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15 January 2015
Kawanishi N1K2-J «Shiden-Kai»
'Kawanishi N1K2-J «Shiden-Kai», 407th Combat Flying Group' skin by TSGT | download here
Roots of Kawanishi N1K2, one of the best Japanese fighters ever built, reach into year 1941, where Kawanishi N1K floatplane fighter design was made. However, it was not until 1943, when Kawanishi N1K Kyofu entered service. Sheer weight of floats hampered it’s performance, but it’s airframe and powerful engine offered great potential. Proposal was made as soon as in 1941 to modify Kyofu into land-based fighter. New plane first flew on 27th December 1942, but trials were unsatisfactory due to engine’s reliability issues, low maximum speed and other problems. However, new fighter was still faster than A6M Zero, and had longer range than Mitsubishi J2M Raiden, so it was accepted into service under designation of N1K1-J Shiden (“Violet Lightning”). But only couple of days after Shiden’s flight tests, work on complete redesign begun. Construction was simplified and significantly lightened, and in 1944, resulting fighter, named N1K2-J Shiden-Kai, was rushed into service.
Powered by 1990 hp Nakajima Ha-45-21 radial engine, and carrying heavy armament of four 20 mm Type 99-2 Mk.4 cannons, Shiden soon established itself as a very effective fighter. Albeit still suffering from engine reliability issues, it was fast enough to be more than a match for best US fighters like F4U Corsair or F6F Hellcat. Shiden-Kai possessed extreme agility, and had rugged construction with self-sealing fuel tanks, solid amount of armour, and bulletproof windshield - all of it allowing the plane to withstand heavy battle damage. It’s biggest disadvantage, aside of sub-par climbrate, was a lack of effective supercharger, hampering high-altitude performance and limiting it’s capability to intercept B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers.
As a war situation worsened for the Empire, strained Japanese industry was able to produce N1K2-J only in a very limited numbers. Only 428 Shiden-Kai fighters were produced, resulting in Shiden-Kais being issued only to a handful of elite fighter squadrons. Probably most famous of Shiden-Kai pilots was Kaneyoshi Muto, fighter ace with 34 confirmed kills - in one of his encounters, he is credited by battling 12 F6F Hellcats alone, shooting down four of them and forcing the rest to retreat.
In War Thunder, N1K2-J Shiden is tier IV Japanese fighter with BR 6.3 and a direct successor of A6M Zero line. It’s maximum speed is 595 kph and Turn time is only 19 seconds, but climbrate, as of Shiden’s real-life counterpart, is less than stellar - only 12,8 m/s. In terms of armament though, Shiden-Kai packs a punch. Four 20 mm cannons give you heavy firepower, and generous ammo supply of 900 rounds (225 rounds per gun) allows you to down several targets and still have plenty of ammo to spare. In addition, you can mount two 82 mm unguided rockets to amplify your bomber-hunting capabilities, or up to 500 kg of bombs for fighter-bomber duties. And we must not forget ruggedness of Shiden-Kai - unusually tough for a Japanese fighter, it can soak up good amounts of damage and still be able to return you safely home.
If you mastered the playstyle of Zero fighters - being somewhat slow, but extremely agile - N1K2-J will be nothing new for you, but with addition of giving you significant boost in ruggedness, firepower and speed. Given the opposition at BR 6.3, you will be faced mainly by high-end propeller-driven aircraft like F8F Bearcat, Hawker Tempest Mk.V, or Griffon-engined Spitfire marks. These fighters can outclimb and outrun you, but they will have a very hard time outturning you. Lure your opponent into a turning fight and use your superior agility to get him into your crosshairs.
Due to it’s BR, Shiden-Kai has a chance to be pitted against low-end jet fighters, like P-80A or Gloster Meteor F.Mk.3. Against these, your lack of speed is even more annyoing, but your turning advantage is further enhanced. Use the speed of jets against them - evade their repeated passes, using your agility to make an elusive target from yourself, and patiently wait, until jet pilot makes a mistake. Another viable tactic is to look for already engaged jet fighters, which would be often low on speed and energy. In that moment, sneak up behind, as he will be occupied and likely not paying attention to his surroundings.
While not as fast as it’s opponents, but combining great maneuverability with heavy firepower and ruggedness, Shiden-Kai can be deadly in right hands, and very hard target to kill. And if you will stay with it, you can research either fighter-bomber variant of Shiden-Kai, N1K2-Ja with additional bombload, or exotic Kyushu J7W1 canard interceptor - extremely fast plane possessing deadly firepower of four 30 mm cannons.
Author: Jan „RayPall“ Kozák
In a future update, we will include the victory markings used by the 343th Kokutai,
which was equipped with Shidens:
Decals by Jej 'CharlieFoxtrot' Ortiz
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