Meet the Ohka: Japan's 'Flying Bomb' Kamikaze Plane

January 13, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: JapanWWIIWorld War IIKamikazeMilitaryOhka

Meet the Ohka: Japan's 'Flying Bomb' Kamikaze Plane

The Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka made its first unpowered flight on March 21, 1944, and its powered maiden flight in November of that same year.

The Ohka was a desperate attempt by Japan to use terror weapons to win World War II. It failed.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” the saying goes.

And arguably nowhere else in the history of warfare was this more starkly and morbidly demonstrated that the kamikazes, Imperial Japan's WWII suicide pilots who – drawing their name from a “divine wind” that destroyed Kublai Khan’s would-be invading fleet of Mongols twice in the 13th century – embarked en masse on their one-way missions in an ultimately vain attempt to defeat the U.S. Navy as the latter entity closed in for the kill against the Japanese home islands. 

Most of the warplanes used in the kamikaze attacks were improvised for that purpose, such as the famous Mitsubishi Zero fighter. But at least one such warbird was specifically designed from the ground up as a suicide plane, in essence, a flying bomb. Say “ohayo gozai masu 、 sayonara (Good morning and goodbye)” to MXY-7 Ohka kamikaze plane. 

Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka Early History and Specifications

The Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka (桜花; “cherry blossom”) made its first unpowered flight on March 21, 1944, and its powered maiden flight in November of that same year. The aircraft was officially introduced into operational status with the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Air Service in 1945. Designed by IJN officer Ensign Mitsuo Ohta, it was a rocket-powered human-guided aircraft. 

It wasn’t unique, Japan designed an additional rocket-powered warplane during the war, the Mitsubishi J8M Shūsui [“Autumn Water/Sharp Sword’], but that one was not designed as a kamikaze craft. The Ohka was manufactured by the Yokosuka Naval Air Technical Arsenal in Yokosuka, Japan, which, plays host to United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka in modern Japan. 

The plane was nicknamed a “Baka Bomb” by the Americans, after the Japanese word for “foolish” or “stupid.” “Stupid” or not, the flying bomb mounted a large warhead in the nose and – owing to its inherently limited range – was intended to be carried to the target area by a Mitsubishi G4M2e “Betty” bomber; upon release from the mothership (so to speak), the Ohka would engage its rocket motors to make a high-speed dash to the target, usually a ship.

Specifications included a crew of one (no sense in wasting a twofer in a flying bomb), a fuselage length of 19 feet 11 inches, a wingspan of 16 feet 10 inches, an empty weight of 907 pounds, a gross weight of 4,718 lbs, 2,646-lb warhead, and a maximum airspeed of 615 miles per hour (Mach 0.80) in a powered dive, boosted along by Type 4 Mk.1 Model 20 rockets with a total of 1,764 lbs. thrust. 

There was also a trainer version called the MXY7-K1, which had a landing skid and flaps, and in lieu of the warhead and rocket motors of the operational version, used water ballast that was expelled before landing. It still challenged novice pilots with its 130 mph landing speed.

Combat Performance, i.e. Too Little, Too Late for WWII

Unfortunately for Imperial Japan, but fortunately for America as well as the then-captive nations suffering under Tojo’s so-called “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” the Ohka, along with the kamikaze campaign in general, was not enough to turn the tide in the mikado’s favor. Only 50 of the “Baka Bombs” saw actual combat, and their kill tally was a mere three enemy ships, none of which were capital ships. Then, of course, the timing of the atomic bomb raids and resultant Japanese surrender prevented the Ohka from making a more meaningful impact (either literally or figuratively).

Where Are They Now?

Out of the 852 “Baka Bombs” built, 15 survive today. That includes one in India, three in Japan, four in the UK, and seven in the U.S. To provide a more specific location from each country, military history tourists can choose from: the Indian Air Force Museum in Palam, New Delhi; the Usashi Heiwa Museum in Usa, Ōita Prefecture; the  RAF Museum Cosford in Cosford, Shropshire, England; and the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio.

Plastic model-building hobbyists have choices such as the Brengun 1:48 scale kit and the Hawk 1:48 scale

About the Author 

Christian D. Orr is a former U.S. Air Force Security Forces officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon). Chris holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California (USC) and an M.A. in Intelligence Studies (concentration in Terrorism Studies) from American Military University (AMU). He has also been published in The Daily Torch and The Journal of Intelligence and Cyber Security. Last but not least, he is a Companion of the Order of the Naval Order of the United States (NOUS)