A few weeks ago, someone remarked that they wished someone would do an overview of Japanese Aircraft: ........Well, ...Here it is!
One of the problems I faced was the apparent Japanese love for variety: Just like in their submarine service, the Japanese aircraft inventory is characterized by a bewildering array of models, and in most cases, each model had multiple versions.
To avoid making this post into "War and Peace", I practiced triage in a big way. I disregarded transports and trainers completely, and gave only limited mention to the more common recon aircraft. I tried to confine this report to those aircraft that I thought the Devs (or later, our beloved modders) might actually include in gameplay.
There are some generalities that emerged:
First, ALL Japanese twin engine bombers deserve extreme respect. As a class, they are fast, heavily gunned, and carry very respectable bomb loads.
Second, ALL Japanese fighters introduced after 1940 are serious threats. They tend to be well equipped with forward firing machineguns and cannon, and most have hardpoints allowing for at least a pair of 60kg bombs.
Third, the Japanese Air Force was "seaplane heavy": ....Not particularly surprising when one considers the amount of water their new empire encompassed. Some of these were "between-the-wars" designs, and make for good AA target practice. The other more modern designs are dangerous adversaries for any sub: ....Treat them with respect!
A word also needs to be said about Japanese aircrews: They were, in 1941, far more experienced than the equivalent Allied personnel, because they had been practicing their trade in China since at least 1937. The Chinese were unable to offer much in the way of airborne practice, but the Japanese got plenty of practice in the art of putting their bullets and bombs exactly where they wanted them on the ground: ....And as sub commanders, that's the part that really matters to us!!!
The Japanese aircraft were identified by an allied codename system. The code name system was started in 1942 to simplify the identification of Japanese aircraft as they were sighted. (After all, you couldn't expect a 21 year old 2nd lieutenant from Lawrence, Kansas to pronounce "NAKAJIMA KI-84-IA HAYATE" accurately from memory; ...now could you??) Generally speaking, boy's code names were given to fighters, while girl's names were assigned to bombers. (....Anyone who has an ex-wife will appreciate the irony in that!!!)
So, anyway; .......here they are! ....Enjoy!
ALF KAWANISHI E7K2 SEAPLANE
This is an airplane that should have called it "quits" after 1940: ....But the Japanese needed seaplanes, as 90% of the territory they had captured was water! Alf's guns are too light to be a threat, but 60kg bombs are nothing to sneeze at! Fortunately, ALF is agonizingly slow for a combat aircraft: .....So let Socko conduct some AA practice drills!
ANN MITSUBISHI KI-30 LIGHT BOMBER (Army)
This aircraft is a credible threat. While ANN's guns are barely adequate, she carries a decent bomb load, and with her respectable top speed, she is able to deliver it! Expect Hull Damage.
BABS MITSUBISHI C5M RECON PLANE
By herself, this girl poses no threat: .....But remember, her job is long range recon, .....and her appearance may be the first warning you get that something nastier is on the way!
BETTY MITSUBISHI G4M2A BOMBER
This is a great example of a really fine twin engine bomber. Good range and speed, a heavy bomb load, and an impressive array of guns make BETTY a girl you'll want to date with care! You will definitely see this aircraft, as it was used everywhere by the Japanese. (A crash dive upon sighting is a good way to go!)
CLAUDE MITSUBISHI A5M4 FIGHTER (ALSO "SANDY")
A "between-the-wars" design, this aircraft saw frontline service in only the first year of the war. It was then relegated to rear area support and training. CLAUDE reappeared late in the war as a kamikaze aircraft.
DAVE NAKAJIMA E8N1 RECON SEAPLANE
This is another aircraft that probably would have been retired before the U.S. entered the War, if only the Japanese didn't need seaplanes so badly. Lightly gunned, with a small bomb load, this guy is a minimal threat by himself. DAVE's main job was recon, and he was frequently used as the catapult-launched scout plane on cruisers and battleships. (Where his low take-off speed was an advantage.) Let your AA gunners play!
EMILY KAWANISHI H8K2 FLYING BOAT
This aircraft is a thoroughly modern, long range, four engine flying boat. Bristling with guns, and carrying an impressive bomb load, EMILY is pure, unadulterated trouble! Sub skippers should particularly note the remarkable top speed! This girl will "rock your boat"!
FRANCES YOKOSUKA P1Y1 GINGA BOMBER
This aircraft is another example of the Japanese talent for building very good twin engine bombers. Produced in several versions, FRANCIS was frequently seen with attack radar. Give FRANCIS the respect she is due!
FRANK NAKAJIMA KI-84-IA HAYATE FIGHTER
First flown in early 1943, this aircraft was specifically designed to counter the threat posed by Allied P-47s and P-51s. It carried seriously heavy guns, and still was able to deliver two heavy bombs, when employed as a fighter/bomber. A commonly heard comment in Allied radar rooms was; "Forget it! ....It's a FRANK!!". They knew that if there wasn't a P-51 in the immediate area, nothing was going to catch FRANK.
GEORGE KAWANISHI N1K1-J SHIDEN FIGHTER
Introduced in early 1944, this guy was a match for Allied aircraft like the F6F HELLCAT and the F4U CORSAIR. Like most of the modern Japanese fighters, it was capable of carrying a respectable bomb load, and it's speed will leave your AA gunners wondering; "Where did it go????". Engage at your own risk.
HELEN NAKAJIMA KI-49-IIB DONRYU HEAVY BOMBER
Still another fast, well armed, twin engine bomber; ......with a big payload of "love letters" just for you. By now, you "skippers" are probably figuring out that if you see a Japanese twin engine bomber, it's time to check out what 300 feet looks like!
IDA TACHIKAWA KI-36 SUPPORT AC
Originally designed as a light bomber, this aircraft found it's niche as a tactical ground support plane, and advanced trainer. It did this job well enough that it was produced up until the middle of 1944. In keeping with it's support role, it would not be surprising to find a couple of IDAs sitting on a sand strip on some remote island. Because of this type of deployment, you may see IDA around.
IRVING NAKAJIMA J1N1-C GEKKO SUPPORT AC
This guy is a big, fast, long range recon aircraft. While IRVING carries no bomb load, his speed, and downward firing 20mm Cannon make him a credible threat: ......And like all recon aircraft, his appearance is a good indication that his uglier cousins are probably on the way!
JACK MITSUBISHI J2M3 RAIDEN FIGHTER
Originally designed as a naval interceptor, JACK had all the standard tools needed for that Job: ....Heavy guns, lots of horsepower, and an excellent rate of climb. As the War dragged on, Japanese aircraft carriers were becoming rather scarce, and JACK had to find something else to do, and somewhere else to do it. Like many of the Japanese fighters, Jack had "hardpoints" for the mounting of bombs; .....and if you sit still long enough, he'll show you what they're used for!
JAKE AICHI E13A1 SEAPLANE (ALSO "JUNE")
While officially listed as a "Recon Seaplane", JAKE is actually a pretty nasty piece of work: ...With his downward firing 20mm cannon, and 250kg bomb or Depth Charge capability, it seems pretty clear that the Japanese intended JAKE to be a "pain-in-the-azz" to submarines. Handle with care!
JEAN YOKOSUKA B4Y1 SUPPORT AC (ALSO KUGISHO)
Here we have an aircraft very similar to the British "Swordfish". Clearly obsolete by most standards, but still able to carry a torpedo or heavy bomb load to it's target. (...or at least most of the way.) Jean's poor top speed is what makes her into a victim more often than a victor; ....so give your AA gunners some practice!
JILL NAKAJIMA B6N2 TENZAN BOMBER
This aircraft is the classic example of "a day late and a dollar short"! Intended as an offensive torpedo bomber, JILL wasn't deployed until AFTER high performance Allied fighters were present in force. After some disastrous encounters in fleet actions, where the downside of "a little bit too slow" was made clear, Jill was delegated to defensive roles, which is where SH4 skippers will probably encounter her.
JUDY YOKOSUKA D4Y3 SUISEI BOMBER (ALSO KUGISHO)
A good, solid, high performance dive bomber. Her lack of self sealing gas tanks and armor made her prey to other aircraft, but against her primary target, naval vessels, she was a solid performer! (One JUDY nearly sank the carrier U.S.S. Franklin single-handedly!)
KATE NAKAJIMA B5N2 TORPEDO BOMBER
This was the torpedo bomber that caused so much grief and aggravation at Pearl Harbor. Although technically close to obsolescence in December of 1941, KATE continued to serve through most of the War. (But again, regardless of how KATE did against other aircraft, it is the substantial bomb load that commands respect from sub commanders.)
LILLY KAWASAKI KI-48-IIA LIGHT BOMBER (ARMY)
Well, .....I bet by now you're tired of hearing about the virtues of Japanese twin engine bombers! Too Bad: .....here's another fast, supremely capable aircraft to worry about!
LORNA KYUSHU Q1W1 TOKAI ANTI- SUBMARINE PATROL
Based on the JU-88 design, LORNA was one of the Japanese aircraft that was produced in a version that was dedicated to ASW. This version was equipped with MAD (Magnetic Anomaly Detection) gear that let her search for submerged submarines by their tell-tail disturbance of the Earth's magnetic field. If you see a LORNA in your neighborhood, ......start worrying! (Diving deep won't help!)
MABEL MITSUBISHI B5M1 CARRIER ATTACK BOMBER
This is simply a solid, carrier based torpedo bomber. Like many Japanese carrier based plane, MABEL had to find land based duties when Japanese aircraft carriers became less common. In these more defensive roles, MABEL's heavy bomb load was a significant plus.
MARY KAWASAKI KI-32 LIGHT BOMBER
Designed as a basic dive bomber, MARY was in frontline service from 1938 to 1942. After 1942, she was relegated to rear area defensive operations. While not particularly fast by Allied aircraft standards, she still moves well enough to be difficult for your AA gunners: Handle carefully!
MAVIS KAWANISHI H6K FLYING BOAT
Designed in the middle 30s, MAVIS was conceived as a heavy, long range, long duration Flying Boat. Her range capabilities made 24 hour patrol missions easily possible, which means that MAVIS could stick to your submerged sub as tenuously as any surface escort. The fact that she's bristling with guns, and has a 1000kg bomb load does nothing to make her "more pleasant company"!
MYRT NAKAJIMA C6N1 SAIUN SUPPORT AC
This aircraft was the last word in high speed, long range recon. MYRT's speed allowed him to laugh at Allied fighters, and he could operate with impunity even in Allied controlled airspaces. Like most dedicated recon aircraft, MYRT is no real threat to a sub by himself; ....but he will happily "rat you out" to his unpleasant friends!
NATE NAKAJIMA KI-27B FIGHTER (also called "CLINT")
Although technically obsolete in 1940, NATE continued in active service because of the Japanese tendency to value maneuverability over speed and armament. With his light machine guns, and non-existent bomb load, the sighting of a NATE is a good excuse to give your AA gunners some advanced practice.
NELL MITSUBISHI G3M2 BOMBER
Here we go again: ......yet another modern, fast, high performance twin engine bomber. It is historically interesting to note that NELLs played a crucial role in the sinking of the HMS Prince of Wales, and the HMS Repulse. Everything that has been said about the other Japanese twin engine bombers applies here. If your sub is sunk by aircraft, they will probably be twin engine bombers!
NICK KAWASAKI KI-45 KAI TWO SEAT FIGHTER (ARMY)
This thing is a rattlesnake with wings!! Although originally intended as an interceptor, this aircraft was produced in several versions, including the Anti-Ship version described here. This aircraft packs a 37mm auto-cannon and two 20mm cannon, along with a very respectable bomb load! It was deadly against shipping and small naval vessels: ......If you see one of these in your area, a crash dive is the only sane option.
OSCAR NAKAJIMA KI-43-IIB HAYABUSA FIGHTER
This guy is just a good, solid fighter/bomber! With it's two heavy machine guns and VERY respectable bomb load, it is entitled to your respect! (Besides, wouldn't you feel silly being sunk by a guy named OSCAR???)
PEGGY MITSUBISHI KI-67 HEAVY BOMBER (ARMY)
This girl is serious business! "Just" another twin engine bomber; ...but this girl packs a complement of guns that compares well with a B-17! Add to that a 1000kg (2200lb) bomb load, and a 537kmph (334 mph) top speed, and you have something to worry about! (....And I thought I liked "fast women"!)
PETE MITSUBISHI F1M2 SEAPLANE
From 1936 to 1944, PETE served as a patrol seaplane. While a little light in the gun department, he did carry a respectable bomb load. While faster than some of the other Bi-Plane Seaplanes, he shouldn't be beyond the capabilities of an experienced AA crew.
RUFE NAKAJIMA A6M2-N SEAPLANE
This seaplane was developed from the Zero!!! .......Enough said!!
RUTH FIAT B.R.20 HEAVY BOMBER (ARMY)
The Japanese purchased these from Italy, and then decided they didn't like them: .....But since they were stuck with 85 of them in their inventory, you may see one.
SALLY MITSUBISHI KI-21 HEAVY BOMBER (ALSO "JANE", ALSO "GWEN")
Another example of a good, fast twin engine bomber! These girls were trouble whenever they appeared! (...And just like in the singles bars, these girls tend to travel in groups!)
SONIA MITSUBISHI KI-51 ASSAULT/TACTICAL RECON (ARMY)
Originally intended as a Dive Bomber, the Sonia soon found it tough to deal with the faster Allied fighters. Noting the aircraft's ability to operate from short, rough strips, the Japanese began to use them as support and recon aircraft in remote areas: ......Just like most of the Island Garrisons whose shipping you will be trying to mess with!! Don't be surprised if "Sonia" pays you a visit!
SUSIE AICHI D1A2 BOMBER
Poor Susie!!! ....Her "Glory Days" were back in China in the late 30s! She has a fairly good bomb load for such a small plane; .....but she is simply WAY too slow! Let your AA gunners have some fun!
TOJO NAKAJIMA KI-44-IIB SHOKI FIGHTER
This little guy was originally intended to be a fast-climbing interceptor. Even though TOJO doesn't carry bombs, caution is advised; ....as his four .50 cal machineguns will make your conning tower sound like a harmonica in less time than it takes to tell about it!
TONY KAWASAKI KI-61 FIGHTER (ARMY)
The TONY was the only production Japanese fighter to use a liquid cooled V-12 powerplant. When you look at the design, and the performance, you quickly realize that the Tony's resemblance to a P-51 is probably NOT coincidental. This is another very competent aircraft, and a very dangerous adversary. The heavy guns he carries and the respectable bomb load make this aircraft a real threat to surface targets. Later in the War, the 20mm Cannon in the wings were replaced with 30mm Cannon: ......That's just not funny!
VAL AICHI D3A2 CARRIER BOMBER
This girl was a solid, workhorse, dive bomber. The VALs made a name for themselves at Pearl Harbor, and continued to be an irritation to the Allies for another couple of years. Once the high performance Allied fighters started to assert themselves, the VALs were relegated to second string roles. They re-appeared late in the war as part of the kamikaze effort.
ZEKE/ZERO MITSUBISHI A6M5 REISEN FIGHTER
What can one say about the ZEKE/ZERO??? (ZEKE being the Allied codename for the ZERO) If you say the words "Japanese Fighter", the first thing that comes to most peoples minds is the ZERO. Fast, well armed, and above all, maneuverable, the ZERO was one of the definitive aircraft of WWII. In spite of the fact that some of the later designs were actually much faster, the ZERO continued to be a favorite of the Japanese Air Force pilots because of it's demon-like maneuverability. Like most Japanese fighters, the ZEKE had wing hardpoints that allowed for up to 60kg bombs.