Shinano (aircraft carrier)

The Shinano was the largest and one of the shortest lived aircraft carriers to see service during the Second World War. She had been laid down in May 1940 as the third of the Yamato class of super-battleships, but work slowed after Pearl Harbor, and by June 1942 she was only complete up to the main deck. After the battle of Midway it became clear that the Japanese navy needed new aircraft carriers far more urgently than new battleships,

After some debate it was decided to turn the Shinano into a support carrier, capable of operating between the main Japanese carrier force and the American fleet. She would carry 47 fighter aircraft to protect herself, but would otherwise be used as a floating airfield by the attack groups from the less well protected carriers to the rear.

Her battleship origins meant that the Shinano well suited to this role. She was both longer and much wider than most Japanese aircraft carriers (Kaga, which had originally been designed as a battleship, and Akagi, originally a battlecruiser, both came close after refits in the mid 1930s), giving her much more internal storage space than on most carriers. It also meant that she had been designed to take much more punishment than the standard Japanese aircraft carriers, with a battleship style armoured belt and an impressive system of watertight compartments below water level. Although the eventual armour was half the thickness of that on the Yamato, she was by far the best protected Japanese carrier of the war.

The Shinano was given a massive 840ft x131.75ft flight deck. She had a single hanger deck, divided into an open forward hanger and enclosed rear hanger, each served by a single elevator. The shell and charge hoists that had already been installed in preparation for the battleship gun turrets were converted into high speed lifts for small items.

When the Shinano was launched in 8 October 1944 Japan still had a carrier force, but lacked experienced pilots to make it effective. At the end of October that carrier force was destroyed at the battle of Leyte Gulf, and so by the time the Shinano was ready for trails, on 19 November, she was obsolete.

Her service life would only last ten days. On 29 November, while heading to Kure to complete her fitting out, she was torpedoed by the USS Archerfish. At first the damage did not seem fatal, and she continued on her way, but the anti-flooding system was not yet complete – some of the watertight doors were missing, and so was much of the pumping system. Power was lost when the water reached the boiler room, and soon after that the Shinano capsized with the loss of over 1,400 men. 

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



10,000 nautical miles

Armour – hanger deck


 - flight deck


 - belt


 - belt (magazines)





872ft 8in maximum


16 5in/40 Dual Purpose in eight double mountings
145 25mm anti aircraft guns
12 28-barrelled rocket launchers

Crew complement



8 October 1944


19 November 1944


29 November 1944

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 November 2008), Shinano (aircraft carrier) ,

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