Japanese Army Air Force Designations of the Second World War

Type Number System
Kitai System
Popular Names
Allied Codenames
Type Number List
Ki Number List

The Japanese Army Air Force used three overlapping aircraft designation systems – the Type number, based on the year the aircraft was accepted, the Kitai, or airframe number, allocated while a project was under development, and a series of popular names adopted just after the start of the Pacific War. A fourth name system was adopted by the Allies, in which each aircraft was given an easy to remember code name.

Type Number System

The Type Number system was adopted in 1927, and was based on the year in which a particular design was accepted by the Japanese Army Air Force. In the Japanese calendar 1927 was 2587, and so aircraft accepted in that year were given the designation Type 87 (the Japanese New Year had been moved to 1 January, so the years overlap perfectly). In 1940 (Japanese 2600) the Army used the designation Type 100 (while the Navy used Type 0). From 1941 only the last digit was used, starting with Type 1.

The Type Number was supplemented by a short description of the type’s function, which before the introduction of the Kitai system was the only way to distinguish between different types of aircraft accepted from the same manufacturer in a particular year – in 1928 this included the Kawasaki Army Type 88 Reconnaissance and Type 88 Light Bomber types.

All later versions of the same aircraft retained the same type number, regardless of when they entered service. This even applied to versions that were produced for different purposes, such as the Tachikawa Ki-54 Army Type 1 Advanced Trainer, which was also produced as a Operations Trainer, Transport and Patrol Bomber.

Major models of the same aircraft were distinguished by a Model number, with versions of the basic model getting a Kaizo (modification) symbol. The first version of the Mitsubishi Ki-67 to enter service was thus the Army Type 4 Heavy Bomber Model 1A, followed by the Model 1B, while a more advanced version planed for 1946 would have been the Model 2. From 1932 the model numbers used in the Type system matched the model designations used in the Kitai system.

Kitai System

While Type designations were only given to aircraft that were accepted for service, the Kitai (airframe) system of 1932 was used for every aircraft developed for the Japanese Army. The airframe, or Ki numbers, was allocated in sequence until 1944, and randomly after that.

The basic Ki number would apply to the prototype and early development aircraft. The prototype of the Tony was thus the Ki-61. As with the Type system each version was given a model number (a Roman numeral) and a subtype (a Japanese character, normally replaced by the equivalent English letter). The first production version of the Tony was thus the Ki-61-Ia.

Major modifications that were not considered worthy of a new model number were marked as remodelled (KAI, from the first two Japanese letters of Kaiso, remodel), as with the Ki-61 Hien (Tony). Here the second production version was the Ki-61-Ib and the third was the Ki-61-I KAIc. KAI was not used in the Type system, so I KAI c was simply Model IC.

In the original Japanese versions, Ki was a single Japanese character, followed by Arabic numerals for the actual Ki number, Roman numerals for the models and Japanese characters for the subtypes, with no punctuation needed. English translations use Ki-61-Ia or K.61-Ia interchangeably.

Popular Names

The Kitai and Type number systems remained in use until the end of the Second World War, but soon after the start of the Pacific War the Japanese Army realised that it needed shorter, easier to remember and more dramatic names for use in public announcements.  The names were allocated randomly, with most coming from flying creatures (Donryu or Storm Dragon) or weather (Hayate or Gale)

Name

Ki

Type

Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon)

Nakajima Ki-43

Army Type 1 Fighter

Shoki (Demon)

Nakajima Ki-44

Army Type 2 Single-seat Fighter

Toryu (Dragon Killer)

Kawasaki Ki-45

Army Type 2 Two-seat Fighter

Donryu (Storm Dragon)

Nakajima Ki-49

Army Type 100 Heavy Bomber

Hien (Swallow)

Kawasaki Ki-61

Army Type 3 Fighter

Hiryu (Flying Dragon)

Mitsubishi Ki-67

Army Type 4 Heavy Bomber

Hayate (Gale)

Nakajima Ki-84

Army Type 4 Fighter

Ohtori (Phoenix)

Kawasaki Ki-105

 

Tsurugi (Sabre)

Nakajima Ki-115

 

Karyu (Fire Dragon)

Nakajima Ki-201

 

Allied Codenames

The famous Allied codenames were adopted during 1942 in an attempt to end the confusion caused by a tendency to describe all Japanese fighters as Zeros and bombers as Mitsubishis. Very little was known about the Japanese aircraft industry before the start of the fighting, and many of the aircraft types were unfamiliar. The code name system was developed by Captain Frank T. McCoy Jr, of Nashville Tennessee, who in the summer of 1942 was appointed head of the Materiel Section, Directorate of Intelligence, Allied Air Forces, Southwest Pacific Area, Melbourne (Australia). Existing aircraft were allocated code names during 1942, and new aircraft were added to the list when they were identified. A number of codes were allocated to obsolete or none-existence aircraft, and one was allocated to the Messerschmitt Bf 109, which was widely expected to appear in the Pacific.

The Allied codenames were allocated according to a simple pattern – male first names for fighters and reconnaissance seaplane, tree names for trainers, bird names for gliders and female first names for bombers, flying boats, reconnaissance aircraft and transports.

Type Number List

Type 87 (1927)

Kawasaki Army Type 87 Night Bomber
Mitsubishi Army Type 87 Light Bomber
 
Type 88 (1928)

Kawasaki Army Type 88 Reconnaissance Biplane
Kawasaki Army Type 88 Light Bomber

Type 91 (1931)

Nakajima Army Type 91 Fighter

Type 92 (1932)

Kawasaki Army Type 92 Fighter
Mitsubishi Ki-20 Army Type 92 Heavy Bomber
Mitsubishi Army Type 92 Reconnaissance Aircraft (2MR8)

Type 93 (1933)

Mitsubishi Ki-1 Army Type 93 Heavy Bomber
Kawasaki Ki-3 Army Type 93 Single-engined Light Bomber
Mitsubishi Ki-2 Type 93 Twin-engine Light Bomber

Type 94 (1934)

Nakajima Ki-4 Army Type 94 Reconnaissance Aircraft

Type 95 (1935)

Nakajima-Fokker Ki-6 Type 95-2 Crew Trainer
Tachikawa Ki-9 Army Type 95-1 Medium Grade Trainer
Kawasaki Ki-10 Army Type 95 Fighter
Tachikawa Ki-17 Army Type 95-3 Primary Trainer “Cedar”

Type 97 (1937)

Mitsubishi Ki-15 Army Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Plane “Babs”
Mitsubishi Ki-21 Army Type 97 Heavy Bomber
Nakajima Ki-27 Army Type 97 Fighter
Mitsubishi Ki-30 Army Type 97 Light Bomber “Ann”
Nakajima Ki-34 Army Type 97 Transport

Type 98 (1938)

Kawasaki Ki-32 Army Type 98 Single-engined Light Bomber
Tachikawa Ki-36 Army Type 98 Direct Co-operation Plane

Type 99 (1939)

Kawasaki Ki-48 Army Type 99 Twin-engined Light Bomber
Mitsubishi Ki-51 Army Type 99 Assault Plane
Tachikawa Ki-55 Army Type 99 Advanced Trainer

Type 100 (1940)

Mitsubishi Ki-46 Army Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Plane
Mitsubishi Ki-46-II Army Type 100 Operations Trainer
Mitsubishi Ki-46-III Kai Army Type 100 Air Defence Fighter
Mitsubishi Ki-46-IIIb Army Type 100 Assault Plane
Nakajima Ki-49 Army Type 100 Heavy Bomber Donryu (Storm Dragon)
Mitsubishi Ki-57 Army Type 100 Transport

Type 1 (1941)

Nakajima Ki-43 Army Type 1 Fighter Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon)
Tachikawa Ki-54 Army Type 1 Advanced Trainer
Tachikawa Ki-54 Army Type 1 Operations Trainer
Tachikawa Ki-54 Army Type 1 Transport “Hickory”
Tachikawa Ki-54 Army Type 1 Patrol Bomber
Kawasaki Ki-56 Army Type 1 Freight Transport
Kokusai Ki-59 Army Type 1 Transport

Type 2 (1942)

Nagajima Ki-44 Army Type 2 Single-seat Fighter
Kawasaki Ki-45 Army Type 2 Two-seat Fighter Toryu (Dragon Killer)
Mansyu Ki-79 Army Type 2 Advanced Trainer

Type 3 (1943)

Kawasaki Ki-61 Army Type 3 Fighter Hien (Swallow)
Kokusai Ki-76 Army Type 3 Command Liaison Plane

Type 4 (1944)

Mitsubishi Ki-67 Army Type 4 Heavy Bomber Hiryu (Flying Dragon)
Nakajima Ki-84 Army Type 4 Fighter Hayate (Gale)
Kawasaki Ki-102b Army Type 4 Assault Plane

Type 5 (1945)

Kawasaki Ki-100 Army Type 5 Fighter

Ki Number List

No.

Ki

Type

Allied Code

1

Mitsubishi Ki-1

Army Type 93 Heavy Bomber

 

2

Mitsubishi Ki-2

Army Type 93 Light bomber

 

3

Kawasaki Ki-3

Army Type 93 Light bomber

 

4

Nakajima Ki-4

Army Type 94 Reconnaissance Aircraft

 

5

Kawasaki Ki-5

fighter

 

6

Nakajima-Fokker Ki-6

Army Type 95-2 Crew Trainer

 

7

Mitsubishi Ki-7

Trainer, two built

 

8

Nakajima Ki-8

Experimental Two-Seat Fighter

 

9

Tachikawa Ki-9

Army Type 95-1 Medium Grade Trainer

 

10

Kawasaki Ki-10

Army Type 95 Fighter

Perry

11

Nakajima Ki-11

fighter

 

12

Nakajima Ki-12

fighter

 

13

 

 

 

14

 

 

 

15

Mitsubishi Ki-15

Army Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Plane

Babs

16

 

 

 

17

Tachikawa Ki-17

Army Type 95-3 Primary Trainer

Cedar

18

Mitsubishi Ki-18

Experimental fighter

 

19

Nakajima Ki-19

 

 

20

Mitsubishi Ki-20

Army Type 92 Heavy Bomber

 

21

Mitsubishi Ki-21

Army Type 97 Heavy Bomber

 

22

Kawasaki Ki-22

Heavy bomber

 

23

Fukuda Ki-23

Ku-7 Glider

 

24

 

 

 

25

 

 

 

26

 

 

 

27

Nakajima Ki-27

Army Type 97 Fighter

 

28

Kawasaki Ki-28

fighter

 

29

 

 

 

30

Mitsubishi Ki-30

Army Type 97 Light Bomber

Ann

31

 

 

 

32

Kawasaki Ki-32

Army Type 98 Single-engined Light Bomber

 

33

Mitsubishi Ki-33

A5M

 

34

Nakajima Ki-34

Army Type 97 Transport

Thora

35

Jukogyo K-35

Army cooperation

 

36

Tachikawa Ki-36

Army Type 98 Direct Co-operation Plane

Ida

37

Nakajima Ki-37

Twin engined fighter

 

38

Kawasaki Ki-38

Twin engined fighter

 

39

Mitsubishi Ki-39

Twin engined fighter

 

40

Mitsubishi Ki-40

reconnaissance aircraft

 

41

 

 

 

42

 

 

 

43

Nakajima Ki-43

Army Type 1 Fighter

 

44

Nakajima Ki-44

Army Type 2 Single-seat Fighter

Tojo

45

Kawasaki Ki-45

Army Type 2 Two-seat Fighter

 

46

Mitsubishi Ki-46

Army Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Plane

Dinah

47

 

 

 

48

Kawasaki Ki-48

Army Type 99 Twin-engined Light Bomber

 

49

Nakajima Ki-49

Army Type 100 Heavy Bomber

Helen

50

 

 

 

51

Mitsubishi Ki-51

Army Type 99 Assault Plane

Sonia

52

 

 

 

53

 

 

 

54

Tachikawa Ki-54

Army Type 1 Transport, Trainer and Patrol Bomber

Hickory

55

Tachikawa Ki-55

Army Type 99 Advanced Trainer

Ida

56

Kawasaki Ki-56

Army Type 1 Freight Transport

 

57

Mitsubishi Ki-57

Army Type 100 Transport

Topsy

58

Nakajima Ki-58

fighter

 

59

Kokusai Ki-59

Army Type 1 Transport

Theresa

60

Kawasaki Ki-60

 

 

61

Kawasaki Ki-61

Army Type 3 Fighter

Peggy

62

Nakajima Ki-62

 

 

63

Nakajima Ki-63

 

 

64

Kawasaki Ki-64

 

 

65

 

 

 

66

Kawasaki Ki-66

 

 

67

Mitsubishi Ki-67

Army Type 4 Heavy Bomber

 

68

Nakajima Ki-68

 

 

69

Mitsubishi Ki-69

Escort fighter

 

70

Tachikawa Ki-70

 

Clara

71

Mitsubishi Ki-71

Reconnaissance aircraft

 

72

Tachikawa Ki-72

Army cooperation

 

73

Mitsubishi Ki-73

Fighter

Steve

74

Tachikawa Ki-74

 

Pat, Patsy

75

 

 

 

76

Kokusai Ki-76

Army Type 3 Command Liaison Plane

Stella

77

Tachikawa Ki-77

 

 

78

Kawasaki Ki-78

 

 

79

Mansyu Ki-79

Army Type 2 Advanced Trainer

 

80

Nakajima Ki-80

 

 

81

Kawasaki Ki-81

Army Experimental Multi-Seat Convoy Fighter

 

82

Nakajima Ki-82

Bomber design

 

83

Mitsubishi Ki-83

Long range escort fighter

 

84

Nakajima Ki-84

Army Type 4 Fighter

 

85

Kawanishi Ki-85

Four engined heavy bomber

 

86

Kokusai Ki-86

 

 

87

Nakajima Ki-87

 

 

88

Kawasaki Ki-88

Fighter design

 

89

 

 

 

90

 

 

 

91

Kawasaki Ki-91

Four engined heavy bomber design

 

92

 

 

 

93

Rikugun Ki-93

 

 

94

Tachikawa Ki-94

 

 

95

Mitsubishi Ki-95

reconnaissance

 

96

Kawasaki Ki-96

Twin engined single-seat fighter

 

97

Mitsubishi Ki-97

transport

 

98

Mansyu Ki-98

 

 

99

 

 

 

100

Kawasaki Ki-100

Army Type 5 Fighter

 

101

 

 

 

102

Kawasaki Ki-102

Army Type 4 Assault Plane

 

103

Mitsubishi Ki-103

fighter

 

104

 

 

 

105

Kawasaki Ki-105

 

 

106

Nakajima Ki-106

fighter

 

107

Tokyo Koku Ki-107

 

 

108

Kawasaki Ki-108

High altitude fighter based on Ki-102

 

109

Mitsubishi Ki-109

Interceptor

 

110

 

 

 

111

 

 

 

112

Mitsubishi Ki-112

Multi-seat fighter

 

113

Nakajima Ki-113

Steel fighter

 

114

 

 

 

115

Nakajima Ki-115

 

 

116

Nakajima Ki-116

 

 

117

Nakajima Ki-117

fighter

 

118

 

 

 

119

Kawasaki Ki-119

 

 

148

Kawasaki Igo-1-B

 

 

174

Kawasaki Ki-174

Suicide attack

 

200 Mitsubishi Ki-200 Rocket plane, J8M in Navy  

201

Nakajima Ki-201

Jet fighter design

 

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 December 2008), Japanese Army Air Force Designations of the Second World War , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_japanese_army_aircraft_designations.html

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