Airborne Awesomosity

Japan’s Suicidal Rocket Plane


Japan, not wanting to be outdone by their German ally, also wanted in on the rocket plane frenzy. However, due to cultural differences at the time, their rocketplane would be less fighter and more cruise missile…with a pilot.

The Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka was developed towards the end of WW2 based on a concept developed, in part, by students at the Aeronautical Research Institute at the University of Tokyo. The concept was simple. The aircraft would be carried under the wing of a Mitsubishi G4M2e “Betty” Model 24J bomber until they were within range of the target. The Ohka, which means cherry blossom, would be dropped and the pilot would glide it towards the target. Then, to get a little boost, he would light off the three Type 4 Mark 1 Model 20 solid rocket motors and guide the aircraft to the target. Up to 1200 kg of ammonal in the nose would destroy the enemy ship…and the Ohka…and the pilot.

But it was noble to die for the emperor, right?

The Ohka didn’t see combat until late 1944. In fact, one of the first attempts ended in disaster. Two aircraft carriers filled with Ohkas were sunk on their way to the Leyte Gulf by US submarines. It wasn’t until April of 1945 that the Ohka really started to see regular combat. It was decided to deploy the rocket missile plane thing from Bettys against US warships off of Okinawa. Throughout 1945 until VJ Day the Ohka attempted to sink the US fleet. On April 1, 1945 six Bettys attacked the US fleet. It was thought that one Ohka had hit the turret for the 16-inch guns of the USS West Virginia. However, post-war analysis proved this to be inaccurate. Several other ships were hit by kamikaze aircraft, but records do not indicate if they were Ohka or not. US naval commanders quickly realized the threat and increased the diameter of defense patrols. This effectively reduced the ability of the Japanese to attack with the Ohka as, more often than not, the Betty carrier craft would be shot down before it could get in range of the target ships. The ones that did, more often than not, were shot down by anti-aircraft fire or the Ohka missed the target and flew into the ocean.

The Ohka proved to be pretty ineffective at turning the US fleet away from the Emperor’s doorstep.

[Image Credit: Public Domain]

  • cruisintime

    In the end it took physics to end that War.. Bombs and bullets having failed to deter.

  • Nicknamed the Baka, Japanese for fool or idiot, by US sailors.

    • fodder650

      Yeah that's the real key here. The American name really does show the name better. Of course in combat the Betty pilots would drop them to far out from the targets because they didn't want to get in range of the gunners and fighters.

  • B72

    If your own emperor is trying to kill you, he is your enemy. If an enemy of your enemy is your friend, why on earth would you guide one of these to its target?

    If you aim for the sea, there might be a chance of survival. A very slim chance. If you aim for the target, there's no chance at all.

  • AlexiusG55

    The Germans also developed a piloted V-1 (the Reichenberg). The pilot was officially supposed to be able to bail out before it hit the target, but given that the cockpit was directly in front of the jet intake it would almost certainly have been impossible…