50" J1N1 Gekko "Irvine"

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Video 1

The J1N1 "Gekko" Japanese Nightfighter is a relatively large 50" foam model, perfect for park flying. It's easy to build, easy to fly, and not too fast - but it has plenty of power and flies very well. Our decal package includes historically accurate markings and a detailed cockpit.

Powered by a pair of our 24gm brushless motors and scale-size 9x7 3-bladed props. The video clip shows it's maiden flight, including a midair collision with a much smaller plane. Luckily, the Gekko wasn't damaged! The model wasn't completely trimmed on this flight so I landed after several laps. Adding more aileron throw and some elevator expo helped it to fly even better.

Historical Information

The Nakajima J1N1 Gekko was originally designed in 1941 as a three-seat, daylight fighter slated for bomber escort duty. Its performance was less than stellar and in 1943 the Gekko was modified to serve as a night fighter. The Gekko proved more successful in this role and was redesigned as a two-seater. The observer’s position was eliminated and replaced with one, two or three upward firing guns. These guns, set at a 30° angle facing forward, allowed the Gekko to attack U.S. B-29 bombers from a position behind and below. Usually only one pass could be made against the higher-speed B-29s. Although the lack of a good radar unit and poor high-altitude performance handicapped it, the Gekko had some notable successes in combat. The J1N1-S represented the Gekko’s ultimate evolution as a designated night fighter. A total of 479 Gekkos were produced.

J1N1-S Gekko # Yo-102 was assigned to the Yokosuka Kokutai in August 1945. Plagued with a series of mechanical problems, it was relegated to spare plane status and never flew even a single night defense mission. As a result, it was captured in excellent condition by U.S forces at the end of WWII. Shipped to the United States, it was test flown by the Army and then transferred to the Smithsonian Institution. Ultimately, Yo-102 was placed in storage at the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility in Suitland, Maryland, where it languished for decades in an outdoor packing crate.

In September 1979, Yo-102 was selected for restoration by the staff of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. After 17,000 man-hours of meticulous effort, the project was completed on December 14, 1983. As the sole surviving example of the Gekko night fighter airframe, Yo-102 holds a unique position in the history of military aircraft. Yo-102 is currently on display at NASM’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport.