In mid-1938 the Japanese Imperial Navy requested a twin-engine fighter designed to escort the principal bomber used at the time, Mitsubishi G3M "Nell". The operating range of the standard Navy fighter, the Mitsubishi A5M "Claude", was only 1,200 km (750 mi), insufficient compared with the 4,400 km (2,730 mi) of the G3M. Moreover, at the time, the potential of the "Zero ", then still under development, remained to be evaluated, stressing the need for a long-range escort fighter.In March 1939, Mitsubishi and Nakajima began the development of a project 13-Shi. The prototype left the factory in March 1941 equipped with two 843 kW (1,130 hp) Nakajima Sakae 21/22, 14-cylinder radial engines. There was a crew of three, and the aircraft was armed with a 20 mm Type 99 cannon and six 7.7 mm (.303 in) Type 97 aircraft machine guns. Four of these machine guns were mounted in a powered turret, the weight of which reduced the performance of the aircraft considerably. Because of the sluggish handling, being used as ae escort fighter had to be abandoned. Instead, production was authorized for a lighter reconnaissance variant, the J1N1-C, also known by the Navy designation Navy Type 2 Reconnaissance Plane. One early variant, the J1N1-F, had a spherical turret with one 20 mm Type 99 Model 1 cannon mounted immediately behind the pilot.