Kaga (aircraft carrier)

The Kaga was the third aircraft carrier to be built for the Imperial Japanese Navy, and was constructed on a hull originally laid down as a 39,900 ton battleship. Work on this original Kaga was suspended in 1922 under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, but in the following year the battlecruiser Amagi, which was in the process of being turned into an aircraft carrier, was damaged in the Tokyo earthquake. The unfinished Kaga was chosen to replace her.

As first completed the Kaga resembled the earlier Akagi, with a triple decked flight deck. The top deck ran for two thirds of the length of the ship and was used for landing. Below that were two hanger decks, each with their own flying off platform at the front.

Midway Pictures
Kaga after her modernization

This system was not satisfactory, and in 1934-35 she was reconstructed as a standard aircraft carrier, with a single full length flight deck. At the same time the hangers were extended, allowing her to carry 81 operational aircraft (reduced to 66 with other aircraft in stores in 1942). A small island was added on the starboard side, as was a third lift and bulges to improve stability.

The Kaga fought in the war in China, before forming Carrier Division I (alongside the Akagi) for the attack on Pearl Harbor. On 9 February, while on the way to attack Darwin, she was damaged after grounding near Palau. After the attack on Darwin on 19 February she was sent back to Sasebo to be repaired, and so missed the Indian Ocean raid.

The Kaga was one of the four Japanese carriers sunk at the battle of Midway (June 1942). Just after 10:20am on 4 June the Kaga was hit by five bombs from VS-6 and VS-6, two SBD Dauntless dive bomber squadrons from USS Enterprise. According to Captain Takahisa Amagai, the Air Officer on Kaga, one hit the forward elevator, one went through the deck on the starboard side of the rear elevator, one through the deck next to the island and one hit the port side aft, causing massive fires.

Kaga from the stern, 1941
Kaga from the stern, 1941

The Kaga was the second of the Japanese carriers to sink. At 13:25 the Emperor’s portrait was removed, a sign that the ship was not expected to survive. At 16:40 the situation was declared hopeless, and she sank at 19:25 after two huge explosions (probably the main fuel tanks).

Statistics after 1935

Displacement (standard)

26,900t as built
38,200t after 1935

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



10,000nm at 16kts

Armour – belt


 - casemates





782ft 6in max


10 8in/50 guns in single mounts
16 5in/40 dual purpose guns in double mountings
22 25mm AA guns (to 1941)
30 25mm AA guns (from 1941)

Crew complement



17 November 1921


31 March 1928

Sunk at Midway

4 June 1942

Midway: Dauntless Victory, Fresh Perspectives on America's Seminal Naval Victory of World War II, Peter C. Smith. A very detailed and well researched account of the battle of Midway and of the historical debate that still surrounds it, supported by a mass of original documents and interviews with participants. An invaluable look at this crucial battle. [see more]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 November 2008), Kaga (aircraft carrier), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_kaga.html

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