Author Topic: Australian-Japanese Aviation Imports Accord  (Read 704 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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And when it's midnight, ... the wolf bites

Offline GTX_Admin

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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

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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
You better stock up on water, canned goods off the shelves
And loot some for the old folks who can't loot for themselves
The doorbell's ringing, could be the elves
But it's probably the werewolf, it's quarter to twelve
And when it's midnight, ... the wolf bites

Offline apophenia

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Re: Australian-Japanese Aviation Imports Accord
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2022, 07:32:46 AM »
Apologies ... I got sidetracked and then lost the plot on this scenario

To make up for lost time, I'm going to omit the non-aviation related details - eg: of how an Australia-Japan Trade War was averted or how Sir John Greig Latham became Australia's Minister for Japan earlier than in OTL - and jump straight into the tangible, aviation-related result.

--------------

[...] The Ki-27 found no place within Australian military plans. However, through casual conversations with Nakajima design staff, it became apparent that more potent fighters would soon be deployed. Such a fighter might well suit RAAF needs. Officials at Nakajima were apologetic but, on orders from the Ministry Of War, they were unable to give access to the latest Imperial Japanese Army fighter or even provide details of its design. A deadend had been reached. It seemed that the Nakajima company was eager to export its engines but had little influence over the Japanese high command when it came to offering airframes.

Still, an opportunity was seen to improve Australian capabilities for any coming war. To that end, the mandate of the Department of the Interior was expanded to include the active promotion was armaments production in the Commonwealth. The Department's Bureau of Aircraft Production was established to oversee domestic aviation capabilities in support of the RAAF. To that end, in mid-1938, the BAP invited the Nakajima Aircraft Co. (Nakajima Hikoki K.K.) to create an Australian division capable of assembling engines to suit RAAF needs - ie: to Imperial measures, with British Standard fasteners, etc. The Nakajima engines of interest were the single-row Ha1 Kotobuki and the twin-row Ha25 Sakae.

Nakajima officials investigated Melbourne for their future site. In July 1938, Cooper Engineering Co. of Sidney accepted an offer for their Melbourne branch. [1] This downtown site became the headquarter and experimental workshop for the new Middle Island Aeronautical Pty. Limited (middle island being a translation of Nakajima). Initially, detail work for 'MIA' was performed by a range of local industrial firms - including local castings by C.B. Dawson and McMillan’s of Brunswick, forging by Royal’s Axles of Carlton, with grinding and machining by Davidson’s and A. Craig Pty. Ltd. But most components were imported directly from Japan.

Nakajima was slow to get Imperial Japanese Army approval for the export of Ha25 Sakae components but there were few restrictions upon transfers of the Ha1 Kotobuki. Accordingly, MIA began with Ha1 component modification and assembly. Locally-produced Ha1 Kotobuki became the MIA R-1470 Princess (although that marketing name was quickly dropped). [2] The MIA R-1470 produced 710 hp for take-off and 780 hp at 9,500 feet. This was seen as a useful increase in power over the 600 hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp then being installed in early-production CAC Wirraways. To test that theory, Commonwealth Aircraft was provided with a Japanese-built Nakajima Ha-1b Kotobuki Otsu for installation in a Wirraway aiframe.

Bottom CA-1 Wirraway conversion to CA-10 standard. Wirraway A20-5 shows its revised cowling and Nakajima-provided constant-speed 2-bladed propeller. Fixed armament consists of twin, sychronized Type 89 machine guns - Imperial Japanese Army copies of the Vickers Class E.

Sufficient MIA R-1470 engines were supplied to begin interspersing CA-10 Wirraway 'interim combat aeroplanes' on the Commonwealth Aircraft production lines. It was believed that these higher-powered aircraft would have a superior chance of success in the light recce-bomber role than the Pratt-powered CA-1 and CA-3 Wirraways. This would be borne out in combat but the CA-10 Wirraway still had a marginal performance.

In the Autumn of 1941, plans were made for an MIA R-1690 (Sakae)-powered Wirraway to replace the CA-10. Despite slow export approvals in Tokyo, MIA established a good reputation. Not only was work on the R-1470s completed quickly, the Nakajima engines were considerably cheaper than CAC-built Wasps. But this hard-won reputation vanished overnight with the Japanese attacks of December 1941. Most critically, the supply of components and raw castings came to an abrupt end. Worse, all Japanese MIA personnel - office staff and technicians - were interned by the Commonwealth Police in the second week of December. By the end of the month, MIA had become Melburne Industries Aeronautical, a division of DAP - the Federally-controlled Department of Aircraft Production).

Top CAC CA-10 Wirraway of No.21 Squadron RAAF based at Sembawang airfield on Singapore Island in December 1941. While attempting to intercept Japanese bombers, Wirraway A20-39 was shot up by IJN A6M2 fighters over the Singapore Strait. With his gunner - Sergeant Ellis - wounded, pilot F/O D.J. Doughty shook off the 'Zeros' and successfully recovered to Sembawang. However, the aircraft was a write-off.

_______________________________

[1] This sale help finance Cooper Sydney's build of a new factory at Mascot, NSW.

[2] In Japanese, mia means 'princess' (while Kotobuki means 'long life').
You better stock up on water, canned goods off the shelves
And loot some for the old folks who can't loot for themselves
The doorbell's ringing, could be the elves
But it's probably the werewolf, it's quarter to twelve
And when it's midnight, ... the wolf bites

Offline GTX_Admin

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  • Administrator - Yep, I'm the one to blame for this place.
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Re: Australian-Japanese Aviation Imports Accord
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2022, 12:35:59 AM »
Apologies ... I got sidetracked

Hmmm...I wonder what on... ;)
All hail the God of Frustration!!!

You can't outrun Death forever.
But you can make the Bastard work for it.