The Japanese embarked bombers: the Aichi D3A

(To Francesco Sisto)

The Aichi D3A – Val to the Allies – was an important embarked dive bomber employed by the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.

In 1936, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a tender for the construction of a dive bomber with modern characteristics, to be embarked on aircraft carriers.

The first Aichi prototype took to the skies for the first time in January 1938, and gave reasonable results. In fact, the aircraft demonstrated significant structural solidity and good maneuverability. In the end, Aichi won the competition held.

The vehicle entered service starting from 1939/40.

Overall, more than 1400 examples were made over the years (including numerous variants).

In this regard, Giorgio Bonacina writes: “Aesthetically elegant, although with a fixed undercarriage, the Val – apart from its weak loading capabilities – was better than its more famous European colleague, the German Stuka”1.

The Aichi D3A1 had its baptism of fire in November 1939, during the Second Sino-Japanese War (7 July 1937 - 2 September 1945). Furthermore, in 1940 the aircraft began qualification trials aboard the aircraft carriers Akagi and Kaga.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese assault force launched an attack on Pearl Harbor with 360 planes (of the 360 ​​Japanese planes that hit Pearl Harbor, more than 100 were Aichi D3A1s); 4 of the 8 US battleships were sunk, 1 was run aground, and the others were seriously damaged. In just over an hour the Japanese Empire had secured control of the Pacific.

“Thanks to this deadly blow, the way was clear for an uninterrupted series of seaborne invasions of US, British and Dutch territories in the Pacific Ocean. While the main Japanese assault force was still sailing toward the Hawaiian Islands, other naval forces were escorting convoys of troop-laden ships into the Southwest Pacific. Almost simultaneously with the air attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese troops began landing on the Malacca Peninsula and in the Philippines."2.

It is worth remembering that the Aichi D3A was the first Japanese aircraft to carry out raids on US targets during the Second World War! What's more, i Val they proved to be fearsome aircraft.

The bombers Val, during the war, they took part in numerous air-naval operations, including: the raid in the Indian Ocean (31 March-10 April 1942), the Battle of the Coral Sea (4-8 May 1942), the Battle of Midway (4-7 June 1942) (see article "The War in the Pacific: The Battle of the Midways (1942)"), the Battle of the Eastern Solomons (24-25 August 1942) and the Battle of Santa Cruz (25-27 October 1942).

However, starting in 1943 their contribution to the conflict began to decline. Nonetheless, they continued to take part in the operations.

Some examples of Aichi D3A - towards the last years of the war - were used as aircraft kamikaze, while others were sent to training schools.

Overall, it can be stated that i Val they proved to be aircraft of excellent quality and first-rate fighters3. Furthermore, they sank – during the conflict – more Allied warships than any other Axis aircraft.

The Aichi D3A2 (model 22) had a wingspan of 14,365 m, height of 3,847 m, length of 10,95 m. The empty weight was 2570 kg, while fully loaded 3800 kg.

Engine: 1 Mitsubishi Kinsei, power 1300 HP.

The maximum speed was 430 km/h at 6200 m, while the cruising speed was 296 km/h at 3000 m. The ceiling altitude was 10500 m.

The armament consisted of Type 97 and Type 92 aircraft machine guns. In addition, it could carry one 250 kg bomb and two 60 kg bombs.

The aircraft could count on a crew of 2 men.

1 G. Bonacina, The Aichi D3A Val, in Illustrated History n°182, 1973, p.129

2 See BH Liddell Hart, Military History of the Second World War. The armies, the fronts and the battles, Mondadori, Milan, 2021, p.271

3 See G. Bonacina, ibidem

Photo: web / US Navy