1. #1
    There have been a number of posts recently on this subject, with claims and counter claims as to whether IJ aircraft did in fact carry armour protection for either pilots or fuel.

    So was protective armour on IJ aricraft a fact? Lets examine the evidence.

    a) First off is Francillon's 'Japanese Aircraft Of The Second World War'. In a number of the individual aircraft write-ups Rene does mentions that armour was installed, but provides no details as to actual cover, position or thickness.

    b) Robert Mikesh' excellent book on the Zero describes in detail armour changes to various production models. The first instance of fuel protection for the Zero came with the 371st production model of the A6M5, with an automatic C02 fire extinguisher system. The A6M5b production run saw the inclusion of a 45mm bullet resistant glass panel installed behind the windshield. The A6M5c included the above plus self-sealing wing tanks, a new self sealing tank behind the pilot, and 13mm armoured metal plate behind the pilot and bullet resistant glass mounted on the window frame behind the pilots head.

    c) Another book by Mikesh, Japanese Aircraft Interiors, clearly shows armour plate positions for Ki-61 and Ki-100 in his cockpit schematics and photo's. The Ki-45 pilot had 9.5mm head armour and a 6.5mm armoured seat. The Ki-84 pilot had 13mm back armour (behind the seat bulkhead - not easily accessible and could not be seen easily when examining cockpit).

    d) An Ultra intercept from Burma (courtesy Rick Dunn) covering combat on 20 Jan 44 mentions that the IJAAF "were very pleased with armour and fuel tank protection in the Type 1 fighter Hayabusa (after serial #5800) and one got back with 39 hits". Note that the opponents in this fight were Spitfire Mk.Vc's.

    e) Document ATAD T-1 of May 1944 (Performance & Characteristics Data Japanese Aircraft) published by the Air Intelligence Group Division of Naval Intelligence also includes details of armour protection for Japanese aircraft (where known) in tabular format. As an example the entry for Oscar II records 13mm seat armour.

    f) The 1946 USAF report on the Japanese Aircraft Industry in WW2 (re-published as a facsimile by ISO Publications UK in 1996) contains a chapter on Japanese aircraft armour!
    Comments from this report include:

    "Sheet thickness varied from 2mm to 20mm, but 8mm, 12mm and 16mm were finally adopted as standard. The 16mm was the most commonly used and would generally defeat all Allied armour-piercing and high-explosive projectiles."

    "The armour plate on a fighter weighed between 40 and 50kg (88.2 and 110.25 lbs)."

    "In many cases where armour was standard it was designed so as to be instantly detachable at the discretion of the pilot or organisation, and this procedure was common practice due to undesirable weight."

    "Japanese requirements (in comparison to US) were slightly higher against AP penetration and slightly lower against HE shock."

    The report goes on to mention the A6M5c Zero, G4M3, J2M3 Raiden, NiK2-J Shiden, the Ki-43 IIb Hayabusa, Ki-45 Toryu, Ki-61 Hein and Ki-84 Hayate all show various forms of armour and self-sealing tanks. The report concludes a chemical analysis of homogenous steel and surface hardened armour, also comparing Japanese to US.

    g) The N1K1 Kyofu at the Nimitz Museum in Texas has an armor plate bolted to the back of the seat. Strangely, it is only about 15 inches high and only protects the pilot's upper torso. I have not measured the thickness of this plate but IIRC it is about 10mm.

    h) The Ki-84 Hayate had a separate (apparently) detatchable 70mm glass-plate mounted onto the front canopy-glass. Furthermore, the pilot-seat had a specifically-tailored armoured section fitting the seat profile-uniformly of: 13mm/thickness(a-bit/over: 1/2"thick, at least on the example captured@Clark AB and (famously...) test-flown by the Americans.

    Source: AeroDetail#24, pgs.20&66, also: AeroPublishers#3(long-O.O.P.), both-same aircraft/example.

    It would seem from the above that many late model Japanese aircraft did in fact have good armour protection fitted.
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  2. #2
    There have been a number of posts recently on this subject, with claims and counter claims as to whether IJ aircraft did in fact carry armour protection for either pilots or fuel.

    So was protective armour on IJ aricraft a fact? Lets examine the evidence.

    a) First off is Francillon's 'Japanese Aircraft Of The Second World War'. In a number of the individual aircraft write-ups Rene does mentions that armour was installed, but provides no details as to actual cover, position or thickness.

    b) Robert Mikesh' excellent book on the Zero describes in detail armour changes to various production models. The first instance of fuel protection for the Zero came with the 371st production model of the A6M5, with an automatic C02 fire extinguisher system. The A6M5b production run saw the inclusion of a 45mm bullet resistant glass panel installed behind the windshield. The A6M5c included the above plus self-sealing wing tanks, a new self sealing tank behind the pilot, and 13mm armoured metal plate behind the pilot and bullet resistant glass mounted on the window frame behind the pilots head.

    c) Another book by Mikesh, Japanese Aircraft Interiors, clearly shows armour plate positions for Ki-61 and Ki-100 in his cockpit schematics and photo's. The Ki-45 pilot had 9.5mm head armour and a 6.5mm armoured seat. The Ki-84 pilot had 13mm back armour (behind the seat bulkhead - not easily accessible and could not be seen easily when examining cockpit).

    d) An Ultra intercept from Burma (courtesy Rick Dunn) covering combat on 20 Jan 44 mentions that the IJAAF "were very pleased with armour and fuel tank protection in the Type 1 fighter Hayabusa (after serial #5800) and one got back with 39 hits". Note that the opponents in this fight were Spitfire Mk.Vc's.

    e) Document ATAD T-1 of May 1944 (Performance & Characteristics Data Japanese Aircraft) published by the Air Intelligence Group Division of Naval Intelligence also includes details of armour protection for Japanese aircraft (where known) in tabular format. As an example the entry for Oscar II records 13mm seat armour.

    f) The 1946 USAF report on the Japanese Aircraft Industry in WW2 (re-published as a facsimile by ISO Publications UK in 1996) contains a chapter on Japanese aircraft armour!
    Comments from this report include:

    "Sheet thickness varied from 2mm to 20mm, but 8mm, 12mm and 16mm were finally adopted as standard. The 16mm was the most commonly used and would generally defeat all Allied armour-piercing and high-explosive projectiles."

    "The armour plate on a fighter weighed between 40 and 50kg (88.2 and 110.25 lbs)."

    "In many cases where armour was standard it was designed so as to be instantly detachable at the discretion of the pilot or organisation, and this procedure was common practice due to undesirable weight."

    "Japanese requirements (in comparison to US) were slightly higher against AP penetration and slightly lower against HE shock."

    The report goes on to mention the A6M5c Zero, G4M3, J2M3 Raiden, NiK2-J Shiden, the Ki-43 IIb Hayabusa, Ki-45 Toryu, Ki-61 Hein and Ki-84 Hayate all show various forms of armour and self-sealing tanks. The report concludes a chemical analysis of homogenous steel and surface hardened armour, also comparing Japanese to US.

    g) The N1K1 Kyofu at the Nimitz Museum in Texas has an armor plate bolted to the back of the seat. Strangely, it is only about 15 inches high and only protects the pilot's upper torso. I have not measured the thickness of this plate but IIRC it is about 10mm.

    h) The Ki-84 Hayate had a separate (apparently) detatchable 70mm glass-plate mounted onto the front canopy-glass. Furthermore, the pilot-seat had a specifically-tailored armoured section fitting the seat profile-uniformly of: 13mm/thickness(a-bit/over: 1/2"thick, at least on the example captured@Clark AB and (famously...) test-flown by the Americans.

    Source: AeroDetail#24, pgs.20&66, also: AeroPublishers#3(long-O.O.P.), both-same aircraft/example.

    It would seem from the above that many late model Japanese aircraft did in fact have good armour protection fitted.
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  3. #3
    heywooood's Avatar Senior Member
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    They DID have armour plating - but it was made of the rare 'flaming buttersteel'.

    Apparently its density was matched only by its inflammability.

    Most IJ pilots removed it to improve their chances in combat.


    Goin'fishin'



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  4. #4
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by RAC_Pips:
    It would seem from the above that many late model Japanese aircraft did in fact have good armour protection fitted. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    From TAIC and other sources, but now just from memory, I get the idea that although armored glass windscreens became fairly standard, armor plate behind the pilot did not.

    The Japanese self sealing fuel tanks were ineffective against .50, so were practically useless in combat (but probably better than nothing at all). I believe this piece of info came from that same 1946 report.

    It also looks like the IJA were more inclined to armor plate protection than the IJN, the latter probably retaining their focus on range and maneuvrability.

    Also we mustn't ignore the possibility, similar to the removal of radio sets, that armor was removed in the field to keep a/c as light as possible.

    Now I must admit that based on the (limited) guncam footage I've seen from the PTO does support the above.

    Late war army fighter types (incl. Ki-44) can take quite a wallop, although earlier types like the Ki-43 seem structurally weak and prone to lighting up.

    Compare this to Navy types and they always seem to light up, before or during breaking up.

    Never seen guncam footage against Shiden/Shiden-Kais though, although even these are reported as having only armor glass. According to pilot annecdotes (Genda's Blade) there was no armor plate behind the pilot, a point they expressly made.


    Ruy Horta
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  5. #5
    Very good post Pips. I especially enjoyed the part on how most of the time the armor was easily detachable, which I had an inkling it was. So when the TAIC reports such an aircraft had no armor, they have no clue if the Japanese removed the armor in retreat or it was removed by the pilot or sentai, or if it truely had no armor. Where can I get that Robert Mikesh book about Japanese aircraft interiors? I bet that would be a good source for modellers too.

    Yes ruy they said their was no armor plate for the Shiden-kai according to the pilots interviewed in that book, but there was in the Shiden.

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  6. #6
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Giganoni:
    Where can I get that Robert Mikesh book about Japanese aircraft interiors? I bet that would be a good source for modellers too.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    If you like J-Planes this is one of your must have books, maybe even one of the top two or three. Will not answer all your questions regarding interiors, focus is on cockpits, it will go a long way though.

    Was lucky enough to get a free copy from Monogram when it was first published.

    Very hard to get, at least not cheaply...


    Ruy Horta
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  7. #7
    [QUOTE]Originally posted by RAC_Pips:
    f) The 1946 USAF report on the Japanese Aircraft Industry in WW2 (re-published as a facsimile by ISO Publications UK in 1996)/QUOTE]


    Sounds most interesting. Can you give more details (ISBN, etc)?

    Thanks, Mr N
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  8. #8
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Mr_Nakajima:
    Sounds most interesting. Can you give more details (ISBN, etc)?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Japanese Aircraft Industry in WW2 USAF
    1946 Report, USAAF
    ISO Publications, 1996
    ISBN: n/a
    Softcover , 144p

    You should be able to get a copy though Midland Counties, I got mine there as a bargain deal.

    NOTE: Its not similar to the TAIC Manual in scope, and offers a variety of material ranging from comments on armament and production, to tactics against B-29s and Japanese aerial rockets to exotic topics as "death rays"!!

    Only for the real enthusiast, IMHO...


    Ruy Horta
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  9. #9
    SkyChimp's Avatar Senior Member
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    Japanese "self-sealing tanks" were metal tanks covered in rubber. They apparently had little, if any, self-sealing qualities.

    Regards,
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  10. #10
    <BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by SkyChimp:
    Japanese "self-sealing tanks" were metal tanks covered in rubber. They apparently had little, if any, self-sealing qualities.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Plus, it would do very little/nothing to absorb impact from projectile strikes like self sealing tanks made out of flexible material held in the fuselage or wing by elastic straps. Hence, if they were "standard" fuel tanks just covered by a rubber coating they would have little to protect them against rupture when hit by bullets/shells.


    To add to what RAC_Pips stated, I found this in Richard M. Bueschel's book Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki In Japanese Army Air Force Service:

    "Weight climbed as the JAAF added life and aircraft saving features to the aircraft in the form of armor, fuel tank protection and fire extinguishing equipment. Starting with aircraft 1354 the wing fuel tanks were protected by 12mm rubber coverings, with the fuselage fuel tank getting even heavier rubber protection starting with aircraft 1388 (Neg-G: these correspond to late IIa and early IIb aircraft respectively). In October 1943 with aircraft 1485 (Neg-G: IIb model) and beyond, 10mm armour plate was added to protect the pilot."

    "During the run (Neg-G: IIc model, Mar 44- Jan 45) the telescopic sight was replaced with a much improved reflector type, and the pilot armour was upped to 12mm."

    "As weaponry, both were good, but in far different ways from each other. In a nutshell, I describe it this way: if the FW 190 was a sabre, the 109 was a florett, or foil, like that used in the precision art of fencing." - Günther Rall



    Look Noobie, we already told you, we don't have the Patch!
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