The Aichi AB-3 Experimental Single-Seat Reconnaissance Seaplane was designed for use on a Chinese light cruiser, but despite being a successful design wasn't accepted by the Chinese.
In 1928 China ordered two light cruisers from Japan, one to be built in Japan and the second in China. The contract also included an order for a single-seat biplane reconnaissance seaplane. This was to be powered by a 130hp Gasuden Jimpu radial engine, have detachable wings, be small enough to be stored in an area 10ft 6in by 10ft 10in in size, have an endurance of three hours at top speed and have a top speed of 115mph.
Aichi were already involved in the design of a reconnaissance seaplane, the two-seat AB-2 Experimental Catapult-Launched Reconnaissance Seaplane. Tetsuo Miki, the designer of the AB-2, was given the job of designed the AB-3 to satisfy the Chinese order. The AB-3 used the same construction methods as the AB-2. The fuselage had a welded steel tube framework and was fabric covered. The wings had a mixed wood and metal framework and were also fabric covered. As requested they could easily be removed. The AB-3 was a sesquiplane, with a smaller lower wing.
The prototype of the AB-3 was completed early in 1932, two years after the AB-2. The AB-3 had half the power of the AB-3, but was also half of the weight. It was also faster than the earlier aircraft, with a top speed of 121mph, 9mph faster than the AB-2. It performed well in tests and was considered to be a great improvement on the AB-3.
The Chinese Navy accepted the single prototype of the AB-3, but despite its impressive performance decided not to use it on their cruisers. Instead they used the Ning Hai shipboard single-seat reconnaissance seaplane, an aircraft designed by a serving Chinese naval officer, Lieutenant T. T. Mar, and built by the Chinese Naval Arsenal. The Chinese aircraft did use the same Gasuden Jimpu engine, produced in Japan.
The warship had a rather chequered career. It was completed in 1932 and delivered to China just before relations between Japan and China collapsed. It entered Chinese service as the Ning Hai and was mainly used in the Yangtze River. On 23 September 1937 the Ning Hai and her Chinese-built sister ship Ping Hai were sunk in shallow water by Japanese aircraft. Both ships were raised by the Japanese and used by the Japanese puppet government in Nanking. In 1943 they were taken over by the Japanese Navy, which was increasingly short of ships. The Ning Hai renamed the Ioshima, and was sunk by the American submarine Shad on 19 September 1944.
Engine: Gasuden Jimpu seven cylinder air-cooled radial engine
Span: 29ft 6in
Length: 21ft 8in
Height: 9ft 5.5in
Empty weight: 1,267lb
Loaded weight: 1,741lb
Max speed: 121mph at sea level
Cruising speed: 85mph at 1,640ft
Climb Rate: 15min 40sec to 9,843ft
Service ceiling: 14,107ft
Pay load: 66lb