Escort Aircraft Carrier Akitsu Maru


Escort Aircraft Carrier Akitsu Maru: The first Amphibious Assault Ship

 

The Akitsu Maru carrier was very unique in the history of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Pacific War. The model kit builders, in particular, the collectors of the Water Line Series at 1/700 scale have always faced difficulties to find this model. Recently, on December 2016, Aoshima has not only provided us with a model kit for the version of the IJA Akitsu Maru carrier, but also has released a different version of the Akitsu Maru. to to be precise, they offer a pre-modification version, in which the main purpose is transportation and amphibious assault. This is called IJA landing vehicle carrier, and also have anti-air weapons. Here we show both kits from Aoshima at 1/700 scale:

Akitsu Maru Imperial Japanese Army Aircraft Carrier at 1/700 scale by Aoshima

Akitsu Maru Imperial Japanese Army Aircraft Carrier at 1/700 scale by Aoshima

 

 

Akitsu Maru Imperial Japanese Army  Landing Vehicle Carrier by Aoshima at 1/700 scale.

Akitsu Maru Imperial Japanese Army Landing Vehicle Carrier by Aoshima at 1/700 scale.

 

Image of the Akitsu MAru escort carrier, also known to be the first amphibious assault ship of the history. She was operated by the Imperial Japanese Army. Photo from 1944.

Image of the Akitsu MAru escort carrier, also known to be the first amphibious assault ship of the history. She was operated by the Imperial Japanese Army. Photo from 1944.

 

The lack of carriers after the defeat in the Battle of Midway motivated that many ocean liners were converted into light carrier and escort carrier for the Imperial Japanese Navy.  However, the case of the Akitsu Maru carrier is a bit different. She was transformed into carrier from the Akitsu Maru Liner in January 1942. Another difference is that she was not operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Instead, she was part of the Imperial Japanese Army. She could carry only 8 search aircraft as carrier but could transport 30 more and some additional troops and materials. Therefore, it is thought to be the first amphibious assault ship in the history. Later, the US Marine Corps used similar concepts to construct and deploy advanced version of the concept of amphibious assault ships to project a force to distant locations. She had a sister ship called Nigitsu Maru, who was also converted into carrier. Although it was designed to provide cover and aerial search capability for landing operations, they carry out ferry and transport operations only. The lack of hangar limited the flying operations enormously. They were stored just below the flying deck, but there was no classical hangar place. The most often used fighters and planes operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy could take off from the deck but they could not land due to the short deck length and lack of landing mechanisms such as arresting gear. The latter was finally installed in July 1944.

 

 

Escort Carrier Akitsu Maru Air Groups

 

Ki-76 search planes taking off from Akitsu Maru flight deck in 1944.

Ki-76 search planes taking off from Akitsu Maru flight deck in 1944.

 

Because of the above limitations the air group of the Akitsu Maru carrier was small and composed only of 8 aircrafts and a maximum of 30 for ferry operations. The models operated from the carrier were also limited and only the Kokusai Ki-76 and Kayaba Ka-1 were flown off Akitsu Maru, as the former was a small, slow aircraft that could land on its short deck and the latter was an autogyro. To perform assault landings, she could also carry 27 Daihatsu-class landing craft.

 

 

Escort Carrier Akitsu Maru Technical Specifications:

Type: Aircraft carrier
Displacement: 11,800 tons (standard)
Length: 471 ft 7 in (5,659 in) (pp)
Beam: 64 ft (20 m)
Draft: 25 ft 9 in (7.85 m) (maximum)
Propulsion:
  • 4 boilers, driving 2 geared turbines
  • 7,500 shp (5,600 kW)
Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h)
Armament:
  • 2 × 1 Type 88 75 mm (3 in) AA guns
  • 10 × 1 Type 38 75 mm (3 in) field guns
  • 6 × 1 Type 25 mm (0.98 in) 96 AA guns
Aircraft carried:
  • 8 (as aircraft carrier)
  • 30 (as aircraft ferry)

 


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