IJN Kaga Aircraft Carrier
The Kaga (named for an old Japanese province) was originally laid down and launched as a 39,900 ton battleship as part of the 8-8 Fleet plan of the Japanese Navy. Final construction of the Kaga was halted after Japan signed the Washington Naval Treaty in February, 1922. It was decided to convert her into an aircraft carrier after the planned carrier Amagi was seriously damaged in the great 1923 Tokyo earthquake. Conversion began in the latter part of 1923.
The Kaga was laid down along the same design as her sister ship the Akagi. One difference was her shorter flight deck, approximately 58 feet shorter than that of the Akagi. Another difference involved the Kaga's funnel system, which deviated from the original large and small system of the Akagi. Instead, Kaga had boiler uptakes which bypassed the hangar deck and vented over the aft quarter deck.
Also like the Akagi, the Kaga underwent significant overhaul in the 1930's. The work to modernize her began at the Sasebo Naval Yard in 1934 and lasted into 1935. Major changes involved the lengthening of her hull aftwards by 34 feet and the extension of her flight deck to reach the full length of the ship. The flight deck expansion added an extra 253 feet and allowed for usage by modern aircraft. Similiar to the Akagi overhaul, the Kaga's hangars were enlarged and fly-off platforms were removed from the lower deck. This allowed for the ship's complement of aircraft to be increased to an official number of 90, though her operational max was actually nine fewer planes. During the Second World War, this number was further reduced to 66 by 1942.
Other improvements involved the addition of a starboard side island ahead of midships, as well as bulges below the waterline to increase stability and add further protection. As a result, her beam was expanded by over 9 1/2 feet. The exhaust vents, formerly placed over the aft quarterdeck, were redesigned into one downard sweeping funnel that extended to the starboard. Lastly, an additional hangar lift was added, increasing the number of her aircraft lifts to three, and several of her 8 inch turrets were removed and replaced with aft casemates.
After her substantial reconstruction, the Kaga was active off of the Chinese coast from the beginning in 1937 for several years. She was then assigned to the Pearl Harbor strike force and her aircraft participated in the 7 December 1941 attack. Like the Akagi, the Kaga was present at the Battle of Midway and did not survive the conflict.
There are two competing testimonies concerning her demise. The first by the United States Navy, that she was set afire by direct hits from dive bombers of the USS Enterprise and subsequently sunk as a result of the explosion caused when uncontrollable fires reached her fuel tanks. The second comes from Japanese survivors of the battle, who claim the decision was made to scuttle the Haga and she sank as a result of a torpedo salvo from the destroyer Hagekaze. Regardless of the veracity of either story, the Kaga was abandoned prior to sinking after the loss of more than 800 of her crewmen.
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