Aviation of World War II
Tachikawa Ki-36. Combat Use.
The combat use of the Ki-36, which received the code designation "Ida" (Ida) from the allies, was very rich. True, the lack of armor protection, low speed and light armament significantly reduced the Ida's chances of survival in the event of a meeting with fighters. But the excellent maneuverability still made these machines not too easy a target. The main front where the "Ides" were used was China and Southeast Asia. To a much lesser extent, they appeared in the Pacific Ocean. Only at the very end of the war were separate units armed with Ki-36s and training Ki-55s modified for strikes by Special Attack pilots.
Close support aircraft, in the classification more familiar to our ears - Ki-36 reconnaissance attack aircraft, have never been reduced to sentai-level air units, approximately corresponding to a Russian air regiment. As a rule, one or two Ki-36 squadrons were part of light bomber and reconnaissance sentai. But more often, units armed with Ki-36s were separate independent squadrons - dokuri hikochutai and independent battalions - dokuri hikotai, acting in the interests of ground units and often under operational control of ground military units at the level of the regiment and even battalion. There were Ki-36s assigned to artillery brigades, infantry regiments and even tank units.
One of the first units to receive the Ida was the 15th Reconnaissance Sentai, based in northern China in mid-1939. It was this unit that was the first to use new aircraft in combat during the armed conflict with the USSR that began in the summer of 1939 on the Khalkhin Gol River.
On the morning of August 21, 1939, six Ki-30s on the 10th Sentai, without encountering resistance in the air, bombed SB bombers parked at the Tamsagbulag airfield, two SBs burned down, a single Ki-36 records the results of the raid and conducts reconnaissance for the next raid.
In the afternoon 24 × Ki-30s from the same 10th Sentai plus 12 × Ki-21s on 61st Sentai and 15 × Ki-36s on 15th Sentai, escorted by 88 × Ki-27s on the 1st, 11th On the 1st and 64th Sentai attacked the Soviet Tamsag airfield. The Ki-30s reach the northern airstrip but find no worthy targets and instead attack the transport convoy. Ki-36s attack the south airstrip on Sentai 15 and attack several security guards in parking lots. Several I-153s and I-16s that took off to intercept were immediately tied up in battle by superior forces of Ki-27s. Three donkeys and three seagulls were shot down without loss by the Japanese.
By Japan's official entry into World War II, Ida reconnaissance aircraft were already quite common. During the raid on Hong Kong on December 8, 1941, 12 Ki-36 attack aircraft from the 44th Independent Squadron took part in it - dokuri Hikochutai. While the "big" guys on the Ki-48 and Ki-32 bombers were ironing the airfields and the port, every little thing like cars was left to the lot of the attack aircraft. But suddenly discovered in the harbor a huge seaplane - a large passenger flying boat Sikorsky S-42B "Hong Kong Clipper" of PanAm airlines turned out to be too tempting a target. It was attacked by at least a dozen Ids, bombarding it with 15-kg bombs and firing machine guns. It was hard to miss such a target. Soon the flying boat, enveloped in flames, exploded and sank.
During the invasion of Malaya, for the assault on Singapore, the Japanese Army Air Force allocated part of the 4th Hikoshidan - Air Army (166 aircraft), the strike forces were consolidated into the 3rd Hikodan (air brigade). The 83rd Hikotai Dokuritsu, an independent battalion, which was part of it, included a tactical reconnaissance squadron of 12 Ki-36s.
During the attack on Rangoon in the Burmese company, Ki-36 reconnaissance aircraft were used quite actively, proving to be very useful aircraft for attacking targets in the jungle. In conditions of dense impenetrable tropical vegetation, they served as mobile artillery. "Ides" in Burma usually flew without fighter cover, it was considered relatively safe. At low altitude, usually not exceeding 200 meters, they were less vulnerable to fighters, but there are exceptions to any rule. A single Ki-36 of the 83rd dokuru hikotai attempted to reconnoiter the Moulmein area at January 20, 1942. This machine was met by the flight officer of the Burmese Volunteer Air Corps, Mohan Singh, who piloted the ancient English Hawker "Fury" biplane fighter, which had long been withdrawn from service even in the British colonies. For this rarity, the maneuverability of the Japanese intelligence officer was not an obstacle. Singh shot the "Japanese" as if in a shooting range, recording his fourth victory in the war.
For the invasion of the Philippines, units of the 5th Hikoshidan, an air army, which included the 74th Hikochutai Dokuri, an independent squadron of 10 Ki-36 reconnaissance attack aircraft, were concentrated in Formosa.
As noted above, the role of the Ida aircraft was not limited to direct interaction with ground units. They were actively used as light bombers, patrols, and spotters. There are even facts of using the Ki-36 as a catapult naval reconnaissance aircraft. At least one aircraft of this type was equipped with an ejection hook and was used as a liaison on the army landing ship "Shinshu Marû".
One of the Ki-36 scouts in May 1941 was a couplet of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, received the civilian registration number J-BAAR and his own name "Kisaragi" - "February". This aircraft successfully survived the war and was decommissioned only in 1947.
The aircraft was loved by its crews for its excellent handling and ease of maintenance, it successfully coped with all the tasks assigned to it. He became a real workhorse of the army, invisible, but irreplaceable.
In order to most fully imagine the style of work of the Ida attack aircraft, it is interesting to cite excerpts from the official history of the 54th dokuritsu hikochutai - an independent squadron that actively operated the Ki-36s during the Japanese counteroffensive in April - June 1944 near the city of Xinxiang in the Chinese province Hunan.
At that time, in the spring - summer of the 44th, the 54th Hikochutai dokurutsu, consisting of fifteen Ki-36s, was allocated to participate in the Ko-Go operation, which in turn was part of the larger Ichi-Go operation ", which had as its goal the opening of a land route to French Indochina and the capture of Chinese airfields, as the last attempt to stop the actions of American B-29s against the mother country.
Operation "Ko-Go" was a tactical task assigned to the 3rd Armored Division operating in Hunan Province to besiege and capture the city of Liuyang, which fell on May 25, 1944.
The first phase of the "Ko-Go" operation began on April 18, where the functions of the Ki-36 attack aircraft of the 54th dokuri hikochutai were limited to supporting ground units crossing the Yellow River north of the city of Zhengzhou.
The first wave of attacks began the next day at 06:30 am. During a series of raids, dive attacks were launched, in which about 250 pieces of 15-kg bombs were dropped. The "Ides" operated in close contact with the advancing Japanese tanks, literally following a few tens of meters ahead of the ground units. All aircraft returned safely to base. Only one of them was damaged due to fragments of anti-aircraft shells falling into the oil tank.
In the period of April 22-23, attack aircraft constantly attacked the discovered Chinese convoys, pulling up reinforcements to the battlefield, which numbered about 200 vehicles and about 3 thousand people. personnel.
The commander of the 54th dokuritsu hikochutai shosa (major) Okamoto Yoshio after the war recalled that the squadron was ordered to constantly put pressure on enemy columns, violating their schedule. Moreover, if possible, not to destroy enemy vehicles, giving the advancing Japanese units the opportunity to capture enemy military equipment and ammunition in good condition. Thus, the squadron's aircraft hovered over the Chinese positions for hours during the day. They constantly changed each other, returning to the airfield only to refuel and replenish ammunition. At night, the crews were guided only by radio commands and flashes of anti-aircraft guns. The manpower of the enemy suffered very significant damage. And when the Japanese units of the 37th division approached the battlefield on the afternoon of April 23, significant trophies and dozens of broken anti-aircraft guns were captured.
The History of the 54th Dokurutsu Hikochutai also contains the diary of one of the officers of the Chui Squadron (Senior Lieutenant) Tania, dated May 3, 1944 during the same operation "Ko-Go".
It describes how Tanii, while in the air, received a request by radio from the headquarters of the advancing 3rd armored division for reconnaissance along the route of the columns of armored vehicles. Thus, the officer was the "eyes" of the ground units for the whole day, constantly following ahead of the moving Japanese columns.
Monday, May 29, 1944 was one of the most hectic days in the operations of the 54th Hikochutsu.
In May, despite the staunch resistance of local Chinese forces, the Japanese army continued its offensive as part of Operation Ichi-Go. During this period, the "Idas" carried out coordination between the greatly extended orders of the Japanese forces, conducting reconnaissance and free hunting for the discovered scattered Chinese units.
On May 28, the Japanese ground forces began to cross the Dongting Lake by boat, meeting fierce resistance from the Chinese. The next day, at 6 am, the squadron's seven Ki-36s were instructed to support the landings. Taking off from their Pailochi base, a temporary field airfield, the planes split into two chutay - links of two planes each, plus three separate planes were called upon to act individually to cover a large area controlled by the dug-in enemy. Flights were carried out at extremely low altitudes - from a few tens to 300 meters. Soon, a large number of Chinese riverboats and boats were seen moving with reinforcements to the Miluo River across the lake.
A single Ida, piloted by gunso (sergeant) Amano with his shoi observer gunner (lieutenant) Yumoto, damaged five ships with bombs and machine-gun fire. At this time, another "Ida" sōcho (foreman) Saito located another 15 Chinese ships, sinking six of them and damaging two more.
By the evening of the Ki-36, Amano, Saito, and gunso (sergeant) Kudo and gocho (junior sergeant) Ashida who joined them sank three more Chinese ships and damaged seven. On the same day, the author of the memoirs of tuya (senior lieutenant) Tania also reported for the three junks sunk.
On that day, the pilots of the 54th Dokurutsu Hikochutai made four sorties a day, instead of the standard two, and practically did not get out of the cockpits. They were so physically exhausted that they had to take glucose injections.
It is characteristic that, contrary to global practice, when the pilot of a multi-seat aircraft was simultaneously the crew commander, in the Japanese army aviation (and, in fact, in the naval aviation too), the pilot, as a rule, had the rank of sergeant, and the navigator of the aircraft was the crew commander, usually wearing officer uniforms. The Ki-36 crews were no exception. The gunner-observer of the Ida was usually of a higher rank than the pilot. In Japanese practice, it was believed that the pilot is more focused on piloting and cannot adequately assess the situation, and the officer in the rear cockpit, by definition, who is more literate, is less prone to fatigue and is better able to cope with the reconnaissance and situation assessment function.
The Tachikawa "98-Chokkyô" reconnaissance attack aircraft, having fought from the first to the last day of the war, were in service with the following army aviation units:
2nd, 15th, 28th, 29th, 44th and 83rd Sentai (mixed air regiments)
In separate independent air squadrons - dokuritsu hikochutai: 17; 47-49; 52; 54-66; 74; 89; 91.
In separate independent battalions - dokuritsu hikotai: 10th and 206th
Battalions of interaction with ground units - Chokkuo Hikotai - 1st; 6th, 7th and 8th.
In addition, the Ki-36, along with the training Ki-55, regularly served in flight schools: Gifu, Hokota, Ushonomiya, Kamagaya, Shimoshizu, Tachiarai, the Army Air Force Academy and many other local training units.
This, most likely, is not a complete list of air units where Ides served. Single aircraft of this type were very often used as commander and liaison aircraft and were even included in the composition of fighter sentai. It is simply not possible to list all of them, just as it is impossible to list all the Soviet units where our famous U-2 was used.
In the run-up to the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945, many Idas, including training versions of the Ki-55, were included in the Tokkotai forces for special kamikaze attacks.
One of them was the 79th Shimbutai - a group of special attacks, equipped with 12 Ki-36 attack aircraft with suspensions of 250-kg bombs. The 79th Shimbutai became part of the 6th Kokugan (air army), stationed in Formosa and Kyushu. The group perished almost in its entirety between April 15 and 18, 1945. The group's most likely target was the US destroyer Laffey (DD-724), which was subjected to a massive attack by 22 kamikazes on 15 April. Six Japanese suicide bombers crashed into the ship, identified by the Americans as the Val dive bomber, but comparing the time and place of the attack, there is reason to assert that among the kamikaze aircraft that attacked the destroyer there were Idas of the 79th Shimbutai. Not too familiar with the Japanese army aviation, the American sailors could easily identify the planes attacking them with fixed landing gear in fairings as the well-known D3A dive bombers.
The Ki-36 and Ki-55 also served in the Siam Air Force. In January 1942, the RTAF (Royal Thai Air Force) ordered 24 Ki-36s and Ki-55s. It is not known for certain whether the Ki-36s were used in combat, or only as training ones. The exact ratio of delivered Ki-36s and Ki-55s is not known, it is quite possible that only training Ki-55s were delivered to Siam. In the RTAF the Japanese aircraft were known as "Bin Fuk Hat, B.F6", literally "Trainer Type 6" was also the name "Type 89". Most of them went to flight school at Don Muang Air Base. There Ki-55s were simply called "Tachigawas". During the Second World War, they participated only in the Siamese-French clashes with unclear results. In the late 40s, Thai Ki-36/55s were again actively used against the French. Unfortunately, very few facts about their service in the Royal Thai Air Force are known that in April 1945, 23 Ki-55s (of which 18 were in flying condition) were in the RTAF. One was in the Foong Bin 15 fighter squadron, apparently used as a liaison, eight served in the Foong Bin 21 reconnaissance squadron and 13 in the Foong Bin 10 training squadron. Another Ki-55 was listed for the Kong Bin Noi Phasom 80, which was subordinate to the Royal Thai Army. By November 1945, only two machines of this type were already listed in the RTAF. As part of the RTAF, Ki-55s were painted in standard IJAAF camouflage, dark IJA-green above and light IJA gray below. After August 45, Thai Ki-55s were completely painted yellow. One Ki-55 is preserved in the RTAF Museum.
Captured Ides flew in Indonesia against the French as early as mid-1947. The Indonesian rebels modified their Ki-35s and Ki-55s to carry a single 250kg bomb.
And the French themselves captured at least two training Ki-55s in Indonesia and used them in the squadron EL 99, Armee de l'Air. They last flew on May 20, 1946.
Almost until the 50s, captured "Idas" were used by the Chinese, both by the Kuomintang of Chiang Kai Shek, and by the communists of Mao Tse Tung. They were also in service with the Manchukuo aviation, meeting our troops in August 1945.
The color schemes of the Ki-36 reconnaissance attack aircraft were very diverse depending on the place of service of one or another unit armed with them.
At first, the most common standard was "hairyokushoku", literally ash green. In fact, it was a gray with a slightly bluish-green tint, first introduced in the army aviation in 1924, and slightly modernized in 1927. Shades could vary depending on the paint manufacturer from bluish-gray to pale blue-green. As aircraft were used, the "hairyokushoku" coloration tended to develop a yellowish-grey tint.
This was the base skin for all military aircraft. But on top of it, other coloring and camouflage options could be applied. The lower surfaces of the aircraft, while usually not touched.
In parts operating in China, tricolor camouflage was applied. Spots of red-brown and olive-green colors were painted over the factory "hairyokushoku" in units and field workshops. There was no single standard for the shape and size of such spots. Photos show a huge variety of this kind of camouflage schemes.
Units serving in the Pacific Islands painted the entire upper surfaces of their attack aircraft green.
The emblem of the unit was usually applied on the vertical tail - in this case, there was no standard, unlike naval aviation. Each regiment or squadron developed its own emblem. Only its color sometimes varied depending on belonging to the chutai (squadron) within the sentai (regiment).
Ki-55 trainers were usually painted bright orange all over. Often the upper part after in parts over orange was painted over with green. Ki-55s deployed outside of the home country often had similar livery to the combat Ki-36s.
(c) Evgeny Aranov