Pilot training in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) had several programs, which expanded, evolved and changed throughout the years. The aim of these programs was to train aircrew for the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS). Initially, the pilot training program was open only to officers who graduated from the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy. However, the training was extended to include non-commissioned officers (NCO) in March 1914 and eventually also to enlisted navy personnel in May 1920. Over the years, the number of NCO and enlisted pilots significantly surpassed the number of commissioned officer pilots, and officers would typically only command units (as Buntaichō or Hikōtaichō ) and lead formations in combat.As the Pacific War progressed and attrition impacted the units, it was not uncommon for NCOs to lead battle formations due to the lack of officers, and some units even ended up without officers, as in the case of 204th Air Group in summer 1943 after Operation SE. Prior to the Pacific war, the training programs were extremely selective and competitive, and produced only a small number of elite pilots every year. However, during the Pacific War, a rapid increase of the demand for replacement pilots significantly reduced the selectiveness and training time.
Graduates of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy would first serve as midshipmen for a year before being commissioned Ensign. Newly commissioned Ensigns were selected for pilot training based on the aptitude test (適性検査 Tekikei-Kensa) that typically lasted for three weeks and took place at Kasumigaura Airfield. After the officers was being selected for the flight training, they would first conduct one month of training in a two-seater aircraft with an instructor. Normally the first solo flight would take after around 12-13 logged hours of dual flight time. After that they would proceed with more advanced flight training for the next several months. The whole course took about nine months, and after the completion, the graduates were assigned to a specific aircraft role (fighter, dive bomber, torpedo bomber, land-based bomber or seaplane) and were sent to various air groups for specialisation. At the time officer pilots were posted to the combat unit they would be Lieutenant (junior grade).
In November 1934, Air Reserve Student (航空予備学生 Kōkūyobi-Gakusei) program was created, which enabled male civilian university and college graduates to enter the pilot training. The candidates had to be under the age of 26 in the case of university degree and under the age of 24 in the case of college degree. After a successful completion of the training, the candidates were commissioned as Ensign.However, the officers from this program were distinguished from the academy graduates in the rank name; academy graduates were called Officers (将校 Shōkō), while university and college graduates were called Reserve Officers (予備将校 Yobi-Shōkō). The program remained very limited for many years, where the first class admitted only five students and the 8th class of 1941 only 48 students. It was only significantly expanded after the war situation grew worse for Japan in 1943.
To distinguish officer pilot trainees from NCO and enlisted trainees, they were called "Flight Students" (飛行学生 Hikō-Gakusei), as opposed to "Flight Trainee" (飛行練習生 Hikō-Renshūsei) used for NCO and enlisted trainees.
Prior to June 1930, the NCO and enlisted pilot training program was called Flying Technique Trainee (飛行術練習生 Hikōjutsu-Renshūsei) program. After that date, the program was renamed to Pilot Trainee (操縦練習生 Sōju-Renshūsei) program, which was typically shortened to Sōren (操練) for practical use. The trainees were selected from the personnel already serving in the navy based on a competitive written exam and then further through rigorous physical and flight aptitude tests. The flight training took place at Kasumigaura Airfield. Same as the officer pilot students, NCO/enlisted pilot trainees were normally allowed to go for the first solo after one month of flight training with an instructor.
In 1928, a new parallel program was created to enable also civilian population to enter the training directly, which was called Flight Reserve Trainee Program (飛行予科練習生 Hikōyoka-Renshūsei) program or Yokaren (予科練) for short. The first class begun their training in June 1930. Yokaren program drew from male civilians aged from 15-17 and made the selection through a competitive written exam. Selected candidates then went through three-year training that involved basic education and learning of various naval skills. Due to the increased demand for pilots, the training duration was afterwards shortened to two and a half years during the Second Sino-Japanese war and to two years during the Pacific War. On the other hand, since Sōren program candidates were older and already received basic education in the navy through Kaiheidan (海兵団) units,the program progressed quickly to the actual flight training, thus lasting only about a year in total.
Major changes to the NCO and enlisted programs were made in May 1937. A new program aimed at civilians between age 16-19 was added and named A-Class Flight Reserve Trainee (甲飛行予科練習生 Kō-Hikōyoka-Renshūsei) program. Due to the higher education level of candidates at the entry into the program, the training only lasted one year and a half in total (later shortened to one year). To follow suit, the original Yokaren program was renamed to B-Class Flight Reserve Trainee (乙飛行予科練習生 Otsu-Hikōyoka-Renshūsei) program, where B-Class indicated the lower age of candidates at the entry compared to A-Class. In October 1940, Sōren was also renamed to C-Class Flight Reserve Trainee (丙飛行予科練習生 Hei-Hikōyoka-Renshūsei) to fit into the same system.
The flight training part of the programs was called Flight Trainee (飛行練習生 Hikō-Renshūsei) or Hiren (飛練) for short, and lasted for about seven months: 2 months in a primary trainer aircraft (typically Yokosuka K2Y) and 5 months in an intermediate trainer aircraft (typically Yokosuka K5Y). After the introduction of classes, the flight training was standardised for all classes. Same as the officer pilot students, the NCO and enlisted pilot trainees were at the end of the course sent to various air groups to specialise in a specific role: fighter, dive bomber, torpedo bomber, land-based bomber or seaplane.The specialisation was called Extended Education (延長教育 Enchō-Kyōiku) and took from five to six months, depending on the role.
Pilots assigned to aircraft carrier squadrons underwent an intense training program to the master carrier landing technique and obtain the carrier qualification. Prior to the Second Sino-Japanese War, only veteran pilots with 500 hours or more flight time were assigned to a carrier duty. However, in 1938 this was relaxed in order to follow the increased demand for carrier-qualified pilots, and thus even pilots fresh from Extended Education program were assigned directly to a carrier duty. The training program started on a land airfield within a restricted area marked by white canvas markers that represented a carrier flight deck and took about one to two months. The next stage was mastering the approach on an actual carrier at sea, where the pilots would perform go-around without touching the flight deck. When the approach was mastered, the pilots were permitted to do touch-and-gos. Finally, the last step was training an actual carrier landing using arresting gear.
Lieutenant Commander Edward Henry O'Hare was an American naval aviator of the United States Navy, who on February 20, 1942, became the Navy's first flying ace when he single-handedly attacked a formation of nine heavy bombers approaching his aircraft carrier. Even though he had a limited amount of ammunition, he was credited with shooting down five of the enemy bombers and became the first naval recipient of the Medal of Honor in World War II.
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The following graphs present the rank insignia of the Imperial Japanese Navy from its establishment in 1868 to its defeat during World War II in 1945. These designs were used from 1931 onward. For the typical Navy, star modelling cherry blossom was used for showing their ranks/branches, but the Naval Reserve personnel wore the compass based star before 1942, when the Reserve and Special Duty Officers were merged with the typical naval personnel's insignia.
Lieutenant Junior Grade Tetsuzō Iwamoto was one of the top scoring aces among Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service (IJNAS) fighter pilots. He entered the Imperial Navy in 1934 and completed pilot training in December 1936. His first combat occurred over China in early 1938. He emerged as one of the top aces of the Imperial Japan during WWII, credited with at least 80 aerial victories including 14 victories in China. Subsequently, he flew Zeros from the aircraft carrier Zuikaku from December 1941 to May 1942, including at the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Sadamu Komachi was an ace fighter pilot in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II. Participating in many of the Pacific War battles and campaigns as a member of several units, Komachi was officially credited with destroying 18 enemy aircraft.
The action off Bougainville was a naval and air engagement on the South Pacific Theater of World War II near Bougainville, Papua New Guinea on 20 February 1942. A United States Navy aircraft carrier task force on its way to raid the Imperial Japanese military base at Rabaul, New Britain was attacked by a force of land-based bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The US task force was commanded by Admiral Wilson Brown and the Japanese aircraft forces were under the command of Eiji Gotō.
Shigetaka Ōmori was an officer and ace fighter pilot in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific theater of World War II. In aerial combat over China and the Pacific, he was officially credited with destroying 13 enemy aircraft.
The US Navy had four programs for the training of naval aviators.
An officer is a member of an armed forces or uniformed service who holds a position of authority.
The Misawa Naval Air Group was an aircraft and airbase garrison unit of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during the Pacific campaign of World War II. This article handles first generation, second generation, renamed unit the 705th Naval Air Group, and re-organised unit the 706th Attack Squadron also.
Keiichi Arima was a non-aviator dive bomber officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II. He participated in Central China campaigns and later led Aichi D3A dive bombers from carrier Shōkaku in both carrier battles during Solomon Islands Campaign, where he and his pilot, Kiyoto Furuta, scored bomb hits on United States Navy (USN) carrier Enterprise on two separate occasions.
Mamoru Seki was a dive bomber pilot officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II. He is best known for being the commander of dive bomber squadron of carrier Shōkaku and for leading strikes against United States Navy (USN) carriers in both Battle of the Eastern Solomons and Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, where they severely damaged Enterprise on two occasions. He was killed in action during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.
Shigeharu Murata was a torpedo bomber pilot officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II. He was the commander of torpedo bombers in the Attack on Pearl Harbor that crippled several United States Navy (USN) battleships, and during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands that resulted in sinking of carrier Hornet. He was killed in action during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands.
Sadamu Takahashi was a dive bomber pilot officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II. He is best known for being the Zuikaku's dive bomber squadron during the Battle of the Eastern Solomons and the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. He survived the war and later served in the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
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Kiyoto Furuta was a dive bomber pilot in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II. He flew Aichi D3A dive bomber from carrier Akagi during the Attack on Pearl Harbor and the Indian Ocean Raid, and later from carrier Shōkaku in both carrier battles during Solomon Islands Campaign, where he scored bomb hits on United States Navy (USN) carrier Enterprise on two separate occasions.
Yoshikazu Nagahama was a fighter ace in the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during World War II. He became ace in a day during the Attack on Darwin, where he first destroyed one US Navy PBY Catalina flying boat and then single-handedly engaged five, and shot down four, US Army Air Force P-40 Warhawk fighters.