Review of Reviews

Jap Air Power

Nippon's Air Strength Estimated at 3,000 Planes of all Types

February 15 1942
Review of Reviews

Jap Air Power

Nippon's Air Strength Estimated at 3,000 Planes of all Types

February 15 1942

Jap Air Power

Nippon's Air Strength Estimated at 3,000 Planes of all Types

Review of Reviews

IN A RECENT issue of Canadian Aviation Gordon A. Reeves discusses numbers available, types and performance of craft bearing the Rising Sun insignia:

What is the true air strength of the Japanese? No one outside of Japan can say for sure but various estimates have been made. Dr. Victor L. Gruberg writing in The Aeroplane of August 15, 1941,

believes that the Army has 800 firstline aircraft with a reserve of 850 second-line machines. He claims a total army pilot force of 2,500, which is divided into 36 reconnaissance squadrons (300 aircraft), 35 fighter squadrons (350 aircraft), and 15 bomber squadrons (150 aircraft). The Naval Air Force, again according to Dr. Gruberg’s article, is made up of 2,000 pilots, 600 flying boats and 400 carrier-based landplanes. Thesecond line strength is claimed to be 1,000 planes of all types.

The entire Naval Air Force works in conjunction with the Japanese fleet which has at the present time a known force of eight aircraft carriers and three seaplane carriers or “mother” ships.

Dr. Gruberg stresses a significant fact. He says:

“Some indication of the growing attention paid to the development of military aviation can also be gathered from the increasing allocation in the Japanese budget, which reached almost forty-six per cent of the total military expenditure provided for in 1 940.” The statistics claimed by Dr. Gruberg would seem to underrate Japanese air strength, although other authorities have estimated that Japan possesses no more than 3,000 aircraft of all types, including training planes.

Of the Army and Navy forces, the former is believed to have the stronger array consisting of one regiment of fighters, one of reconnaissance, and a third of bombers all based in Japan proper. Another detachment of three air regiments is based in China and operates with the land forces. Still another six air regiments are with the Japanese armies in Manchuria.

An authority on naval affairs claims that Japan’s naval air power is composed of twenty coastal units, eight carriers, five seaplane carriers and large numbers of naval vessels equipped with catapults. Three additional aircraft carriers were scheduled for launching in 1943 but probably the war will advance this date. Three hundred planes are about all that the present carriers can use in operations owing to limitations of flight deck area and storage space.

Total estimated personnel under the command of General \ amashita, Director General of Service (Army) Aviation and Vice-Admiral Toyoda, Director General of Naval Aviation , is about 33,000 men. Of this number approximately 3,000 are Army flyers with another 2,000 serving with the Naval arm. In the middle of 1939 Japan proper had nine military airports and at least seven of these were used to train not more than 1,000 airmen a year.

At the present time there are four private and two national aircraft manufacturing concerns predominant in Japan. Aichi builds seaplanes, flying boats, naval reconnaissance bombers, and engines. Kawasaki deals principally in light and heavy bombers. The Mitsubishi firm (which incidentally was founded in 1855 as a shipbuilding concern) does not specialize on any one type of airplane but as a rule seems to prefer the development of bombers for both branches of the service. They also have quite extensive aero motor works and have held licenses at dif1 ferent times for Hispano, ArmstrongSiddeley and Junkers engines as well as various accessories. Nakajima concentrates its energies on fighter types for both the Army and the Navy and some of their designs have shown originality, which is more than can be said for the others. The National Aircraft Works seem to be controlled by the heads of military branches but little is known as to the extent of the works themselves.

Aeronautical research, what little there is, is done at the Imperial University in Tokyo under a setup similar to the N.A.C.A. in the United States and the National Research Council in Canada. Other research for the air services is carried on at the Naval Air Service Laboratory, Tokyo, while the Army laboratory is located at Tokorazawa. Full scale test work is carried out at the Central Naval Air Training Station while experimental work on seaplane floats and hulls is done in a special tank at the Mitsubishi Co. plant. This firm also does much of the work on special experimental types which are later put into production at Government-designated factories. A notable faD is the establishment of research in the field of aviation psychology as early as 1936.

Four-Engined Boat

PROBABLY the largest aircraft type now in service with the Japanese Navy is the Navy Type 97 which is a four-engined flying boat of about 135 feet in span. The speed is in the neighborhood of 195 m.p.h. and the design is a very transparent imitation of the French Potez C.A. M.S., naval flying boat. Fairly large numbers of this type are in service and it is rather apparent that the tactical and strategic requirements of Japan, engaged in war, make the development and production of types such as these the spearhead of their j advanced striking force. Still another four-motored bomber is said to have ! a speed of 250 m.p.h. and a range of j 2,200 miles. A Navy Type 97 is being ! produced which is a copy of the | Douglas DF twin-engined flying boat j produced in the United States about j 1935. The top speed of this highly ¡ efficient machine is close to 180 m.p.h.

In 1938 the Japs purchased eighty of the Italian Fiat B.R. 20xM’s which they renumbered the Army Type 98. Since then Japan has acquired the license for this type and lar¿e numbers are being sent to the squadrons. It is interesting to note that it was this type of bomber which was put into operation by the Italians for one week against the British Isles. The losses suffered were so crushing that the “Eyties” packed their bags and took the few remaining Fiat B.R. 20’s and Fiat C.R. 42’s back home to Italy with the laughter of the R.A.F., and even the Luftwaffe, ringing in their ears.

Continued on page 47

Continued from page 45

The two-seat fighter most prevalent is the Mitsubishi (Karigare 11) 98 which is powered with one 800 h.p. Mitsubishi A.14 engine. Top speed is 310 m.p.h. and the craft resembles somewhat the American Northrop A-17.

Probably the principal single-seat fighter of the Navy is the Type 96 which resembles the U. S. Boeing P-26. Another Naval fighter is the Nakajima 96 which is fitted with a 550 h.p. Nakajima Jupiter engine, giving the plane a top speed of about 250 m.p.h. It also resembles to a certain extent the Boeing P-26A. Still other fighters of the Navy are the Nakajima Types 90 and 95 which have speeds repectively of 175 and 215 m.p.h. They are obvious imitations of Curtiss Hawk designs.

Meanwhile the Army fighter units are outfitted with Nakajima 97’s, 98’s as well as older obsolete Kawasaki 92’s and 95’s. None of these aircraft approach a top speed of 250 m.p.h. However one fact must be brought home. More wars have been lost through underestimation of the enemy’s forces than from any other single cause. The censorship of military information imposed by the Japanese has been so leakproof that little information as to new types has been obtainable. Nipponese performance so far in the Pacific war would indicate that their air power and prowess has been seriously underrated.

Fifty years ago the U.S.A. introduced to the Japanese the art of aerial warfare. The occasion was a balloon ascent performed by Charles Spencer for the delight of the Emperor’s subjects. About 1910 another American demonstrated a small airship and this resulted in a Naval Commission being sent to the U.S. and France to study aviation. Already at this early date Germany was taking an active interest in Japanese air matters, for a Hans Grade monoplane was sent to Japan and flown and exhibited for the Army and Navy. Still later Wright and Blériot monoplanes were shipped to the island and many training and experimental flights were made in an effort to develop Japan as a foreign market.

From the outset of Japan’s interest in aviation a young Lieut. Tokugawa was its driving force and this soon resulted in his appointment as a Captain. Shortly after, Tokugawa built and flew the first all-Japanese airplane, using a Gnome-Rhone engine of 5U h.p. This same Army officer was directly responsible for the introduction of foreign types into the services for training and study. His efforts were later rewarded by the Emperor by his appointment as a Lieutenant-General and the title of Baron.

Sales to Japan

OTHER highlights in Japan’s air history were made when a British Aviation Commission under Lord Semphill visited the country in 1921 to develop the Naval Air Arm. At the same time the French had a similar commission reorganizing the Army’s flying service. Spads and Nieuports (of 1917-18 fame) were put into production at the Nakajima Aircraft factory for the Army while the Navy concentrated its energy on the production of the F-5 Short Bros, flying boat. Still later Supermarine “Seal” and Vickers “Viking” types were purchased in England for study.

All the important nations of the world that had anything to offer in the way of aircraft were eager to sell to the Japanese. Curtiss “Seagull” and French “Schreck” F.B.A. 17’s were sent out in the hope that large orders would follow, but the Japanese slyly purchased one of each important type, then proceeded to copy their detailed refinements as best their unaccustomed hands could manage. At

first the results were drawing office nightmares; subsequently there was a sudden improvement in design. It was found to have originated in the drawing offices of Germany !

Establishment of a Japanese-controlled aircraft factory in Mukden, Manchukuo was announced in 1937, with initial output scheduled before the end of 1938. This enterprise was financed by most of the civil Japanese companies such as Nakajima, who not only put up most of the capital but also supplied large numbers of technical men. This fact seems to indicate that already the Japanese high command was thinking in terms of war, since the decentralization of a technical or heavy industry to remote places is an expensive and unprofitable project unless there are other motives in view!

By 1938 it was increasingly evident that Japan was endeavoring to become self-sufficient in the aircraft industry. By this time there were twenty-three known manufacturing concerns which dealt in aircraft, parts, and accessories. Claims were put out that twenty-five different types of commercial aircraft were in the process of production and development. These ranged from twin-motored 880 h.p. transports to 28 h.p. trainers. However even though Japan was striving with every fibre toward self-sufficiency, the accomplishment was far from complete. There was the evident shortage of raw and finished materials. Further, there was the lack of trained workers which could only be made up by a complete change in the organization of the nation’s educational policies. Last, and probably most important, the nation was not highly industrialized and the high number of small, poorly-staffed subcontracting firms were not adequate for an extensive industry.

The fact that Japan’s air power is now being backed by the German aeronautical industry is fairly well established but the influence goes deeper than that. Reports have come through that German technicians and pilots are now in Japan and are engaged in reorganizing the Air Force. Japan is forming parachute units (which have been used already in the present Pacific war). The tw’o principal training centres for this type of warfare are located in Nagasaki and Kobe. It has been claimed that 12,000 young Japs have volunteered for the units and pre-entry training is being given to youths who will later join the service.

Shortly before the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, Dai Nippon, the National Japanese airline placed an order with Germany for five Fw-200 four-engined commercial long-range monoplanes. Two machines, made by Focke-Wulf Co. of Bremen, have since been reported, by Germany, as delivered but there is a good possibility that the “Condor” models ordered arrived in the form of the Fw-200K “Kurier,” which is the military version. Japan can well make use of this type as a long-range reconnaissance bomber. The chief target for ships of this type will be naval units far from their bases.

Another fact which may have new signficance is the report given out in Japan recently that enquiries had been made by Australia and India regarding the supply of Douglas and Fokker planes being made in Japan under license, by the Nakajima Aircraft Works.

The fact that Japan seemed able to look to foreign markets would indicate that her aircraft industry had achieved substantial production. If large Fokker and Douglas types are in production certainly these same facilities can be put to work on heavy bombers or other highly refined military types.

It is obvious that Japan will have types in production and in service which are more modern than those on which information and photographs are available. The presence in Japan of German technicians and, presumably, the assistance of the German aircraft industry undoubtedly have had the effect of modernizing design of military types. It is also possible that some of Germany’s fighters and heavy bombers are being used by the Japanese.