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;
HERDER, Brian L.: The Aleutians 1942 – 43;
KAWASAKI, Manabu: Nihon kaigun-no kanjōki
to suijōki: Sono kaihatsu to senreki; Dai-Nippon
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
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.