IJNAF carrier based aircraft identification & marking

source: - Krysztof Zalewski: "Japonskie lotnictwo pokladowe", Lampart, Warszawa, Poland 1998

Aircraft Identification
1) April 1941 - 14.7.1942
a) alphanumeric code
A II 111
Carrier Division
large block letter in latin alphabet
Roman digits
three digit aircraft indetification
- 1st digit = aircraft type:
      1 - fighting
      2 - dive bomber
      3 - horizontal bomber

- 2nd-3rd digit = individual aircraft number
b) additional tail color stripes identification

CarDiv1: Akagi: AI, one red stripe
Kaga: AII, two red stripes
CarDiv2 Sorju: BI, one blue stripe
Hirju: BII, two blue stripes
CarDiv3 Hosho: CI
Zuiho: CII
CarDiv4 Rjudzo: DI, one yellow stripe
Shoho: DII, two yellow stripes
Taijo: DIII, three yellow stripes

Dzunjo: DII (after Shoho sinking in battle of Coral Sea)
CarDiv5 Shokaku: EI, one white stripe
Zuikaku: EII, two white stripes

2) 14.7.1942 - October 1942
alphanumeric codes and color stripes principally retained, after Midway loses changed ships assignment to Carrier Divisions:
CarDiv1: Shokaku: EI, 1 white stripe
Zuikaku: EII, 2 white stripes
Zuiho: EIII, 3 white stripes
CarDiv2 Hijo: DI, 1 yellow stripe
Dzunjo: DII, 2 yellow stripes
Rjudzo: DIII, 3 yellow stripes
without assignment
without stripes
Unjo: CI
Taijo: CII

3) October 1942 - April 1943
alphanumeric codes retained, color stripes abolished
change only in CarDiv1: letter E replaced by I
changes was applied probably as much as after battle of Santa Cruz where CarDiv1 aircraft still have letter E

4) April 1943 - beginning of 1944
CarDiv1: Shokaku: A1-1
Zuikaku: A1-2
Zuiho: A1-3
CarDiv2 Hijo: A2-1
Dzunjo: A2-2
Rjuho: A2-3
CarDiv3 Citose: A3-1
Cijoda: A3-2
5) beginning of 1944 - July 1944
reduced differences between IJN carrier and land based air units
for each CarDiv created one air group (kokutai) according to land based units
three digit code:
- 1st digit = aircraft type:
      3 = carrier aircraft
- 2nd digit = CarDiv
- 3rd digit = Ship

retained system of individual aircraft numbers

CarDiv1 (601st kokutai): Taiho: 311
Zuikaku: 312
Shokaku: 313
CarDiv2 (652nd kokutai) Dzunjo: 321
Hijo: 322
Rjuho: 323
CarDiv3 (653rd kokutai) Citose: 331
Cijoda: 332
Zuiho: 333

later aborted first digit 3 indicating carrier aircraft:
CarDiv1 (601st kokutai): Taiho: 11
Shokaku: 12
Zuikaku: 13
CarDiv2 (652nd kokutai) Dzunjo: 21
Hijo: 22
Rjuho: 23
CarDiv3 (653rd kokutai) Zuiho: 31
Citose: 32
Cijoda: 33
6) after battle of Philippine Sea in June 1944
numerical code changed to kokutai number and individualní aircraft number, above this was ship serial number without regardless of CarDiv organisation:

Zuikaku: 1
CarDiv2: dissolved

Zuiho 2
Citose 3
Cijoda 4
Ise 634
Hijuga 634

Functional marking

Commanding officers aircraft was identified by rudder or fuselage color stripes. Usually was yellow, white or red. Carrier or land based designation not tu make any difference.
1 stripe section commander - shotai (3-4 aircraft)
2 stripes squadron commander - daitai (15-27 aircraft)
3 stripes air group commander - hikotai (40-50 aircraft or every aircraft onboard carrier)
4 stripes kokutai or campaign commander