P1Y "Frances", Japanese Medium Bomber

Photograph of P1Y "Frances"

Wikimedia Commons

Yokosuka P1Y1 Ginga (Milky Way) "Frances"


Crew 3
Dimensions 65'8" by 49'3" by 14'1"
50.80m by 15.01m by 4.29m
Wing area 592 square feet
55.0 square meters
Weight 16,017-23,149 lbs
7265-10,500 kg
Maximum speed       340 mph at 19,355 feet
547 km/h at 5900 meters
Cruise speed 230 mph at 13,125 feet
380 km/h at 4000 meters
Climb rate 39 feet per second
11.9 meters per second
Service ceiling 30,840 feet
9400 meters
Power plant 2 1820 hp (1357 kW) Nakajima NK9B Homare 11 18-cylinder two-row radial engines driving three-blade propellers.
Armament 1 20mm Type 99 fixed nose cannon
1 20mm Type 99 flexible rear cannon
Bomb load
1 torpedo or up to 2200 lbs (1000 kg) of bombs plus two 58 gallon (220 liter) drop tanks
Range 3340 miles
5370 km
1462 gallons (5535 liters) in wing tanks
Production Nakajima Hikoki K.K., Koizumi:
  6 prototypes (1943)
  996 P1Y1 and P1Y1-S (1943-45)
Kawanishi Kokuki K.K., Konan:
  96 P1Y2 and P1Y2-S (1944-45)
Variants Various versions used engines with slightly different ratings and had modest changes in the armament. A number were equipped with a dorsal turret with twin 13mm Type 2 machine guns in place of the tail cannon.

The P1Y2 versions replaced the troublesome Homare with a more reliable Kasei 25 engine.

The most important variant was the P1Y1-S, a night fighter which added four dorsal oblique-firing Type 99 20mm cannon.

A small number of late production aircraft carried Type 6 radar.

"Frances" was the most modern bomber built by the Japanese Navy, entering service in 1944. It was designed to fill the same role that the A-20 Havoc and Beaufighter did for the Allies, and it was able to outrun many Allied fightersat low altitude. It was also highly maneuverable for a twin engine bomber, and one Japanese veteran claimed the aicraft could even perform loops (Werneth 2008). However, relatively few were built and there were few skilled crews by the time these reached the front line.

"Frances" came out of a 1940 specification for a fast medium bomber comparable with the American B-25 Mitchell and B-26 Marauder. The design team, led by Mitsuzi Tadanao and Yamana Masao, produced a highly streamlined aircraft with a narrow cross-section and mid-mounted wings. The engine selected was the Homare, which was still under design at the time. The wings were given very large fuel tanks, but only eight of fourteen tanks were protected.  Armor was limited to a single plate behind the pilot's head and defensive armament was also very limited. It was thought that speed would be the aircraft's best defense against interception.

The prototype did not fly until the summer of 1943, but the Navy was so confident in the design that production of the G3M "Nell" was shut down in February 1943 to retool the production line for "Frances."  453 aircraft had already been produced when the Navy formally accepted the type in October 1944. Unfortunately for the Japanese, these aircraft asked too much of their maintenance crews, and reliability suffered accordingly. As a result, the aircraft did not see combat until early 1945. Those that did make it into the air impressed their Allied opponents with their performance.

The night fighter version proved disappointing due to inadequate high-altitude performance, and most were converted back to bombers or suicide aircraft.


Francillon (1979)

Werneth (2008)

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