Because of the need to replace both the Nakajima B6N Tenzan torpedo plane and the Yokosuka D4Y Suisei dive bomber, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) decided in 1941 to design and produce the Aichi B7A Ryusei. Nicknamed as “Grace” by the Allied Forces, this WW2 Japanese aircraft was a large and powerful aircraft that can both perform the duties of a dive and a torpedo bomber.
The B7A Ryusei was manufactured by the Aichi aircraft firm and its first prototype was flown in May 1942. However, production of this WW2 Japanese aircraft did not start until 1944 because of problems with the delivery of the engines. This made it too late for the B74 Ryusei to affect the outcome of the war since all IJN aircraft carriers during that time had either been sunk or damaged by Allied Forces. Only 105 aircrafts were produced during World War 2.
The B74 Ryusei “Grace” was designed as a single engine, mid-monoplane design with accommodations for a two-man crew. The underside of the plane was designed to carry a single 1,764-lb torpedo or can be converted to carry two 250 kg bombs instead, a provision that was not present in any other WW2 Japanese aircraft of that time. In addition, the leading wing edges of the B74 Ryusei were mounted with two fixed forward-firing 20 mm cannons. The rear cockpit was also equipped with a single defensive 13 mm machine gun.
The B7A Ryusei, which in translation means “Shooting Star”, failed to live up to its full perceived potential. Despite being a large and heavy bomber plane, the B74 “Shooting Star” displayed handling and performance comparable to the Mitsubishi Zero fighters which were also in service during WW2. Most war experts believed that the outcome of the war could have been different had this WW2 Japanese aircraft been produced and fielded in the skies earlier. The “Shooting Star” would have proven to be a worthy adversary to the US Navy’s fighter planes.
|Type:||two-man crew torpedo/dive bomber|
|Design:||Aichi Aircraft Firm|
|Engine(s):||1 x Nakajima NK9C Homare12 18-cylinder radial engine, 1,360 kW (1,825 hp)|
|Max Speed:||566 km/h (352 mph; 306knots)|
|Max Range:||1,640 nautical miles|
|Ceiling:||11,250 meters (36,910 feet)|
|Length:||37 feet 8.33 inches|
|Wingspan:||47 feet 3 inches|
|Height:||13 feet 4.5 inches|
|Empty Weight:||3,810 kg|
|Loaded Weight:||5,625 kg|