Japanese Aircraft Carrier Akagi (Red Castle)

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Aircraft Carrier Akagi “Red Castle”


Akagi on trials off the coast of Iyo, 17 June 1927, with all three flight decks visible

Akagi on trials off the coast of Iyo, 17 June 1927, with all three flight decks visible


For a joined description of the 1st Carrier division composed of Akagi and Kaga carriers see the link below:

sphere 1st Carrier Division: Akagi and Kaga

sphere The Japanese Aircraft Carrier Akagi (赤城, “Red Castle”) was one of the most famous carriers of the Japanese Navy. Her name refers to the Akagi Mountain in the Prefecture of Gunma. The origins of the Akagi may surprise someone because she was not planned to be an aircraft carrier. Instead, she was supposed to be a battlecruiser of the Amagi-class.

sphere The works to build the Akagi carrier started on 19th November 1923 after than the original  hull of the battlecruiser was severely damaged by the Great Kanto Earthquake on 1st September 1923.

sphere Both the Akagi and Kaga had similarities in their structures because both carriers had three parallel flight decks. They were the only carriers in the world with this original structure because the other British carriers (e.g. HMS Glorious, HMS Courageous, HMS Furious) had only two flight decks. After many improvements, the ship was rebuilt again with only a single flight deck.

Aircraft carrier Akagi air wings

sphere The original air group had 28 Mitsubishi B1M3 torpedo bombers, 16 Nakajima A1N fighters and 16 Mitsubishi 2MR reconnaissance aircrafts. By the Pearl Harbour operation in December 1941, the air group was updated as follows: 21 Mitsubishi A6M Zero, 18 Aichi D3A, 27 Nakajima B5N.  

sphere Akagi‍   air group participated in the Second Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930s. Under the structure of the First Air Fleet or Kido Butai (Striking Force) in early 1941, she became its flagship. When the Akagi entered service after the light carrier Hosho, they were grouped together to increase the density of planes when attacking a target. This “Fleet Carrier Strike Force” was unique in the world at that time and a contribution of the Imperial Japanese Navy.  This doctrine led to the Pearl Harbor operation in which two massive waves of attack planes defeated the entire US Navy fleet in the pacific and ruled the war until middle 1942.

sphere In February 1942, Akagi air group aircraft attacked Darwin and participated in the conquest of the Dutch East Indies. Between March and April 1942, in the Indian Ocean Raid, they joined the attack which led to the sinking of a British heavy cruiser and an Australian small military destroyer.

sphere By the end of March, the aircraft carrier Akagi and its battle group was sailing into the Indian Ocean. The objective was to find and destroy the British Eastern Fleet and suppress the Bristish air power because the Japanese land forces were landing in Burma and the flank should not be exposed to aerial attacks.  On 5 April 1942, Akagi launched 17 B5Ns and 9 Zeros in an air strike against Colombo, Ceylon, which damaged several port building and industries. There were no planes lost from the Zero fighters and they claimed dozen British fighters shot down.  Still on the same day, 17 D3As from Akagi participated in the sinking of the British heavy cruisers Cornwall and Dorsetshire.  The Akagi also attacked Trincomalee with 18 B5Ns on 9 April. This attack force was escorted by 6 Zeroes.  The Zero fighters reported to have shot down 5 Hawker Hurricane aircrafts without suffering losses.

sphere But the most important operation was waiting for the Akagi Carrier and the rest of the Kido Butai: The Battle of Midway, or operation MO. Unexpectedly, after bombing Midway and were planes were refueling on the deck, planes from Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown attack the Akaki, and the rest of carriers such as Kaga, Hiryu and Soryu. Some dive bombers from Enterprise hit deadly the Akagi.

sphere After a brief refit, Akagi and three other fleet carriers of the Kido Butai participated in the Battle of Midway in June 1942. On 25 May 1942, Akagi set out with the Combined Fleet’s carrier striking force in the company of carriers Kaga, Hiryū, and Sōryū, which constituted the First and Second Carrier Divisions, for the attack on Midway Island. Once again, Nagumo flew his flag on Akagi. Akagi‍ ’​s aircraft complement consisted of 24 Zeros, 18 D3As, and 18 B5Ns.After bombarding American forces on the atoll, Akagiand the other carriers were attacked by aircraft from Midway and the carriers Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown. Dive bombers from Enterprise severely damaged Akagi. When it became obvious she could not be saved, the Yamamoto said to his staff the following dramatic words: “I was once the captain of Akagi, and it is with heartfelt regret that I must now order that she be sunk.” Rapidly, destroyers Arashi, Hagikaze, Maikaze, and Nowaki  sunk the ship with one torpedo each one. 267 crew of the ship were lost, other carrier had higher number of lives. The defeat of Midway was not only strategical or tactical. The loss of Akagi and the other three carriers represented a deadly strike on the heart of the 1st Air Fleet, by losing their most well trained pilots and deck officials. It was so great the shock on the Navy staff that they were forced to conceal the loss of the Akagi and her name was not removed of the Navy registry until September of 1942.


Class & type: none
Type: Aircraft carrier
  • 36,500 long tons (37,100 t) (standard)
  • 41,300 long tons (42,000 t) (deep load)
Length: 260.67 m (855 ft 3 in)
Beam: 31.32 m (102 ft 9 in)
Draught: 8.71 m (28 ft 7 in)
Installed power:
  • 133,000 shp (99,000 kW)
  • 19 Kampon water-tube boilers
  • 4 shafts
  • 4 Kampon geared steam turbines
Speed: 31.5 knots (58.3 km/h; 36.2 mph)
Range: 10,000 nmi (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)
Complement: 1,630
  • 6 × single 20 cm (7.9 in) guns
  • 6 × twin AA 12 cm (4.7 in) AA guns
  • 14 × twin 25 mm (1 in) AA guns
  • Belt: 152 mm (6.0 in)
  • Deck: 79 mm (3.1 in)
Aircraft carried:
  • 66 (+25 reserve)
    • 21 Mitsubishi A6M Zero
    • 18 Aichi D3A
    • 27 Nakajima B5N (7 Dec 1941


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