Manchukuo Imperial Air Force
The Manchukuo Imperial Air Force (Chinese: 飛行隊; pinyin: Fēixíng Duì) was the air force of the Empire of Manchuria, a puppet state of Imperial Japan. The air force's predecessor was the Manchukuo Air Transport Company (later renamed the Manchukuo National Airways), a paramilitary airline formed in 1931, which undertook transport and reconnaissance missions for the Japanese military.
|Manchukuo Imperial Air Force|
Pilots of the Manchukuo Imperial Air Force in 1942, with a Nakajima Ki-27 behind
|Colors||Yellow, blue, white|
|Anniversaries||September 20 (Aviation Day)|
|Engagements||Second Sino-Japanese War|
World War II
|Ceremonial chief||Kangde Emperor|
Since the creation of the state in 1932, an airline called the Manchukuo Paramilitary Airline operated as a fleet of transports, consisting mainly of passenger aircraft. The only military action it saw was providing support to the Inner Mongolian Army during the Suiyuan Campaign in 1936. An "independent volunteer battalion" which included thirteen planes assisted the Inner Mongolian troops in their attempt to drive the Nationalists out of the Suiyuan province. The official Manchukuo Air Force was not established until February 1937, when thirty volunteers from the Manchukuo Imperial Army were sent to Harbin for training. Initially the Kwantung Army commanders did not trust the Manchukuoans enough to give them an independent air arm and the early air force consisted of mostly Japanese pilots.
Starting out with just one Nieuport-Delage NiD 29, first air unit was based in Hsinking. They were soon expanded with the addition of Nakajima Army Type 91 Fighters and Kawasaki Type 88 light bombers. A second air unit was formed in Fengtien and a third was formed in Harbin between 1938–39, and in July 1940 a Manchukuo Air Defense headquarters was established in Hsinking. At that time the Japanese finally decided to give the state its own air force with Manchukuoan pilots and more modern aircraft. A flying school was opened in Mukden for both military and civil pilots as part of this effort. This program suffered a major setback when one hundred Manchukuoan pilots rebelled and tried to join the guerrillas after murdering their Japanese instructors. Nonetheless the project to create an air force for Manchukuo continued. Three fighter squadrons were formed from cadets in 1942.
In the 1940s the Manchukuo Air Force was greatly expanded with an influx of new trainers, transports, and its first fighters. The latter were Nakajima Ki-27 fighters which were presented on Aviation Day, 20 September 1942. The trainers included Tachikawa Ki-9s and Tachikawa Ki-55s, while some Mitsubishi Ki-57 transports were also provided. The only bomber craft it had were provided by Kawasaki Ki-32 light bombers. Money to pay for these craft was donated by local companies in Manchukuo with Japanese "encouragement". They were also given Nakajima Ki-43s in 1945 to have a better chance of intercepting the American B-29 Superfortresses. The Manchukuoan pilots were given the estimated arrival time of the bombers and would take off about twenty minutes before they were due to arrive, climbing to 7,000 meters to make head-on passes before the B-29s got out of range. Some Manchukuoan pilots were also given kamikaze training and at least one downed a B-29 by crashing a Ki-27 into it. By the time the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation was launched by the Soviet Red Army in August 1945, the Manchukuo Air Force had practically ceased to exist, although there were isolated incidents of Manchukuoan planes attacking Soviet aircraft.
Three fighters squadrons were formed in 1942 from flying school cadets, with the typical strength of a squadron being as follows: 11 officers, 12 to 14 non-commissioned officers, and 90 enlisted men.
- 1st Air Unit (Hsinking)
- 2nd Air Unit (Fengtien)
- 3rd Air Unit (Harbin)
- Tongliao Independent Air Unit
- Flying School
List of aircraft
An aircraft construction industry existed in Manchukuo. It produced Nakajima Ki-27 fighters, among others, although the majority of them went to the Japanese air services rather than the Manchukuoan Air Force. The Manchukuoans had the following aircraft:
|Nakajima Type 91||fighter||II||1+|
|Nakajima Ki-43||fighter||3||Delivered in 1945|
|Nakajima LB-2||medium bomber||1||A converted experimental craft from the Manchukuo National Airways|
|Kawasaki Ki-32||light bomber||1+|
|Kawasaki Type 88||light bomber||1+|
|Mitsubishi Ki-30||light bomber||1+|
|2F BXN2 Gamma||bomber||2E||1|
|Tachikawa Ki-55||advanced trainer||1+|
- Jowett 2004, pp. 90–92.
- Jowett, Philipp (2004). Rays of the Rising Sun, Volume 1: Japan's Asian Allies 1931–45, China and Manchukuo. Helion and Company Ltd. ISBN 1-874622-21-3.
- Green, William (1997). Flying Colors. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-7603-1129-3.