[Lone Sentry: WWII Photographs, Documents and Research]
[Lone Sentry: World War II Photographs, Documents and Research]
Home Page  |  Site Map  |  What's New  |  Search  |  Contact Us

TM-E 30-480: Handbook on Japanese Military Forces
Technical Manual, U.S. War Department, October 1, 1944
[DISCLAIMER: The following text and illustrations are taken from a WWII U.S. War Department Technical Manual. As with all wartime manuals, the text may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the contents of the original technical manual. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]

Chapter IV: Japanese Air Service

Section I: General

GENERAL. Japan does not have an independent Air Service. The Japanese Army Air Service is an integral part of the Army, while the Japanese Naval Air Service is organized independently as an integral part of the Navy. The Emperor, through Imperial Headquarters, controls the Japanese Army Air Service. Such control involves three agencies: The Army General Staff, The War Ministry, and the Inspector General of Aviation. The Japanese Navy Air Service also is controlled by the Emperor through Imperial Headquarters and involves three agencies: The Navy General Staff, The Navy Ministry, and Naval Aviation Headquarters. This chapter will cover the Japanese Army Air Service organization only.

Section II: Organization of the Japanese Army Air Service

1. ORGANIZATION OF THE JAPANESE HIGH COMMAND. a. Inspector General of Aviation (Rikugun Koku Sokambu). The Inspector General of Aviation is directly responsible to the Emperor for matters pertaining to air training, while in other respects he is subordinate to the "Big Three" (Chief of General Staff, Minister of War, and Inspector General of Military Training). (See chart in fig. 65.) The War Minister holds the Inspector General of Aviation responsible in matters pertaining to personnel and military administration, and the Inspector General of Aviation is responsible for operations to the Chief of the General Staff.

[Figure 65. Inter-relation of Japan Air and Ground Armies.]
Figure 65. Inter-relation of Japan's Air and Ground Armies.

b. Aviation headquarters (Koku Hombu). The office of Chief of Aviation Headquarters antedates the Inspector General of Aviation by 3 years. This post is a subordinate agency under the Minister of War. The principal functions of the Aviation Headquarters agency would appear to be largely procurement and supply.

2. LOWER ECHELON ORGANIZATION OF THE JAPANESE ARMY AIR SERVICE. Air Army (Kokugun.) The Japanese Army Air Service is organized into five known Air Armies, each having clearly defined areas, and functioning as an administrative headquarters for its tactical units. The tactical organization in an Air Army is explained in paragraph 3. Coordination between air and ground forces is obtained by placing the Air Army under the command of the theater commander. This enables him to control operationally both air and ground forces.

3. TACTICAL ORGANIZATION. a. Air division (Hikoshidan). The largest tactical organization in the chain of command in the Japanese Army Air Service is known as an air division. Such a division exercises both operational and administrative control over lower air units in its command.

b. Air brigade (Hikodan). Subordinate to the air division is a tactical force known as the air brigade. There are normally two or more air brigades under the command of an air division. The air brigade is a very mobile operational organization and is flexible in its composition. It has a small headquarters, the officers of which are concerned principally with tactical operations. The usual combat strength consists of 3 or 4 air regiments with each regiment almost invariably equipped with one type of aircraft, such as fighters, light bombers, or medium bombers.

c. Air regiments (Hikōsentai). The next lower unit of an air brigade is called an air regiment, three or four of which compose the strength of a brigade. The air regiment is the basic operational unit in the organization of the Japanese Army Air Service. It is composed of three or more squadrons. A squadron is called a Chūtai. The actual strength or striking force in an air regiment depends upon the type of aircraft in the unit.

d. Air company (Hikō Chūtai). Operational combat units in an air regiment are called air companies. The normal strength of an air company is 9 aircraft. divided into 3 sections (Hentai) of 3 aircraft each.

e. Independent air units or air companies (Dokuritsu Hikotai or Hikochutai). There is some evidence to indicate that independent air units are attached either to air armies or to the headquarters of an air division. Although several of these units have been identified, their function is not clear. It is believed that they are detailed for nonoperational duty and may prepare special studies on long distance reconnaissance, meteorological flights, army cooperation, and perhaps antisubmarine patrol. Although these units have been considered nonoperational, recent information would tend to indicate that such units actually may be participating in or controlling operations and may possibly be equipped with aircraft. There is also a possibility that an independent air squadron may be attached to either an air division or to air brigade headquarters. To date the evidence fails to clarify the functions of these units, but it is assumed that they are engaged in tactical reconnaissance. There is some evidence, however, that such a unit may function as ground support in cooperation with the Army, indicating a possibility that in some cases it may be an Army cooperation unit. It is assumed that the normal strength of an independent air squadron is 9 aircraft, with the possibility that these may be fighter, light bomber, medium bomber, or reconnaissance types.

f. Direct-cooperation air units (Chokkyo Hikotai). Information so far obtained fails to disclose the function of a direct-cooperation air unit, but it is assumed that these units operate either in support of ground forces or as liaison. Some of these units have been named for the district army to which they are attached.

g. Air intelligence regiment or unit (Koku Joho Rentai or Tai). Intelligence organizations have been identified: namely, the air intelligence regiment, and air intelligence units, but little is known of their functions. It is assumed that the air intelligence regiment is attached to an air division, with detachments of air intelligence units in the forward areas, and that all these units are engaged in collecting, evaluating, and disseminating intelligence as well as reporting on weather.

[Figure 66. Lower Echelon Organization.]
Figure 66. Lower Echelon Organization.

4. SERVICE UNITS IN JAPANESE ARMY AIR FORCES. a. Air sector headquarters (Kōkū Chiku Shireibu). Presumably this organization is the highest level in the command of the service units in the Japanese Army Air Forces. It is assumed that each air brigade has an air sector headquarters responsible for all administration, fuel supplies, ground stores, and aircraft maintenance. This organization is comparable with the Air Service Command in the United States Army Air Forces.

b. Airfield battalion (Hikojo Daitai). This unit is a component and subsidiary unit of the air sector headquarters. Its function is to perform ground duties for an air regiment. The organization is three-fold; an aircraft maintenance unit, a guards section, and a supply section. The maintenance section's chief function is aircraft maintenance, while the supply section is. responsible for maintaining supplies and transporting them from dumps to the airfields. The purpose of the guard section is to relieve the infantry troops from the duty of protecting airfields.

c. Airfield companies (Hikojo Chutai). These units are subordinate to the air sector headquarters and perform the same function as an airfield battalion, but on a smaller scale.

d. Field airfield construction units (Yasen Hikōjō Setteitai). It is known that these units do exist, but little is known of their function or organization. It is assumed that as the name implies, their principal function would be airfield construction.

e. Field air repair depots (Yasen Koku Shurisho). It is assumed that these units are organized to do third or fourth echelon aircraft repair work. Information indicates that this organization has several units or branches which make minor aircraft repairs in the forward areas.

f. Air signal regiments or units (Koku Tsushin Rentai or Tai). Signal requirements of the operational units are handled presumably by air signal regiments, air signal units, or air signal companies. Although these units exist, little information relative to their organization is known.

g. Navigational aid regiments (Kosūku Rentai). These are believed to operate control beacons, direction-finding stations, etc., and are believed to be attached to the air sector headquarters.

h. Mobile air repair section (Ido Koku Shurihan). Some of these units are known to exist, and it is assumed that they are equipped with mobile machine shops to make repairs to damaged aircraft.

5. SUPPLY. Some separate units appear to be charged with the delivery of aircraft, bombs, ammunition, etc., in bulk to operational theaters and with the repair of damaged aircraft. Practically no organizational data concerning them have been found. They are listed below in the approximate order of their importance:

Air main depot       (Kōkū Honshō).
Air branch depot(Kōkū Shishō).
Air subdepot(Kōkū Bunshō).
Field air depot(Yasen Kokusho).
Field air supply depot(Yasen Kōkū Hokyushō).
Field air replacement unit(Yasen Hojū Hikotai).
Field airfield construction unit(Yasen Hikōjō Setteitai).
Mobile air repair section(Idō Kōkū Shūrihan).
Shipping air depot(Sempaku Kokusho).


Romanized form         Translation         Abbreviation         Closest United States equivalent (by function)
HentaiAir Section Flight.
Hikō ChutaiAir Company Squadron.
Hikō SentaiAir RegimentFRGroup.
HikōdanAir BrigadeFBWing or division.
Hikō ShidanAir DivisionFDNumbered air force.
KōkūgunAir ArmyFATheater or allied air force (strategic and tactical).

[Back to Table of Contents] Back to Table of Contents

LONE SENTRY | Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Search | Contact Us