1st Air Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy

The Imperial Japanese Navy"(日本海軍, Nihon Kaigun)" at the beginning of World War II contained the world's largest carrier fleet. At the centre, was the 1st Air Fleet (第一航空艦隊, Dai-ichi KōKū Kantai) which was a grouping of naval aircraft and aircraft carriers. With the "Kido Butai" (being its primary carrier battle group) the Imperial Japanese Navy would reign supreme for the first six months of World War II.


The origin of the 1st Air Fleet has to do with creating the first carrier based air fleet. 1st Air Fleet and 2nd Air Fleet were the primary attack force of the IJNAS.


The Navy Air Services' carrier-based Air Corps (kokutai, later called koku sentai) was a major component of the Combined Fleet whose size (from a handful to 80 or 90 aircraft) was dependent on both the mission and type of aircraft carrier that they were on. [ [http://navalhistory.flixco.info/H/106050x67747/259869/a0.htm.] ]

First Air Fleet

On April 10, 1941 the Imperial Japanese Navy formed the "First Air Fleet" "(Daiichi Koku Kantai)" consisting of all seven of Japan's fleet and light carriers with a total of 474 aircraft. This would result in a naval battlegroup with the single most powerful concentration of naval aviation in the world. The groundwork for the true carrier task force had been laid. [ [http://www.combinedfleet.com/cvlist.htm Carriers ] ]

The large fleet carriers had three types of aircraft; fighters, level bombers/torpedo planes, and dive bombers. While the smaller carriers tended to have only two types of aircraft; fighters and dive bombers. The carrier-based kokutai numbered over 1500 pilots with over 1500 aircraft at the beginning of the Pacific War, there would be 10 carriers with a total aircraft capacity of about 600.

Kido Butai

The "Kido Butai" (機動部隊 "literally Mobile Unit/Force") was the Combined Fleet's main carrier battle group carrying the 1st Air Fleet and mobile taskforce consisting of Japan's six large carriers at its core known for executing the attack on Pearl Harbor under Admiral Chuichi Nagumo in 1941. It was considered the single most powerful naval fleet until the disastrous Battle of Midway, which resulted in the destruction of four of its six aircraft carriers and a severe loss of experienced pilots. For the attack on Pearl Harbor, the "Kido Butai" consisted of 6 aircraft carriers (commanded by Chuichi Nagumo, Tamon Yamaguchi and Chuichi Hara) with 414 airplanes, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, 9 destroyers, 8 tankers, 23 submarines and 4 midget submarines.


Pearl Harbor

The "Kido Butai" (also known as the "Carrier Striking Task Force") set sail from Hittokapu Bay, Japan under Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo on 26 November, 1941, arriving in Hawaiian waters on Sunday December 7,1941 Hawaiian time. At around 8am, the first wave began its attack on the US Pacific Fleet based at Pearl Harbor and on outlying airfields. By the end of the day 21 American ships were either sunk or crippled, 188 aircraft were destroyed and over 3,500 American personnel were casualties of war. Japan was now formally at war with the United States.

For the attack on Pearl Harbor, this fleet had a strength of 103 level bombers, 128 dive bombers, 40 torpedo bombers, 88 fighter planes and plus 91 planes with a total of 441 planes. The Pearl Harbor Attack force composition

Indian Ocean Raid

Between March 31 and 10 April,1942 the Japanese conducted a naval sortie against Allied naval forces in the Indian Ocean. The Fast Carrier Task Force("Kido Butai") consisting of six carriers commanded by Admiral Chuichi Nagumo inflicted heavy losses on the British Fleet; with the sinking of 1 carrier, 2 cruisers, 2 destroyers and 23 merchant ships for the loss of 20 aircraft. Attacks on the island of Ceylon were also carried out.

Battle of the Coral Sea

The 1st Air Fleet dispatched the Fifth Air Squadron in the Coral Sea during the return from the Indian Ocean. The remaining fleet returned in the mainland, had to prepare for the Midway invasion (Operation MI).

Battle of Midway

Battle of Santa Cruz

Battle of the Philippine Sea

Battle of Leyte Gulf


External links

* [http://www.combinedfleet.com/cvlist.htm/ "Kido Butai at Combined Fleet.com"]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/japan/ijn-air.htm/ "Air Units of the Imperial Japanese Navy, Globalsecurity.com"]

"'Some of the commanders of the "Kido Butai"

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