Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force

Kyokujitsuki (flag) of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force

Kyokujitsuki (flag) of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force
active 1912 to 1945
Country Japanese EmpireJapanese Empire Japan
Armed forces Imperial Japanese Navy
Type Armed Forces ( Navy - Air Force )
High command General Staff of the Imperial Japanese Navy
High command Department of the Navy
Symbol of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force Roundel of Japan.svg
Aircraft of the Japanese Navy Air Force are preparing to launch from the aircraft carrier shokaku ago

The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Forces ( Japanese 帝国 海軍 航空 隊 , Teikoku Kaigun Kōkūtai ) were the air forces of the Imperial Japanese Navy in World War II .

They were under the command of the General Staff of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Navy Ministry and corresponded in their function to the Fleet Air Arm of the British Royal Navy , the naval aviation of the US Navy , the Aviazione Ausiliara per la Marina of the Italian Regia Marina or the naval forces of the Soviet Navy .

The Imperial Japanese Naval Aviation Office ( Kaigun Kōkū Hombu ) of the Ministry of the Navy was responsible for development and training .

The Japanese military procured its first aircraft in 1910 (other sources speak of 1911) and watched with great interest the development of air warfare during the First World War . Initially, they bought aircraft in Europe, but then quickly began to build their own aircraft and launched an ambitious program to build aircraft carriers . In 1922, the world's first aircraft carrier built for this purpose, the Hōshō ( 鳳翔 , dt. "Flying Phoenix") was put into service in Japan . Then they began to convert redundant battle cruisers and battleships into aircraft carriers. The naval air force had, among other things, national defense, upstream attack management and naval warfare to order. This mission lasted to the end.

The Japanese pilot training program was very selective and strict, creating a corps of very well trained and experienced pilots that had clear air sovereignty over the Pacific at the beginning of World War II . However, this program and the lack of fuel for training flights had a negative impact on the training of a sufficient supply of new pilots. The Japanese, unlike the British or the Americans, did not manage to streamline the training program in order to shorten the training time of their recruits. The constant deterioration in the quality and quantity of pilots towards the end of the war, among other factors, resulted in an increasing number of casualties.

The pilots of the Navy Air Force, like those of their counterpart in the Army , the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force , preferred the use of very agile aircraft. This led to the construction of lighter and extremely agile types such as the Mitsubishi A6M , whose properties were bought at the price of doing without armor and self-sealing fuel tanks.

Carrier fleet

Mitsubishi A6M Zero takes off from the carrier Akagi during the attack on Pearl Harbor , December 7, 1941

The pilot elite were grouped into carrier-based aerial combat groups ( kōkūtai , later called kōkū sentai ), the size of which (from a handful to 80 or 90 aircraft) depended on the particular mission and the type of aircraft carrier on which they were stationed. Large aircraft carriers housed three types of aircraft: fighters, bombers / torpedo bombers, and dive bombers. Usually, only fighter and dive-bomber aircraft were stationed on smaller carriers. The carrier-based kōkūtai numbered over 1,500 pilots and almost as many aircraft at the beginning of the Pacific War . The main unit of the carrier-supported combat groups was the Kidō Butai .

Eleventh Air Fleet / Land-Based Air Fleet

The Navy also maintained a land-based system of air fleets called Kōkū Kantai and air fleets, which were assigned fixed airspaces, the so-called hōmen kantai , which consisted mainly of twin-engine bombers and seaplanes . The command over it lay with the eleventh air fleet under Vice Admiral Nihizo Tsukuhuru.


Each air fleet consisted of one or more air flotillas, which were commanded by rear admirals and in turn consisted of two or more groups of airmen. Each flying group consisted of a base unit and 12 to 36 aircraft and four to twelve reserve aircraft. Each group of fliers consisted of several hikōtai ( 飛行 隊 ), squadrons with 9, 12 or 16 aircraft, which corresponded to the Chūtai ( 中隊 ) of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. The hikōtai were commanded by a lieutenant , warrant officer, or an experienced chief petty officer . Usually each hikōtai was divided into four swarms  - shōtai ( 小隊 ) - each with three or four planes. From mid-1944, a shōtai usually consisted of four aircraft. At the beginning of the Pacific War there were 90 groups of airmen, each of which was assigned either a name or a number. The groups with a name were usually associated with a specific naval command or base. Numbers were commonly assigned to units outside of Japan.

Number ranges of the groups of pilots

  • Fliegergruppen 200 to 399: Fighter pilot groups
  • Fliegergruppen 400 to 499: Seaplanes
  • Fliegergruppen 600 to 699: mixed types of aircraft

Designation of the aircraft types in the Navy

Main article: Type designations of the Imperial Japanese naval aviators

The system used to designate the aircraft types used by the Japanese Navy was similar to that used by the US Navy from 1922 to 1962 . Each new type was given a short name made up of a combination of Latin letters and numbers.

  • The beginning was a letter (sometimes two) to identify the basic type or the purpose of the aircraft.
  • Then came a number that identified the aircraft type (main variant) of the respective manufacturer
  • Then came another letter with which the manufacturer was coded.

( G4M referred to the 4th type of attack bomber (G) of the Navy, manufactured by Mitsubishi (M) )

Letter Type Manufacturer
A. Carrier-based fighter aircraft Aichi ( Aichi Tokei Denki and Aichi Kōkūki ) / North American Aviation (US)
B. Carrier-based bomber / torpedo bomber Boeing Aircraft (US)
C. Land-based scout Consolidated Aircraft (US)
D. Carrier-based dive fighter aircraft Douglas Aircraft (US)
E. Reconnaissance seaplane -
F. Observer seaplane -
G Attack bomber Hitachi Kōkūki / Grumman Aircraft Engineering (US)
H Flying boat (scout) Hiro (Dai-Jūichi Kaigun Kōkūshō) / Hawker Aircraft (UK)
Hey - Ernst Heinkel Flugzeugwerke (Germany)
J Land-based hunter Nihon Kogata Hikōki / Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke (Germany)
K Trainer aircraft Kawanishi Kōkūki
L. Transport plane -
M. Special float plane Mitsubishi Jūkōgyō
MX Special mission aircraft -
N Seaplane as a fighter Nakajima Hikōki
P Land-based bomber Nihon Hikōki
Q Air surveillance aircraft -
R. Land-based scout -
S. Night fighter Sasebo (Dai-Nijūichi Kaigun Kōkūshō)
Si - Shōwa Hikōki
V - Vought-Sikorsky (US)
W. - Watanabe Tekkōjo / Kyūshū Hikōki
Y - Yokosuka (Dai-Ichi Kaigun Kōkū Gijutsushō)
Z - Mizuno Guraida Seisakusho

Small and medium-sized changes to an aircraft type (variants) were identified by adding another number at the end of the designation.

Other minor changes within a variant have been identified by adding another letter.

In a few cases in which the intended purpose of the aircraft type changed, the new purpose was made clear by adding a hyphen and an additional letter. This was the case, for example, with the H6K4 flying boat (the 6th Navy flying boat (H6), built by Kawanishi (K), fourth variant (4)). This aircraft was later assigned the role of a troop transport and the designation then changed to H6K4-L.


Japanese aircraft mother ship Wakamiya

In 1912, the British Royal Navy established its own aviation division, the Royal Naval Air Service . The Japanese admirals, whose own Imperial Japanese Navy was modeled on the Royal Navy, then also proposed the establishment of their own naval aviation. The Japanese Navy had also observed developments in other countries and recognized the potential of the aircraft. In 1913 the cargo ship Wakamiya was converted into an aircraft mother ship and some aircraft were purchased.

Siege of Tsingtau

Main article: Siege of Tsingtau

On August 23, 1914, Japan declared war on Germany due to the existing Anglo-Japanese alliance with Great Britain . Thereupon the Japanese besieged the German protection area Tsingtau (today Qingdao) on the Shandong peninsula with the support of the British . During the siege, Wakamiya Farman seaplanes, on which two active and two reserve planes were stationed, carried out reconnaissance flights and bombs over German positions from September onwards . Gunther Plüschow is said to have succeeded in shooting down one of the planes with his Etrich Taube . On September 30, the Wakamiya was damaged by a mine, but the planes could still be used after a land transfer until the German defenders finally surrendered on November 7, 1914. This made the Wakamiya the ship from which the world's first ship-based air raids were carried out and thus also represents the first aircraft carrier in Japan.

Between the world wars

The Japanese Navy kept a close eye on the development of aviation among the three Allied naval forces during World War I and realized that Britain was making the greatest advances in naval aviation.

In 1921 Great Britain sent a naval aviation engineering mission to Japan to help the Imperial Japanese Navy develop its air force. The 18-month mission consisted of 29 advisors under the command of Captain Sempill . In particular, the Japanese nature of pilot training and technology experienced a significant further development through the visit.

The Japanese were trained on some new British aircraft (such as the Gloster Sparrowhawk) and in torpedo launching and flight control techniques. The mission also brought the latest plans for British aircraft carriers, such as the Argus and Hermes , to the Japanese, which influenced the final development phase of the Japanese aircraft carrier Hōshō . The Hōshō became the first naval ship in the world to be designed as an aircraft carrier.

Under the Washington Naval Treaty , the Japanese were allowed to convert two battlecruisers still under construction into aircraft carriers: the Akagi and the Amagi . In 1923, however , the Amagi was damaged in an earthquake. It was then replaced by the Kaga . With these two carriers, the Japanese naval doctrine could essentially be realized.

Japanese Navy Air Force versus USA - First Clash (1932)

  • In 1932, during the Shanghai Incident , Lieutenant Robert Short (US Army Reserve) shot down at least two aircraft of the Japanese Navy Air Force in his Boeing 218 with Chinese national emblems before he was killed in action.

Second Sino-Japanese War

Main article: Second Sino-Japanese War Starting in 1937, the Navy Air Force participated in the fighting in China. Aircraft from Japanese carriers attacked positions in Shanghai and the surrounding area. Naval bombers such as the Mitsubishi G3M and G4M were used to bomb Chinese cities, while fighters from the Army and Navy Air Forces were used to achieve air superiority. In contrast to other naval air forces, the Japanese Navy was also responsible for strategic bombing and used long-range bombers for this.

The strategic bombings were mostly carried out against large Chinese cities such as Shanghai , Wuhan and Chongqing . Between February 1938 and August 1943 around 5,000 bombing raids were carried out against these cities.

The bombing of Nanjing and Guangzhou , which began on September 22 and 23, 1937, led to widespread protests, which ultimately resulted in a resolution by the Far Eastern Advisory Committee of the League of Nations .

Second World War

At the beginning of the Pacific War, the naval air force consisted of five fleets. In April 1941, the First Air Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Army was established. With this, the aircraft carriers of the Navy were assigned to a single powerful unit. The Japanese had a total of six large and three smaller porters. The 11th Air Fleet received the bulk of the naval land-based air force.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor , smashing the American Pacific Fleet and destroying 188 aircraft, losing only 29 aircraft itself. On December 10, managed land-based bombers of the 11th Air Fleet also, the British battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse the Force Z to sink .

Air strikes were also carried out on the Philippines and Darwin in northern Australia .

Between December 16, 1941 and March 20, 1945 the Imperial Japanese Navy counted losses of 14,242 flight crew members and 1,579 officers.

Aircraft strength 1941

The Japanese Navy Air Force had more than 3,089 aircraft and 370 training aircraft in 1941

Individual evidence

  1. ^ The magazine Die Woche , issue 21 of March 20, 1936, pages 8–9, reports on the training of "Japan's naval pilots" and mentions a Japanese captain Hino , who studied at the TH Charlottenburg in 1911, who wanted to work with aircraft in Johannisthal interested and trained in “piloting an airplane”, returned to Japan and shortly afterwards came back to Berlin to buy a flying machine on behalf of the Imperial Japanese Government. This machine was the germ of the Japanese air fleet and also of the naval aviation. The magazine names some statistical data from 1936, which should be viewed with caution due to the ideological-political proximity of the National Socialists to Japan, but which can serve as a guide: The naval air force comprised 25,000 men, the total expenditure for the air force was 100 million yen. The Japanese flew 700 hp bombers at 300 km / h, twin-engine universal aircraft with 450 hp and 320 km / h 1400 hp bombers.
  2. The Wakamiya is considered to be the first ship from which a ship-based air strike was successfully flown Source:
  3. ^ Mark Peattie: Sunburst The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909-1941. 2007, p. 17.
  4. ^ Air Units of the Imperial Japanese Navy,
  5. Osamu Tagaya: Imperial Japanese Navy Aviator 1937-1945. 2003, p. 5.


  • Mark Stille: Imperial Japanese Navy Aircraft Carriers, 1921–1945. (= New Vanguard. Vol. 109), Osprey Publishing, Oxford 2005, ISBN 1-84176-853-7 .
  • Osamu Tagaya: Imperial Japanese Navy Aviator 1937–1945. (= Warrior. Vol. 55), Osprey Publishing, Oxford 2003, ISBN 1-84176-385-3 .

See also

Web links