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Wildnoob
06-09-2011, 12:53 PM
The following U.S. report on Japanese fighter tactics originally appeared in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 20, March 11, 1943.

Japanese fighter tactics against both Allied fighters and bombers necessarily vary both with the number and type of aircraft encountered, and with the conditions under which attacks are executed. The normal tactical unit is a squadron of nine planes subdivided into three flights, in either Vee or echelon formation. Another frequently employed formation consists of a Vee of three fighter aircraft, flanked by echelons of two fighters. The latter formation is customarily used for ground attack, the echelon pairs meeting the fighter opposition while the Vee goes in to attack. The fighter formations usually fly at altitudes of 15,000 to 20,000 feet, but are said to operate efficiently at 27,000 feet or higher.

Japanese fighter pilots generally avoid head-on attacks against Allied fighters, probably because most of their planes are unarmored. "Head-to-tail" attacks are favored, except when engaging bombers with rear guns. Contrary to an earlier belief, the Japanese appear to prefer single to concerted attacks. They are now following our fighters into power dives, which heretofore they were reported reluctant to do. Apparently the structural strength of the new Hap, in particular, has made this method of escape for Allied aircraft less effective.

Attacks against our fighter aircraft have been most frequently made from above and the side, and, if possible, out of the sun. Recently, Japanese fighters are reported to be making a series of tight turns and then climbing steeply for a head-on attack. After attacking, they do a turn resembling an Immelmann, climbing up and flipping over to a half roll at the top of the loop. When pursued by our fighters, they frequently resort to evasive action, while pulling into Immelmanns and loops.

In the Aleutians, it has been observed that a Japanese Rufe, when given the advantage of altitude in a head-on attack, dives on his opponent and levels off just out of firing range. He usually rolls on his back as he passes over the Allied plane, and does a snap roll onto our fighter's tail. According to many observers, the moment of greatest vulnerability for the Japanese pilot is during the pull-out from a head-on attack, since our fighters are afforded a good shot when the enemy aircraft is in the process of making a slow roll or a climbing turn. When a head-on attack is not possible, Japanese fighters sometimes attempt an Immelmann or a steep chandelle before diving onto the enemy.

When a Japanese fighter approaches an Allied fighter aircraft broadside, from below, or at the same level, he fires a short burst and does a semi-half roll, usually to the left. He then comes back up in a steep climb and attacks again. When a climbing attack is made on a Japanese fighter, he remains just out of range until the pursuing plane begins to stall. Executing a quick turn, he brings his guns to bear on the Allied plane when it is a relatively easy target.

Japanese pilots are particularly adept in employing "decoy" tactics. The fighters sometimes fly in circles, one above the other, at different altitudes. When one of the lower aircraft is attacked, the aircraft above it dive successively onto the opposing fighters, usually approaching from behind or slightly below. A similar ruse has been employed by three-plane formations. When encountered by a pair of Allied fighters, the right- or left-wing pilot of the formation peels off and dives. If one of our fighters follows, he becomes easy prey for the remaining two Japanese aircraft.

In another deceptive maneuver, Japanese fighters attempt to draw our aircraft, particularly stragglers, into combat for the purpose of exhausting their fuel supply by the time succeeding Japanese fighters arrive to attack. These tactics are also used to enable Japanese bombers to carry out their missions after our fighters have been forced down. A faked dogfight is often staged to make it appear that one of our planes is engaged, so that the others will come to its rescue. According to a pilot in the Netherlands East Indies, a fighter, with Allied aircraft on its tail, decelerated suddenly by using his flaps and side slips. When the attacking aircraft overshot, the fighter came up underneath and fired on him. Smoke cartridges are also reported to be employed by Japanese pilots after beginning a spin downward to create the impression that they have been knocked out.

Escort fighters for bombardment aircraft have been observed above, below, and to the side of the bombers. In approaching their target, the bombers usually fly at approximately 25,000 feet, but have been encountered as high as 29,000 feet. The protecting aircraft may sometimes fly 6,000 feet below and about 2 miles behind the bombers, or they may fly about 10 miles to the side, below or above them or at the Same level. Fighters have also been known to trail the bombers at least 10 miles, although that distance gives Allied aircraft a decided advantage. Covering aircraft have, in one instance, been reported to fly above the bombers in varying positions at altitudes as high as 35,000 feet. Fighter escort planes, however, have been most frequently encountered under the bombers; in this case, our fighters, having the advantage of speed gained in a dive on the bombers, have attacked successively the bombardment planes and the fighters below them.

Currently, Japanese pilots are attacking both heavy and medium bombers from all directions, but the frontal attack is most frequently employed against our Fortresses in order to avoid the heavy fire of their rear guns. Tail attacks, sometimes made simultaneously with bow attacks, continue to be reported, as well as beam attacks and attacks from directly underneath.

During the Battle of Midway, two enemy fighters attempted interception of two three-plane elements of Fortresses, firing first at the wing ships, rolling and taking a shot at the lead ship, falling off, and then pulling back to make successive attacks. Subsequently, one Japanese aircraft flew in the path of the bombers, but far ahead, and after about 30 minutes made a right chandelle and attacked from the frontal quarter.

An instance of rear attack was recently reported from Guadalcanal. Two floatplane fighters, probable Rufes, approached a B-17E at 10,000 feet, one breaking away at 500 yards and concentrating on the bomber's underside. A third enemy fighter did not take part in the action, but remained about 3 miles away at the same altitude as the bomber. A second attack, also from below, followed quickly: One of the fighters went into a slow roll at 7,500 feet, pulled up into a steep climb, and aimed at the belly of the bomber. During the engagement, both fighters jockeyed back and forth, avoiding a straight approach.

A recent report indicates that Japanese fighters now attack medium bombers from a position parallel to the bombers' line of flight but at a lower altitude. The fighters chandelle up into the bomber formation, rolling out and diving down to the opposite side, from which a new attack is begun. This maneuver, which is similar to a lazy eight, is repeated again and again. Frequently employed tactics against the B-26 involve a two-element attack, one aircraft on the right and two on the left, just out of range of the bomber. The single plane turns into the bomber to block out its turret and nose-gun fire, and then passes under the B-26 to take the left flank, while the other two planes change over to the right.

In early operations, Japanese employed two principal methods of ground attack, which are still considered effective. In the first attack, fighters come in just over the trees, dive on an Allied airdrome, machine-gun grounded aircraft and antiaircraft emplacements and then fly away in horizontal formation at low altitude. In the case of one such attack, a fighter remained to circle the field at an altitude of 12,000 to 18,000 feet, apparently to observe the results of the attack. Shortly afterward, the Japanese launched a new attack, probably making use of information gained from the observation.

A second method of attack is illustrated by operations against Palembang. A Japanese fighter flew over an airfield and attacked with machine guns while one or more flights of aircraft remained at altitudes of 16,000 to 20,000 feet. When defending Allied fighters attempted to get into the air, the Japanese planes immediately dived upon them at high speed. In a similar attack, the Japanese fired tracer and, when this scored, followed with 20-mm explosive. They passed the targets at a height scarcely over 25 feet, flew about 50 yards beyond the edge of the field, and after making easy turns, repeated the attack again and again. More recently Japanese naval floatplanes, in loose echelon formation, flew over an Allied airdrome at 5,000 to 6,000 feet, and after circling it, peeled off, and executed organized machine-gun attacks, commencing fire at 1,500 feet. The planes then pulled out in a low turn and made independent low-altitude attacks.

Timing of all attacks on ground installations has been well coordinated.

http://www.lonesentry.com/arti...fighter-tactics.html (http://www.lonesentry.com/articles/ttt07/fighter-tactics.html)

I found very interesting. The mention about smoke cartridges caugth my attention. I always imaginate their use, but this is the only mention I ever read about they being by the Japanese and even any Air Force in history.

JtD
06-09-2011, 01:50 PM
Interesting read, thanks for sharing.

saipan1972
06-10-2011, 01:56 PM
good find, although i like my odds in head on vs a p40, the cannon always wins against the glass jaw.

horseback
06-10-2011, 06:16 PM
It is an interesting read, but you have to keep in mind that it is a wartime interpretation of Allied reports of Japanese actions and tactics filtered through western eyes, presuppositions and attitudes. How much of the report was confirmed post-war?

For example, the smoke cartidge business may only be someone's guess about a Japanese aircraft trying to accelerate after a dive or stall and putting out a sudden puff of dark smoke as a result (bad fuel mixture, maybe?).

Many accounts of action in the ETO and Med report German fighters suddenly emitting black smoke as they accelerated, and the photos of those fighters definitely show the affects of exhaust soot on German fighters' fuselages, particularly on the ones belonging to noted aces who liked to mix it up rather than hit and run. It could have been the same thing for the Japanese, using a heavier or sootier fuel than their American or Anzac foes.

Another example: a lot of early war accounts tell of Japanese fighters suddenly going into a short series of aerobatics for no apparent purpose. Postwar, Japanese sources explained that since their radios were so unreliable, and it was so hard to interpret hand signals made in an enclosed cockpit, they often used short maneuvers to communicate (and show off a bit).

Allied observers just thought that they were dealing with "wild Asiatics".

cheers

horseback

LEBillfish
06-11-2011, 02:27 AM
Heavy bombers are what scared the Japanese the most on the ground. Yet in the air were one of their favorite targets.

Ki-43 pilots had a habit of hanging off out of gun range level with the bombers and pulling ahead, and then turning round and back at either 2:00 or 10:00 o'clock in that they learned the gunners could not shoot through the prop shadows. At the last they'd roll under close and extend out on the opposite side again in the prop shadow till ready to hit again.

Other tactics were they would very often slip and ride a stall when the enemy was close six...The faster U.S. aircraft had no option but to fly past, and a bit of hard rudder and opposite aileron would have their nose pointed at the enemy as they'd scream past.......In kind, the split-S was their a-typical response to being attacked. Nothing could follow them, and even a moment of trying would quickly find the Japanese on their six.

Finally, most allied pilots "thought" they simply flew in unorganized swarms with no purpose or coordination.......The OP's text points out it was simply staggered cover.

K2

Wildnoob
06-11-2011, 07:21 AM
Originally posted by horseback:
It is an interesting read, but you have to keep in mind that it is a wartime interpretation of Allied reports of Japanese actions and tactics filtered through western eyes, presuppositions and attitudes. How much of the report was confirmed post-war?

For example, the smoke cartidge business may only be someone's guess about a Japanese aircraft trying to accelerate after a dive or stall and putting out a sudden puff of dark smoke as a result (bad fuel mixture, maybe?).

Many accounts of action in the ETO and Med report German fighters suddenly emitting black smoke as they accelerated, and the photos of those fighters definitely show the affects of exhaust soot on German fighters' fuselages, particularly on the ones belonging to noted aces who liked to mix it up rather than hit and run. It could have been the same thing for the Japanese, using a heavier or sootier fuel than their American or Anzac foes.

Another example: a lot of early war accounts tell of Japanese fighters suddenly going into a short series of aerobatics for no apparent purpose. Postwar, Japanese sources explained that since their radios were so unreliable, and it was so hard to interpret hand signals made in an enclosed cockpit, they often used short maneuvers to communicate (and show off a bit).

Allied observers just thought that they were dealing with "wild Asiatics".

cheers

horseback

Really. The Japanese bombers flying at 30,000ft is simply beyond their operational celling, for instance. Probably it was an estimative. Perhaps they could have put the performance of the Japanese planes optimistic in order to not cause surprises to pilots by not fully understanding of the aircraft capabilities and expected improved variants and new models.

Still, interesting material. It would be interesting to see a translated material from the Japanese side if avaliable as well. LEBillfish already provide us with something though. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

BillSwagger
06-11-2011, 10:39 AM
Seems to conform with most info i've read about japanese tactics.

They favored the immalmen a lot because their lighter planes always left them higher than their American counterparts particularly if the fights were at high speed.

horseback
06-14-2011, 04:30 PM
I got the impression that they favored the Immelman because they could loop more tightly than Allied fighters; it allowed them to get their guns to bear sooner than an overaggressive pursuer could.

Follow too closely, and he loops back behind you and catches you while you're ****ing away your E; follow too far back, and he goes head on to you, giving you a short window to pull up and bring your guns to bear before he goes by in the opposite direction where

A. you can't see him for a few critical seconds

B. he can decide whether to keep going and open up the range and possibly escape or

C. turn around (inside you) and be on your tail before you can re-locate him.

Japanese air combat philosophy was all about the close in dogfight; a lot of the surviving documentation and memoirs indicate that they apparently thought that hit and run tactics (regardless of how effective they were) indicated that the opposition was poorly trained and inexperienced.

cheers

horseback

LEBillfish
06-15-2011, 12:05 AM
Originally posted by horseback:
I got the impression that they favored the Immelman because they could loop more tightly than Allied fighters; it allowed them to get their guns to bear sooner than an overaggressive pursuer could.

Well a true Immelmann you would never loop....A slight climb, hard rudder (like an almost level Hammerhead) and back in......Japanese fighters could ride a stall easier then the U.S. counterparts so that lended itself to the tactic.


Originally posted by horseback:
Japanese air combat philosophy was all about the close in dogfight; a lot of the surviving documentation and memoirs indicate that they apparently thought that hit and run tactics (regardless of how effective they were) indicated that the opposition was poorly trained and inexperienced.

Well though ending up the same to understand the mindset think......Attack, attack, attack, no matter what. Meaning always scrambling to get to your opponent and bring guns to bear. The result if done perfectly sticking close to them.

As a side note the Japanese on the whole trusted their 7.7mm guns for kills, cannon rarely and only when close (at least early on, can't say as to later).

K2

BillSwagger
06-15-2011, 02:40 AM
Originally posted by horseback:
I got the impression that they favored the Immelman because they could loop more tightly than Allied fighters; it allowed them to get their guns to bear sooner than an overaggressive pursuer could.


They may have looped more tightly, but then that also depended on the airspeed.
The comparisons i've read always involved head on passes where rather than making a 180 turn back toward their opponent, they would Immelman gaining an altitude advantage.
I don't think a close in scissor fight was always their goal.
They did bait pilots into bleeding energy down so their planes had a turn advantage.
The more i read about them, the more i realize how much of an initial advantage the Japanese had over their contemporaries.

horseback
06-15-2011, 03:13 PM
Originally posted by LEBillfish:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by horseback:
I got the impression that they favored the Immelman because they could loop more tightly than Allied fighters; it allowed them to get their guns to bear sooner than an overaggressive pursuer could.

Well a true Immelmann you would never loop....A slight climb, hard rudder (like an almost level Hammerhead) and back in......Japanese fighters could ride a stall easier then the U.S. counterparts so that lended itself to the tactic. </div></BLOCKQUOTE> I pictured the situation thusly: someone’s behind me, he’s really mad, and he’s bigger and faster than me, but I can’t look over my shoulder and see him easily. If I pop up quickly, I pull out of his immediate line of fire and have a second or two to look back, gauge his distance and closing speed, which helps me decide whether to pull back tighter into a loop that he can’t follow and will eventually put me on his tail, or continue up farther into an Immelman and dive down on him with the advantage that way.

The tighter looping ability also translates into the ability to pull up more sharply at most speeds; even though the Allied fighter is moving faster, and his heavier aircraft provides him with a better zoom climb, a sharp pull up kills a lot of that kinetic energy if he tries to follow a Zero or Oscar too far into a sudden high angle climb; the smarter course is to blow on past and open up the distance before he can punch a bunch of little 7.7mm holes in my airplane or me.

I just finished re-reading Lundstrum‘s The First Team and he went into how the American Naval aviators analyzed Japanese tactics and how to nullify them; the description of Japanese tactics there was very similar to what was in the original post. I was also struck by something one early war veteran said at a lecture held at the Chino Planes of Fame Air Museum many years ago; he said that the Japanese Zeros and Claudes (he was one of the Enterprise VF-6 aviators who took part in the February ’42 raids on the Japanese bases in the Marshalls where they ran into A5Ms) were about as maneuverable as the F3F biplanes a lot of the Americans had been flying just a few months before; it was easy to see what the Japanese pilots were about to do, because it was just what they would have done with that kind of turn and climb advantage.

The hard part was figuring out how to counter them with the slower and heavier F4F, especially the -4 version, with its limited firing time and greater weight (thank you again, Fleet Air Arm!).


<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by horseback:
Japanese air combat philosophy was all about the close in dogfight; a lot of the surviving documentation and memoirs indicate that they apparently thought that hit and run tactics (regardless of how effective they were) indicated that the opposition was poorly trained and inexperienced.

Well though ending up the same to understand the mindset think......Attack, attack, attack, no matter what. Meaning always scrambling to get to your opponent and bring guns to bear. The result if done perfectly sticking close to them. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>
Oh, I understand it just fine; what I was pointing out is that they judged things solely from their own point of view, sort of like the baseball batter who feels cheated because the ‘cowardly’ pitcher struck him out with curveballs and changeups instead of throwing fastballs down the middle of the plate like a real man.
As a side note the Japanese on the whole trusted their 7.7mm guns for kills, cannon rarely and only when close (at least early on, can't say as to later).

K2 A sensible course when you have a jillion 7.7mm rounds and less than 100 20mm rounds per cannon, and the cannon had such a slow rate of fire. A blessing in disguise for a number of Allied pilots whose Japanese opponents left after damaging, but not destroying, their aircraft because they didn't appreciate how much Allied fighters were overbuilt.

cheers

horseback

TheCrux
06-15-2011, 11:13 PM
As a side note the Japanese on the whole trusted their 7.7mm guns for kills, cannon rarely and only when close (at least early on, can't say as to later).

K2

I forgot which quote from an IJN pilot I read many years ago, but he said that 70 percent of his fighter kills were using just the 7.7mm machine guns.