View Full Version : Japanese aircraft question

08-19-2005, 12:09 AM
I noticed that alot of the aircraft are designated by the letters KI as in KI 84 and so on . Usually the letters would siginfy the maker but it does not seem to be the case with japanese aircraft so i was wonder what the KI meant is it to ,is it to identify it as a fighter ? Thanks in advance

08-19-2005, 12:09 AM
I noticed that alot of the aircraft are designated by the letters KI as in KI 84 and so on . Usually the letters would siginfy the maker but it does not seem to be the case with japanese aircraft so i was wonder what the KI meant is it to ,is it to identify it as a fighter ? Thanks in advance

08-19-2005, 07:28 AM
<span class="ev_code_WHITE">This may help explain it ....</span> Japanese Designations (http://www.hazegray.org/faq/designat.htm#t4)

08-19-2005, 08:34 AM
Something I posted in the PF forum which explains it....

Briefly Ki is a shortended single Kanji for "Kitai" or "fuselage"...So it's a fuselage number.


Hi All;

I'm going to address this to Nippon Rikugun Koukuutai (Japanese Army Flying Corps) designations as the Navy had a different method. In kind know what I'm about to say is what I understand thus far, tomorrow something more plausible may arise.

Using the Ki-61 as an example....

First off, Japanese did not refer to their planes in speech as say a Ki-61, though on serial number placards and elsewhere that would have been marked on it along with the following. Japanese Army naming conventions were based upon "Type" designations. "Type" naming is based off of the year something was accepted into service. However the Japanese calendar is 660 years ahead of western systems. So Up to the year 2599 (1939 in the West) the last two digits formed the type number. In 2600 (1940) the number 100 was used, and from 2601 (1941) only the last digit of the year was used.

This would make a Ki-61 a "Type 3 Fighter".

In addition, a "Kitai" or "fuselage" number was given the aircraft shortened to "Ki" So a "Type 3 Fighter" had a number of Ki-61.

Added to this would be a "Model number", the model number often using Roman numerals. So what we would call a Ki-61-1 on their placards would read only Ki-61, however, once they added an improved fuselage style or change might change to Ki-61-II.

So essentially it would be spoken "Army Type 3 Fighter, Model II" or Ki-61-II.

You would also add to that a "Kaizo" designation if the model made some drastic change....We see that as "Kai".

So the Ki-61-II would have on it Ki-61-II-Kai, yet would still be called a "Model II, Type 3 Fighter"

As to "Ko, Otu/Otsu, Hei, Tei", in actuality I can find no where credible that gives a "solid" explanation of these....Only that they were further designations to state different types "much like but not" a,b,c, etc.. They are actually Kanji characters, though their exact meaning pertinent to aircraft to me not yet discovered....However..The terms were used to denote some "minor change" like with armament.

So in the case of a Ki-61, Ko would be the first version of armament, Otu/Otsu the second, Hei the third and sometimes Tei the fourth.

However, "A,B,C,D," really makes no sense, as that is English, not Japanese. So it would be doubtful such characters would be used.

So what we know in PF as a Ki-61-Hei, and most call a Ki-61-1c, the Japanese would have stamped on the placard "Ki-61" only. If speaking of it would have called it a "Type 3 Fighter, Model I, Hei"

However, know none of this to be "fact" all of it heavily still debated. Other then "Type 3, Model I or Ki-61" nothing is positive. It is often said the 1a & 1b versions were both called "ko" instead of Ko then Otu/Otsu. It is also debated that the 1d was designated Tei, yet that not solid. It is also stated that the 1c, or Mauser modefied versions were called "Otu/Otsu" in that the 1b was just a minor evolution from the 1a. So you may very well find a Ki-61-1d listed as a "type 3 fighter, model I, Kai Tei" or "Ki-61-I-Kai Tei" or "Ki-61-Tei".....

So that brings us to the following;
(note in actuality "model" would not be stated till a second version had developed...In addition, Ko, Otu/Otsu etc. would have rarely if ever been stated....It simply a Type 3 Fighter and there some debate as to the Ko designation being used for both 1a & 1b, the 1c Otu/Otsu, Hei never used)

Japanese Name = Kitai No. = English Designation = (what it was)

Type 3 Fighter = Ki-61-I = Ki-61 (prototype)
Type 3 Fighter, Model I Ko = Ki-61-I Ko = Ki-61-1a = (first released version)
Type 3 Fighter, Model I Otu/Otsu = Ki-61-I Otu/Otsu = Ki-61-1b = (second armament version)
Type 3 Fighter, Model I Hei = Ki-61-I Hei = Ki-61-1c = (third armament version)
Type 3 Fighter, Model I Kai/Tei = Ki-61-I Kai = Ki-61-1d = (Considerably changed version)
Type 3 Fighter, Model II = Ki-61-II = Ki-61-2 = (New Prototype)
Type 3 Fighter, Model II Kai= Ki-61-II Kai = Ki-61-2 = (Newer Prototype)
Type 3 Fighter, Model II Kai = Ki-61-II Kai = Ki-61-2a = (First production model, none further made so "Ko" not used)

Lastly there is slang. For the Japanese they had various methods of naming aircraft for civilian propaganda. In the case of the Ki-61 it was "Hien", or Flying Swallow. For the allies it was "Tony".

08-19-2005, 07:10 PM
Wow, LEBillfish! How do you know all that?

08-19-2005, 07:32 PM
In Western literature on the subject of Japanese aircraft identification, aircraft are invariably referred to by either the Kita number (Ki) or Allied code name.

In Japanese literature eg bio's, autobiography or technical books, an aircraft is refered to by it's Type number. Pilot accounts are dotted with reference to their aircraft as a Type 100, Type 1, Type 2 etc. Mind you the above only applies to aircraft used by the JAAF.

The JNAF used a different system altogether, which really gets confusing. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

08-19-2005, 07:54 PM
Excellent information, LB, thanks!

"Lastly there is slang. For the Japanese they had various methods of naming aircraft for civilian propaganda."

Do you have a list of the Japanese slang, for both JAAF and JNAF? I've never seen a full listing for both sevices.

08-19-2005, 09:13 PM
That resumé by LEBillfish deserves to be published somewhere like airwarfare.com or what have you...

or stickied...

I dunno, DO SOMETHING WITH IT http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif , it's useful and you learn something new.

Pips, can you tell us more about how the JNAF did it?

08-19-2005, 09:55 PM
I'll look for the "slang terms" have them somewhere......here is the other item I posted on PF....as it is NOT JAAF....

Within the:

Nippon Rikugun Koukuutai = Japan Army Flying Corps

You had directly at the top the:

Kokusogun = Supreme Air Army, which was essentially the Hombu = Headquarters for all Rikugun = Army, air operations.

Directly below the Kokusogun, you had I believe 5 or 6:

Kokugun = Air Army(s), and within each of these Kokugun which were given essentially portions of the Japan's sphere of influence to control were roughly 3:

Hikoushidan = Air Division, and within each Hikoushidan you would find roughly 3:

Hikoudan = Air Brigade. The Hikoudan had a:
Shireibu Hikodan = Command Section, and was further split up by 3-5 various:

Hikousentai = Air regiments of:
3 Sentoki Sentai = Fighter sections
1 Keibaku Sentai = Light Bomber Section and or
1 Jubaku Sentai = Heavy Bomber Section
1 Teisatsuki Sentai = Reconnaissance Section
with sometimes a:
Dokuritsu HikouChutai = Independent Air Unit thrown in for good measure not directly attached to a particular Hikousentai...Usually specialist groups that went where required. However, as things progressed and wherein ground support had always been seperate units from the flyers themselves, eventually the Hikousentai began to merge into:

A Hikoutai = Air unit
& a:
A Sebutai = Ground maintenence unit
at which point the:
Sentaicho = Unit commander was able to control all aspects related to his pilots via a sub:
Hikoutaicho = air unit commander and a:
Sebutaicho = maintenance unit commander

Never the less, each Hikousentai was broken up further into 3-4:

Chutai = Company of roughly 9 planes (later called Kogektai = Assault Units)
with sometimes a:
Sentai Hombu = Hikousentai Headquarters flight in operation as well. Chutai would further be broken up into 3:

Shotai = Flights of three planes

Ranks within the Rikugun roughly were:

Heicho -- Private
Gocho -- Corporal
Gunso -- Sergeant
Socho -- Master Sergeant

Jun-i -- Warrant Officer

Sho-i -- Second Lieutenant
Chu-i -- First Lieutenant
Tai-i -- Captain

Sho-sa -- Major
Chu-sa -- Lieutenant Colonel
Tai-sa -- Colonel

Sho-sho -- Major General
Chu-jo -- Lieutenant General
Tai-sho -- General

Some other words good to know are:

Hikouki = Aircraft
Kitai = Fusalage
Unit = Butai
Teisatsu = Reconnaissance
Bakugekiki = Bomber
Sentoki = Fighter
Kyoiku = Training
Hikoujo = Airfield


08-19-2005, 10:03 PM
More terms (http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNJAP_projectiles.htm)

Data Plate translation (http://gunsight.jp/b/english/data/j-reading.htm)

Aircraft Naming (http://gunsight.jp/b/english/data/a-kitai-e.htm)

Code/Slang names (http://www.hazegray.org/faq/designat.htm#t4)

08-19-2005, 10:35 PM
Great stuff, here's more...

08-19-2005, 11:10 PM
Thanks LB and Wayno. Shouldn't this be a sticky?