Role Maritime patrol flying boat
National origin Japan
Manufacturer Kawanishi
First flight 14 July 1936
Introduction January 1938
Retired 1945
Status Retired
Primary user Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service
Number built 215[1]
Developed from Kawanishi H3K

The Kawanishi H6K was an Imperial Japanese Navy flying boat produced by the Kawanishi Aircraft Company and used during World War II for maritime patrol duties. The Allied reporting name for the type was Mavis; the Navy designation was "Type 97 Large Flying Boat" (九七式大型飛行艇). Developed in the 1930s, it was used for reconnaissance, transport, bombing, naval warfare, and executive transport by the Imperial Japanese Navy. The national airline also used it as commercial airliner. The British mistakenly identified this aircraft as the Kawanishi Navy 97 Mavis.[2]

Design and development

The aircraft was designed in response to a Navy requirement of 1934 for a long-range flying boat and incorporated knowledge gleaned by a Kawanishi team that visited the Short Brothers factory in the UK, at that time one of the world's leading producers of flying boats, and from building the Kawanishi H3K, a license-built, enlarged version of the Short Rangoon.[3] The "Type S", as Kawanishi called it, was a large, four-engined monoplane with twin tails, and a hull suspended beneath the parasol wing by a network of struts. Three prototypes were constructed, each one making gradual refinements to the machine's handling both in the water and in the air, and finally fitting more powerful engines. The first of these flew on 14 July 1936 and was originally designated "Navy Type 97 Flying Boat", later H6K. Eventually, 217 were built.[4]

Production & engines

Four prototypes were produced leading to the production version, with ten H6K2 built, then 124 H6K4 were produced which had better fuel capacity. All H6K were powered by 4 radial piston engines of different types. Some aircraft were upgraded with the 1000 hp Kinsei 46, and the H6K5 had the 1300 hp Kinsei 51/53.[5]

The H6K prototype was powered by four 9-cylinder Nakajima Hikari 2 with 840 hp. [6]

Additionally production:[5]

Sixteen (16) aircraft were civilian air transports operated by Dai-Nippon Airways (the Imperial Japanese National airline), with on board toilet, galley, and room for 18 passengers. They had civil registration and were used for mail and passenger service to the Pacific. [7]

Combat H6K were armed with various combinations of Type 92 machine guns, and it could also carry two torpedoes or 1000kg of bombs.[6]

Operational history

Damaged H6K on water, 1944
An H6K with a burning wing.

H6Ks were deployed from 1938 onwards, first seeing service in the Sino-Japanese War and were in widespread use by the time the full-scale Pacific War erupted, in December 1941. At that time of the war, four Kōkūtai (air groups) operated a total of 66 H6K4s.[8] Also, sixteen were used by the Imperial Japanese airline for mail and passenger service to the Pacific.[7]

On 12 December 1941, a Kawanishi H6K Type 97 "Mavis" bombed Wake island, but was shot down by a F4F Wildcat, in the Battle of Wake Island which took place in December 1941.[9]

On 15 February 1942, a P-40 Warhawk intercepted an H6K about 190 km west of Darwin, Australia, that had attacked allied shipping;both the P-40 and H6K were shot down.[10]

The type had some success over South East Asia and the South West Pacific. H6Ks had excellent endurance, being able to undertake 24-hour patrols, and were often used for long-range reconnaissance and bombing missions. From bases in the Dutch East Indies, they were able to undertake missions over a large portion of Australia.

However, the H6K became vulnerable to a newer generation of more heavily armed and faster fighters.[8] It continued in service throughout the war, in areas where the risk of interception was low. In front-line service, it was replaced by the Kawanishi H8K.


An H6K2-L Navy transport flying boat Type 97
Royal Air Force mechanics inspecting an H6K at Soerabaja, Java, prior to a test flight in January 1946. The Indonesia flag was added by nationalists and the additional blue band was added to the fuselage marking by the Dutch
Evaluation prototypes with four Nakajima Hikari 2 engines, four built.
H6K1 (navy flying boat Type 97 Model 1)
Prototypes with 746 kW (1,000 hp) Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 engines, three converted from the original H6K1 prototypes
H6K2 Model 11
First production model. Includes two H6K2-L officer transport modification, 10 built.
H6K2-L (navy transport flying boat Type 97)
Unarmed transport version of H6K2 powered by Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 engines, 16 built
H6K3 Model 21
Modified transport version of H6K2 for VIPs and high-ranking officers, 2 built
H6K4 Model 22
Major production version, modified H6K2 with revised weapons, some with 694 kW (930 hp) Mitsubishi Kinsei 46 engines. Fuel capacity increased from 7,764 L (1,708 Imp gal) to 13,410 L (2,950 Imp gal). Includes two H6K4-L transport versions, 100 to 127 (if other numbers are all correct) built.
Transport version of H6K4, similar to H6K2-L, but with Mitsubishi Kinsei 46 engines, 20 built and another two converted from the H6K4
H6K5 Model 23
Fitted with 969 kW (1,300 hp) Mitsubishi Kinsei 51 or 53 engines and new upper turret replacing the open position, 36 built


Used on the routes Yokohama-Saipan-Koror (Palau)-Timor, Saigon-Bangkok and Saipan-Truk-Ponape-Jaluit[11]

Specifications (H6K4 Model 22)

3-view drawing of the Kawanishi H6K

Data from Warplanes of the Second World War, Volume Five: Flying Boats,[4] and Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War [13]

General characteristics

738 kW (990 hp) at 2,800 m (9,200 ft)
(H6K4 Model 2-3 and H6K4-L 690 kW (930 hp) Kinsei 46)




See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 307.
  2. ^ Lawrence 1945, p. 210.
  3. ^ Air International December 1985, p. 294
  4. ^ a b Green 1962, p. 129
  5. ^ a b "H6K Seaplane". WW2DB. Retrieved 2023-11-30.
  6. ^ a b "Kawanishi H6K". www.combinedfleet.com. Retrieved 2023-11-30.
  7. ^ a b "KAWANISHI H6K MAVIS · The Encyclopedia of Aircraft David C. Eyre". Aeropedia. Retrieved 2023-11-30.
  8. ^ a b Green 1962, p. 128
  9. ^ "A Magnificent Fight: Marines in the Battle for Wake Island (Still No Help)". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2023-11-18.
  10. ^ "Accident Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk ,". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 2023-11-30.
  11. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 306.
  12. ^ Air Enthusiast Quarterley 1976, p. 156.
  13. ^ Francillon 1979, pp. 306–307.