T1 Eagle, the first jet trainer in Japan

(Posted on February 10, 2021)

(Photo by Rob Schleiffert)


On January 19, 1958, the T-1A, the first jet trainer in Japan made its maiden flight. It was a remarkable feat in that the T-1 was designed and manufactured only two years after the complete lifting of the ban that prohibited the manufacturing of aircraft in Japan as a result of the WW2 defeat (it was partially lifted in 1952). The T-1 was developed by Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (now Subaru, a car manufacturer), which “inherited” the material and human resources of Nakajima Aircraft Company: a major aircraft manufacturer before and during WW2 but was dissolved by the directive of the Allied occupational forces. Let’s take a quick review of the T-1 Eagle.


Needless to say, the aircraft ban for more than 10 years rendered a serious and substantial drawback to the Japanese aircraft industry, especially at the time of aeronautical change from piston engines to jet engines. Regarding jet plane technology, the Japanese aircraft industry gained important experience through the under-license manufacturing of American military planes, North American F86 fighters (by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) and Lockheed T33 advanced trainers (by Kawasaki Heavy Industries).       


Did you know that the first jet aircraft was developed in Germany in 1939? 

It was the experimental Heinkel 178. As for Japan, the first jet plane (a naval attack plane) flew on August 7, 1945 for 11 minutes, only 8 days before Japan’s surrender. This aircraft was developed by Nakajima Aircraft based on the German Me 262 jet fighter. Its two jet engines fitted under the wing were also based on  German BMW engines.    


Now back to the T-1. Compared with the airframe development, that of the Japanese J3 jet engine lagged behind. So, instead of the J3, it was decided to install a British engine, the Bristol Siddeley Orpheus Mk. 805. The T-1A with this engine was the one that made the first flight in 1958. Incidentally, the test pilot for the occasion happened to be the one who flew the first war time jet aircraft as already mentioned. Fuji Heavy Industries built 44 T-1As. Then followed 20 T-1Bs with J3 engines. Altogether, 66 T-1s were delivered to the Japanese Air Self Defense Force. 


Subsequently, the T-1 Eagle was decommissioned in 2006 and replaced by theT-4 jet trainer (manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries). Today’s Subaru: it has supplied 54 machines of the T-5 basic trainer (the photo below) powered by a Rolls Royce turbo-prop engine for the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force. The company manufactures air frame components, particularly wing sections for Boeing jet airliners, such as the 767,777,787. It also manufactures helicopters mainly for the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force.  


(Photo by the Japan Air Self Defense Force)





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