Japanese Military Aircraft Designations (after 1945)

Copyright © 2001-2004 Andreas Parsch

1 Japanese Aircraft Designation System

2 Designation Listing

3 Missiles

4 Serial Number System

1 Japanese Aircraft Designation System

Japan designates its aircraft in a way very similar to the U.S. A type letter designating the primary mission of the aircraft is followed by a sequential number. The following type letters are used:

Only types of Japanese origin receive designations in the appropriate sequence. Others use either the orginal U.S. designation, the manufacturer's designation, or a designation composed of a type letter and a number derived from the manufacturer's designation. Examples for the latter are the U-4 (Gulfstream IV) and U-36A (Learjet 36).

The type letters can also be used as prefixes to indicate a modified mission.

2 Designation Listing

This listing contains only Japanese aircraft, which get numbers in the proper sequence.

C - Cargo

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
C-1 Kawasaki  

F - Fighter

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
F-1 Mitsubishi  
F-2 Mitsubishi Formerly FS-X

H - Helicopter

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
OH-1 Kawasaki Formerly OH-X

S - Search & Rescue

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
US-1 Shinmaywa Amphibian

T - Trainer

Designation Manufacturer Model; Remarks
T-1 Fuji  
T-2 Mitsubishi Two-seat version of F-1
T-3 Fuji Model KM-2
T-4 Kawasaki  
T-5 Fuji Model KM-2D
(T-6) Not assigned (probably to avoid confusion with U.S. T-6 - both of them ;-)!)
T-7 Fuji  

3 Missiles

The Japanese Military uses a very simple designation system for indegeniuos missiles. A 3-letter indicator for the missile type is followed by a sequential number. Each missile type uses its own sequence. Type designators are:

When entering operational service, most missiles get an additional "Type nn" designation, with nn being the last two digits of the year when the missile entered service (e.g. "Type 90" for the AAM-3, which became operational in 1990). These type designations are often used instead of the xxM numbers. Anti-tank missiles also have a "KAM" industrial designation.

Designation Manufacturer Remarks
AAM-1 Mitsubishi Short-range IR-guided AAM, very similar to Sidewinder; produced in small numbers
AAM-2 Mitsubishi Improved AAM-1 with all-aspect seeker; not produced
AAM-3 Mitsubishi Type 90; improved AAM-2, similar in performance to AIM-9L Sidewinder
AAM-4 Mitsubishi Type 99; medium-range AAM with active laser homing to replace AIM-7
AAM-5 Mitsubishi New short-range IR-guided AAM development to replace AAM-3 and AIM-9
ASM-1 Mitsubishi Type 80; inertial/radar-active guided anti-ship missile
ASM-1C (Type 91) is an air-launched derivative of turbojet-powered SSM-1
ASM-2 Mitsubishi Type 93; air-launched SSM-2; IIR (Imaging Infrared) guided derivative of SSM-1 for use with F-2
ASM-3 Mitsubishi Supersonic ramjet-powered follow-on missile project
ATM-1 Kawasaki Type 64 (generally known as 64MAT), KAM-3; wire-guided anti-tank missile
ATM-2 Kawasaki Type 79 Jyu-MAT (Jyu = heavy), KAM-9; wire-guided anti-landing craft/anti-tank missile; improved KAM-3D (ATM-1)
ATM-3 Kawasaki Type 87 Chu-MAT (Chu = medium), KAM-40; laser-guided medium range anti-tank missile
ATM-4 Kawasaki Type 96 MPMS (Multi-Purpose Missile System), KAM-20; fiber-optical TV/IIR guided anti-landing craft/anti-tank missile; successor to ATM-2
ATM-5 Kawasaki Type 01; short-range portable fire-and-forget light anti-tank missile
ATM-6 Kawasaki Shin-Chu-MAT (Shin = new); projected follow-on to ATM-3
SAM-1 Toshiba Type 81 Tan-SAM (Tan = short); short-range mobile SAM system
SAM-2 Toshiba Type 91 Kin-SAM (Kin = near); man-portable SAM
SAM-3 Toshiba Type 93; derivative of SAM-2 for use as mobile (8-missile laucnhers) point-defense missile
SSM-1 Mitsubishi Type 88; turbojet-powered derivative of ASM-1 for coastal defense
SSM-1B (Type 90) is a navalized SSM-1
SSM-2 Mitsubishi IIR (Imaging Infrared) guided derivative of SSM-1; in development

4 Serial Number System

[This section was contributed by Jos Heyman.]

Air Force

Aircraft of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) carry a six digit serial, such as Lockheed Hercules 45-1073. In this serial

Digit Type
1 Curtiss C-46 Commando
Lockheed T-33
Beech (Fuji) T-34
Sikorsky (Mitsubishi) H-19C
Fuji KM-2 (T-3)
Raytheon T-400
2 North American T-6 Texan
North American F-86F Sabre
Vertol H-21B
McDonnellDouglas (Mitsubishi) F-15
Hawker 800XP (U-125A)
3 North American RT-28B
De Havilland DH-115 Vampire
Beech A65
Sikorsky (Mitsubishi) S-62J
Mitsubishi F-2
Mitsubishi MU-2
4 North American F-86D
Boeing Vertol (Kawasaki) KV-107
Grumman E-2C Hawkeye
Boeing E-767
5 Lockheed C-130 Hercules
Fuji T-1
Grumman Gulfstream IV (U-4)
6 Lockheed (Mitsubishi) F-104 Starfighter
Kawasaki KA-851 (T-4)
Fuji T-7
7 McDonnell (Mitsubishi) F-4 Phantom
McDonnell (Mitsubishi) RF-4 Phantom
Boeing Vertol CH-47
8 Kawasaki C-1
Sikorsky UH-60
9 Mitsubishi T-2
British Aerospace 125-800
0 Kawasaki KAL-2
Mitsubishi F-1
Boeing 747

JASDF Type Digits

Digit Role
6Tactical reconnaissance
7Tactical fighter
8Tactical fighter

JASDF Role Digits


The aircraft of the Japanese Marine Self Defense Force (JMSDF) carry a four digital serial, such as Grumman UF-2 Albatross 9051. In this serial

Digit Role
2ASW (single-engined)
4ASW (two-engined)
5ASW (four-engined)
7Communications, trainer
9Utility, transport, liaison

JMSDF Role Digits


Aircraft of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) carry a five digit serial numbers on the nose and the last four digits preceded by JG- on the tail, such as 41501 (JG-1501), a Fuji-Bell UH-1B. In this serial

Digit Role
1Fixed wing - liaison and observation
2Fixed wing - miscellaneous
3Helicopter - scout and reconnaissance
4Helicopter - utility
5Helicopter - transport
6Helicopter - training
7Helicopter - tactical support
8Fixed wing - training
0Special transport

JGSDF Role Digits

Comments and corrections to: Andreas Parsch

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Last Updated: 16 March 2004