The Imperial Japanese Army Air Service or Imperial Japanese Army Air Force (IJAAS or IJAAF) (大日本帝國陸軍航空部隊 Dainippon Teikoku Rikugun Kōkūbutai) or, more literally, the Greater Japan Empire Army Air Corps, was the aviation force of the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). Just as the IJA in general was modeled mainly on the German Army, the IJAAS initially developed along similar lines to the Imperial German Army Aviation; its primary mission was to provide tactical close air support for ground forces, as well as a limited air interdiction capability. The IJAAS also provided aerial reconnaissance to other branches of the IJA. While the IJAAS engaged in strategic bombing of cities such as Shanghai, Nanking, Canton, Chongqing, Rangoon, and Mandalay, this was not the primary mission of the IJAAS, and it lacked a heavy bomber force.
The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service was responsible for long-range bomber and attack aircraft, as well as strategic air defense. It was not until the later stages of the Pacific War that the two air arms attempted to integrate the air defense of the home islands.
|Imperial Japanese Army Air Service (IJAAS)|
Dainippon Teikoku Rikugun Kōkūbutai
|Country||Empire of Japan|
|Allegiance||Ministry of the Army Inspectorate General of Aviation|
|Branch||Imperial Japanese Army|
|Part of||Armed Forces of the Empire of Japan|
|Engagements||World War I|
Battles of Khalkhin Gol
World War II
|Ceremonial chief||Emperor of Japan|
Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni
The Imperial Japanese Army made use of hydrogen balloons for observation purposes in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 and in 1909, together with the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Tokyo Imperial University, the Rinji Gunyo Kikyu Kenkyukai (Temporary Military Balloon Research Association) was set up. In 1910, the society sent Captain Yoshitoshi Tokugawa and Captain Hino Kumazō to France and Germany, respectively, to receive pilot training and purchase aircraft. Japan purchased its first aircraft, a Farman biplane and a Grade monoplane, which had been brought back by the officers from Western Europe. On December 19 1910, Captain Yoshitoshi Tokugawa in a Farman III conducted the first successful powered flight on Japanese soil at Yoyogi Parade Ground in Tokyo. The following year in 1911, several more aircraft were imported and an improved version of the Farman III biplane, the Kaishiki No.1, was built and flown in Japan by Captain Togugawa. In 1914, with the outbreak of war, the Japanese laid siege to the German colony of Tsingtao, aircraft from the army together with the navy conducted reconnaissance and bombing operations. The Provisional Air Corps consisting of four Maurice Farman MF.7 biplanes and a single Nieuport VI-M monoplane flew 86 sorties between them. In December 1915, a air battalion was created under the Army Transport Command, which became responsible for all air operations. However, serious interest in military aviation did not develop until after World War I. Japanese military observers in Western Europe were quick to spot the advantages of the new technology, and after the end of the war, Japan purchased large numbers of surplus military aircraft, including Sopwith 1½ Strutters, Nieuport 24s, and Spads.
In 1918, a French military mission was invited to Japan to help develop aviation. The mission was headed by Jacques-Paul Faure and composed of 63 members to establish the fundamentals of the Japanese aviation, the mission also brought several aircraft including Salmson 2A2, Nieuport, Spad XIII, two Breguet XIV, as well as Caquot dirigables. Japanese army aviation was organized into a separate chain of command within the Ministry of War of Japan in 1919, and aircraft were being used in combat roles during the 1920 Siberian Intervention against the Bolshevik Red Army near Vladivostok. The first aircraft factory in Japan, Nakajima Aircraft Company, was founded in 1916 and later obtained a license to produce the Nieuport 24 and Nieuport-Delage NiD 29 C.1 (as the Nakajima Ko-4) as well as the Hispano-Suiza engine. Nakajima later license-produced the Gloster Gannet and Bristol Jupiter. Similarly, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries started producing aircraft under license from Sopwith in 1921, and Kawasaki Heavy Industries started producing the Salmson 2 A.2 bomber from France, and hired German engineers such as Dr. Richard Vogt to produce original designs such as the Type 88 bomber. Kawasaki also produced aircraft engines under license from BMW. In May 1925, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Corps was established under the command of Lieutenant General Kinichi Yasumitsu, it was regarded as a branch equal to the artillery, cavalry or infantry, and contained 3,700 personnel with about 500 aircraft.
By the end of the 1920s, Japan was producing its own designs to meet the needs of the Army, and by 1935 had a large inventory of indigenous aircraft designs that were technically sophisticated.
By 1941, the Japanese Army Air Force had about 1,500 combat aircraft. During the first years of the war, Japan continued technical development and deployment of increasingly advanced aircraft and enjoyed air superiority over most battlefields due to the combat experience of its crews and the handling qualities of its aircraft.
However, as the war continued, Japan found that its production could not match that of the Allies. On top of these production problems, Japan faced continuous combat and thus continued losses. Furthermore, there were continual production disruptions brought on by moving factories from location to location, each transfer with the goal of avoiding the Allied strategic bombing. Between these factors and others, such as the restricted strategic materials, the Japanese found themselves materialistically outmatched.
In terms of manpower, Japan was even worse off. Experienced crews were killed and replacements had not been planned. The Japanese had lost skilled trainers, and they did not have the fuel or the time to use the trainers they did have. Because of this, towards the end of its existence the JAAF resorted to kamikaze attacks against overwhelmingly superior Allied forces.
Forward air control aircraft:
Before World War I, the basic unit of the Army Air Service was the Air Battalion (航空大隊 Kōkū Daitai), each consisting of two squadrons (中隊 Chutai) with nine aircraft each, plus three reserve aircraft and three earmarked for use by the headquarters, for a total of 24 aircraft per battalion. The officer commanding the chutai was the Chutaicho, whose rank was usually that of captain. The commander's aircraft often had distinctive markings, often a partly or totally scarlet, red, orange or yellow tail.
In a reorganization of 1927-05-05, the Air Regiment (飛行連隊 Hikō Rentai) was created, each consisting of two battalions, with each battalion consisting of up to four squadrons. Each Air Regiment was a mixed purpose unit, consisting of a mixture of fighter and reconnaissance squadrons.
With the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, operational conditions favored the use of many small units, resulting in the creation of many independent Air Battalions (独立飛行大隊 Dokuritsu Hikō Daitai) or even independent squadrons (独立飛行中隊 Dokuritsu Hikō Chutai), each with its own distinctive markings.
In August 1938, a complete re-organization of the Army Air Service resulted in the creation of the Air Combat Group (飛行戦隊 Hikō Sentai), which replaced all of the former Air Battalions and Air Regiments. Each Air Combat Group was a single-purpose unit consisting typically of three Squadrons, divided into three flights (小隊 shōtai) of three aircraft each. Together with reserve aircraft and the headquarters flight, an Air Combat Group typically had 45 aircraft (fighter) or up to 30 aircraft (bomber or reconnaissance). Two or more Air Combat Groups formed an Air Division (飛行団 Hikōdan), which, together with base and support units and a number of Independent Squadrons, formed an Air Corps (飛行集団 Hikō Shudan).
In 1942, the Air Corps were renamed Air Divisions (飛行師団 Hikō Shidan), to mirror the terminology for infantry divisions, but the structure remained the same. Two Air Divisions, together with some independent units made an Air Army (航空軍 Kōkū gun).
Throughout most of the Pacific War, the Japanese Army Air Service was organized into four Air Armies, with two more added in the final stages of the war:
In April 1944, a reorganization of the Japanese Army Air Service occurred. Maintenance and ground service units, formerly a separate command, were merged into the Air Combat Group (Hiko Sentai). The flying squadrons of the Air Combat Group were re-designated as Squadron (飛行隊 Hikōtai), and the ground units were designated Maintenance Units (整備隊 Seibutai).
Other changes in the final stages of the war was the formation of “Special Attack Units” and "Air-shaking Units", which were short-lived units with their own names (often taken from Japanese mythology or history) and markings, but located within existing squadrons. These units were specially designated and trained with the mission of air-to-air ramming of Allied bomber aircraft. They usually had their armaments removed and their airframes reinforced.
In the final phase of the war, the Special Attack Units evolved into dedicated suicide units for kamikaze missions. Around 170 of these units were formed, 57 by the Instructor Air Division alone. Notionally equipped with 12 aircraft each, it eventually comprised around 2000 aircraft.
The final reorganisation of the took place during preparation for Operation Ketsu-Go, the defence of the home islands in 1945 when all the Air Armies were combined under a centralised command of General Masakazu Kawabe .
Teishin Shudan ("Raiding Group") was the IJA's special forces/airborne unit during World War II. The word teishin may be literally translated as "dash forward", and is usually translated as "raiding". It may also be regarded as similar to the "commando" designation in the terminology of other armies. Called a division, the unit was a brigade-sized force, and was part of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service (IJAAS). The Teishin units were therefore distinct from the marine parachute units of the Special Naval Landing Forces.
'Giretsu' (義烈空挺隊 Giretsu Kūteitai) was an airborne special forces unit of the Imperial Japanese Army formed from Army paratroopers, in late 1944 as a last-ditch attempt to reduce and delay Allied bombing raids on the Japanese home islands. The Giretsu Special Forces unit was commanded by Lieutenant General Kyoji Tominaga.
In 1940 the Japanese Army Air Service consisted of the following:
The Japanese Air Army Force had one technical section, the First Tachikawa Air Army Arsenal, which was in charge of aviation research and development. The Arsenal included a testing section for captured Allied aircraft, the Air Technical Research Laboratory (Koku Gijutsu Kenkyujo).
The Army Air Arsenal was also connected with Tachikawa Hikoki K.K. and Rikugun Kokukosho K.K., the Army-owned and operationed aircraft manufacturing companies. much as the IJNAS operated its own firm, the Yokosuka Naval Air Technical Arsenal.
Due to the poor relations between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy, the Army found it necessary to procure and operate their own aircraft carriers for the purposes of providing escort and protection for Army transport shipping convoys. These escort/transport carriers were converted from small passenger liners or merchant ships and possessed the capacity to operate from eight to 38 aircraft, depending on type and size, and were also used to transport personnel and tanks.
These vessels included the Taiyō Maru, Unyo Maru, Chuyo Maru, Kaiyō Maru, Shinyo Maru, Kamakura Maru, Akitsu Maru, Nigitsu Maru, Kumano Maru, Yamashiro Maru, Shimane Maru, Chigusa Maru (not completed), and Otakisan Maru (not completed) and were operated by civilian crews with Army personnel manning the light and medium anti-aircraft guns.
As an integral part of the IJA, the Army Air Service wore the standard Imperial Japanese Army Uniforms. Only flying personnel and ground crews wore sky blue trim and stripes, while officers wore their ranks on sky blue patches.
The 11th Air Squadron (第十一飛行戦隊 - 11th Hiko Sentai) was flying unit of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service. The unit was established on 31 August 1938 at Harbin, Manchuria. The unit saw service in Manchuria during the Manchuria Incident, China during the Second Sino-Japanese War and Burma, Netherlands East Indies, Indochina, Rabaul, Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Philippines, Formosa and Japan during World War II. The unit was disbanded at Takahagi, Japan in late 1945.1st Air Squadron (Japan)
The 1st Air Squadron (第一飛行戦隊 Dai-ichi-hikō sentai) was a flying unit of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service. The unit was established on 5 July 1938 at Kagamigahara, Japan. The unit saw service in Manchuria during the Manchuria Incident, China during the Second Sino-Japanese War and Burma, Netherlands East Indies, Indochina, Rabaul, Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Philippines, Formosa and Japan during World War II. The unit was disbanded at Takahagi, Japan in late 1945.6th Air Division (Japan)
The 6th Air Division (第六飛行師団, Dai 6 Hikō Shidan) was a land-based aviation force of the Imperial Japanese Army. It was formed on 25 November 1942, as part of the Eighth Area Army. It was incorporated into the Fourth Air Army based at Rabaul in June 1943.The division moved its headquarters to Wewak on 9 July 1943. After being reduced in men and aircraft due to Allied aerial attacks and bombing missions by 31 May 1944, the division was disbanded in August at Hollandia.72nd Shinbu Squadron
The 72nd Shinbu Squadron (第72振武隊, Dai Nanajūni Shinbu-tai) of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force was formed on January 30, 1945, as the 113 Educational Flight Corps. On March 30 of the same year the unit gained its final name, the 72nd Shinbu Squadron.On May 25, 1945, the 72nd Shinbu Squadron departed from Metabaru Air Field to the secret air base at Bansei, which is now part of the city of Minamisatsuma (南さつま市) in Kagoshima Prefecture, located on the southwestern tip of Kyūshū. Two Type 99 assault planes of the 72nd Shinbu Squadron damaged American destroyer USS Braine, on which 66 men were killed and 78 wounded. Following the attacks the twelve men from the Squadron left for Korea to wait for orders.7th Air Division (Japan)
The 7th Air Division (第七飛行師団, Dai 7 Hikō Shidan) was a land-based aviation force of the Imperial Japanese Army. The division was formed on 29 January 1943 in the Netherlands East Indies as part of the Eighth Area Army. It was incorporated into the Fourth Air Army based at Rabaul on 28 July 1943.The division moved its headquarters to Wewak in June 1943. The division was disbanded 24 July 1945.9th Air Division (Japan)
The 9th Air Division was a land-based aviation force of the Imperial Japanese Army. The division was formed on 10 December 1943 in the Netherlands East Indies as part of the Third Area Army.Bombing of Mandalay (1942)
The bombing of Mandalay was conducted as part of the Japanese conquest of Burma and was one of many Burmese cities, towns, and ports subject to air raids by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service and Thai Phayap Army Air Force during the Pacific theater of World War II.
Mandalay suffered its first air raid on February 19, 1942, when Japanese bombers attacked the city. Later on, the city suffered one of the most devastating air raids on April 3, 1942. That night, Japanese bombers dropped incendiary bombs, creating a huge firestorm. About three-fifths of the wooden houses and the former homes of Burmese kings was destroyed, and an estimated 2,000 civilians killed. The official Royal Air Force history described the raid as "particularly devastating" because the firefighting equipment was destroyed and that "thousands" of the inhabitants perished. It was said that a city that had taken a thousand years to build was destroyed in an hour. Clare Boothe Luce, the wife of Henry Luce, publisher of Time and Life magazines, and then a reporter in Burma, visited Mandalay two days later after the bombing. She wrote:
Every house was burned down or still flaming and smoldering. A terrible stink arose from 2,000 bodies in the ruins of brick, plaster and twisted tin roofing. Only the smoke-grimed stone temple elephants on the scarred path were watching guard over the Road to Mandalay, while buzzards and carrion crows wheeled overhead. Bodies were lying on the streets and bobbing like rotten apples in the quiet green moat around the untouched fort.Fourth Air Army (Japan)
The Fourth Air Army was a land-based aviation force of the Imperial Japanese Army. Formed in Rabaul in June 1943, consisting of the 6th and 7th Air Divisions. The air army was responsible for covering the Solomon Islands, Dutch New Guinea and the Territories of Papua and New Guinea areas of operations. The headquarters was at Rabaul.Hikōtai Transport Unit
The Japanese Army Air Force Hikōtai Unit was an Imperial Japanese Army Air Service Air transport section (a Hikōtai) whose mission was to transport personnel, weapons and equipment to occupied
territories or the combat front in wartime. Such units supported Army airborne forces during their missions as well.Hiromichi Shinohara
Hiromichi Shinohara (篠原 弘道, Shinohara Hiromichi); (1913–1939) was the highest-scoring fighter ace of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service (IJAAF). On 27 June 1939 he set a Japanese record by downing 11 planes on a single day. He was shot down and killed on 27 August 1939, having claimed 58 victories in only three months of combat. He scored all his aerial victories while flying a Nakajima Ki-27.Imperial Japanese Army Air Academy
The Imperial Japanese Army Air Academy (陸軍航空士官学校, Rikugun Kōkū Shikan Gakkō) was the principal officers' training school for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service. The classrooms of the academy were located in the city of Sayama, Saitama Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo. An airfield was added in 1937 and used by the IJAAS until 1945.Kawasaki Ki-96
The Kawasaki Ki-96 was a Japanese single seat, twin-engine heavy fighter of World War II. It was intended to replace the Kawasaki Ki-45s of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service. However, it was not adopted and only three prototypes were built.List of air divisions of the Imperial Japanese Army
Air Groups (Air Divisions) of the Imperial Japanese Army were units typically formed by aggregating several (4-8) aviation regiments (Sentais) for the training or large-scale military operations.List of aircraft engines used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service
This is a list of aircraft engines used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force.Mitsubishi Ki-2
The Mitsubishi Ki-2 (九三式双軽爆撃機, Kyūsan-shiki sōkei bakugekiki, "Army Type 93 Twin-engine Light Bomber") was a light bomber built by Mitsubishi for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service (IJAAS) in the 1930s. Its Allied nickname was "Louise". Despite its antiquated appearance, the Ki-2 was successfully used in Manchukuo and in North China during the early stages of the Second Sino-Japanese War, in areas where danger from enemy fighter aircraft was minimal. It was later used in a training role.Pyongyang Air Base
Pyongyang Air Base also known as Heijo Airfield or Pyongyang (K-23) Air Base was a former Imperial Japanese Army Air Service, Korean People's Air Force (KPAF) and United States Air Force (USAF) air base adjacent to the Taedong River in Pyongyang, North Korea. It was redeveloped after the Korean War as a Government and residential area.Shimofusa Air Base
Shimofusa Air Base (下総航空基地, Shimofusa Kōkū Kichi) (ICAO: RJTL) is a military aerodrome of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. It is located 5.4 NM (10.0 km; 6.2 mi) east of Matsudo in Chiba Prefecture, Japan. The base straddles the border between Kashiwa and Kamagaya cities.Tachikawa Ki-74
The Tachikawa Ki-74 was a Japanese experimental long-range reconnaissance bomber of World War II. A twin-engine, mid-wing monoplane, it was developed for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Service but never deployed in combat. The Ki-74 was designed for high altitude operation with a pressurized cabin for its crew.Teishin Shudan
Teishin Shudan (挺進集団, Raiding Group) was a Japanese special forces/airborne unit during World War II. The unit was a division-level force, and was part of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force (IJAAF). The Teishin units were therefore distinct from the marine parachute units of the Special Naval Landing Forces.