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Japanese Designations


WWII Aircraft designation systems

The designations of Japanese military aircraft are simple. The situation becomes complicated only because the Navy and the Army each had two systems. Officially, Japanese naval aircraft were indicated by a description of their function and a number, according to the year the production started. The A6M was called Carrier-borne fighter Type 0 because it entered service in the Japanese year 2600 (1940). A model number was used to indicate the versions. From the mid-thirties two-digit model numbers were used; the first digit indicated the airframe, the second digit the engine. In 1943 the numbering system was abandoned, because it was too informative about the year of service entry of an aircraft. From then aircraft were referred to by their names.

In the lates 20's the Imperial Japanese Navy introduced a short designation system for its aircraft, very similar to that of its oppononent, the USN. This system had:

  1. A function letter.
  2. A sequential number for aircaft with this function letter. Numbers are sequential in the sense that a number is assigned to each requirement. Aircraft can have the same numbers (E11A, E11K) if they were built to the same requirement.
  3. A manufacturer letter.
  4. A number to indicate the subtype.
  5. Sometimes a letter to indicate a minor subtype.
  6. If a version of the aircraft was developed with another function, the appropiate letter was apppended to the designation, with a dash. For example: the J1N1-S was a nightfighter version of a land-based dayfighter.
Function letters used by the Japanese Navy:

    A      Carrier-borne fighter

    B      Carrier-borne (Torpedo) bomber

    C      Reconaissance, wheeled undercarriage

    D      Carrier-borne Dive bomber

    E      Reconaissance seaplane

    F      Observation seaplane

    G      Land-based bomber

    H      Flying boat

    J      Land-based fighter

    K      Trainer

    L      Transport

    M      Special seaplane

    MX     Special purpose

    N      Fighter seaplane

    P      Bomber

    Q      Patrol

    R      Land-based reconaissance

    S      Night fighter

Manufacturer letters used by the Japanese Navy:

    A      Aichi

    D      Showa

    K      Kawanishi

    M      Mitsubishi

    N      Nakajima

    P      Nihon

    V      Seversky

    W      Watanabe

    W      Kyushu

    Y      Yokosuka (Naval Arsenal)

The official designation system of the Japanes Army also used year numbers, similar to the IJN system except that the year 2600 was referred to as year 100, not 0. Simple model numbers were used with alphabetical suffixes.

The Japanese Army from 1932 onwards numbered aircraft that had been built to its requirements in the 'Ki' (Kitai, airframe) series with a simple sequential system -- until 1944, when anomalies were introduced for security reasons. An exception was made later for gliders, that were given 'Ku' (Guraida) numbers. Aircraft that were not designed to an Army requirement were not given Ki numbers (E.g. as the Ka-1 and the LO.) Different versions of an aircraft were indicated with Roman numerals, and minor modifications were indicated with the Ko, Otsu, Hei, Tei,.. sequence of suffixes. But a major modififaction would be indicated with a Kaizo symbol, normally transliterated as KAI.

The letter sequence used for minor modifications is Ko, Otsu, Hei, Tei, Bo, Ki, Ko, Shin, Jin and Ki -- the first and seven are different characters in writing. They have no real alphabetic or numerical significance and are more akin to North, South, East, West in idea. Only the first four were commonly used.

Allied Code Names

List of allied code names. General rules (not always followed) were:
    Abdul             Nakajima Ki.27 (Unofficial)

    Adam              Nakajima SKT-97. Did not exist.

    Alf               Kawanishi E7K

    Ann               Mitsubishi Ki.30

    Babs              Mitsubishi C5M

    Babs              Mitsubishi Ki.15

    Belle             Kawanishi H3K

    Ben               Nagoya-Sento KI-001. Did not exist.

    Bess              Heinkel He 111. Not in Japanese service.

    Betty             Mitsubishi G4M

    Betty             Mitsubishi G6M

    Bob               Aichi 97 seapleane. Did not exist.

    Bob               Kawasaki Ki-28

    Cedar             Tachikawa Ki.17

    Cherry            Yokosuka H5Y

    Clara             Tachikwawa Ki.70

    Claude            Mitsubishi A5M

    Cypress           Kyushu K9W

    Dave              Nakajima E8N

    Dick              Seversky A8V

    Dinah             Mitsubishi Ki.46

    Doc               Messerschmitt Bf 110. Not in Japanese service.

    Doris             Mitsubishi B-97. Did not exist.

    Edna              Mitsubishi Ki.71

    Emily             Kawanishi H8K

    Eva               Not a military aircraft.

    Eve               Not a military aircraft.

    Frances           Yokosuka P1Y Ginga / Kyokko

    Frank             Mitsubihi TK-4. Did not exist.

    Frank             Nakajima Ki.84 Hayate

    Fred              Focke-Wulf Fw 190. Not in Japanese service.

    Gander            Kokusai Ku-8.

    George            Kawanishi N1K1-J and N1K2-J

    Glenn             Yokosuka E14Y

    Goose             Kokusai Ku-8

    Grace             Aichi B7A Ryusei

    Gus               Nakajima AT-27. Did not exist.

    Hamp              Mitsubishi A6M Reisen with clipped wing tips.

    Hap               Mitsubishi A6M Reisen with clipped wing tips,

                      renamed 'Hamp'.

    Hank              Aichi E10A

    Harry             Mitsubishi TK-4. Did not exist.

    Helen             Nakajima Ki.49 Donryu

    Hickory           Tachikawa Ki.54

    Ida               Tachikawa Ki.36

    Ida               Tachikawa Ki.55

    Ione              Aichi AI-104. Did not exist.

    Irene             Junkers Ju 87. Not in Japanese service.

    Irving            Nakajima J1N Gekko

    Jack              Mitsubishi J2M Raiden

    Jake              Aichi E13A

    Janice            Junkers Ju 88. Not in Japanese service.

    Jean              Yokosuka B4Y

    Jerry             Heinkel He 112.

    Jill              Nakajima B6N

    Jim               Nakajima Ki.43 (unofficial)

    Joe               TK-19. Did not exist.

    Joyce             Tachikawa. Did not exist.

    Judy              Yokosuka D4Y

    Julia             Type 97 heavy bomber. Did not exist. (Was Ki.48)

    June              Seaplane version of Aichi D3A. Did not exist. (Was E13A)

    Kate              Nakajima B5N

    Kate 61           Mitsubishi B5M

    Laura             Aichi E11A

    Lily              Kawasaki Ki.48

    Liz               Nakajima G5N

    Loise             Mitsubishi Ki-2

    Lorna             Kyushu Q1W Tokai

    Louise            Mitsubishi Ki-2

    Luke              Mitsubishi J4M

    Mabel             Mitsubishi B5M

    Mavis             Kawanishi H6K

    Mike              Messerschmitt Bf 109. Not in Japanese service.

    Millie            Vultee VG-11. Not in Japanese service.

    Myrt              Nakajima C6N Saiun

    Nate              Nakajima Ki.27

    Nell              Mitsubishi G3M

    Nick              Kawasaki Ki.45 Toryu

    Norm              Kawanishi E15K Shiun

    Norma             Type 97 light bomber, did not exist. (Was Ki-15)

    Oak               Kawanishi K10W

    Omar              Suzukaze 20. Did not exist.

    Oscar             Nakajima Ki.43 Hayabusa

    Pat               Tachikawa Ki.74

    Patsy             Tachikawa Ki.74

    Paul              Aichi E16A Zuiun

    Peggy             Mitsubishi Ki.67

    Perry             Kawasaki Ki.10

    Pete              Mitsubishi F1M

    Pine              Mitsubishi K3M

    Randy             Kawasaki Ki.102

    Ray               Mitsubishi Type 1. Did not exist. (Was A6M)

    Rex               Kawanishi N1K Kyofu

    Rita              Nakajima G8N Renzan

    Rob               Kawasaki Ki.64

    Rufe              Nakajima A6M, floatplane version of the A6M 'Zeke'.

    Ruth              Fiat BR 20

    Sally             Mitsubishi Ki.21

    Sam               Mitsubishi A7M Reppu

    Slim              Watanabe E9W

    Sonia             Mitsubishi Ki.51

    Spruce            Tachikawa Ki.9

    Stella            Kokusai Ki.76

    Susie             Aichi D1A

    Tabby             Showa / Nakajima L2D.

    Tess              Douglas DC-2

    Thalia            Kawasaki Ki.56

    Thelma            Tachikawa LO

    Theresa           Kokusai Ki.59

    Thora             Nakajima Ki.34

    Tina              Mitsubishi L3Y

    Toby              Lockheed 14

    Tojo              Nakajima Ki.44 Shoki

    Tony              Kawasaki Ki.61 Hien

    Topsy             Kawasaki Ki.57

    Trixie            Junkers Ju 52/3m. Not in Japanese service.

    Trudy             Focke Wulf Fw 200. Not in Japanese service.

    Val               Aichi D3A

    Willow            Yokosuka K5Y

    Zeke              Mitsubishi A6M Reisen

Translations of Japanese Names

List of Japanese names of aircraft, aircraft carriers, and engines.

    Akikusa           Autumn Grass

    Amagi             Castle in the Sky (also a mountain, this carrier was

                      laid down as a battleship)


    Asakaze           Morning Wind


    Chitose           Thousand Years

    Chiyoda           Thousand Generations

    Chuyo             Middle Sea

    Denko             Lightning Bolt

    Donryu            Storm Dragon


    Funryu            Raging Dragon

    Gekko             Moonlight

    Ginga             Milky Way

    Hayabusa          Peregrine Falcon

    Hayate            Gale

    Hien              Swallow


    Hiryu             Blue Dragon

    Hiyo              Bright Sea

    Homare            Honour

    Hosho             Flying Bird

    Jinrai            Thunderclap

    Junyo             Deep Sea

    Kamikaze          Divine Wind

    Karigane          Wild Goose

    Kasei             Mars

    Katsuragi         Eternity

    Kayo              Eternal Sea

    Keiun             Beautiful Cloud

    Kikka             Orange Blossom

    Kinsei            Golden Star

    Kotobuki          Congratulation

    Kyofu             Mighty Wind

    Kyokko            Aurora

    Mamoru            Protector

    Manazuru          Crane

    Momiji            Maple

    Myojo             Venus

    Nankai            South Sea

    Nanzan            Southern Mountain

    Ohtori            Phoenix

    Ohka              Cherry Blossom

    Raiden            Thunderbolt

    Reisen            Zero Fighter, contraction of 'Rei Shiki Sentoki'

    Renzan            Mountain Range

    Reppu             Hurricane

    Ryuho             Mythological Dragon

    Ryujo             Sacred Dragon

    Ryusei            Shooting Star

    Saiun             Painted Cloud

    Sakae             Prosperity

    Seiran            Mountain Haze

    Shoho             Flying Bird

    Shoki             Demon Queller

    Shiden            Violet Lightning

    Shinden           Magnificent Lightning

    Shinyo            Holy Sea

    Shinzan           Mountain Recess

    Shiragiku         White Chrysanthemum

    Shiun             Violet Cloud

    Shokaku           Flying Crane

    Shusui            Sword Stroke

    Soryu             Flying Dragon

    Suisei            Comet

    Taiho             Mythological Bird

    Taiyo             Spirit of the Ocean


    Tenzan            Heavenly Mountain

    Tokai             Eastern Sea

    Toryu             Dragon Slayer


    Unryu             Dragon in the clouds

    Unyo              Sea of Clouds

    Zuiho             Auspicious Bird

    Zuikaku           Auspicious Crane

    Zuisei            Holy Star

    Zuiun             Auspicious Cloud

Emmanuel Gustin

Military Aircraft Database . Index