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Aoba Class Heavy Cruiser

Aoba in 1935
Aoba in 1935
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Ship Builder Laid Down Launched Completed Fate
Aoba Mitsubishi, N 4 Feb 24 25 Sep 26 20 Sep 27 Lost 28 Jul 1945
Kinugasa Kawasaki, Kobe 23 Jan 24 24 Oct 26 30 Sep 27 Lost 14 Nov 1942

Displacement: 7,100 tons/7,213 tonnes (standard); 8,900 tons/9,042 tonnes (full load).
Length: 607ft 6in/185.87m (oa); 585ft 3in/177.48m (pp); 602ft 4in/183.58m (wi).
Beam: 51ft 11in/15.83m; Draught: 18ft 9in/5.7m (mean).
Machinery: 4-shaft Parsons (Kinagusa, Curtis) geared turbines; 12 Kampon boilers.
Performance: 102,000shp=341/2kts; Bunkerage: 1,800 tons oil+450 tons coal.
Range: 6,000nm at 14kts.
Protection: As Furutaka.
Guns: six 7.9in (3x2); four 4.7in (4xl); two 13mm MGs.
Torpedoes: twelve 24in (6x2 fixed).
Aircraft: one, one catapult.
Complement: 625.

Design

The construction programme revealed on 3 July 1922 proposed the building of no fewer than 59 ships, amongst which were two 7,100-ton and four 10,000-ton cruisers. The former were to be identical to those authorised in March 1922, the Furutaka class, and were intended to operate as a homogenous squadron. However, as a result of pressure from the Naval Staff in the absence of the chief Constructor, Rear Admiral Hiraga Yuzuru, the design of these two new ships was modified to include twin 7.9in turrets from the outset. This, together with the decision to fit a catapult, required the complete redesign of the after superstructure. At the same time the heavy AA battery was to comprise the 4.7in 12cm 10 Nendo Shiki gun in lieu of the 3.14in weapon. Calculations indicated that the increase in displacement over that of Furutaka would be about 320 tons, but at that time the overweight of the earlier class was not known, and in fact the 2/3 Trial Displacement of the new class increased to as much as 9,930 tons for Kinugasa. As a result, stability and freeboard were seriously compromised. The main areas of growth compared with Furutaka were armour (+50 tons), machinery (+100 tons), armament (+100 tons) and bunkerage (+150 tons). On the other hand, 50 tons was saved in fittings.

Protection and machinery were similar to those of the earlier ships, Kinugasa having Curtis turbines and her sister having Parsons type.

The main armament was the 7.9in 3 Nendo Shiki 20cm in twin 'C' turrets, having a maximum elevation of 40°. The gunhouses had 1in armour to the sides, front, roof and rear. In this mounting the range was increased by 33 per cent compared with the single 'A' mounting, since the elevation was greater. However, the turrets were too heavy for the hull, and strengthening was necessary later.

Provision was made for a catapult and aircraft, but the former was not available at completion.

Otherwise the armament did not differ from that of Furutaka.

Both ships were ordered in June 1923 but not laid down for another six months.

Modifications

Kinugasa was fitted with a catapult in May 1928 and her sister in January 1929, when an E2N1 floatplane was operated. This aircraft was replaced by the E4N2 floatplane at the end of 1932, which was itself superseded in 1936. In 1930 the catapult was replaced by a new type, operated by gunpowder, and the 4.7in gun mountings were replaced by a shielded electro-hydraulic mounting. Two quadruple Hotchkiss 13.2mm MGs were added on sponsons to port and starboard of the bridge in 1932.

The vessels were to have been given a major modernisation in 1937/38, but the political situation prevented this and instead they received only a limited refit. The guns were changed for the 3 Nendo Shiki 20cm No. 2 gun, which was of 20.3cm (8in) bore, and the fire control system was modified. No change was made to the 4.7in guns except for their control, but the light AA was improved by the addition of four twin 25mm around the after funnel, while the quad 13.2mm were supplanted by a pair of twin 13.2mm MGs at the fore end of the bridge. Two quadruple banks of 24in tubes and reloads were installed, as in Furutaka. The catapult was replaced by one of heavier pattern and two E7K2 floatplanes were embarked.

Of the machinery, only the two mixed-firing boilers were altered to oil firing, and no complete change of boilers took place.

Some 576 tons increase in weight resulted from these alterations, and bulges were fitted to restore stability, increasing the beam by about 5.5ft.

Kinugasa's early loss prevented much in the way of wartime alteration, but during repairs between December 1942 and February 1943 Aoba had the damaged No. 3 turret removed and temporarily replaced by a triple 25mm mount. In addition, the 13.2mm MGs at the front of the bridge were replaced by one triple 25mm.

Between August and November 1943 Aoba was once again under repair, when No. 3 turret was replaced and two twin 25mm fitted near the mainmast, for a total of fifteen 25mm (1 x 3, 6 x 2).

She also received an air-search radar set. However, as the main engines were not fully repaired, her maximum speed was now only 28kts.

Aoba was further modified at Singapore in July 1944, when the light AA was augmented by a further four triple 25mm guns and fifteen single mountings for a total of 42 guns (5 x 3, 6 x 2, 15 x 1). She also received a surface search radar set.

At Kure in March 1945 Aoba was given an additional four twin 25mm around the mainmast, now having a total of five triple and ten twin 25mm mountings.

Service

From December 1927 both ships were units of the 5th Cruiser Squadron, with Kinugasa as flagship. On 20 May 1933 both transferred to the 6th Cruiser Squadron, and between 15 November 1935 and 30 November 1936 they served in the 7th Cruiser Squadron. Both reduced to reserve at Kure on 1 December 1936 until reconstructed at Sasebo in 1938. Aoba returned to service on 15 November 1940 (6th Cruiser Squadron), and her sister on 1 March 1941, both then being employed in training duties until the end of October 1941. On 30 November 1941 all four ships of the 6th Cruiser Squadron sailed from Kure for the Bonin Islands to prepare for hostilities. They supported the second attack on Wake Island from Truk in December/January 1942, then in January/February covered the landings at Rabaul and Kavieng. In March and April the landings on Lae, Salamaua, Buka, Bougainville, Shortlands and Manus were covered by the squadron before it returned to Truk on 10 April. After the Battle of the Coral Sea both cruisers returned to Kure by 5 June for refit, returning to Truk in June/July. The 6th Cruiser Squadron was now attached to the newly formed 8th Fleet, the Outer South Sea Force. Both ships were at the Battle of Savo Island at the beginning of August, when both were slightly damaged. They took part in the Guadalcanal campaign, where, during the Battle of Cape Esperance on 11 October, Aoba was badly damaged, being hit by about 24 6in and 8in shells. She was sent to Kure for repair, where she arrived on 22 October. Durng this action Kinugasa was hit and severely damaged by Boise, which almost sank. In November 1942 the 6th Cruiser squadron was disbanded, only Kinugasa remaining in the Solomon islands. In November, after a bombardment of Henderson Field, Kinugasa was caught by aircraft from the carrier Enterprise off Rendova island on the 14th and sunk by torpedoes and bombs.

Kinugasa
Kinugasa
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Kinugasa
Kinugasa
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Kinugasa
Kinugasa
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Aoba sailed for Truk after repairs, arriving on 20 February 1943, and was detached to Kavieng, where, on 3 April, she was again heavily damaged by US B-17s when two torpedoes exploded, causing serious fires in the engine room. The ship had to be beached to prevent her sinking, and was eventually salvaged to return to Kure again for repairs, where she arrived on 1 August. Repairs lasted until the end of November. Plans to convert her into either an 'aircraft cruiser' or a fast oiler did not materialise. After repair she was sent to Singapore, where she arrived on 24 December 1943. In February 1944 she became flagship of the 16th Cruiser Squadron in the south-west area, and was mainly used for transport duties in the Philippines. On 23 October 1944 Aoba was hit in No. 2 engine room by a torpedo from the US submarine Bream, and was again sent to Kure for repairs, where she arrived on 12 December. She was not repaired, but was laid up at Kure and rated a reserve ship on 28 February 1945, and later as an AA battery. On 24 April she was heavily damaged by aircraft from TF38 and settled on the bottom, then on 28 July was hit yet again by aircraft from both TF38 and the 7th USAAF, which finally wrecked her, breaking off the stern and totally flooding the ship.

Aoba in the 1930s - NH97731
Aoba in the 1930s - NH97731
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Aoba
Aoba
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Aoba
Aoba
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Aoba, view from the bridge - NH97732
Aoba, view from the bridge - NH97732
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Aoba in 1945 after the surrender
Aoba in 1945 after the surrender
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Aoba, 1945 a side view of the photo above, flooded with the stern broken off
Aoba, 1945 a side view of the photo above, flooded with the stern broken off
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