Empire of Japan (1944)
Rocket Powered Fighter Aircraft – 7 Built
The Suzuka 24* was an obscure rocket fighter plane developed from the Yokosuka MXY-7 “Ohka” suicide bomber. The Suzuka 24 was armed with two 20mm cannons and is speculated to have been powered by a Toko Ro.2 (KR-10) rocket. It was allegedly seen in action 3 times near the end of the Pacific War by B-29 bomber crews, but did not inflict damage and retreated shortly afterwards. A single example was found in Suzuka Airfield after the war, which led to the name “Suzuka 24”. The machine was further described in detail in a prisoner of war interrogation with two Japanese petty-officers.
Please note this article is done in collaboration with Eun Ae Sun’s (Mai_Waffentrager) Sensha blog. The article is still a work in progress as info is still being collected. The article will be updated as soon as more info is found and verified. Please also note that some of the information presented here is speculation, and will be corrected when verified sources are found.
* – The “Suzuka 24” was the American designation for the aircraft. The actual name is not yet known.
One of the most troubling machines for the Japanese during the war was the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. The B-29 could fly at high altitudes with little resistance due to the lack of performance of Japanese aircraft at such altitudes. The Japanese developed many aircraft in response to this threat such as the Ki-94-II, Ki-61-II, J8M/Ki-200 and probably the Suzuka. It is undeniable that the German technology exchange program helped the Japanese substantially in their rocket development.
It is unknown whether or not the Suzuka was developed by the Army or the Navy, but the original Ohka model was developed used exclusively by the Navy. The Army would have been a more likely designer and operator, however. The Suzuka was rumored to have been developed late 1944.
During the war, a few examples of the Suzuka were found by the US military on various airfields. The first such discovery was made by AC/AS intelligence when they photographed Suzuka Airfield and found a single example. Soon afterwards, XXI Bomber Command discovered 4 examples on photographs of an airfield in Kanoya. The photos are yet to be found.
In an interview conducted post-war of two Japanese petty officers confirmed the existence of the Suzuka. One of the interrogates described seeing the Suzuka at Yokosuka airfield in October of 1944. He described it as a “ground-launched, rocket-propelled, interceptor bomb”. The primary target seems to be Boeing B-29 Superfortresses.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that Suzuka is related to the Ohka 43B, which is incorrect. The Ohka 43B and Suzuka are two completely different machines.
The Suzuka 24’s design differed from the Ohka significantly. First, the Suzuka completely removed the warhead from the nose and replaced it with a fuel tank and two 20mm cannons were fitted. (There is debate as to whether the 20mm cannons were Ho-5 or Type 99)
The tail of the Suzuka also differed significantly from the Ohka. The tail was redesigned to accommodate the new fighter role. It featured a singular vertical stabilizer along with a horizontal stabilizer, as opposed to the Ohka’s twin vertical stabilizer. This design would have improved handling in flight. The wingspan of the Suzuka was increased by 0.5m on each side and was reinforced. This would help with maneuverability.
The engines for the Suzuka was one of the most important changes. The average Ohka Type
11 would be powered by three Navy Type 4 Mark 1 Model 20 rockets, each producing approximately 2.6 kN (590 lbf) of thrust. The Suzuka would be powered by a single Toko Ro.2 (KR-10) rocket (Japanese copy of the Walter HWK 509A rocket used in the J8M/Ki-200 interceptors) producing around 14.7 kN (3007 lbf) of thrust. The fuel capacity accommodated an estimated 7 minutes worth of fuel.
The Suzuka 24 would have been launched from a ramp, and is unknown whether or not it had landing gear.
Highlights of the Aircraft’s Service Record
There were a total of three different alleged combat encounters of the Suzuka 24 near the end of the war.
The first encounter occurred on April 3rd of 1945 during a B-29 raid on the Tachikawa Aircraft Factory. A B-29 crew reported seeing a “ball of fire” at their 5 o’clock closing in behind them.The B-29 pulled quick evasive turning maneuvers while lowering their altitude. The “ball of fire” quickly closed in on the lost distance, but suddenly turned back a few seconds later. One of the crew members reported that he saw a stream of fire following the object, and faded when the object turned. The blister gunner reported seeing a wing attached to the object, and what seemed to be a navigational light burning on the wing’s left tip.
The second encounter occurred during a raid near Tokyo Bay. A B-29 crew member reported seeing a “ball of fire” following it at approximately 4,000ft (1,220m) while the bomber was at approximately 7,000ft (2,130m). The B-29 began evasive maneuvers right away, gaining and losing 500ft (152m) quickly. It also changed its course by 35 degrees, and increased the airspeed from 205mph (330km/h) to 250mph (402km/h). The B-29 crew lost sight of the “ball of fire” three times as it was flying through the clouds but to their surprise, found it sitting on their tail when the B-29 came out of the clouds. The “ball of fire” followed the B-29 for approximately 5 miles (8km) across Tokyo bay before turning around.
The third encounter supposedly happened at night, a waist gunner of a B-29 at 8,000ft (2,440m) reported seeing what was thought at first to be light from an amber colored searchlight. The light gained altitude and followed the B-29. The pilots then climbed to 12,000ft (3,660m) and then came down to 10,000ft (3,050m) but the light followed. The radar operator then picked up an object trailing behind the B-29 at approximately 1 mile (1.6km) behind. Shortly afterwards, the tail gunner reported seeing a stream of fire emanating from the pursuing object. The fire appeared to be coming out in bursts, with each burst measuring approximately 24 inches (61cm) with a 6 inch (15cm) break between each burst from the gunner’s perspective. The fire kept emanating for about 7 minutes before ceasing for good. The B-29 continued through evasive maneuvers, but the object kept on following. The object was last seen about 30 miles beyond the coast line above the ocean.
- Empire of Japan – The designer of the Suzuka 24 is unclear, but it’s speculated to be either the Imperial Army Air Service or the Imperial Naval Air Service. It was rumored to have seen action in the closing stages of the war.
|Wingspan||Estimated 20 feet / 6.097m|
|Length||Estimated 20 feet / 6.097m|
|Engine||Speculated to be 1x Toko Ro.2 (KR-10) rocket – 3,307 lbs / 1,500kg thrust|
|Fuel Capacity||7 minutes|
|Climb Rate||Estimated 10,000ft / 3,050km per minute|
|Maximum Glide Speed||Estimated 520mph / 840km/h|
|Maximum Service Ceiling||Estimated 32,000ft / 9,755m|
|Armament||2x 20mm Ho-5 or Type 99 cannons* (60 or 150 rpg)
*- It is unknown which of the two would have been used.
US Intel Report No. 63a-6 Rocket Powered Aircraft (Tech. No. 63a-6). (n.d.).
US Intel Report Report No. 9-a-60 Rocket Plane “Ball of Fire” (Tech. No. 9-a-60). (n.d.).
“R.A Liaison Letter, July 1945 .”