Hosho (Flying Phoenix)

The Hosho was the first aircraft carrier to be built for the Imperial Japanese Navy, and was one of the few to survive the Second World War intact. When she entered service at the end of 1922 she was one of the first recognisably modern through-deck aircraft carriers, although she was not the first aircraft carrier to have been built as such from the keel up.

Side view of carrier Hosho
Side view of
carrier Hosho

The Hosho was laid down on 16 December 1919 as the fleet auxiliary Hiryu, an oil tanker. In 1920 it was decided to complete her as a combined aircraft and seaplane carrier, and at this point she was renamed Hosho (Flying Phoenix). On 13 October 1921, exactly one month before the Hosho was launched she was redesignated as an Aircraft Depot Ship, and by the time she was completed on 16 December 1922 she had emerged as a through-deck aircraft carrier, capable of carrying 21 aircraft in her 300ft hanger.

When first built the Hosho had a small starboard-side island and three folding smoke stacks. These remained vertical during normal operations, but could be folded flat during flight operations. Both of these features were eventually modified. The island was found to interfere with aircraft operations on the narrow flight deck, and in 1923 it was removed. After that the ship was controlled from two platforms mounted just in front of the hanger. The view from these platforms was limited by the flight deck. After the Second World War, when the Hosho was being used as a repatriation ship, part of the forward flight deck was cut away to improve the view.

When she was built the Hosho was armed with four 5.5in/50 guns and two 3in antiaircraft guns mounted on the flight deck. By the mid 1930s it was clear that the antiaircraft armament was inadequate, and the 3in guns were replaced by twelve 13.2mm Hotchkiss antiaircraft machine guns in three quadruple mountings. In 1941 these were replaced by four double 25mm antiaircraft gun mountings, and in 1942 the main 5.5in guns were replaced by four more double 25mm mountings. Only six of these guns were still in place when the ship was handed over to the Americans at the end of the war.

Plan of carrier Hosho
Plan of carrier Hosho

Side view of carrier Hosho
Side view of carrier Hosho

The Hosho saw active service during the Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1940. From 1941 to the end of the Second World War she served as a training carrier, apart from during the battle of Midway, where she accompanied the battleships of the Main Body. After the war she was used for repatriation duties, before being broken up in 1947.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



21 when new
11 by 1939


551ft 5in max

Crew complement



13 November 1921


16 December 1922

Broken up


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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 November 2008), Hosho (Flying Phoenix) , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_hosho.html

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