Model 21: Project for a Model 22 fitted with rocket engines in similarity to the Model 11.

MXY-7 Ohka, Model 22: Improved version propelled by a turbojet engine Tsu-11 of 200 kilograms of thrust; reduced wingspan and warhead of 600 kilograms; transported by bomber P1Y1; 50 units built.

MXY-7 Ohka, Model 33 and 43A/B: Versions of enlarged size; Model 33 for being used by the Nakajima G8N1; Model 43A/B for being catapulted from surfaced submarines and from facilities in caves, respectively; projects only.

MXY-7 Ohka, Model 53: Propelled by a turbojet engine Ne-20 of 475 kilograms of thrust; towable; project only.

MXY-7 Ohka, Model K-1: Training version without engine, fitted with a water ballast instead of the warhead; 45 units built.

MXY-7 Ohka, Model 43 K-1 KAI Wakazahura (Young Cherry): Two-seater training version, propelled by one rocket engine Type 4 Mk 1, Model 20, of 260 kilograms of thrust; 2 units built.


Conceived as coastal defense weapon to counter the invasion of the Japanese metropolis, it entered production even before of being officially tested. Of mixed construction in wood and alloys, it was relatively an easy prey for the overwhelming air superiority of the United States Navy, who rebaptized the contraption as "Baka" (Idiot). The mother aircraft, Mitsubishi G4M2, overloaded, frequently got rid of the Ohka when being intercepted, preventing these from reaching the targets; this was precisely what happened in the first mission, the 21st March 1945, against the Operative Force 58 on its withdrawal after attacking Kyushu; the 18 Ohka that took part had to be launched prematurely, crashing in the sea, and the 18 aircraft G4M2 that transported them were subsequently downed by the Hellcat. Later, during the invasion of Okinawa, the Ohka achieved some success, damaging the battleship West Virginia, the 1st April 1945, first day of the disembarkment, and sinking the destroyer Mannert L. Abele to the north-west of Okinawa, twelve days later.

Article updated: 2015-06-30

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


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-09-27

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