Author Topic: Australian-Japanese Aviation Imports Accord  (Read 199 times)

Offline apophenia

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Australian-Japanese Aviation Imports Accord
« on: December 22, 2021, 07:22:56 AM »
Hudson on the Shinsakai? - The RAAF's 'Hudson J'

One of the first tangible results of the 1939-40 Aviation Imports Accord between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Empire of Japan was the Kawasaki-built version of the Lockheed Super Electra - the Model 14 WG3B - for the RAAF. The Kawasaki Type 1a was a straightforward copy of the Lockheed Model 14 [1] other than being powered by Japanese engines. In Australian service, the Kawasakis were to serve as transitional trainers for another Model 14 derivative about to enter RAAF service - the Lockheed Hudson patrol aircraft.

The first of six Kawasaki Type 1a aircraft arrive at Port Melbourne aboard the Yamasimo Maru in late May 1940. Airframe component shipping crates were off-loaded onto barges for the trip across Port Phillip Bay. There, at RAAF Station Laverton, each Kawasaki was re-assembled by the staff of No. 1 Aircraft Depot. At the same time, No.1 AD technicians installed Government-supplied-equipment specific to RAAF aircraft. Engine installation, tuning, and troubleshooting was performed by civilian technicians from Melbourne-based Middle Island Aeronautical Pty. Limited. [2]

Dubbed the 'Hudson J' in RAAF service, the Kawasaki Type 1as were fitted with dual controls for pilot training and an electronics suite suitable for training wireless operators. It was intended that the 'Hudson J' would also maintain an ad hoc transport role ... but that was not to be. Such was the urgency of training crews for the newly-arriving Lockheed Hudsons, plans were made for further conversion of the Kawasakis to increase crew station commonality with their patrol plane siblings. With the emphasis on supplying Australian troops deployed in North Africa, plans for the Kawasakis remained conceptual.

First the Bad News, Then the Good

The 'Hudson Js' were generally well-liked at RAAF No.7 Squadron - which had been reformed as a Hudson operational training unit at RAAF Laverton on 27 June 1940. These dedicated trainers allowed most Lockheed Hudsons to be actively employed on operational missions. Canberra was equally pleased, since the 'Hudson J' and its Nakajima engines were considerably cheaper than their American counterparts. But all that changed in December 1941 with the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and Malaya. All contact with Kawasaki and Nakajima was cut off - along with any hope of parts supply - and all Japanese technicians still in Australia were quickly rounded up and interned by the Commonwealth Police. The RAAF was on its own with the 'Hudson Js'.

Assistance came from an unexpected quarter. The remnants of the USAAF Far East Air Force began regrouping in Australia in early 1942. The speed of the Japanese advance was astonishing but one weapon in particular stood out - the seemingly invincible Zero-Sen fighter. This Mitsubishi fighter was powered by the Sakae radial - the IJN version of the Ha25 engine from the 'Hudson J'. US intelligence agencies were anxious for any information on the Zero-Sen. Suddenly, its engines turned the 'Hudson J' from an orphaned liability to a valued asset. One 'Hudson J' - A16A-6 - was turned over immediately to the USAAF in exchange for three Lockheed A-28-LOs, the USAAF version of the RAAF's Hudson patrol aircraft. [3]

Of the remaining 'Hudson Js', all five were modified for inshore patrol duties. No.7 Squadron had moved north to Queensland in December 1941. A shortage of aircraft forced some ad hoc field modifications to arm the 'Hudson Js' to perform convoy escort and anti-submarine patrols along the Great Barrier Reef. Two of the aircraft - A16A-1 and A16A-5 - were robbed of their Ha25s and re-fitted with Pratt & Whitney engines taken from damaged Hudson bombers. Another aircraft - A16A-3 - was reduced to spares following a prang at Horn Island (Cape York). The other two 'Hudson Js' are illustrated here.

Top The most heavily-armed of the 'Deep North' Kawasakis was A16A-2. Like the other 'Hudson Js', 'Tumblin' Thalia' was fitted with twin fixed nose guns - 2 x .303-inch Brownings mounted in Hudson style. That offensive armament was then augmented with a further 6 x forward-firing .303-inch Vickers E guns (actually, Japanese-made 7.7 mm type 97 copies). Defensive firepower for A16A-2 was restricted to a single Vickers K gun flexibly-mounted in a new dorsal position.

Note that 'Tumblin' Thalia' has been fitted with an Hudson-type antenna mast and side window camera mounts. (Inset) Detail of A16A-2's 'Tumblin' Thalia' nose art.

Bottom The only Nakajima-powered 'Hudson J' to receive an otherwise 'full Hudson treatment' was A16A-4. Shown here retaining her original natural metal finish (right down to Kawasaki logos on the vertical tail!), A16A-4 even retained the Kawasaki-supplied prop spinners (usually removed to improve engine cooling).

As shown, A16A-4 had received nose glazings and a dorsal turret transplanted from damaged RAAF Lockheed Hudson. This aircraft was later camouflaged but A16A-4 would be written off in a ground loop at Ross River before she could receive US-supplied R-1830 engines.

By the start of 1943, all remaining frontline 'Hudson Js' had been replaced by actual Lockheed Hudsons. The surviving Kawasakis returned to No.1 AD for yet another refurbishment and refit. After being fitted with starboard stretcher hatches, the three survivors went to the RAAF's No.2 Air Ambulance Unit.

How did all this come about? Read on ...

(To be continued ...)

_____________________________

[1] The Type 1a was an interim step towards the ultimate development - the lengthened and lightened Kawasaki Type 1 transport - which was to enter Imperial Japanese Army Air Force service as the Ki.56 Thalia.

[2] Middle Island Aeronautical (MIA) was a rough English translation of Nakajima Hikoki - the maker of the Ha25 radial engines. MIA had taken over the Melbourne offices of the Cooper Engineering Co. Beyond installing Ha25 engines in 'Hudson Js', this local branch of Nakajima was arranging for local assembly of Ha1 single-row radial engines.

[3] The USAAF Lockheed A-28-LO model was considered a Hudson Mk.IV by the RAAF. The A16A-x serial for the 'Hudson J' was unusual. Instead of being provided with a distinct serial, Canberra chose to add an 'A' suffix to the Lockheed Hudson's RAAF serial. Individual aircraft numbers were, however, part of an entirely new sequence.
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Re: Australian-Japanese Aviation Imports Accord
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2021, 12:59:15 AM »
Nice one.  I especially like the mention of RAAF's No.2 Air Ambulance Unit given my Grandfather actually served with that unit in WWII.
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Offline apophenia

  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: Australian-Japanese Aviation Imports Accord
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2021, 06:41:32 AM »
Nice one.  I especially like the mention of RAAF's No.2 Air Ambulance Unit given my Grandfather actually served with that unit in WWII.

What are the odds! You having RAAF DNA doesn't surprise at all but I thought that No.2 AAU would be a fairly obscure unit!

It was the side hatch mod for stretchers that reeled me in. Hmmm ... maybe I will do that 'Hudson J' in No.2 AAU markings  ;D
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