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INJ Akagi Aircraft Carrier

The Akagi (meaning 'Red Castle' and the name of a mountain) was originally laid down as a 41,200 ton battle cruiser, but construction at the Kure Naval Yard was halted after the signing of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty. A year later the decision was made to convert the Akagi into the largest air craft carrier of the Imperial Navy. A sister ship, the Kaga, also laid down as a battle cruiser, commenced conversion to a carrier at approximately the same time.

The Akagi was built with two hangars, a flush flight deck, and two hangar deck forward platforms for take off. In addition, she was equipped with two funnels, a large one which curved downwards and a smaller which curved upwards. Located below the flight deck, the two funnels were merged into one downward curving funnel in a massive overhaul between 1935 and 1938. In the same overhaul, a process to modernize the Akagi with technical innovations, the length of the hangars was increased by 80 feet and the flight deck expanded, while the take off platforms on the hangar deck were removed entirely. The addition to the hangar allowed for an expansion of the carrier's flight complement from 60 to 91 airplanes, though the maximum operational number was 72 craft.

During the overhaul, two 8 inch gun turrets were replaced with an unusually located small island attached to the port side of the Akagi at midships. This was replicated only else where on the Hiryu. The remaining carriers had islands on the starboard (standard) side-of those that had them at all. Strategists planned to use these carriers in a formation that was unique. The lead carriers in the basic formation were to be the port-islanded Hiryu and Akagi, followed by the Soryu and Kaga. This supposedly allowed for a more compact formation with nonconflicting aircraft traffic patterns. This formation was later used in the Battle of Midway.

A significant addition was a four foot wide bulge to the hull of the ship on both sides of the Akagi, which provided better protection under the waterline, as well as offered improved stability. Lastly, a third airplane lift was added to the pre-existing two lifts. Overall, the Akagi became a showpiece in the fleet for innovative technologies which later were deemed at best impractical and at worse terrible, with the result that they were never adopted by other carrier manufacturers.

The Akagi was formally commissioned on 25 March 1927 and replaced the Hosho as the largest operational aircraft carrier in the Imperial Navy. A year later, she was joined by the Kaga. The Akagi remained the flagship of the carrier force and was in this role in the forced that attacked the United States naval base of Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. After Pearl Harbor, she participated in raids into the Indian Ocean, but was severely damaged on the second day of the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Her flight deck destroyed and ravaged by unstoppable fires, the decision was made to abandon ship and the Akagi was scuttled on 5 May 1942.





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