Mitsubishi Ki.46 "Dinah" [@ RAF Cosford]

One of the best reconnaissance aircraft [and one of the most elegant aircraft?] of World War II and aerodynamically one of the most perfect aircraft produced, the design of the Mitsubishi Ki.46 owed much to studies carried out by the Institute of Aeronautical Research at the University of Tokyo in 1938/39.

The 'Dinah' was so successful that Germany tried (in vain) to acquire manufacturing rights from Japan. Although fighter and ground attack versions were developed, it was in the high-altitude photographic reconnaissance role that the Ki.46 excelled. Given allied codename 'Dinah', this aircraft combined high speed with long range and was able to cover the entire Pacific theatre of operations with little opposition. Although they became vulnerable to fast-climbing Allied fighters towards the end of the war, they still managed to make many reconnaissance flights over the large, well-defended airbases in the Mariana Islands that the Americans were using for massed bomber raids against Japan in 1944 and 1945. Before the highly successful Japanese campaign against the us in Malaya, a Ki46 unit carried out detailed reconnaissance of the area. Detachments of Japanese Army Air Force Ki.46s were soon deployed to cover most of South-east Asia and their success led to the Japanese Navy operating a small number of them.

The prototype flew for the first time in November 1939 [top speed to be 64kph (40mph) lower than the requirement, although at 540kph (336mph) it was still faster than the latest Japanese fighters!] and was followed by a small production batch of 34 Ki.46-I aircraft with 900hp Mitsubishi Ha.26-I radial engines. Production then switched to the first fully operational model, the Ki.46-II, 1093 examples of which were built. A further version, the Ki.46-IIIa, appeared in 1943; this featured a redesigned all-glazed nose section, 654 being built. The Ki.46-III-Kai was an interceptor version with a ‘solid’ nose, mounting a 37mm (l.45in) cannon and either two 20mm (0.79in) cannon or two 12.7mm (0.5in) machine guns, while the similarly armed Ki.46-IIIb was a ground attack aircraft. Production of all versions totalled 1783 aircraft.