This small, rocket-assisted glider was actually classified as “ordnance” by its operator and was really the world’s first production smart missile.
Let’s take a look at something only one combatant would have even considered building.
This is one post I almost titled against my normal procedure. The allied code name “Baka” was intentionally mocking, it is Japanese for “idiot” or “fool”. The official Japanese name was “Ohka” for “cherry blossom”. That is a name rich in national symbolism for the Japanese, and maybe says a lot about how they viewed the weapon and its pilots. I think the Allied code name says a great deal about how stunned the western intelligence agencies were that such a thing could even exist.
In a nutshell, the MXY-7 is a 2600 lb warhead attached to a manned glider delivery vehicle. It was air launched from a carrier aircraft (only G4M Betty bombers in service, but plans existed for more delivery aircraft) at 27000 feet and within 23 miles of its target. The Ohka also had three solid fuel rocket engines that could boost its final dive on target to over 500 mph. Plans existed for different engines; a liquid fuel rocket could be faster and longer ranged, and a turbo-jet engine model might have been capable of ground launching.
Assessing such a weapon is difficult. It was extremely vulnerable while being carried by a heavily burdened Betty. Not only was the bomber slow with this load, but it was even more (explosively) flammable than the type was already known to be! Perhaps 50 total sorties were made. The vast majority of Ohkas were destroyed well outside of the 23 mile drop range.
Those few that did drop were extremely difficult to catch. Small and quick, impossibly quick once in its final dive. No major warship was ever struck, but one destroyer (USS Mannert L. Abele) was hit amidship and sunk. Another destroyer (USS Hugh W. Hadley) was damaged beyond repair and at least three other ships suffered varying degrees of damage.
It is extremely difficult to separate a moral reaction from the assessment. Although the Nazis considered some one-way type attacks, some means of escape (even if unlikely to work) was always allowed for. Japanese special attacks (Kamikaze) were the only ones that were fully intended as a suicide mission. As a bit of perspective, Allied radar guided fighter patrols, anti-aircraft weapons and proximity fused shells had made attacking major fleets and bases practically suicidal anyway. In the last two years of the war Japanese conventional attacks were routinely completely destroyed with no one to tell the tale even if a success was achieved. Suicide attacks actually DID increase the chances of causing serious damage and became a major defensive problem for allied forces in the last year of the Pacific War. The Baka bomb was the most advanced expression of the special attack form.
This particular aircraft never flew a mission, it was recovered by American forces on Okinawa. Several were found in nearly perfect condition, and I think more Ohkas currently exist in museums than any other Japanese types (except maybe A6M Zeros).
The kit is by Fine Molds. This small Japanese company specializes in some of the more exotic Japanese hardware. Its the first kit of theirs I’ve built and WOW! What a gem. Often smaller companies struggle to achieve the sort of detail and good engineering and fit that the major companies do. But if this is any indication Fine Molds puts out extraordinary product. Very comparable to Hasegawa but with some creative fit and detail solutions. I will look forward to building some more of their kits.