Two planes fielded by the Japanese late in WWII, the Kawanishi N1K1-J and N1K2-J fighters, became popular with the Japanese military, despite having an unusual development history.
In the history of aircraft design, it hasn’t been that unusual for land-based planes to be converted into seaplanes. It’s a natural step from the more familiar role to a somewhat more unusual one, removing wheels, adding floats, and making other adaptations.
For the Kawanishi N1K1-J, however, the pattern was the other way around. The N1K1-J Kyofu (meaning “mighty wind”) was a seaplane fighter. It was successful enough to be adapted into the land-based N1K1-J Shiden (meaning “violet lightning”).
By the time the N1K1-J Shiden went into production, the tide of war had already turned against Japan. The Allies, particularly the Americans, were pushing them back across the Pacific, island by island. On the mainland, the Chinese kept fighting with the help…
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