As a rule, Japanese pilots are well trained and compare
favorably in all respects to those of other nations
now engaged in the war. They have generally been
very accurate in bombing and strafing attacks except
when strongly opposed by antiaircraft fire and fighter
planes. While most of their planes have stood up well
in combat, only the "0" fighter has been outstanding.
In their campaigns to date, the Japanese have used
bombers, fighters, and reconnaissance planes to
"soften" the opposition ahead of the ground forces,
and also to lend close support to troops on the front
lines. To soften the opposition, their planes usually
bomb troops and military objects on or near roads
and railroads leading toward the front. They attack
exposed combat units such as road-bound, congested
transport columns and command posts.
The Japanese regard the airplane as a necessary
weapon to assist in military operations. Usually, before
committing his forces to battle, the Japanese
army commander has large air formations assigned
to him and placed under his direct command. He, in
turn, often delegates command of air forces to commanders
of units as small as a regiment.
The Japanese air forces perform independent missions
when they are not busy giving close support to
the ground forces.
2. METHODS OF ATTACK
a. Fighter Planes
Generally, these do not attack opposition airdromes
until reconnaissance planes have obtained target information,
weather data, and perhaps pictures.
Several different formations have been used. In
Malaya four planes flying in a diamond-shaped group
were the basic army unit, while naval fighters used a
narrow vee formation of three or five planes. The
vee was very rough in shape--probably as a defense
against antiaircraft guns.
One of the most common fighter-plane formations
used against ground forces is a vee of three planes
with two other planes on the left flank and two more
on the right flank--a total of seven planes. If the
planes meet no fighter opposition when the target area
is reached, three of the four flanking planes drop back
to form a second vee behind the first. The fourth
flanking plane follows at a high level to protect the formation.
If the group meets fighter opposition, the
first vee of three planes goes ahead with the planned
attack against ground forces, while one or both of the
flanking pairs of planes engage the opposing aircraft.
Upon entering combat, Japanese fighter squadrons
frequently divide into two sections. One of these flies
low to tempt the opposing planes to dive while the
other remains high to dive on the opposition aircraft. The
Japanese make use of clouds as cover in approaching, and
on clear days frequently get in a line directly
between the sun and the target. After first strafing
the target, sometimes the fighters break formation and
The strafing of airdromes rarely occurs before careful
reconnaissance and planning. Not only are the
airdromes strafed, but the terrain around the field
for a distance of 50 yards is also thoroughly covered,
usually with incendiary bullets.
In attacks on opposing plane formations, Japanese
fighter tactics usually have not been well coordinated.
The Japanese break formation and attack individually
from above and below the opposition aircraft. If
possible, they generally attack our planes from the
rear. However, frontal attacks have been made on
some of our planes which have poor armament. These
few frontal attacks have been better coordinated
than the others. Instances have been reported where
two Japanese fighters attacked a plane from its left-
front and right-front.
Fighters usually accompany bombers if the bomb
targets are within range. The fighters fly
about 3,000 feet above the bombers.
b. Bomber Planes
The common tactical unit for bombers consists of
nine planes. On large raids, three units, or 27 planes,
generally are used. Often the 27 planes are split into
two groups of 13 and 14 planes as far as 250 miles from
the target area. Then the two formations converge on
the target from different directions at the same time.
In practically all instances to date, the Japanese
have dropped their bombs while flying in formation.
They always fly close together, even in the midst of
antiaircraft fire. Only a relatively small number of
bombs are dropped, usually two from each plane.
When attacked, the bombers generally turn and face
the opposition and the forward planes drop down so
that all guns will have a field of fire.
(1) Torpedo bombing.--The tactical unit for this
type of bombing also consists of nine planes. In the
attack the formation usually glides in toward the
target from a distance out of gun range. It deploys
into a wedge or ragged diamond formation for the
actual attack. The planes usually are never higher
than 300 feet when they release their torpedoes.
(2) Dive bombing.--The Japanese usually dive at
angles of 45 to 50 degrees. In the attack on Hawaii, they
began gliding toward the target from heights of
3,000 to 5,000 feet. One after the other, they released
their bombs just before reaching the target and then
climbed steeply upwards. After the bombers released
their bombs, they strafed ground installations with
(3) "Swing" bombing.--This name was given by
observers to a type of Japanese bombing sometimes
used when the enemy knew the areas in which OUT
antiaircraft fire was located. The Japanese fly directly
toward the target until they reach the outside
boundary of antiaircraft fire. Then they make a
banked turn, releasing their bombs at the same time.
This type of bombing is very inaccurate. In some
instances, the distance between exploding bombs
dropped from the same plane at the same time has
been as great as 300 yards.
3. SUPPLIES BY AIR
The Japanese have often dropped supplies from
planes by use of parachutes. Usually the supplies
were intended for troops which had infiltrated into or
behind opposition lines, but most of them fell into
the hands of United Nations forces. The supplies included
food, cigarettes, and medical equipment. They
were contained in brown cases
about 10 x 3 x 1 1/2 inches in size.
4. JAPANESE "0" FIGHTER
The "0" fighter is considered Japan's best all-around
plane. The plane's speed and maneuverability are its
outstanding features. It will fly 310 miles per hour
at sea level, and will climb at a rate of 4,000 feet a minute;
at 15,000 to 20,000 feet, the rate of climb is only
about 3,000 feet a minute. An improved "0" fighter, first
seen on June 8, is said to be somewhat faster than
the one described above.
|Figure 10. "0" Fighter.|
In comparison with American fighter planes, the "0" is
better in some respects, but not so good in others. All
American fighters have better construction and
armor. The "0" sacrifices armor in order to attain
greater maneuverability and rate of climb. Both
the P-39 and the P-40 fighters have greater fire power
and are faster than the "0" at low altitudes, but
the "0" is faster and can outclimb and outmaneuver
them at high altitudes. The "0" is armed
with two 20-mm. cannons and two fixed machine guns.