Shiden Kai (343 Air Group) 301st Fighter Squadron
|Coastal Defense Ship||Destroyer|
|Light Cruiser||Torpedo Cruiser|
|Heavy Cruiser||Training Cruiser|
|Aviation Cruiser||Fast Battleship|
|Light Carrier||Standard Aircraft Carrier|
|Armored Carrier||Seaplane Tender|
|Submarine||Aircraft Carrying Submarine|
|Submarine Tender||Fleet Oiler|
|Repair Ship||Amphibious Assault Ship|
- Winter 2018 Event E-7 Hard reward.
The most distinguished and famous air group from Japan, the 343 Air Group was the second generation air group reformed by naval air strategist Commander Minoru Genda in a last ditch effort to repel the overwhelming USN air power advancing towards the Japanese mainland. An alternative to Kamikaze suicide tactics, Genda believed that with the help of Shiden Kai and his collection of expert pilots, they could train new recruits and develop new strategies to combat F6F, Corsair and Mustang fighters, a significantly difficult task because the skilled/trainee ratio was heavily skewed. Reformed on Christmas Day 1944 at Matsuyama, the air group was divided into 3 main squads, the 301, 407 and 701st Squadrons along with the 4th Recon Squadron, which were tasked to defend Shikoku, Kyushu, Kobe and Kure from the dangerously close P-51 Mustangs stationed at Iwo Jima, carrier aircraft and B-29 raids.
With the reformation of the 343 Air Group came major improvements to communication like significantly better radios on the Shiden Kai which were very poor or absent on Zero fighters, effective scouting and intel gathering from Saiun recon squadrons while relaying constant information to air and ground commanders which allowed for swift changes and tweaks to formations or tactics, which could not be done nearly as good before 1944 and develop new fighter strategies to combat the Allies. The difference could be seen in several engagements with the USN where some American pilots underestimated the 343rd and were shaken by the aggressiveness and cooperation from the pilots. By April 1945, they also started intercepting B-29 Superfortress raids that were intensifying, stretching thin the air group even more. After the nuclear bombings, the squadron swore to shoot down every single B-29 to make sure a third bomb did not strike Japan again despite being grounded by the lack of fuel.
When it came time to assemble his fighter team, Lt. Naoshi Kanno was the first man Genda thought of for his outstanding record of 30+ kills by late 1944 after just starting flying in 1943, showing he was exposed to very intensive air combat, perfect for the job. After seeing a great deal of frontline action, he wanted to volunteer for the Kamikaze strike units too but being recognized as an invaluable teacher and pilot, he was denied permission. So instead of Kamikaze attacks, what the 343rd and his deteriorating squadron did was to clear the path for Kamikaze planes and continued doing defense missions, eventually starting to intercepting B-29s too. On August 1st, Kanno was killed by an ammo-belt explosion while intercepting a B-24. Even after suffering overwhelming losses, the air group remained in high spirits knowing that they were part of the best Japan had to offer, creating songs and forming friendships celebrating their air group. For the 150 days of activity, the air group managed to score an impressive 170+ kills against all the odds. They were disbanded on August 14th on the day of surrender.
- This is the Second Generation of the 343rd Naval Air Group, also known as the Tsurugi Butai (剣部隊 Sword Corps) and Genda Circus. Though inappropriate, the 301st Squadron chose to name themselves the Shinsen-Gumi but Genda encouraged the behavior to raise morale
- Allied advance and severed access to the Imperial General Headquarters meant that fuel was strictly limited. It was said that the squadron only had enough fuel for 2 more missions on the last week of the war, some pilots on their free time had to make pine oil just to fly another day.
- The 343 Air Group managed to face off against almost every single USN aircraft in active duty besides the P-38 Lightning.
- Kanno was nicknamed "Bulldog" and "Yellow Fighter" for developing a tactic in shooting down B-29s that was a high risk maneuver with a high collision chance if not done properly, also "Destroyer" for his sometimes wreckless flying. In fact, no instructor or partner wanted to mock dogfight with Kanno because of his overly aggressive flying.
- The former base of the 343rd Air Group is now the Matsuyama Airport in Ehime, Japan.
- Much like the fairy, Kanno is portrayed as rough and tough person in other media like Kanno Naoe from Brave Witches and Naoshi Kanno from Drifters despite being much more calm in real life. The trait probably comes from his aggressive flying.
- Kanno was almost not accepted into the military for being too short.
- An authentic Shiden Kai from the 343 Air Group survives today on display in Shikoku. Found ditched in the 70s, it is unknown if the plane belonged to ace Kaneyoshi Muto or commander of the 701st squadron, Takashi Oshibuchi.