The Kawasaki Ki-78 was a high-speed research aircraft that failed to live up to expectations, but that did introduce a number of features new to the Japanese aircraft industry.
The aircraft began life as a civil research project, the KEN III (Kensan III or Research III), at the University of Tokyo, in 1938. Work on the design progressed slowly, and a wooden mock-up wasn't completed until May 1941. Kawasaki were then brought into the project and asked to produce two prototypes, only one of which was completed. Work on this first prototype began in September 1941, but after the Japanese entry into the war the project was taken over by the Army, and the design was given the specification Ki-78.
The Ki-78 was powered by an imported Daimler-Benz DB 601A 12-cylinder liquid cooled engine. From the side the aircraft had a similar profile to most aircraft that used this engine, with a long nose and slightly low-mounted propeller (although the cock-pit was almost flush to the fuselage), but from the front its small dimensions became apparent. The fuselage was designed to have the smallest cross section possible (similar to the approach taken by Messerschmitt on the Bf 109), and the small size of the wings also became apparent. The Ki-78 had a wingspan of 26ft 2 31/32in and a wing area of 118.4 sq ft. In contrast the Bf 109 had a wingspan of 32ft 4 1/2in and a wing area of 174 sq ft, and yet was still originally seen as having a small wing.
Engine cooling was provided by two radiators mounted on the rear fuselage, each with a small air intact sticking slightly out from the fuselage. Further cooling was provided by a fan driven by a small turbine. The engine provide 1,175hp normally, or 1,550hp with water-methanol injection (one of the features new to the Japanese aircraft industry). The small wings had a laminar flow section, and were given Fowler flaps, split flaps and drooping ailerons in an attempt to lower the landing speed.
The prototype made its maiden flight on 26 December 1942. It was heavier than expected, increasing the wing loading. The landing speed was also higher than expected, at 106mph, and the aircraft were very difficult to fly at lower speeds. Its performance was also disappointing. The original aim had been to reach 850km/hr (528mph), but the aircraft never got anywhere near this speed. Its best performance came on its 31st test flight, on 27 December 1943, almost exactly one year after the maiden flight. Even then it could only reach 434.9mph. One more test flight was conducted, on 11 January 1944, and after that work on the project was suspended.
Engine: Daimler Benz DB 601A
Power: 1,175hp normally, 1,550hp with boost
Wing span: 25ft 2 31/32in
Length: 26ft 7in
Height: 10ft 7/8in
Empty Weight: 4,255lb
Loaded Weight: 5,071lb
Max Speed: 435mph at 11,485ft
Range: 373 miles
Japanese Aircraft of WWII
Begun in 1938 as a civil project for use in a high-speed research programme and for a contemplated attempt on to break the world air speed record, the KEN III (indicating Kensan III or Research III) project was taken over by the Imperial Japanese Army under the Ki-78 designation upon Japan's entry into the war.
Designed by a team from the Aeronautical Research Institute of the University of Tokyo, led by Shoroku Wada and comprising Mineo Yamamoto (fuselage design), Eichiro Tani (wing design) and Seichi Kurino and Shojiro Nomura (engine installation), the Ki-78 introduced several advanced design features not previously used by the Japanese aircraft industry. To minimize drag a fuselage of minimum cross section was designed and a laminar flow section was adopted for the wings. As the wing area was remarkably small, 11 sq m (118.404 sq ft), a combination of Fowler and split flaps and drooping ailerons was selected to reduce landing speed. An imported 1,175 hp Daimler-Benz DB 601A twelve-cylinder inverted-vee liquid-cooled engine was selected to power the aircraft and was modified to incorporate a system of water-methanol injection - the first such device used in Japan - to momentarily boost its power to 1,550 hp. Radiators of small frontal area were mounted on each side of the rear fuselage, and a fan, driven by a 60 hp turbine, was used to improve cooling.
A wooden mock-up of the KEN III was completed in May 1944 and production of two prototypes was entrusted to Kawasaki, where Isamu Imashi took charge of the project. Eventually only the first prototype, construction of which had begun at Gifu in September 1941, was completed and this aircraft first flew on 26 December, 1942. It was found extremely difficult to fly at low speeds, and take-off and landing speeds were respectively 205 km/h (127 mph) and 170 km/h (106 mph). Furthermore, loaded weight and wing loading exceeded calculated values and elevator flutter was experienced at 635 km/h (395 mph). On 27 December, 1943, during its 31st flight, the Ki-78 reached a maximum speed of 699.6 km/h (434.9 mph) at 3,527 m (11,539 ft). This was considerably less than the speed of 850 km/h (528 mph) which had been set as the ultimate goal for the programme. To achieve the calculated performance too many airframe and engine modifications were required and the flight trials of the Ki-78 were suspended after the 32nd flight, on 11 January, 1944.
Manufacturer: Kawasaki Kokuki Kogyo KK (Kawasaki Aircraft Engineering Co Ltd).
Type: Single-engined high-speed research aircraft.
Crew (1): Pilot in enclosed cockpit.
Powerplant: One Daimler-Benz DB 601A twelve-cylinder inverted-vee liquid-cooled inline engine, driving a three-blade metal propeller.
Dimensions: Span 8 m (26 ft 2 31/32 in) length 8.1 m (26 ft 6 29/32 in) height 3.07 m (10 ft 0 7/8 in) wing area 11 sq m (118.403 sq ft).
Weights: Empty 1,930 kg (4,255 lb) loaded 2,300 kg (5,071 lb) wing loading 209 kg/sq m (42.8 lb/sq ft) power loading 2 kg/hp (4.4 lb/hp).
Performance: Maximum speed 700 km/h (435 mph) at 3,500 m (11,485 ft) ceiling 8,000 m (26,245 ft) range 600 km (373 miles).
Production: One Ki-78 was completed by Kawasaki Kokuki Kogyo KK, at the Gifu plant in December 1942.
This is definitely a turning point of the airbattle over the Pacific if these planes were produced earlier.fly that fast
Incredible Find Nick and thankyou for posting it.
The Air Nautical Gents will love this hidden find.
I find it incredible that a propeller driven plane could fly that fast.
It is not the size of a Collection in History that matters. Its the size of your Passion for it!! - Larry C
One never knows what tree roots push to the surface of what laid buried before the tree was planted - Larry C
“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” - Winston Churchill
The Kawasaki Ki-78 KEN III research plane
At first glance, this airplane can easily be mistaken for a modified version of the Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien fighter. In fact, it was no fighter a all, but a high-speed research plane to investigate laminar profile wings with a very high wing-loading. It was also the intention to break the world speed record. Initiated before the outbreak of the second world war, it never performed as expected!
Early 1938 a high-speed research program was started for a small single-seat airplane with the designation KEN III, where KEN stood for Kensan, the Japanese word for ‘Research’ .It was a mutual project of the Aeronautical research institute of the university of Tokyo and Kawasaki to investigate flying behaviour at very high speed. It was also the intention to use the new plane for setting a new world record for speed. Responsible for the design of the new record plane were Shoroku Wada as team leader and Mineao Yamamoto for the fuselage design. Further, Eichiro Tani and Seichi Kurino were responsible for wing design and engine installation respectively.
The new plane featured a well-streamlined fuselage fitted with a licence-build German Daimler-Benz DB 601A engine. For extra power, methanol/water injection was used. All-metal construction was used in combination with a small and thin wing with a laminar flow profile with a knife-sharp leading edge. With its very small wing area of only 11 m2, new lift devices were used that were never used before on Japanese planes. To reduce the landing speed, a combination of Fowler and split flaps were used. To give the Daimler-Benz engine sufficient cooling, two shallow cooling ducts were fitted on each side of the rear fuselage. To give the cooling air a good airflow, a ram-air feeding system was developed using a cooling fan driven by a 60 hp engine.
By the outbreak of the war, the whole project was taken over by the Imperial Japanese Army, who gave it the military type designation Ki-78. The full-size mock-up of the Ki-78 was completed in May 1941.
Under supervision of Isamu Imashi Kawasaki received the order to build two prototypes of the Ki-78. Construction was started in September 1941. The first was completed in the Gifu factory more than a year later. It was flown for the first time on 26 December 1942. At the low end of the flight envelope, the Ki-78 was found to have very tricky stall characteristics. Further it was found to be difficult to fly. Take-off speed was an incredible 205 km/h, while the landing speed was 170 km/h in spite of the use of the high-lift devices. At high speed, flutter of the elevon was encountered above 600 km/h. This was more or less cured by fitting a horn-balance. In April 1943 full-speed flight performance testing could be started, however with disappointing results. Instead of an expected maximum speed of 850 km/h, highest speed measured was 700 km/h at 3527 m at its 31st flight on 27 December 1943. The flight performance program was terminated in December 1943.
A feasibility study to improve the KI-78 flight performances showed that extensive airframe modifications were needed and as a consequence the project was officially terminated after the 32nd flight on 11 January 1944.
The second Ki-78 was never built.
Power plant: Daimler-Benz DB-601A 12-cilinder liquid-cooled inverted V engine of 1175 hp up-rated to produce for a short period 1550 hp with water/methanol injection
-wingspan: 8.00 m
-length: 8.10 m
Wing surface: 11.00 m2
Wing loading: 207.1 kg/m2
Empty weight: 1930 kg
Loaded weight: 2300 kg
max. speed: 700 km/h at 3500 m
service ceiling: 8000 m
range: 600 km
Accommodation: pilot only
References: -Reneé Francillon, Japanese aircraft of the Pacific War, Putnam & Company, London , 1979.
Tips for the model builders:
The Czech mark Planet offers at 1/72 scale a resin model of the little known Ki-78. Further, the Japanese mark Aosima has a model kit at 1/48 scale.
-The Daimler-Benz DB 601A was licence-manufactured by Kawasaki as the Ha.140.
-The Kawasaki KI-61 Hien had nothing in common with the Ki-78 design except for its engine! It was a totally different design.
Kawasaki Ki-78 - History
Model box artwork
This aircraft project began in 1938 as a civil aircraft for use in a high-speed research program and for a possible attempt to break the world speed record. After being taken over as a Japanese Army air force project it received the designation Ki-78. Only one prototype was completed, and it first flew on December 26, 1942. Poor handling characteristics and a lower top speed than desired (434 mph versus 528 mph anticipated) led to a cancellation of the project in 1944.
For a very nice scale color drawing of this aircraft, see here .
Additional color schemes for this aircraft can be found here.
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Aviation of Word War II
Ki-78 Ken III (Kensan III) is an experimental high-speed aircraft designed to study the properties of a laminar wing at high wing loads. In early 1938, a high-speed research program for a small single-seat aircraft was launched at the Institute of Aviation Research, University of Tokyo.
To achieve record speed, an all-metal construction was used in combination with a small, thin wing with a laminar flow profile and a sharp leading edge. The aircraft used a streamlined fuselage with a minimal midship. To reduce the landing speed and improve controllability at low flight speeds, the wing was equipped with hovering ailerons and a combination of slotted flaps and Fowler flaps, which was used for the first time on Japanese aircraft.
A licensed Daimler-Benz DB 601A engine was installed as a power plant. For a short-term increase in power, injection of a water-methanol mixture was used, and the cooling of the radiator was enhanced by a fan driven by a turbine, taken for cooling power of 45 kW (60 hp).
The first flight of the Ki-78 took place on December 26, 1942, during which poor controllability at low flight speeds and extremely low stall characteristics were discovered. The aircraft turned out to be heavier than in the design and estimate documentation, which increased the already high specific wing loading. Even with special flaps, takeoff and landing speeds remained high and reached 205 km / h and 170 km / h, respectively. In addition, at a relatively low speed of 635 km / h, elevator flutter was detected, to eliminate it, horn compensation was installed on the rudders.
Flight speed tests began in April 1943, and in the 31st flight, December 27, Ki-78 at an altitude of 3527 m developed a maximum speed of 699.6 km/h, which was significantly less than the expected speed of 850 km / h. Research has shown that significant modifications to the airframe were necessary to improve the Ki-78's flight characteristics, and as a result, after the thirty-second flight, on January 11, 1944, the Ki-78 test program was officially terminated. The second Ki-78 was never completed.
У 1938 році в Японії почалась розробка експериментального швидкісного літака, здатного побити світовий рекорд швидкості. Літак отримав назву KEN III (скорочення від «Kensan III» (укр. Дослідження III)), а з початком війни на Тихому океані викликав зацікавлення Імперської армії Японії, де отримав назву Ki-78.
Розробку літака здійснювала команда інженерів з авіаційного дослідного інституту Токійського університету під керівництвом Шороку Вада. Іншими членами команди були Мінео Ямамото (який відповідав за розробку фюзеляжу), Ечіро Тані (розробка крил), Сейчі Куріно і Шоджіро Номура (двигун). На літаку використовувався ряд новинок, що досі не зустрічались на японських літаках. Фюзеляж мав мінімальний профіль, профіль крила був ламінарний. Через невелику площу крила (11 м²) механізація крила включала закрилки Фаулера та елерони. Літак був оснащений імпортним 12-ти циліндровим двигуном Daimler-Benz DB 601A V-12, який був обладнаний системою вприскування водно-метанолової суміші, що дозволяло на короткий час підіймати потужність до 1550 к.с. Радіатори мінімального перерізу були змонтовані по боках фюзеляжу за крилом, для кращого охолодження яких використовувався окремий вентилятор потужністю в 60 к.с.
Дерев'яний макет KEN III був готовий у травні 1941 року. Випуск двох перших прототипів був покладений на Kawasaki, які почали роботу у вересні 1941 року. Проте тільки один був готовий до 26 грудня 1942 року. Випробування показали, що літак був дуже погано керований на малих швидкостях, а швидкість зльоту була 205 км/год, а посадкова — 170 км/год, злітна маса та навантаження на крило більші розрахункових. 27 грудня 1943 року, під час 31-го польоту була досягнута швидкість 700 км/г. Це було набагато менше замовлених 850 км/г — основної мети розробки. Для досягнення цієї швидкості потрібні були серйозні переробки планета та двигуна. Тому після 32-польоту 11 січня 1944 року всі роботи по літаку були припинені. 
Kawasaki Ki-78 - History
This superb site is subtitled Experimental Jet, Rocket, & Prop Aircraft of the I.J.N. & I.J.A.. It covers in great depth the exotic and advanced aircraft Japan sought to field in the waning weeks of the war. I have to admit I bias toward an interest in these aircraft. Some have roots in German designs, while others were purely of Japanese origin.
The introductory page to the site is:
However, it is best to go to the index page (which contains the same introductory remarks) to actually get access to the site, itself, either at:
Again, I'm going to be selective in commenting only on those non-piston engined aircraft of Japanese origin or any Luftwaffe aircraft that Ed has on his site. He has much more than this, for those that are interested. I have, at least listed them. With that caveat, the sections are:
<U>Kawanishi Baika</U> - With heritage from the piloted German V-1, the Fi 103, an excellent history of both plus the mention of the Me 328 is given, along with photos and color profiles.
<U>Mitsubishi J8M Shusui</U> - Closely based on the Me 163, a cross history of the two aircraft are given along with photos. There are 5 color photos of the Shusui in the Planes of Fame museum in Chino, CA, and a link to 4 excellent color computer graphic renditions of the Shusui. A second Shusui was found in a cave in Japan and there is a link to an article about this with 6 color photos and a drawing.
<U>Mizuno Shinryu</U> - A rocket powered special attack glider. The functional purpose of the rockets seems in doubt. Ed has provided an interesting article on this enigmatic aircraft, whose mission seems similar to other powered, manned bombs. Color drawings and a 4-view plan are provided.
<U>Nakajima Kikka</U> - Having a similar configuration to the Me 262, this aircraft is only loosely related to it. Ed presents an interesting interweaving tale of the history of the two aircraft. Two color drawings, 9 b&w photos, 1 3-view drawing, and 1 table cross comparing with the Me 262. There are also 1 color photo of a Kikka and 2 of its Ne 20 engine at the NASM Garber Facility in Silver Hill, MD. A link to another related site is provided.
<U>Yokosuka MXY7 Ohka Model 22, Model 33, Model 43 series, and Model 53</U> - Article on a series of manned, powered bombs. Eight b&w photos side view line drawings of Models 11, 22, & 43 K-1 KAI, 3-view line & color drawings of Model 22 1 color profile of Model 43 K-1 KAI and table of specifications of Models 22 & 43B. Link to related website.
Propeller driven aircraft covered are:
Kyushu J7W Shinden
Mitsubishi J4M1 Senden
Nakajima G10N1 Fugaku
Yokosuka R2Y Keiun
<U>Nakajima Ki-201 Karyu</U> - Very close approximation to the Me 262. Article with 1 color drawing, 1 b&w profile, 1 3-view line drawing, 1 fictionalized license-built Me 262 color profile, and table cross comparing Me 262, Kikka, and Ki-201.
<U>Rikugun Ki-202 Shusui-Kai</U> - Article on the Army's version of the Me 163. Three-view line drawing and table cross comparing the Me 163, J8M1, and Ki-202.
Propeller driven aircraft covered are:
Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryu Variants ( Ki-67-I KAI, Ki-67 Sakura-dan, Ki-67 long range ground attacker, Ki-109 )
<U>Junkers Ju488</U> - Article with isometric and 3-view line drawing. Japanese connection was that license was offered to the Japanese, but rejected.
<U>Focke-Wulf Ta 152</U> - Article with 1 B&w photo and specifica
A Full-Scale Entry into the European Market
In the early 1990s, Kawasaki headed to Europe in search of a new market. In 1989, overseas representatives were dispatched to Amsterdam in the Netherlands where the Kawasaki European office was located. In 1991, a local office within Kawasaki Motors UK (KMUK) in London, England was established. In addition to grasping a clue for entry into the European automobile industry, Kawasaki looked into building a business foothold in the European market with an expectation of introducing robots in other industries. Soon after, in November 1995, the local subsidiary Kawasaki Robotics GmbH (KRG) was established in Germany. And in 1996, the Robotics Department in the London office would become independent, leading to the establishment of Kawasaki Robotics (UK), Ltd (KRUK). Kawasaki was reinforcing its European service and sales network.
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Kawasaki Ki-78: Fast where it shouldn’t be.
This alluring high-speed research aircraft was started as a civilian project named the KEN III (Kensan III or Research III) by the University of Tokyo in 1938. By 1941, in view the speed potential of the design and, maybe, the prestige involved in attaining the World Speed Record the project was put in the hands of the Kawasaki company. Two prototypes were ordered, but only one was completed. It made its maiden flight on Dec. 1942. Overweight and with a dangerous high-wing loading accordingly, the Ki-78 proved to be dangerous at low speeds and also not fast enough. All work stopped in early 1944.
Such a gorgeous little gem with the typical Daimler-Benz DB 601A nose style and cool ridiculously short laminar-flow wings. Of notice the pair of “gills” on the rear fuselage which provided the cooling air for the two engine radiators, equipped also with a fan driven by a small turbine. Awesome.