Ryuho Japanese aircraft carrier

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Ryuho aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy (former  submarine tender Taigei )


Japanese submarine depot ship Taigei off Kure in 1935.

Japanese submarine depot ship Taigei off Kure in 1935.

The origin of the Aircraft Ryuho (“Dragon Phoenix”) is very unique and we have to come back to the pre-war period, in particular, to the London Naval Treaty signed in 1932 to understand it in depth. This treaty posed a serious limitation on the construction of new capital ships for Japan. Because they were limited to construct large ships such as aircraft carriers, they considered very imaginative solutions. They designed and constructed auxiliary vessels such as fleet oilers and submarines tenders that could be later be easily modified to perform aircraft carrier operations. Unfortunately, the resulting ships were never operating as originally designed carriers such as Zuikaku and Shokaku for example. Moreover, they were smaller ships that they should be to perform aircraft carrier tasks. In this case, the Ryuho was originally designed as submarine tender and received the name of Taigei, which means “Great whale” in Japanese. The Taigei performed anti-submarine operations from 1938-1940 in northern and southern waters off Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War and operated from Kobe port.

Name: Taigei
Operator: Imperial Japanese Navy
Builder: Yokosuka Naval Arsenal
Laid down: 12 April 1933
Launched: 16 November 1933
Completed: 31 March 1934
Out of service: 12 December 1941
Renamed: 30 November 1942
Fate: converted to light aircraft carrier
Name: Ryūhō
Namesake: Japanese for Dragon Phoenix
Recommissioned: 30 November 1942
Struck: 30 November 1945
Fate: Scrapped in 1946

On 30 November 1942, with conversion and repairs due to the Doolittle raid bombing complete, Ryūhō was officially assigned to the IJN 3rd Fleet. Although the Imperial Japanese Navy, and other major navies, performed conversations in many ships, the Ryuho (“Dragon Phoenix” ) was one of the least successful of the light aircraft carrier conversions due to its small size, slow speed and weak construction. As a consequence of that, the Ryūhō was used mainly as an aircraft transport and for training purposes. In spite of that, she she was also involved in several battles such as the First Battle of the Philippine Sea.

The aircraft squadrons were limited to one wing was a mixture of Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighters, Aichi D3A “Val” and Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” dive bombers, and Nakajima B5N “Kate” torpedo bombers. Precisely because the unit was very small, it lacked of operative power to perform attacks without support of fleet carriers. Although the flight deck was lengthened to 198.1 meters in summer 1944, the number of aircraft embarked could only be increased to 36.

As we explained above, the Ryuho was mainly performing transport missions. On 31 December 1944, Ryūhō sailed for Taiwan with a load of 58 Ohka kamikaze planes. Accompanying her were nine empty oil tankers bound for Singapore, and the destroyers Hamakaze, Isokaze, Yukikaze, Shigure and Hatakaze. she was the last carrier that traveled outside the home Japanese waters during the war. She was attacked by American carrier based palnes but none scored hit on her. AA fired from Ryuho also shot down one of the American planes. She could also return to Kure on 18th January.



However, on March 1945 near Kure, she was suffering a series of bombing from the US Task Force 58 planes and was hit by three 500lb bombs. Upon returning to Kure port on 1 April 1945 , the carrier Ryūhō was considered to be a total loss. Moored as an abandoned hulk off of Etajima, she was attacked by USN aircraft again on 24 July and 28 July. She was finally scrapped in 1946.


Light aircraft carrier Ryūhō photographed by US Navy aircraft at Kure in September 1945, showing damage to elevators.

Light aircraft carrier Ryūhō photographed by US Navy aircraft at Kure in September 1945, showing damage to elevators.


Class and type: Ryūhō-class aircraft carrier
Displacement: 16,700 tonnes (16,400 long tons) (full load displacement)
Length: 215.65 m (707 ft 6 in) (o/a)
Beam: 19.58 m (64 ft 3 in)
Draft: 6.67 m (21 ft 11 in)
Installed power: 52,000 shp (39,000 kW)
  • 2 shafts
  • 2 geared steam turbine sets
  • 4 Kampon water-tube boilers
Speed: 26.5 knots (49.1 km/h; 30.5 mph) (design)
Range: 8,000 nmi (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) at 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Complement: 989
Sensors and
processing systems:
1 × Type 2, Mark 2, Model 1 air searchradar
  • (in 1941) 4 x 12.7 cm/40 Type 89 naval guns
  • 10 × tripe Type 96 25mm AA gunss
  • (in 1945)
  • 4 × 12.7 cm/40 Type 89 naval guns
  • 10 × triple, 4 x single Type 96 25mm AA gunss
  • 6 × 12-cm rocket launchers
Aircraft carried: 31–36

In spite of her low profile in battle participation, the Ryuho has attracted attention by model kit manufactures and several companies are offering models at 1/700 scale mainly. One of the reasons is her original and unique structure:

In addition, there are also many etched parts and accessories to make the model more accurate and real:



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