Design of the J2M Raiden (Lightning Bolt) began in 1938. But almost five years passed before The Imperial Japanese Navy issued a request for a land-based interceptor, for which the Raiden (Allied code name Jack) was suited. It was the first time the Japanese military had identified the need for a true interceptor type aircraft capable of high speed, dive and climb characteristics similar to those of the A6M Reisen, but with heavier armament and longer operation at combat speeds. The aircraft was needed to intercept the Allied heavy bombers that were anticipated as the war progressed.
The first of three prototypes took to the air in March of 1942 and many design issues were found. Among them were problems with the retractable landing gear and the engine and prop combination. Numerous modifications were required, including changing to the Kasei 23 engine which produced 1,800 hp and included water and gas injection for emergency combat power.
It wasn't until December 1942 that all of the problems were believed solved and the aircraft went into production. Manufacturing was quickly halted until the causes of several crashes were determined. It was found that the tail wheel locking mechanism, when set after takeoff, caused the controls to be locked into the dive position.
Although only 476 Raidens of all types were produced, the type remained in service until the end of the war and was responsible for downing several Allied bombers.
Planes of Fame Air Museum's aircraft is the sole Mitsubishi J2M Raiden survivor, a J2M3 variant.
Manufactured in Nagoya, Japan and delivered in March 1944, the Museum’s J2M3 Raiden is a World War II veteran. The fourteenth J2M3 produced at the Mitsubishi Airframe Works No. 1, it eventually served with the 302nd Kokutai (Squadron) at Atsugi Airdrome in Japan. Following the Japanese surrender in September 1945, the aircraft was sent to the U.S. for performance tests. It was later acquired by the Frank Wiggins Trade School in Los Angeles as an instructional airframe. By 1952, the aircraft was an attraction at Travel Town in Griffith Park. It was donated to the Museum by the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department.
Status: Static Display
Manufacturer: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Model: J2M3 Raiden (Allied name: Jack)
Serial Number: 3014
Max T/O Weight: 8,699 lb.
Span: 35 ft. 5 in.
Length: 31 ft. 9 in.
Height: 12 ft. 6 in.
Maximum Speed: 407 mph
Cruise Speed: 228 mph
Rate of Climb: 3,838 ft/min
Power Plant: 1 x Mitsubishi MK4R-A Kasei23a 14-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 1,820 hp.