|Tachikawa Ki-77 in US markings, 1945|
|Role||Long-range experimental aircraft|
|First flight||18 November 1942|
The Tachikawa Ki-77 was a Japanese very long-range experimental transport and communications aircraft of World War II derived from a design commissioned by a newspaper to break the flight distance record set by a rival. It was a low-wing cabin monoplane with twin piston engines and a tailwheel undercarriage.
The Ki-77 was the Japanese Army Air Force designation for the A-26, a clean, slim low wing twin engine monoplane intended for an endurance flight between New York and Tokyo. The A stood for the name of the sponsor, a newspaper Asahi Shinbun which was vying for records with a rival paper which had sponsored the Mitsubishi Ki-15 Kamikaze flight to the United Kingdom in 1937. 26 was for the 26th century of the Japanese Imperial Dynasty - 1940 was year 2600 in the Japanese calendar.
The overall design was developed under the aegis of Dr. Hidemasa Kimura of the Aeronautical Research Institute of the University of Tokyo with Tachikawa being responsible for manufacturing and detail drafting work. The layout was finalized in the Autumn of 1940 with the first flight expected in late 1941 but this was canceled with the start of the war against the United States and the reallocation of priorities. The design included a number of novel features, including a high aspect laminar flow wing for reduced drag and a sealed (unpressurized) cabin to reduce the need for oxygen masks at its intended operating altitude as well as special low drag cowlings.
Flight from Japan to Germany
In response to a flight made by an Italian Savoia-Marchetti S.M.75GA which flew to Japan in July 1942 with stops in Russia and China, the Japanese decided to forge a link with Europe, but wished to avoid Russian controlled airspace and development work was restarted. The first of two prototypes flew on 18 November 1942. The Ki-77 suffered from persistent oil cooling problems which required many changes before being solved, delaying any flight into July 1943. While working on the problem, Tachikawa built a second aircraft. The easiest route was that taken by the Italians, following the great circle route, but General Tojo opposed this because it implied a violation of Soviet airspace. Japan was not at war with the Russians and Tojo wished to avoid either provoking them or asking their permission.
Colonel Saigo considered the "Seiko" (Success) mission (as it was named) absurd and suicidal but the crew was aware of the hazards of the mission. They even had a personal dose of poison to kill themselves, if they were forced down in enemy territory. The pilot was Juukou Nagatomo, the co-pilot was Hajime Kawasaki, Kenji Tsukakoshi and Noriyoshi Nagata were flight engineers, and Motohiko Kawashima was the radio operator. They carried three Army officers as passengers, two of which were Military attaches. They departed Japan on 30 June 1943 for Singapore, where the airstrip had to be lengthened by 1,000 meters to assure a safe take-off. Finally, the A-26 took off at 7:10 on 7 July 1943 with 8 tons of fuel, ample to reach Europe. Their intended destination was the German airfield at Sarabus (now Hvardiiske, Crimea, Ukraine .) but they were to disappear over the Indian Ocean. British fighters likely intercepted them as they were aware of the flight and its route (via air grid squares 3420, 2560 and 2510) thanks to the ULTRA analysts at Bletchley Park decoding intercepted German communications to Sarabus warning of their impending arrival. Unarmed and without armour protection and with a substantial amount of fuel on board, the Ki-77 would have been vulnerable to allied fighters, even assuming no mechanical problems occurred.
Endurance Record Flight
Japan carried out a second flight to gain an endurance record and to verify the Ki-77's capabilities. The existing record had been held by the previously mentioned Savoia-Marchetti SM.75GA since 1939. Even if in 1944 the usefulness of record breaking flights was overshadowed by the necessities of war, the Japanese needed a propaganda coup and the surviving Ki-77 was available. On 2 July it flew 19 circuits over a triangular route off Manchuria, landing 57 hours 9 minutes later and covering 16,435 km at an average speed of 288.2 km/h, 3,499 km more than the SM.75's 12,936 km record. The Ki-77 landed with 800 liters remaining in the tanks of the 12,200 liters it started with, so the maximum endurance was around 18,000 km.
The Ki-77's endurance record was exceeded in October 1946 by a Lockheed P2V-1 Neptune in a flight from Perth, Australia to Columbus, Ohio of over 18,083.6 km. None of these records was internationally recognized or officiated by the FAI.
A Ki-77 was still in existence when Japan surrendered and was shipped to the United States aboard the carrier USS Bogue from Yokosuka in December 1945, arriving at Alameda, CA on January 8, 1946 for examination, before being scrapped.
First Direct Non-Stop Flight
Specifications (Tachikawa Ki-77)
Data from Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War
- Crew: 5
- Length: 15.3 m (50 ft 2 in)
- Wingspan: 29.438 m (96 ft 7 in)
- Height: 3.85 m (12 ft 8 in)
- Wing area: 79.56 m2 (856.4 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 7,237 kg (15,955 lb)
- Gross weight: 16,725 kg (36,872 lb)
- Fuel capacity: 11,155 l (2,454 imp gal)
- Powerplant: 2 × Nakajima Ha-115 14-cyl two-row air-cooled radial piston engines, 870 kW (1,170 hp) each for take-off
- 745.7 kW (1,000 hp) at 4,300 m (14,108 ft)
- Propellers: 3-bladed Constant speed metal propellers
- Maximum speed: 440 km/h (273 mph; 238 kn) at 4,600 metres (15,092 ft)
- Cruising speed: 300 km/h (186 mph; 162 kn)
- Range: 18,000 km (11,185 mi; 9,719 nmi)
- Service ceiling: 8,700 m (28,543 ft)
- Time to altitude: 6,000 metres (19,685 ft) in 24 minutes
- Wing loading: 210.2 kg/m2 (43.1 lb/sq ft)
- Power/mass: 0.104 kW/kg (0.063 hp/lb)
- "Robert Hurst" ("10 Oct 2003"). "Lesser Known JAAF Types". "Axis History Forum". Retrieved 2011-09-05.
- Various (2001). "Ki-77 Mission to Germany". Retrieved 2011-07-04.
- Various (2001). "Excort Carrier Photo Index". Retrieved 2011-09-01.
- Francillon, Rene J. (1970). Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War (1st ed.). London: Putnam & Company Ltd. pp. 262–264. ISBN 0-370-00033-1.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tachikawa Ki-77.|
- Francillon, René J. Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War. London: Putnam Aeronautical, 1979. ISBN 0-370-30251-6. (new edition 1987. ISBN 0-85177-801-1.)
- Nakazawa, Akinori and Strippoli, Roberta, '1942-43: Italiani e Giapponesi in volo per rafforzare l'Asse Roma-Tokyo', Rivista Storica magazine Coop Giornalisti Storici, Rome, n.7/94, p. 48-53
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