to Kōkūtai 453 and moved to Ibusuki Base in

Kagoshima Prefecture. From February 20 it

conducted anti-submarine patrols, but on that

date its fighter section was disbanded.

Similarly, the Kashima Kōkūtai and Katori

Kōkūtai training units were based in Chiba

Prefecture. Their aircraft, including the Rufes,

sporadically came into conflict with American


Among the pure training units that also used

some Rufes was Kitaura Kōkūtai. In its case,

several Rufe were reserved for instructors for

the purpose of practice flights and maintaining

skills in maneuver combat. One of them, CPO

Tsuji, was killed in a dogfight with a Hellcat pilot

on February 17, 1945.

One of the seaplane units that participated in

Kamikaze missions at the end of the war was the

training unit Takuma Kōkūtai. It was established

in mid-1943 and its main armament was the E7K

Alf and H8K Emily seaplanes. Rufe fighters are

documented with this unit as early as 1943.

The Nakajima A6M2-N Rufe fighter seaplanes

were already outperformed by their opponents

at the time of their introduction into service.

But like the A6M2 Zero Type 21, from which their

design was based, the Rufe seaplanes remained

in first-line service until the end of the war.

Sadly, no complete example of this beautiful

floatplane survives to this day.

I was kindly assisted in the preparation of

this article by Messrs Yasuho Izawa, Ota

Jírovec, Voytek Kubacki, Nick Millman,

Noah Muranishi and the team at Scale

Aviation magazine, Ryan Toews and

Y. Yoshino. I would like to express my

thanks for their support.


CLARINGBOULD, Michael J.: IJN Floatplanes in

the South Pacific; Avonmore Books

FRANK, Richard B.: Guadalcanal, The Definitive

Account of the Landmark Battle; Penguin Books

HATA, Ikuhiko, IZAWA, Yasuho, SHORES,

Christopher: Japanese Naval Aces 1932 – 1945;

Stackpole Books

HERDER, Brian L.: The Aleutians 1942 – 43;

Osprey Publishing

KAWASAKI, Manabu: Nihon kaigun-no kanjōki

to suijōki: Sono kaihatsu to senreki; Dai-Nippon

Kaiga co.

LEWIS, Tom: The Empire Strikes South, Japan´s

air war against northern Australia; Avonmore

Kōkūtai 802, Emidj Island, Jaluit Atoll,

Marshall Islands, October 1943


LUNDSTROM, John B.: The First Team and the

Guadalcanal Campaign, Naval Fighter Combat

from August to November 1942; Naval Institute


Model Art 439: Heroes of the Imperial Japanese

Navy Air Force in 1937 - 1945

MIKESH, Robert. C.: Zero – Combat &

Development History of Japan´s Legendary

Mitsubishi A6M Zero Fighter; Motorbooks


MILLMAN, Nicholas: Combat Colours No. 9, An

illustrated guide to the colour schemes and

markings of the Mitsubishi Zero; Guideline


SAKAIDA, Henry: Imperial Japanese Navy Aces

1937 – 1945; Osprey Publishing Ltd.

WATANABE, Yoji: Pictorial History of Air

War over Japan, Japanese Navy Air Force;

Gendaishi Shuppankai Co.





Takuma Kōkūtai, Takuma base, Japan, 1944

This aircraft was originally finished with grey paint on all surfaces. Later, at the unit, it was

given a dark green paint job on the upper surfaces. By the time it was in service with Takuma

Kōkūtai, the green paint was badly worn, with reddish-brown primer and metal surfaces

visible in some areas. The stripe on the fuselage was probably the designation of the aircraft

flown by leader of fighter unit. Takuma Kōkūtai was established in mid-1943 to train seaplane

crews and it included a fighter unit with Rufe aircraft which was also tasked with training,

including dogfight practicing. However, the command envisaged the eventual deployment

of Rufe aircraft by this unit for the air defense of Japan. A photograph of a Rufe seaplane

from the Takuma Kōkūtai exists, showing the mount of Ensign Kyoshi Suga armed with 30 kg

bombs for use against B-29 bombers, but there is no evidence that such

a combat deployment occurred. In 1945, part of the Takuma Kōkūtai was deployed on

Kamikaze missions. Takuma Kōkūtai was disbanded at the end of the war.

Ensign Jin´ichirō Ozawa, Sasebo Kōkūtai,

Sasebo Air Base, Japan, September 1944

Kōkūtai 934, Ambon island, Moluku Islands, March 1944


INFO Eduard

Kashima Kōkūtai, Kashima base, Japan, 1944

This late production aircraft was finished in a factory applied dark green paint. Kashima

Kōkūtai was established in 1938 as a training unit for seaplane crews. Her fighter unit,

armed with Rufe floatplanes, was deployed several times to fight alongside Katori Kōkūtai

airmen in the Home Defence and achieved several fighter and bomber kills. It was probably

with this unit that the Hellcats of VBF-12 from USS Saratoga (CV-3) came into conflict around

Kashima on February 16, 1945 and the Hellcats of VF-29 from USS Cabot (CVL-28) on March

18. In the first mentioned combat, the American fighters reported five Rufe kills and in the

latter encounter claimed four victories. In May 1945, the Kashima Kōkūtai training section

was cancelled, and a number of aircraft and crews were deployed on Kamikaze missions.

Kashima Kōkūtai was disbanded at the end of the war.

June 2023