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The Japanese Navy and Japanese Army each had their own air force. There was no independent Japanese air force.

A6M2 Zeroes of the Japanese Navy Air Force (JNAF) were involved in the surprise attach on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. At about the same time the Japanese attacked the Philippines, Hong Kong and the Dutch East Indies. It was now the turn of Australia and New Guinea to be threatened by the Japanese Navy Air Force.

Daihonei (Imperial General HQ)

Gunreibu Socho (Chief of Navy General Staff)

Kaigun Koku Hombu (Navy Air HQ)
Responsible for aircraft, engines, & equipment selection & testing, supervision of training of flight & maintenance personnel

Koku Kantais (Air Fleets)

Homen Kantais (Area Fleets)

Koku Sentais (Carrier Divisions)

2 Aircraft Carriers and a No. of Koku Sentais

There were about 90 different Air Groups in the Japanese Navy Air Force. These were known as Kokutai's. These Air Groups were either assigned Names or Numbers. (The Japanese Army Air Force referred to their Air Groups as Sentai's.)

The Named Air Groups were linked to either a particular air command or an air base in Japan. When the Air Groups left Japan they were usually issued with an Air Group number. e.g. the Kanoya Air Group became the 253rd Air Group.

Air Group     Type of 
Number        Aircraft

200 - 399      Fighter Groups
400 - 499      Float Planes
600 - 699      A mixture of aircraft

Air Groups were usually divided into 3 or 4 squadrons or Hikotai's. A Squadron based on an aircraft carrier or other vessel usually had the name of the aircraft carrier assigned to their squadron name. A squadron normally comprised 12 to 16 aircraft commanded by either a junior Lieutenant or Warrant Officer or experienced Chief Petty Officer. Most pilots were non commissioned officers.

There were usually 4 Flights or Sections (Shotai's) of between 3 to 4 aircraft in each Squadron. By 1944 it was normal for a Flight to comprise 4 aircraft.

At the start of the war in the SWPA, the Japanese Navy Air Force comprised:-

RENGO KANTAI - Combined Fleet

First Kantai Third Koku Sentai  Hosho
11 A5M4's and 8 B4Y1's)
16 A5M4's and 12 B5N2's)
Surface Units (battleships & cruisers) 34 seaplanes
Second Kantai Surface Units (cruisers) 39 seaplanes
Third Kantai Surface units (cruisers & seaplane tender Sanuki Maru) 15 seaplanes
Twelfth Koku Sentai Kamikawa Maru
12 seaplanes
        Sanyo Maru
8 seaplanes
Fourth Kantai Surface vessels (cruiser & mine-layer) 2 seaplanes
24th Koku Sentai Chitose Kokutai
36 G3M's)
Yokohama Kokutai
24 H6K's)
16th, 17th, 18th & 19th Kokutais 42 seaplanes
Kiyokawa Maru 12 seaplanes
Fifth Kantai Chichjima Maru 6 seaplanes
Kimikawa Maru 8 seaplnes
Nanha Homen Kantai (Southern Area Fleet) Saga Maru and Kashii 9 seaplanes
First Koku Kantai First Koku Sentai Agaki
27 A6M2s, 18 D3A1s, & 27 B5N2s
27 A6M2s, 27 D3A1s, & 27 B5B2s
Second Koku Sentai Soru
27 A6M2s, 18 D3A1s, & 18 B5N2s
24 A6M2s, 18 D3A1s, & 18 B5N2s
Fourth Koku Sentai Ryujo
22 A5M4s, & 18 B5N2s
Fifth Koku Sentai Zuikaku
15 A6M2s, 27 D3A1s, & 27 B5N2s
15 A6M2s, 27 D3A1s, & 27 B5N2s
Eleventh Koku Kantai 21st Koku Sentai Kanoya Kokutai
27 G4M1s
First Kokutai
36 G3M2s
Toto Kokutai
24 H6ks
22nd Koku Sentai Mihoro Kokutai
36 G3M2s
Genzan Kokutai
36 G3M2s
Kanoya Kokutai
27 G4M1s
Special Detachment
6 C5M2s, 25 A6M2s & 12 A5M4s
23rd Koku Sentai Takao Kokutai
54 G4M1s
Tainan Kokutai
92 A6M2s, 6 C5M2s, & 12 A5M4s
Third Kokutai
92 A6M2s, 6 C5M2s & 12 A5M4s
Special seaplane tender detachment Mizuho
20 seaplanes
20 seaplanes
Shina Homen Kantai (China Area Fleet) Special Detachment 12 B5N2s and 8 seaplanes


The following is a list of some of the Air Groups in the Japanese Navy Air Force:-

Chitose (201st) Air Group Genzan (252nd) Air Group
Participated in the Battle of the Coral Sea
Kanoya (253rd) Air Group
Tainan (251st) Air Group Yokusuka Air Group 1st Air Group
2nd (582nd) Air Group 3rd (202nd) Air Group
took part in the attacks on Darwin
4th Air Group
6th (204th) Air Group 131st Air Group 153rd Air Group
203rd Air Group 205th Air Group 210th Air Group
221st Air Group 256th Air Group 261st Air Group
254th Air Group 263rd Air Group 265th Air Group
281st Air Group 301st Air Group 302nd Air Group
321st Air Group 331st Air Group 332nd Air Group
341st Air Group 343rd Air Group 352nd Air Group
381st Air Group 721st Air Group  



Imperial Japanese Navy Aces of World War 2
by Osprey Aviation

Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War
by Rene J. Francillon


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This page first produced 11 May 2002

This page last updated 15 January 2020