The Aichi D3A Type 99 Carrier Bomber (Allied reporting name "Val") is a World War II carrier-borne dive bomber. It was the primary dive bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and was involved in almost all IJN actions, including the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Aichi D3A was the first Japanese aircraft to bomb American targets in the war, commencing with Pearl Harbor and U.S. bases in the Philippines, such as Clark Air Force Base. Vals sank more Allied warships than any other Axis aircraft.
|Aichi D3A1 from carrier Akagi.|
|Role||Carrier-based dive bomber|
|Manufacturer||Aichi Kokuki KK|
|First flight||January 1938|
|Primary user||Imperial Japanese Navy|
|Number built||1,495 |
|Developed into||Yokosuka D3Y Myōjo|
In mid-1936, the Japanese Navy issued the 11-Shi specification for a monoplane carrier-based dive bomber to replace the existing D1A biplane then in service. Aichi, Nakajima, and Mitsubishi all submitted designs, with the former two subsequently being asked for two prototypes each.
The Aichi design started with low-mounted elliptical wings inspired by the Heinkel He 70 Blitz. It flew slowly enough that the drag from the landing gear was not a serious issue, so fixed gear was used for simplicity. The aircraft was to be powered by the 529 kW (709 hp) Nakajima Hikari 1 nine-cylinder radial engine.
The first prototype was completed in December 1937, and flight trials began a month later. Initial tests were disappointing. The aircraft was underpowered and suffered from directional instability in wide turns, and in tighter turns it tended to snap roll. The dive brakes vibrated heavily when extended at their design speed of 200 knots (370 km/h), and the Navy was already asking for a faster diving speed of 240 knots (440 km/h).
The second aircraft was extensively modified before delivery to try to address the problems. Power was increased by replacing the Hikari with the 626 kW (839 hp) Mitsubishi Kinsei 3 in a redesigned cowling, and the vertical tail was enlarged to help with the directional instability. The wings were slightly larger in span and the outer sections of the leading edges had wash-out to combat the snap rolls, and strengthened dive brakes were fitted. These changes cured all of the problems except the directional instability, and it was enough for the D3A1 to win over the Nakajima D3N1.
In December 1939, the Navy ordered the aircraft as the Navy Type 99 Carrier Bomber Model 11 (kanjō bakugekiki, usually abbreviated to 艦爆 kanbaku.). The production models featured slightly smaller wings and increased power in the form of the 746 kW (1,000 hp) Kinsei 43 or 798 kW (1,070 hp) Kinsei 44. The directional instability problem was finally cured with the fitting of a long dorsal fin-strake which started midway down the rear fuselage, and the aircraft actually became highly maneuverable.
Armament was two forward-firing 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 97 machine guns, and one flexible 7.7 mm (.303 in) Type 92 machine gun in the rear cockpit for defense. Normal bombload was a single 250 kg (550 lb) bomb carried under the fuselage, swung out under the propeller on release by a trapeze. Two additional 60 kg (130 lb) bombs could be carried on wing racks located under each wing outboard of the dive brakes.
The D3A1 commenced carrier qualification trials aboard the aircraft carriers Akagi and Kaga during 1940, while a small number of aircraft made their combat debut from land bases over China. Starting with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the D3A1 took part in all major Japanese carrier operations in the first 10 months of the war. They achieved their first major success against the Royal Navy during their Indian Ocean raid in April 1942. Val dive bombers scored over 80% hits with their bombs during attacks on two heavy cruisers and an aircraft carrier during the operation. During the course of the war, Val dive bombers often combined their attacks upon enemy warships with the IJN Nakajima B5N Kate torpedo bomber; consequently enemy vessels were often sunk by a combination strike of bombs and torpedoes. However, there were occasions when just the Vals would make the attacks, or at least score the sinking hits. Discounting the Pearl Harbor strike, which also used the B5N for level bombing and torpedo attacks, Val dive bombers were credited with sinking the following Allied warships:
As the war progressed, there were instances when the dive bombers were pressed into duty as fighters in the interceptor role, their maneuverability being enough to allow them to survive in this role. In June 1942, an improved version of the D3A powered by a 969 kW (1,299 hp) Kinsei 54 was tested as the Model 12. The extra power reduced range, so the design was further modified with additional fuel tanks to bring the total tankage to 900 L (240 US gal), giving it the range needed to fight effectively over the Solomon Islands. Known to the Navy as the Model 22, it began to replace the Model 11 in front-line units in autumn 1942, and most Model 11s were then sent to training units.
When the Yokosuka D4Y Suisei became available, the D3A2s ended up with land-based units or operating from the smaller carriers, which were too small to handle the fast-landing Suisei. When American forces recaptured the Philippines in 1944, land-based D3A2s took part in the fighting, but were hopelessly outdated and losses were heavy. By then, many D3A1s and D3A2s were operated by training units in Japan, and several were modified with dual controls as Navy Type 99 Bomber Trainer Model 12s (D3A2-K). During the last year of the war, the D3A2s were pressed back into combat for kamikaze missions.
One D3A is currently under restoration at the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California. There are two unrestored D3As on display at the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Data from Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Battlehawks 1942 is a naval air combat flight simulation video game released in 1988 by LucasFilm Games. It is set in the World War II Pacific air war theatre, and was the first of Lucasfilm Games' trilogy of World War II flight simulations, followed by Their Finest Hour (1989) and Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe (1991). The 127-page manual for Battlehawks 1942 includes a 100-page illustrated overview of the Pacific War.Dive brake
Dive brakes or dive flaps are deployed to slow down an aircraft when in a dive. They often consist of a metal flap that is lowered against the air flow, thus creating drag and reducing dive speed.In the past, dive brakes were mostly used on dive bombers, which needed to dive very steeply, but without exceeding their red line speed, in order to drop their bombs accurately. The airbrakes or spoilers fitted to gliders often function both as landing aids, to adjust the approach angle, and to keep the aircraft's speed below its maximum permissible indicated air speed in a vertical dive. Most modern combat aircraft are equipped with air brakes, which perform the same function as dive brakes.Eastern Solomons order of battle
The Battle of the Eastern Solomons was fought August 23–25, 1942 in the waters east and northeast of the Solomon Islands by forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy's Combined Fleet and the US Navy's Pacific Fleet. The battle resulted from a major effort by the Japanese to reinforce their troop strength on the island of Guadalcanal. The Japanese high command had realized this reinforcement was necessary following the annihilation of the Ichiki Detachment by the 1st Marines a few days earlier.
The battle can be counted both a tactical and strategic American victory: greater ship losses were inflicted on the Japanese, and the transports were turned back from their mission of landing reinforcements.Elliptical wing
An elliptical wing is a wing planform whose leading and trailing edges each approximate two segments of an ellipse.
Not to be confused with annular wings, which may be elliptically shapedFred David
Friedrich W. "Fred" David, an Austrian Jew, who became the most significant aircraft designer for the Australian aircraft industry during World War Two; having been one of only a few people to have worked for both sides (Allies and Axis powers) in designing aircraft used during the war. David's most famous aircraft was the CAC Boomerang used by the Royal Australian Air Force during the Pacific War.As an Austrian Jew who had recently arrived in Australia in 1939 as a refugee, David was technically an enemy alien, so he had to report to the local Police Station weekly having been interned by Australian immigration officials. David was well-suited to the CAC project, since he had previously worked for Heinkel in pre-Nazi Germany, as well as Mitsubishi and Aichi Kokuki in Japan. His design contributions in Japan resulted in the Mitsubishi A5M Claude fighter and the Aichi D3A Type 99 Val dive-bomber.
Fred David worked on several projects throughout the war but his most technically advanced aircraft never got past the prototype stage, the CAC CA-15 Kangaroo piston fighter. The project was commissioned in early 1943 to overcome the speed and aeronautical limitations of the CAC Boomerang but the prototype did not fly until March 1946. However, despite the aircraft exceeding the maximum speed and climb rate of the Spitfire and Mustang, it was now obsolete with the dawn of the jet age.Heinkel He 70
The Heinkel He 70 is a mail plane and fast passenger aircraft of the 1930s designed by German aeronautics firm Heinkel Flugzeugwerke, which was also used in auxiliary bomber and aerial reconnaissance roles. It had a relatively brief commercial career before it was replaced by types which could carry more passengers. The He 70 was a leading design for its day, setting eight world speed records by the beginning of 1933.Japanese aircraft carrier Ryūhō
Ryūhō (龍鳳, "Dragon phoenix") was a light aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was converted from the submarine tender Taigei (大鯨, "Big Whale"), which had been used in the Second Sino-Japanese War. One of the least successful of the light aircraft carrier conversions due to its small size, slow speed and weak construction, during World War II, Ryūhō was used primarily as an aircraft transport and for training purposes, although she was also involved in a number of combat missions, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea.List of aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy
The following is the List of aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, both past and present.Midway order of battle
This is the order of battle for the World War II Battle of Midway.Nakajima D3N
The Nakajima D3N (also designated Experimental 11-Shi Carrier Bomber and Nakajima DB) was a Japanese carrier-based dive bomber of the 1930s. Three prototypes were built for the Imperial Japanese Navy, but no production followed, with the Aichi D3A being selected instead.The Final Countdown (film)
The Final Countdown is a 1980 alternate history science fiction film about a modern aircraft carrier that travels through time to the day before the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Produced by Peter Vincent Douglas and directed by Don Taylor, the film stars Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino, Katharine Ross and Charles Durning. This was Taylor's final film.
Produced with the full cooperation of the United States Navy, set and filmed on board the actual USS Nimitz supercarrier, The Final Countdown was a moderate success at the box office.Type 92 machine gun
The Type 92 7.7mm machine gun (九二式七粍七機銃, Kyūni-shiki nana-miri-nana kijū) was developed for aerial use for the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1932. The Type 92 is a light machine gun and not to be confused with the similarly named Type 92 Heavy Machine Gun.Type 97 aircraft machine gun
The Type 97 aircraft machine gun (九七式七粍七固定機銃) was the standard fixed light machine gun on aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II. This weapon was not related to the Type 97 light machine gun used by the Imperial Japanese Army in ground combat.USS Orestes (AGP-10)
USS Orestes (AGP-10) was a motor torpedo boat tender that served in the United States Navy from 1944 to 1946.
Orestes was laid down as landing ship tank USS LST–135 at Chicago Bridge and Iron Company, Seneca, Illinois, on 8 July 1943, and launched on 16 November 1943, sponsored by Mrs. Bernard Sharp. Prior to completion, she was converted into a motor torpedo boat tender at Maryland Drydock Company, Baltimore, Maryland. Redesignated AGP-10, she was commissioned as USS Orestes (AGP–10) on 25 April 1944 with Lieutenant Kenneth N. Mueller in command.
Successfully concluding her shakedown out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 23 May 1944, Orestes prepared for World War II duty in the Pacific. Departing Chesapeake Bay on 5 June 1944, she transited the Panama Canal and, after a stop-over at Bora Bora, sailed on to New Guinea. She began motor torpedo boat tending operations at Aitape on 23 August 1944, transferred to Mios Woendi a month later, and on 12 November 1944 joined General Douglas MacArthur’s Philippines invasion forces at Leyte. In the Leyte area control of the air was still disputed and Japanese air attacks were numerous. On 24 November 1944 Orestes’ gunners got their first confirmed kills, two Mitsubishi A6M “Zeke” (Zero) fighters.
Late in January 4, 1945, while Orestes was in a Mindoro-bound convoy designated "Uncle plus 15" with 30 patrol torpedo boats (PT boats) and 50 other vessels, Japanese planes made life tenuous. On 30 December 1944, an Aichi D3A “Val” dive bomber came in low on the starboard side and crashed into Orestes amidships, causing heavy damage and killing 45 members of her crew. In a series of sweeps by boat PT-350, commanded by Lieutenant Thomas A. Dent (USNR), about 70 men were rescued from the burning Orestes. Fifteen more were plucked from the sea. Lieutenant Dent was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism in the saving of the lives of American Naval personnel in action. Accompanying landing craft infantry (LCIs) finally brought the resulting fires under control and Orestes was beached. Landing ship tank USS LST-708 later towed Orestes back to Leyte on 27 January 1945, and after temporary repairs Orestes departed Leyte on 24 February 1945 on a slow voyage back to the United States, arriving at Terminal Island, California, on 13 May 1945. There shipyard personnel went to work and 202,500 man-hours of labor later they had completely rejuvenated Orestes.
Orestes departed the United States on a second trip to the Pacific war zone on 8 August 1945, but the war with Japan ended on 15 August 1945 and the Japanese surrender had been formalized (on 2 September 1945) by the time she reached Guinan Harbor, Samar, in the Philippines. Orestes served under the Commander Motor Torpedo Boats, Philippine Sea Frontier, until 17 December 1945, when she sailed eastward with naval passengers for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the United States, arriving at San Pedro, California, on 3 February 1946.
Orestes made a month-long round trip to the Panama Canal Zone, then was deactivated. She decommissioned on 29 April 1946 at Oakland, California, and was struck from the Navy List on 23 April 1947. She was transferred to the Maritime Commission on 15 March 1948 and then was sold to the Walter W. Johnson Company of San Francisco for scrapping.
Orestes received two battle stars for her World War II service.Unryū-class aircraft carrier
The Unryū-class aircraft carriers (雲龍型航空母艦, Unryū-gata Kōkūbokan) were World War II Japanese aircraft carriers. 16 carriers were planned under the Maru Kyū Programme (Ship #302 in 1941) and the Kai-Maru 5 Programme (#5001–5015 in 1942). However, only three of the Unryū-class carriers were completed.World War II Allied names for Japanese aircraft
The World War II Allied names for Japanese aircraft were reporting names, often described as codenames, given by Allied personnel to Imperial Japanese aircraft during the Pacific campaign of World War II. The names were used by Allied personnel to identify aircraft operated by the Japanese for reporting and descriptive purposes. Generally, Western men's names were given to fighter aircraft, women's names to bombers, transports, and reconnaissance aircraft, bird names to gliders, and tree names to trainer aircraft.
The use of the names, from their origin in mid-1942, became widespread among Allied forces from early 1943 until the end of the war in 1945. Many subsequent Western histories of the war have continued to use the names.Yokosuka D3Y
The Yokosuka D3Y Myojo (明星, "Venus") was a Japanese two-seat dive bomber/trainer designed and built by the Yokosuka Naval Air Technical Arsenal. Derived from the Aichi D3A, it was made nearly entirely of wood in an attempt to conserve valuable resources. Upon Japan's surrender, the project came to a halt with only a few aircraft delivered as the Navy Type 99 Bomber Trainer Myojo Model 22.Yokosuka D4Y
The Yokosuka D4Y Suisei (彗星, Suisei, "Comet", Allied reporting name "Judy") is a two-seat carrier-based dive bomber developed by the Yokosuka Naval Air Technical Arsenal and operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1942 to 1945 during World War II. Development of the aircraft began in 1938. The first D4Y1 was complete in November 1940 and made its maiden flight at Yokosuka the following month.While the aircraft was originally conceived as a dive bomber, the D4Y was used in other roles including reconnaissance, night fighter and special attack (kamikaze). It made its combat debut as a reconnaissance aircraft when two pre-production D4Y1-Cs embarked aboard the Sōryū to take part in the Battle of Midway in 1942. It was not until March 1943 that it was accepted for use as a dive bomber. The early D4Y1 and D4Y2 featured the liquid-cooled Aichi Atsuta engine, a licensed version of the German Daimler-Benz DB 601, while the later D4Y3 and D4Y4 featured the Mitsubishi MK8P Kinsei radial engine.
Like many other Japanese aircraft of the time, the D4Y lacked armor and self-sealing fuel tanks and it was not until the final variant, the D4Y4, that the aircraft was given bulletproof glass and armor protection for the crew and fuel tanks. Nevertheless, The D4Y was one of the fastest dive bombers of the war, particularly the D4Y4 whom Max Gadney said was the "fastest dive-bomber of World War II" and that it was "faster than the zero" if RATO was equipped. Only the delays in its development hindered its service while its predecessor, the slower fixed-gear Aichi D3A, remained in service much longer than intended. Famously, a D4Y was used in one of the final kamikaze attacks in 1945, hours after the surrender of Japan, with Vice Admiral Matome Ugaki in the rear cockpit.
Aircraft produced by Aichi Kokuki
|Imperial Japanese Navy |
|World War II|
Allied reporting names
|Aircraft in Japanese service|
|Foreign aircraft erroneously thought to be in Japanese service|