The Nakajima Aircraft Company was a manufacturer of various different aircraft and their components for Japan during World War II.
During the war, the Nakajima Aircraft Company produced aircraft for many different purposes and thus was one of the main suppliers of military vehicles during the war. Furthermore, the company owned several manufacturing facilities across mainland Japan from which to produce its products.
The first fighter aircraft developed by Nakajima during the war was the Nakajima A1N and its successor the Nakajima A2N. Also produced alongside them were the Nakajima Type 91 fighter, Ki-11, Ki-12, and Ki-8 prototypes, Nakajima A4N, and finally the Nakajima Ki-27. From that point on, the aircraft development of Nakajima skyrocketed, with more maneuverable and more deadly aircraft being produced at an increased pace. The first of these next generation fighters which would quickly become the frontline Japanese planes of the early war were the Nakajima Ki-43, Nakajima A6M2-N, and Nakajima Ki-44 as well as the Nakajima Ki-62 prototype. A less common addition to these second generation aircraft was the Nakajima J1N Gekkou, which was developed as a bomber escort/night fighter.
However, as the war progressed and newer more effective Allied aircraft were produced, new solutions would need to be created to deal with them. Thus, the final generation of Nakajima fighters was produced. The most famous of these would be the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate alongside the less successful J5N, Ki-87, Ki-115 and Ki-116 prototypes. However, Nakajima had also delved into the world of jet propulsion, creating the Nakajima J9Y Kikka.
Reconnaissance played a major role in the drastically shifting warfare of the Pacific. Therefore, it was imperative that advanced aircraft capable of finding the enemy and notifying friendlies were developed. To meet these needs. The Nakajima aircraft company produced several examples of excellent aircraft, the first generation of these would be the E2N, E4N, Ki-4 and E8N reconnaissance aircraft, with the E8N being the more successful during the war. Also built was the Nakajima C3N reconnaissance aircraft which although did not reach production status, lead the way for its more successful successor, the Nakajima C6N, which would be the final reconnaissance aircraft, albeit the best, produced by Nakajima during the war.
The first bomber aircraft developed by Nakajima would be the Nakajima B5N with numerous prototypes preceding it such as the failed Nakajima B3N. The "Kate" as it was codenamed would go on to be the mainstay light bomber of the early Pacific war, aided by other aircraft such as the Aichi D3A. Its heavy bomber counterpart of the day was the Nakajima Ki-49 Donryu, another critical aircraft of the early Pacific war. Prototypes such as the Nakajima G5N Shinzan were also made at that time. As the war progressed, upgraded examples were produced to deal with heavier fighter opposition, the main example being the Nakajima B6N and Nakajima G8N prototype.
The first transport aircraft produced by Nakajima was the Nakajima Ki-6, a relatively simple aircraft, yet advanced for its time. The type was still used commonly by the IJA with little problems. Replacing it would be the Nakajima Ki-34 (codenamed Thora) which was a far superior aircraft. Alongside it was the licensed built Nakajima L2D, also a crucial transport aircraft of the war. Transport aircraft development by Nakajima fundamentally ended there, with more attention being placed towards bomber and fighter aircraft.
Nakajima Aircraft was founded in 1918 by former naval engineer Chikuhei Nakajima with the help of eight others. However, the company split in 1919 with Chikuhei buying his former partner's factory. Through early prototypes, the group had gained experience and had began the creation of increasingly successful aircraft. By 1920, Nakajima Aircraft had been noticed by the IJA and experienced a boom in industry as the contracts grew larger and larger. Nakajima had eventually grown to be one of the largest companies in all Japan when the war began, producing aircraft rapidly to meet the demands of the conflict. However, like many other companies, as the endgame of World War II began, production stiffened, with materials shortages rampant and facilities becoming non-existent to bombing raids. At the end of the war, Nakajima Aircraft Co. was disbanded and formed into several smaller civilian companies.
- Odagiri, Hiroyuki. Technology and Industrial Development in Japan. Clarendon Press, (1996), Page 216