Osprey's Nakajima B5N Kate and B6N Jill Units

Author:

Mark Chambers/Tony Holmes

Publisher/Distributor

Osprey Publishing

Price

$23.00 MSRP

Reviewer:

Scott Van Aken

Notes: 96 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-1874-4

One could easily make a case that the Nakajima B5N, later code named 'Kate', was the best naval carrier based torpedo bomber of its time. It certainly had everything that the IJN needed; it was relatively fast, had great range, carried the world's best aerial torpedo, and was capable of performing level bombing and reconnaissance as well. While initial production models were lacking in engine power, the modified version that was built in the greatest numbers, had an improved and more powerful engine.

The aircraft quickly supplanted biplane torpedo aircraft and even though Mitsubishi produced a short run of similar planes, it was deficient in almost all categories as the Nakajima plane so production was quickly halted.

Initially operated in the war with China, it was paramount in the success at Pearl Harbor and at several other early naval battles against the US fleet. However, the Kate had its issues. In order to produce its superb range and its speed, it lacked decent armor protection for its crew or its fuel tanks. This meant that when it was successfully attacked, it easily caught fire or had its crew killed.

As the war progressed, the Kate edged towards obsolescence, but Nakajima was working on a replacement. This was the B6N, code named Jill. Every aspect of the earlier plane was improved. It had more power, greater range, protection for fuel tanks and crew, but by the time it entered service, the war situation had changed. Gone were most of the experienced crew. Allied (as in US) airpower was very strong and the plane simply could not operate efficiently in the threat environment of the time. Like the Kate, many Jill airframes were expended in suicide attacks in the last year of the war, never able to fully operate as intended.

In this book, the authors cover the history and development of both types as well as the various campaigns in which they were utilized. Not surprisingly, most of the photos taken of these planes are either post war or ones from the vessels they were attacking. Apparently the Japanese did not photograph the planes a lot or if they did, most were destroyed in the mass record destruction that occured at the end of the war. The book does include several pages of superbly done color profiles that are most welcome and a feature of this series. It is an interesting look at these types and their battle history. A book that fans of WWII Japanese planes really need to have on their reference shelves. 

June 2017 

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