Japanese Air Forces

Chris Kemp’s Not Quite Mechanised


Imperial Japanese Air Forces (Army and Navy Air Force)

Airfield HQ   1 Comd in  Staff Car (s3),  Control Tower Van (s3)
Sentai x 3 1 Aircraft per Sentai (See notes below)(s3)
Ground Sp  1-6 Ground Sp Crews(s3), Fuel Bowser, Fire Truck and Crew (s3), Ammo Tender (s3)

The Japanese had both Army and Navy Air Forces

Army Air Forces were organised  into Chutai (Wings or Air Companies) by type of aircraft, Sentai (Groups or Air Regiments of about 45-48 Aircraft) and then Air Brigades, Divisions, and Air Armies. I usually model one aircraft to a  Sentai. The colourful tail marking designs on Japanese aircraft usually denotes the Sentai, with the individual Chutai being denoted by the colour of the design.

Navy Air Forces had two parallel lines of command; land (NL) and carrier based (NC). I simplify this as both land based Kokutai (Air Corps or later Koku Sentai) and carrier based Koku Sentai (Carrier Air Group) varied in strength from a few planes to up to 80

The Far East

The following aircraft types were used by the Japanese. I have not included purely Strategic Aircraft or Night fighters, nor aircraft where only small numbers saw service at the very end of the war. Where possible, I have included the Japanese designation, ‘Allied reporting name‘, (first operational use) and [Type]. If I have been able to determine, I have given operational areas, and Arm of Service (IJN=Imperial Navy, IJA=Imperial Army), and any comments that help: If it looks a bit like an aircraft that it can be modelled from, I have noted that. The main source for this section is Gunston, B. (1978) Combat Aircraft of WWII


Mitsubishi A5M ‘Claude’. (1936), [Fighter. Most numerical and important early war fighter. IJN” Models built originally by the Revd  Ian Lowell as  French Dewoitines D.520″

Mitsubishi A5M ‘Claude’. (1936), [Fighter]. Most numerical and important early war fighter. IJN

Mitsubishi G3M ‘Nell’. (1936), [Long Range Bomber]. IJN

Mitsubishi Ki-15 ‘Babs’. (1936), [Light Attack Bomber]. Mainly used against the Chinese. IJA


Mitsubishi Ki-21 ‘Sally’. (1937), [Heavy Bomber]. Left the Front Line in 1943. IJA

Nakajima B5N ‘Kate’. (1937), [Carrier-based Bomber, Torpedo Bomber].  IJN


Mitsubishi Ki-30 ‘Anne’. (1938), [Light Bomber. IJA”

Mitsubishi Ki-30 ‘Anne’. (1938), [Light Bomber]. IJA

Kawanishi H6k ‘Mavis’. (1938), [Long-range Reconnaissance Flying Boat]. Looks a bit like a Catalina. IJN

Nakajima Ki-27 ‘Nate’. (1938), [ Interceptor, Attack]. Outnumbered all other Japanese Fighters. Fought against the Soviets and Chinese. Present at Pearl Harbour. IJA

Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa ‘Oscar’. (1938), [ Interceptor, Fighter Bomber]. Looks a bit like an FW190. IJA


Tachikawa Ki-36/55 ‘Ida’. (1939), [Army Co-operation]. IJA


Kawasaki Ki-48 ‘Lily’. (1940), [Light Bomber]. IJA

Mitsubishi A6M Zero-Sen ‘Zeke’. (1940), [Fighter]. The single most important Japanese Fighter. IJN


Aichi D3A ‘Val’. (1941) [Dive Bomber]. The dive bomber that attacked Pearl Harbour. IJN

Aichi E13A ‘Jake‘. (1941). [Reconnaissance Floatplane]. Made in larger numbers than any other Japanese Floatplane. IJN

Kawanishi H8K ‘Emily‘. (1941), [Reconnaissance and Attack Flying Boat]. Looks a bit like a Sunderland. IJN

Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu ‘Nick’. (1941), [Long Range Escort. Later, Attack and Night Fighter]. IJA

Mitsubishi G4M ‘Betty’. (1941), [Long Range Land-based Torpedo Bomber]. Nicknamed the ‘one shot lighter’ by the Allies. Not popular with its crews! IJN

Mitsubishi Ki-46 ‘Dinah’. (1941), [ Strategic Reconnaisance]. IJA

Mitsubishi Ki-46 ‘Dinah’. (1941), [ Strategic Reconnaisance. IJA”

Yokusa D4y Suisei ‘Judy’. (1941), [Carrier-based Dive Bomber]. IJN


Nakajima J1N1 ‘Irving’. (1942), [Carrier-based Reconnaissance].  IJN

Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki ‘Tojo’. (1942), [ Interceptor, Fighter Bomber]. Looks a bit like an FW190 with a deeper body. IJA


Kawanishi N1K1(&2)-J Shiden ‘George’. (1943), [Fighter]. Looks a bit like a Focke Wulfe. IJN

Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien ‘Tony’. (1943), [Fighter]. Looks a bit like an Me 109 with a sleeker nose. IJA

Nakajima B6N ‘Jill’. (1943), [Carrier-based Bomber, Torpedo Bomber].  IJN

Nakajima C6N Saiun ‘Myrt’. (1943), [Carrier-based Reconnaissance]. Looks a bit like an FW190 with a stretched cockpit.  IJN

Yokusa P1Y1 Ginga ‘Francis’. (1943), [Multi-role Attack Bomber. Similar to late-model Ju88 IJN”

Yokusa P1Y1 Ginga ‘Francis’. (1943), [Multi-role Attack Bomber]. Similar to late-model Ju88 IJN


Aichi B7A Ryusei ‘Grace’. (1944), [Carrier-based Torpedo Bomber]. Only ever used from land bases. IJN

Aichi E16A Zuiun ‘Paul’. (1944), [Reconnaissance Floatplane]. IJN

Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryu ‘Peggy’. (1944), [Heavy Bomber, Torpedo Bomber]. IJA, IJN

Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate ‘Frank’. (1944),   FW190s standing in instead.

Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate ‘Frank’. (1944), [ Fighter Bomber]. Looks a bit like an FW190, or more credibly, a Thunderbolt. IJA


Mitsubishi J2M Raidan ‘Jack’. (1945), [Fighter. Only just made it into the war, but I own a model! IJN”

Mitsubishi J2M Raidan ‘Jack’. (1945), [Fighter]. Only just made it into the war, but I own a model! IJN

Early in the war, according to Kirk (1976, in The Japanese War Machine) the Japanese enjoyed a 2:1 quantitative superiority to the Allies, and also a qualitative superiority. As the war progressed, this advantage was steadily eroded as the Allies caught up, and then overtook the Imperial Japanese Forces. Ellis (1993) gives a ratio of  2,520 Japanese to 3,537 US aircraft in Jan 1942 eroding to 4,600 Japanese to 21,908 US aircraft by Jul 1945 (Roughly 1:4).

According to Ellis (1993) The proportions of numbers of aircraft in  the Far East in Dec 1941 were Fighter 550-A, 371-NC;  Med and Hvy Bombers 660-A, 320-NC, 324-NL; Recce 290-A, 30-NL; Others 70-A, 334-NC+NL. (A=Army, NC=Navy Carrier Based, NL=Navy Land Based. To approximate Sentai divide these numbers by 45).

  Warning: If you look at some of these pictures and think “That just looks like an Me109 or an Fw190 with red stick-on Roundels”,  you are probably right. That’s how I do it a lot of the time.

Some images, where marked, with acknowledgement to  gunpoint-3d.com who own the copyright.

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