Stratus' Mitsubishi Babs Vol 1


Showzow Abe & Giuseppe Picarella




$62.00 from


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 192 pages, Hardback
ISBN: 978-83-66549-73-9

Subtitled 'the world's first high speed strategic reconnaissance aircraft', the Mitsubishi Karigane was started as a venture to get the Army interested in a long range reconnaissance aircraft that was fast enough to outrun enemy fighters. 

Strategic reconnaissance was something that was foreign to the Japanese Army. All they really wanted was tactical reconnaissance aircraft that would operate in the immediate battlefield area in direct support of the army. The thought of sending aircraft far over enemy territory didn't seem like it would be useful.

Mitsubishi had always had a fairly strong relationship with the Army, as had Nakajima. Both had designed rather staid biplane designs that were successful in the roles for which they were designed. These planes were also fairly slow and needed protection of fighters if operation in places where the army air forces did not have air superiority.

Fortunately for Mitsubishi, they had friends in high places who would be useful in helping to put through radical ideas, such as a high speed, long range, monoplane reconnaissance platform. So the army decided to give it a go and, after seeing the success of what became the A5M for the Navy, gave them the opportunity to build a couple of prototypes. A major drawback was that Mitsubishi's own engine simply wasn't powerful enough so they went with one from competitor Nakajima. A good choice as the engine chosen not only provided sufficient power, but was also super reliable.

Army brass was impressed, but still didn't know what to do with the airplane. At this time, the newspaper Asahi Press approached the army about borrowing a pair of prototype planes for a long range flight. The newspaper wanted to sell papers and a record breaking long distance flight was one way to do it. The army agreed and so the second prototype was repainted and named 'Kamikaze', the result of a contest to name the plane (which also sold more papers). The flight to London was a huge success and set an international record, the first for Japan. The result of this awakened the army to the usefulness of the aircraft and after testing in China under operational conditions, the rest is history.

This book is the most comprehensive history of the type ever done. In addition to the history of Japanese reconnaissance planes, and the development of the type, the story of the Kamikaze's flight is fully covered. This is followed by the further development of the airframe along with its wartime use and the various units that operated the aircraft. The book is full of some great profiles as well as brief unit histories and the markings carried by the aircraft. In all, it is a fascinating look at what is very much the first strategic recon plane ever built. It had a considerable influence in what was going on in this regard in other nations, who mostly modified existing fighters to fulfill the role.

It is an excellent history of this interesting aircraft and a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I know you will like it as well. Most highly recommended. 

October 2022

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