World War II - Japanese Replicas
~ The "Tora, Tora, Tora" Aircraft ~
When the movie "Tora, Tora, Tora" was filmed in 1969 there were no airworthy Japanese aircraft available for the combat scenes and computer generated imagery had yet to make its appearance. The problem was solved, in what was then, typical Hollywood fashion. The Studio built its own Japanese fleet and planes. BT-13, BT-15 and SNJ/AT-6 aircraft were converted into Kate torpedo planes, Val dive bombers and Zero fighters. After the filming was completed the planes were eventually put up for sale and found their way into both museum and private hands.
The replica Vals were made from Convair BT-15 trainers. The planes were modified by adding height and an extra three feet to the fuselage at the rear of the cockpit, reshaping the canopies, the addition of large fiberglass wheel pants and repowering the planes with a Pratt and Whitney R-1340 engine. On camera the aircraft approximated a real Val fairly well even though they are still much shorter and more heavily bodied than the originals.
The Air Museum Planes of Fame Val replica originally was sold by the studio to the San Diego Aerospace Museum and was acquired by Planes of Fame in 1973. The aircraft was kept in storage until the beginning of this year when the Museum was contacted by Disney who was interested in using it in a new film about Pearl Harbor. It was moved into the shop in early February where general restoration and some further modifications were carried out. The major modification to the aircraft consisted of replacing the original R-1340 and propeller with a geared R-1340 and a new 3-bladed prop. Work was completed in early March and the aircraft has now begun its new film career.
Both the North American SNJ/AT-6 and the Vultee BT-13 were used to construct
the Kate replicas. The rear monocoque and tail from a BT-13 were grafted
to the rear fuselage bulkhead of a Texan and the entire fuselage was stretched.
A new canopy, wingtips, wingroot fairings and a 3rd seat were also added
to approximate the original appearance of the aircraft. Power is provided
by a 600hp P&W R-1340. This aircraft is part of the CAF's "Tora,
Tora, Tora" demonstration group.
The Replica Zeros were also based on the SNJ/AT-6 with the most noticeable changes being made to the cockpit area. The rear cockpit was decked over and the canopy was reconfigured to resemble the A6M. The engine cowling was also reshaped and a different spinner was added. A P&W 600 hp R-1340-AN-1 powers the aircraft. This plane is currently operated by the American Aeronautical Foundation.
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