This wonderful article on the Mitsubishi G4M Betty has the following quote about the Mitsubishi G3M Nell:

the G3M was already considered the best land-based navy bomber in the world

What in the world is a land-based navy bomber?

Is it not just an air force bomber?

  • $\begingroup$ land based navy personnel are just an army soldiers? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 4:41

3 Answers 3


The terms "Navy" and "Air Force" refer to distinctly different branches of military service. (The United States also has the Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard, and Space Force)

Most branches of most militaries operate aircraft of one type or another, either to conduct their primary mission, or for support.

For example, in the United States:

  • The Navy and Marine Corps operate ship based aircraft, (fixed and rotary wing) as well as land based.
  • The Airforce and Army are exclusively land based.
  • The Coast Guard operates helicopters from its ships, plus land based fixed wing transport aircraft.
  • The Space Force, well... they are kinda new still and we don't have any Star Wars type craft just yet.

Whether or not a certain airplane operates from ship or shore doesn't change the branch of the military that has ownership and control over the aircraft assigned to it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A fine example of what happens to an aircraft when the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps slap their specs on a design, is the F-35. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ The US Space Force does operate aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 14:15
  • $\begingroup$ @JonCuster, my remark was tongue in cheek, but since you brought it up, what kind? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the X-37 might count. I guess I had assume the Space Force would have some aircraft for transport between bases. Or does the USAF supply those as needed? $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 15:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall - agree. The Air Force vs Space Force budgets are still in flux as various things get transferred over. Might take a while to settle things. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 15:16

"Land-based" refers to where the plane takes off and lands. No suggestion was intended that it operated exclusively or mainly over land. Which is not to say that there could never be a "navy" aircraft that actually operated not only from land, but primarily over land as well. Such examples undoubtedly exist.1

Would you consider the Consolidated PB4Y Privateer to have been an "air force bomber"?2

Would you consider the B-25 bombers involved in the "Doolittle raid" to have been "navy bombers"?

The Imperial Japanese Navy and the Imperial Japanese Army were very competitive rivals during World War II (see Saburo Sakai's famous book "Samurai!".)3 And there was no Japanese Air Force at this time.


  1. Examples would include many trainers, such as the N2S and N3N. Note however that with a few exceptions (e.g. Doolittle raiders), most navies would probably not look favorably upon non-navy aircraft operating from aircraft carriers!

  2. Admittedly a slightly imperfect analogy because the PB4Y was specifically a patrol bomber, which is more of a dedicated maritime role than the G3M was likely designed for.

  3. Speaking of the book "Samurai!", note that Sakai was a navy pilot flying navy aircraft, yet all of his operational missions were from land, and many involved missions against targets on land.

  • $\begingroup$ The US Navy E-6 Mercury TACAMO aircraft are both land-based and also fly primarily over land; the Navy P-3's and P-8's are land-based but fly extensively over water. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 21:10

Another distinction between a "naval aircraft", and an aircraft designed for only land-based operations, is that naval aircraft are built to handle carrier takeoff and landings.

That means they have probably have stronger landing gear, carrier landing hooks, maybe even folding wings.

Related: Why did the RAAF procure the F/A-18 despite being purpose-built for carriers?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Well -- re "naval aircraft are built to handle carrier takeoff and landings" -- see my answer re PB4Y. So, not a "naval" aircraft? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 17:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You aren't technically wrong, but the answer is very incomplete. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 28, 2023 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ The US Navy E6B and P8 are examples of a land-based Navy aircraft. Definitely not certified for carrier ops. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_E-6_Mercury $\endgroup$
    – RetiredATC
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 18:27

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