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"Japanese Camouflage and Deception Methods on Airfields" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. report on Japanese airfield camouflage and deception methods originally appeared in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 29, July 15, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Little use of camouflage by the Japanese has been found thus far on existing airfields or newly-constructed strips, and no extensive schemes for their concealment. What little means of concealment have been noticed may be classified as follows; (a) use of natural foliage (branches of trees, etc.) to cover objects; (b) use of nets or similar material to obscure outline; (c) use of covered "hangarettes," etc., to conceal aircraft, and (d) concealment by dispersion in woods and scrub.

Disruptive painting of buildings has been noticed infrequently. On the roof of one service hangar was noticed a disruptive camouflage, but no attempt was made to break up its sharp outline, and it was plainly visible against the light-toned background of the area upon which it was situated.

Branches and foliage were used to disguise fighter aircraft on one airfield and were found to effectively conceal details, but the aircraft had not been dispersed in the adjacent scrub and were easily detected.

The most extensive use of nets has been in the form of individual nets to disguise the outlines of aircraft. This is sometimes done merely by draping a large net over an aircraft, and at other times, by laying nets over a rough framework of long poles. Both methods achieve the desired result of making the exact study of the aircraft's form and measurements difficult; they do not mask the presence of aircraft.

Lightly built movable "hangarettes" are used by the Japanese on airfields in China, Thailand, and Burma. Sometimes these "hangarettes" stand by themselves; at other times they are placed inside the blast walls of aircraft shelters. These "hangarettes" are built of wood or of light bamboo framework covered with openwork matting. They vary in form from inverted V-section tents to inverted U-shaped structures like Nissen huts, and house-like structures with straight walls and pitched roof. They are not extensively used by the Japanese, there being only about an average of 50 on the Burma airfields photographed in the last 6 months, as against a total of over 1,000 aircraft shelters in Burma. Frequently they do not afford complete concealment and the outlines of the aircraft can be seen through the "matting." No covered aircraft shelters affording complete concealment are used by the Japanese in Burma.

Occasionally the Japanese have made use of gaps in hedges, and have dispersed fighter aircraft in these gaps so that they are very inconspicuous. This is a common practice in German-occupied airfields in Europe. There has been a recent tendency on Japanese airfields to disperse the aircraft at greater distances and with greater care, hiding them among scrub and bushes on the outskirts of the area. The sequence in disposal of aircraft in enemy-occupied Burma is interesting. During the Japanese advance in May-June 1942, aircraft were parked along runways with no attempt at concealment. This was followed by the very extensive construction, not far from the runways, of blast shelters, sometimes with internal "hangarettes." The latest practice according to photographs is, as has been stated above, toward deliberate concealment in far more widely dispersed areas.

The use of dummy aircraft and other indications to give a false impression of the presence or availability of landing grounds has been noted on several occasions. In one instance, unserviceable aircraft were lined up on the main airfield and the satellite landing strips to suggest that these were in use, when other indications showed that they were most likely to be unusable. A recent study of another airfield has shown 8 unserviceable aircraft used as dummies since the beginning of December 1942. Near another there was an arrangement of rough 2-dimensional dummies representing fighter aircraft, with dummy corner-markings adjacent, which may have been intended to constitute a decoy site for the actual airfield. A single dummy aircraft, partly 3-dimensional and partly flat, was constructed in open country near still another airfield.


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