Single engine kamikaze vs capital ship

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Jun 10, 2004
Knoxville, TN
I was reading an article that said the Zero, even at full speed and equipped with a bomb, lacked the mass to destroy a capital ship. I then started to think if any single engine Japanese plane, with a bomb, had the mass to sink a capital ship by itself. Maybe a B5N since it's bomb load was much greater than a Zero? Any others?


Apr 6, 2008
Orange NSW
Not sure to be honest. the raw statistics are that the Japanese launched about 7500 kamikazes in total, of which about 5500 were expended. They managed to sink about 47 ships outright, and damaged about 75 others, to the extent they did not return to service. A further 368 or so were damaged, but repaired.

Only 3 of the ships lost out right were capital ships in any sense, and even then were only CVEs. The vast majority of sinkings were achieved by single engine types.

Several of the british carriers were damaged and famously returned to service in a short space of time. However they did suffer some catastrophic levels of long term damage due to these hits.

The success of the Kamikaze against formed TFs is definitely limited. I once read somewhere, a not very technical rough comparison to the destructive capabilities of a kamikaze being about equal in sheer power to a modern day conventional cruise missile. These are not sufficient to sink a battleship, but would be powerful enough to bring down a cruiser. That seems a reasonable analogy to me.


Major General
Jun 29, 2009
Central Florida Highlands
The chances of a single engine plane sinking a "capitol ship" (battleship or perhaps very large carrier, heavy cruisers are not capitol ships, a major ship maybe) is very slight. A US 1600lb AP had to be dropped from 7500ft in order to pierce 5in of deck armor or dropped from 4500ft in a 300kt (345mph?) 60 degree dive. With such a bomb the aircraft becomes almost immaterial. With a lighter bomb the aircraft becomes more important but 6000-8000lbs of aircraft and a few hundred gallons of gas are hardly ship killers to large steel warships.
British losses in the Falklands was due to, in part, to large amounts of superstructure being aluminium which burned as a result of the rocket propellant fires. Largest warships hit by the Argentines being roughly a light cruiser by WW II standards. I don't think ANY had armor as known in WW II.
Bomb/s and fuel of the Kamikaze can certainly set off ordnance of the target ship but that becomes a real game of chance as to results.


Senior Airman
May 1, 2016
Tennessee was hit by several during Okinawa. She didn't leave the battle area. The wikipedia artcle on USS Tennessee has some details and Morrison mentions it.

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