Showa/Nakajima L2D

The Shōwa L2D and Nakajima L2D, given the designations Shōwa Navy Type 0 Transport and Nakajima Navy Type 0 Transport(零式輸送機), were license-built versions of the Douglas DC-3. The L2D series, numerically, was the most important Japanese transport in World War II. The L2D was given the Allied code name Tabby.

Showa L2D.jpg
Shōwa L2D3
Role Airliner and transport aircraft
Manufacturer Nakajima and Showa Aircraft
First flight October 1939
Introduction 1939
Produced 1940–1945
Number built 487 [1]
71× L2D2 by Nakajima
all others by Shōwa
Developed from Douglas DC-3
A captured Shōwa L2D3 or L2D3-L in US markings, Mindanao, Philippines, May 1945

Design and developmentEdit

After successful license production acquired in 1935 of the earlier Douglas DC-2, Nakajima Hikoki acquired the license rights for $90,000 in February 1938, to build the DC-3.[2] Previously, the Great Northern Airways and the Far East Fur Trading Company had purchased 22 DC-3s from 1937–1939. This total consisted of 13 Cyclone powered DC-3s and nine Twin Wasp powered DC-3As, two of which were delivered un-assembled and assigned to a relatively new concern, Shōwa Aircraft.[3] Both Shōwa and Nakajima worked in concert to create a production series. Although the L2D was intended for both civil and military application, the production run was largely reserved for the Japanese military as the Navy Type 0 Transport.[4]

The Nakajima prototype, powered by Pratt & Whitney SB3G radial engines, first flew in October 1939 and entered production in 1940 as the L2D1 with parts imported from the U.S. while the two Shōwa examples were being assembled to Japanese production standards to simplify manufacture.[5] Differing in minor details, mainly due to the use of locally produced Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 radial engines of similar power, the initial series from both companies were very similar to its Douglas antecedent.[4]

Then Japanese engineered their own version L2D2, by 1942, Nakajima had built, including the prototype, 71 L2D2 Navy Type 0 Transport Model 11s and then embarked on manufacturing combat aircraft of their own design. Shōwa, once their factory and production line was complete, built the next series, a total of 416 aircraft, including 75 cargo versions with the "barn door," and reinforced floor (designated L2D2 1). The first Japanese military version was equipped with wide cargo doors, essentially mirroring the U.S. C-47, appearing about the same time.[5] Other L2D variants, while normally unarmed, the L2D4 and L2D4-1 variants carried one flexible 13 mm Type 2 machine gun in a dorsal turret in the navigator's dome and two flexible 7.7 mm Type 92 machine guns that could be fired from fuselage hatches, but this armament configuration was not a production standard.[4]

Although the Japanese civil versions were nearly identical to their Douglas equivalent, the military variants, while visually similar, were substantially different. The Kinsei 51/53 engines had 1,325 hp (975 kW) and featured enlarged nacelles and large propeller spinners, while the cockpit bulkhead was moved back 40 inches (100 cm) so all four crew members forward were in one compartment, with three extra windows added behind the cockpit. The most radical changes to the original design came about due to wartime exigencies in shortages of strategic materials, that led to metal components in less critical structural areas being replaced by wood. As many as 20 transports featured wooden rudders, stabilizers, ailerons, fins, elevators and entrance doors. An all-wood variant, the L2D5, was readied for production near the end of the war.[5]

CNAC pilots with a captured Shōwa L2D3 or L2D3-L, c. 1945

Operational historyEdit

Imperial Japanese NavyEdit

The original DC-3s operated by Dai Nippon Koku KK were pressed into Imperial service during the war, serving alongside the license-built L2Ds. The L2Ds served in the Southern Philippines' air groups (Kōkūtai) in squadrons (Buntai) attached to the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th[citation needed], 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th Air Fleets (Kōku Kantai) as well as the Combined Fleet (Rengō Kantai) and to the China Area and Southwest Area Fleets. With the large load capacity inherent in all L2D variants, the types were used in all Japanese theaters, as both a passenger and cargo transport, playing an important role in supply of the distant garrisons on the islands of Pacific Ocean and New Guinea. They were also adapted to serve as staff and communications aircraft as well as in the maritime surveillance role.[6] The future president of Indonesia, Sukarno, used an L2D2 during discussions regarding Indonesian independence with Japanese authorities in early 1945.


At least one L2D was captured at Zamboanga airfield in May 1945 and later repaired and tested at Clark Field.

RAF Air Chief Marshal Sir Walter Cheshire was in charge of troop and supply airlift in South East Asia after Japan surrendered. Due to lack of resources available he was forced to make use of Japanese Air Force transport planes and aircrews, creating the RAF Gremlin Task Force (GTF). This included the use of L2D "Tabby" aircraft that supplemented RAF 118 Wing C-47 Dakota aircraft. Japanese aircraft retained their white surrender finish with large blue and white SEAC roundels painted over the green surrender crosses.[7]

In 1945 in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), after the capitulation of Japan, at least three L2D "Tabby" were captured on the Perak airfield (near Surabaya). They wore the marks of the Indonesian nationalists (a red and white stripe). As there was a great need for transportation, two Tabbies were (with the cooperation of the Indonesians) flown to Tjililitan near Batavia (now Jakarta). As the condition of the planes was rather bad, the Dutch military decided not to use the planes any further. The third was flown to Medan on Sumatera, however there were oil-leaks and it had to make an emergency landing and was abandoned. ('Japanese planes under Dutch command' by G.J. Tornij)

Post WarEdit

Relatively few of the Shōwa/Nakajima L2Ds survived the war, although at least one captured example was in service with the National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) during 1945, serving along with DC-3s acquired pre-war.[8] In 1946, another captured L2D2 was used by the French VVS Group Transport 1/34 in military operations in Indochina.[9] Postwar, other L2Ds were located in the Pacific as either crashed or abandoned aircraft, and none exist today.[10]



L2D1 Navy D1 Transport (海軍D一号輸送機 Kaigun D1-Gō Yusōki)
Knock down production two DC-3s supplied for evaluation by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service.
L2D2 Type 0 Transport Model 11 (零式輸送機11型 Reishiki Yusōki 11-gata)
Personnel transports with Mitsubishi Kinsei 43 radials. Initial named Navy D2 Transport (海軍D二号輸送機 Kaigun D2-Gō Yusōki).
L2D2-L Type 0 Freighter Model 11 (零式荷物輸送機11型 Reishiki Nimotsu-Yusōki 11-gata)
Cargo version of the L2D2 with enlarged cargo door.
L2D3 Type 0 Transport Model 22 (零式輸送機22型 Reishiki Yusōki 22-gata)
L2D2 re-engined with Mitsubishi Kinsei 51, Kinsei 52 or Kinsei 53 engines, each at 1,300 hp (957 kW)–1,325 hp (975 kW). Increased side cockpit glass.
L2D3-L Type 0 Freighter Model 22 (零式荷物輸送機22型 Reishiki Nimotsu-Yusōki 22-gata)
Cargo version of the L2D3.
L2D3a Type 0 Transport Model 22A (零式輸送機22甲型 Reishiki Yusōki 22 Kō-gata)
Armed versions L2D3 with a 13 mm machine gun in a dorsal turret and two 7.7 mm machine guns in the left and right fuselage hatches.
L2D3a-L Type 0 Freighter Model 22A (零式荷物輸送機22甲型 Reishiki Nimotsu-Yusōki 22 Kō-gata)
Armed version of the L2D3-L, armaments were same as L2D3a.
L2D4 Type 0 Transport Model 23 (零式輸送機23型 Reishiki Yusōki 23-gata)
L2D3 re-engined with Mitsubishi Kinsei 62 engines, each at 1,590 hp (1,170 kW).
L2D4-L Provisional name Type 0 Freighter Model 23 (仮称零式荷物輸送機23型 Kashō Reishiki Nimotsu-Yusōki 23-gata)
Cargo version of the L2D4, prototype only.
L2D5 Provisional name Type 0 Transport Model 33 (仮称零式輸送機33型 Kashō Reishiki Yusōki 33-gata)
Wooden version, replacement of steel components with wood; used two Mitsubishi Kinsei 62 engines, incomplete.



  Republic of China


  Republic of China-Nanjing

Specifications (Shōwa L2D3-Ia)Edit

Data from Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War[16]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3-5
  • Capacity: 21 pax / 4,500 kg (9,921 lb) cargo
  • Length: 19.507 m (64 ft 0 in)
  • Wingspan: 18.956 m (62 ft 2 in)
  • Height: 7.46 m (24 ft 6 in)
  • Wing area: 91.6 m2 (986 sq ft)
  • Airfoil: root: NACA 2215; tip: NACA 2206[17]
  • Empty weight: 7,218 kg (15,913 lb)
  • Gross weight: 12,500 kg (27,558 lb)
  • Powerplant: × Mitsubishi MK8 Kinsei 43 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine, 750 kW (1,000 hp) for take-off
810 kW (1,080 hp) at 3,000 m (9,800 ft)
  • Propellers: 3-bladed variable-pitch propellers


  • Maximum speed: 393 km/h (244 mph, 212 kn) at 2,800 m (9,186 ft)
  • Cruise speed: 241 km/h (150 mph, 130 kn) at 3,000 m (9,843 ft)
  • Range: 3,000 km (1,900 mi, 1,600 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 10,500 m (34,400 ft) L2D2
  • Time to altitude: 5,000 m (16,404 ft) in 16 minutes 2 seconds
  • Wing loading: 136.5 kg/m2 (28.0 lb/sq ft)
  • Power/mass: 0.1550 kW/kg (0.0943 hp/lb)


See alsoEdit

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists



  1. ^ Gradidge 2006, p. 20.
  2. ^ O'Leary, Michael. "Douglas Commercial Two." Air Classics magazine, May 2003 (online version at Retrieved: 21 December 2011.
  3. ^ "Corporate Information | Management Policy: Showa Aircraft Industry Co. Ltd." Shōwa Aircraft. Retrieved: 30 May 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Rickard, J. "L2D 'Tabby'." History of War, 12 November 2008. Retrieved: 21 December 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Morson, Trev. "Japan's DC-3, The L2D." The DC-3 Hangar, 2011. Retrieved: 22 December 2011.
  6. ^ "Showa/Nakajima L2D." Retrieved: 21 December 2011.
  7. ^ "french indo | flight december | december oth | 1945 | 2411 | Flight Archive". Archived from the original on 2012-11-03.
  8. ^ "CNAC pilots." San Diego Air and Space Museum via Flickr, 2011. Retrieved: 22 December 2011.
  9. ^ Addington 2000, p. 20.
  10. ^ "Showa/Nakajima L2D." Pacific Wrecks. Retrieved: 21 December 2011.
  11. ^ Famous Airplanes of the World (1975), pp. 54–55.
  12. ^ The Maru Mechanic (1981), pp. 37–38.
  13. ^ Imperial Japanese Navy Aviation Bureau (1945).
  14. ^ Famous Airplanes of the World (1975), pp. 40–41.
  15. ^ The Maru Mechanic (1981), pp. 72–73.
  16. ^ Francillon, René J. (1979). Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War. London: Putnam & Company Limited. pp. 499–503. ISBN 0-370-30251-6.
  17. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.


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External linksEdit