Japanese Fighter Tactics on B-29 Missions

The following XX Bomber Command combat report on Japanese fighter tactics against the B-29 Superfortress appeared in Eastern Air Command Weekly Intelligence Summary, No. 31, March 30, 1945 published by Headquarters Eastern Air Command, Southeast Asia. The report describes a variation of the “12 O’Clock Express” used by one Japanese Oscar pilot.


The following account extracted from XX Bomber Command Summary #9 dated 10 Mar ’45 covering enemy tactics encountered in the B-29 raid against Singapore on 2 Mar ’45, indicates that enemy opposition in this area continued to be’ weak, and that Jap pilots were aggressive in only 26% of the attacks. High frontals were favored and a variation in the “12 O’Clock Express” was noted (see sketch). Zeke 52’s armament was reported as probably increased.

Enemy opposition was rated as weak, as on the three previous missions to Singapore, and Jap pilots did not appear to be aggressive; 45% of the enemy tactics were broken off between 250-500 yds, with only 26% pressing to within distances less than 250 yds. Encounters against the B-29s’ front quarter, where most of the action took place, were predominantly high in approach, but since the number of encounters is so small, XX Bomber Command states that probably no particular importance should be attached to this fact.

Aerial Bombing

The enemy made 11 single plane aerial bombing attacks which resulted in no damage to any of the B-29s. The closest burst occurred at 50 yds off the wing of one of our planes, while most of the bombs exploded 200-400 or more yards away from the formation. Phosphorous and fragmentation bombs were observed by crews with the former in the majority. The method of releasing bombs by Jap fighters consisted of: (1) releasing from level flight; and (2) “flipping” or “slinging”. No dive bombing encounters were reported. Coordinated attacks employed two fighters each.

Variation in “12 O’Clock Express”

One Jap attack which inflicted damage on a B-29 merits elaboration in that it was an unusual variation of the “12 O’Clock Express” and showed an exceptional degree of skill on the part of the enemy pilot. The enemy aircraft was first sighted about two miles out, very high at two o’clock. As the Jap approached to about one mile, he wagged his wings and turned in towards the B-29 at 12 o’clock in a dive. When about 1000 yards above the bomber, the Jap rolled over on his back, came in on a vertical pursuit curve, opening fire at about 500 yards. A 20mm shell went through the root of the left wing of the B-29. The dive was continued, passing within 25 yards of the B-29’s tail. The timing of the attack was exceptionally good, and the pilot almost succeeded in raking the B-29. Crews reported observing a Zeke 52 firing with six guns.

Japanese Fighter Tactics against B-29 Superfortress


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