The Nakajima Ki-115 'Tsurugi' (Sword) was designed from the outset as a disposable (suicide) aircraft. The major impetus in building this aircraft was the perceived lack of available obsolete aircraft to use in kamikaze attacks should the Allies invade the home islands. This aircraft had to carry a decent bomb load, and use non-strategic materials (mostly wood and steel). While the initial batch were made from aluminum, the follow on aircraft were to primarily be made of wood and steel.
Additionally, the aircraft was to be able to accept a number of different powerplants. The initial production aircraft (Ki-115a) were powered by 1,150 hp Nakajima Ha-35 radial engines. The offensive load of one 250, 500, or 800 Kg bomb, was carried in a recess under the forward fuselage. Flight testing began less than three months after the initial proposal in March 1945. The aircraft was to use a droppable main landing gear to save weight, so a simple welded steel tube landing gear was attached to the aircraft (see the photo above). This rigid gear combined with poor cockpit visibility presented major ground handling difficulties for the poorly trained pilots who would be flying the aircraft. By the end of testing in June 1945, improved landing gear and auxiliary flaps, attached to the trailing edge of the wing, were added. Provisions were also made in all 104 production aircraft, for the attachment of two rocket assist take-off units.
While none were operational, two were sent to the Showa Aircraft Company to use as pattern aircraft for a proposed naval version of the Tsurugi. An improved version, the Ki-115b, was to have longer span wooden wings and tail surfaces. A three-view of the aircraft is shown below.
The only surviving copy of this unique aircraft is at the Garber Facility of the National Air and Space Museum. It is disassembled and covered in preservative, sitting on a dolly in hopes of future restoration. Needless to say, it is not high on the list of aircraft that need to be preserved and will undoubtedly languish in the warehouse for several more decades before any work is done on it.
Thanks to the kindness of Col. Scott Willey, a volunteer worker at the facility, we now have photos of this aircraft to show you. Most are of the cockpit as that was the focus of my initial inquiry, but enough can be seen of the rest of the airframe to give you an idea of what this interesting aircraft was like.
A note on the images. In order to give good detail, I have kept the images large. To help you find your way around the aircraft, I have used thumbnails and an image guide. Again, these are large .jpgs so will probably take a while to load. Things to look for are the use of wood in the cockpit and the very simple instrument panel and wiring on this aircraft. The aircraft is aluminum, but the preservatives have colored the airframe quite a bit. The ailerons are silver painted fabric and the national insignia is only on the top and bottom of one wing; the fuselage and other wing being devoid of insignia. In a shot of the tail you can see the number 1002; perhaps a serial number?
To the image guide