“Its ordnance-carrying capacity was just average for the period, but the craft, and its crew of seven, could deliver a 200-kilogram (440-pound) payload as far away as 1,500 miles from its base. This was a performance no contemporary aircraft could begin to match.
“To put that in perspective, the G3M’s almost unbelievable 2,900-mile range was superior to that of the giant U.S. four-engine bombers that would gain much fame for their long missions into enemy territory: Boeing’s B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated’s B-24 Liberator. Both of those designs were still on the drawing board when G3Ms went to war.
“Even by the close of the Pacific War, the next generation of U.S. bombers – the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and Consolidated B-35 Dominator – could exceed the range of a G3M only when not carrying a payload.”
– Fortnight of Infamy: The Collapse of Allied Airpower West of Pearl Harbor, John Burton, 2006
From the wiki: “The Mitsubishi G3M (Allied reporting name ‘Nell’) was a Japanese bomber and transport aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) during World War II. The G3M has its origins in a specification submitted to the Mitsubishi company from the Imperial Japanese Navy requesting a heavy bomber aircraft with a range figure unprecedented at the time. (This principally stemmed from Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s influence in the Naval High Commission on the necessity of a heavy bomber capable of encompassing the enormous ranges of the arenas where Imperial Japan sought to conquer in the years to come: China, Southeast Asia, Pacific islands, Russian Far East.) The requirement for payload was also unprecedented in Japanese military aviation history, though necessary to accommodate the aerial torpedo envisaged to combat the armored battleships of the Allies in the geographical broadness of the Pacific front.
“The G3M was originally designed as a model without any form of defensive weaponry or machine guns, but purely as a bomber craft, with its high-altitude performance being regarded sufficient to evade enemy anti-aircraft guns and its high speed in combination with the planned high performance Mitsubishi A5M fighter envisaged as an armed escort being considered sufficient to counter any form of enemy fighters.
“In August, 1939, a modified G3M with a crew of seven attempted a good-will around-the-world flight. But, it’s progress was hampered by the onset of European hostilities on September 3. The ‘Nippon’ wound up flying more than 32,000 miles during its circumnavigational flight.
“The G3M first saw combat in Japan’s expansionist campaigns on the Chinese mainland in what became known as the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), where the G3M was able to exploit its long-range capability. When the Pacific War erupted in 1941, after the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, the G3M was by this time considered to be antiquated but was still in service with 3 front-line units. On the 8th of December 1941, G3Ms struck Singapore City from bases in occupied Vietnam as one of many air raids during the Battle of Singapore; Wake Island was similarly bombed by G3Ms on the first day of the war, with both civilian and US Navy infrastructure being heavily damaged on the ground.
“The G3M was famous for taking part in the sinking of two British battleships (with the more advanced Mitsubishi G4M ‘Betty’) on 10 December 1941. ‘Nells’ provided important support during the attack on the HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse (Force Z) near the Malayan coast. Prince of Wales and Repulse were the first two battleships ships ever sunk exclusively by air attack while at sea during war.”
Maximum speed: 375 km/h (233 mph; 202 kn)
Cruising speed: 280 km/h (174 mph; 151 kn)
Range: 4,400 km (2,734 mi; 2,376 nmi)
Service ceiling: 9,200 m (30,184 ft)