Dai-Nippon Teikoku Rikugun Kokutai

Imperial Japanese Army Air Service

Aircraft Code Names & Designations

1910 - 1945

1910 - 1921: The Early Years

Initially, the Imperial Japanese Army did not have a specific method for designating military aircraft; generally the manufacturer's designation or model number was used. Later, a Type designation based on the phonetic pronounciation of the first Japanese character of the manufacturer's name was assigned.

Examples: Kaishiki No. 1 Aeroplane; Army Type Mo 1913 Aeroplane (Mo - Maurice Farman).

Listing of early IJA aircraft.

1921 - 1927: First Designation System

Starting in November/December 1921, IJA aircraft were assigned a manufacturer type code (from the 10 Stems of the Japanese zodiac) along with a numerical designation:

Stem (kanji) Pronounciation (romaji) Manufacturer
Ko Nieuport
Otsu Salmson
Tei Farman
Bo Caudron
Ki Hanriot

Example: Army Type Ko 2 Trainer (license-built Nieuport Nie.83).

Listing of IJA aircraft in first designation system.

1927 - 1932: "Type Number" Designation System

In 1927, this system was replaced by a Type number based on the last two digits of the Japanese calendar year in which the aircraft was accepted for service, along with a description of the aircraft's role.

Example: Mitsubishi Army Type 87 Light Bomber.

Listing of IJA aircraft in "Type Number" designation system.

1932 - 1945: World War II-era Designation System

Starting in 1932, the "Type Number" designation system was expanded to include a Project Designation for experimental and developmental aircraft, consisting of "Ki" (Kitai, airframe) and a number drawn from a chronological list.

Example: Nakajima Ki-43 Army Type 1 Fighter Hayabusa.

Listing of IJA aircraft in World War II-era designation system.

Other World War II-era Designations

Imperial Japanese Army aircraft engine and armament designations:

ハ Ha エンジン Hatsudoki (engine)
ネ Ne 燃焼 Nensho Rocketto ("burning rocket," turbojet)
テ Te 鉄砲 Teppou (kikan juu, machine gun)
大 Ho 大砲 Hou (kikan hou, machine cannon)

1942 - 1945: Joint Army-Navy Engine Designations

In 1942, the Japanese Ministry of Munitions implemented a designation system for aircraft engines used by both the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy, combining elements of both service's engine designation systems.

ハ Ha エンジン Hatsudoki (engine) - Joint IJA/IJN

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© 1997-2013, Robert Beechy
Originally posted 1998
Modified: 02/12/2013