Japanese Aircraft Carriers of the Second World War

Japanese Aircraft Carriers of the Second World War

Heavy carriers

Fleet Carrier Class Type Ships Years in Service Displacement

Akagi-class

(IJN Photo)

The Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Akagi undergoing trials off Iyonada, 17 June 1927. Early in her career, she was fitted with three flight decks; the two lower decks were later plated over in a mid-1930s refit.

(IJN Photo, Kure Maritime Museum)

Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi in April, 1942 during the Indian Ocean Raid as seen from an aircraft that has just taken off from her deck. The aircraft on the flight deck preparing for takeoff are Aichi D3A Type 99 dive bombers, 1 April 1942.

(Official U.S. Navy Photo NH 73058 from the U.S. Navy Naval Heritage Command)

The Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi in Sukumo Bay, southern Shikoku (Japan), on 27 April 1939, following her extensive 1935-38 modernization.

(U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation Photo No. NH 73059)

Japanese aircraft carrier Akagi, summer of 1941.

Aircraft carrier Akagi (1927–1942), 36,500 tonnes. Converted from an Amagi-class battlecruiser. Sunk at Midway on 5 June 1942.

Kaga-class

(Yamato Museum Photo)

Imperial Japanese Navy Carrier Kaga: photo taken after her massive refitting. Its smokestack is directed downwards to extinguish the smoke with seawater.

Aircraft carrier Kaga (1928–1942), 38,200 tonnes. Converted from a Tosa-class battleship. Sunk at Midway on 4 June 1942.

Sōryū-class

(Photo from the Archives of the Kure Maritime Museum)

Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Soryu rushed on trials, Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture.

Aircraft carrier Sōryū (1937–1942)

Soryu took part in the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Wake Island, and supported the conquest of the Dutch East Indies. She was sunk at Midway on 4 June 1942.

(U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph Donation of Kazutoshi Hando, 1970, Photo NH 73063)

Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Hiryū running her speed trials, 28 April 1939.

(Photo from the Archives of the Kure Maritime Museum)

Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Hiryu in Yokosuka naval port.

Hiryū (1939–1942), 16,200 tonnes. Hiryū is often considered to be a separate class. Sunk at Midway on 5 June 1942.

Shōkaku-class

(U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph NH 73066, donation of Kazutoshi Hando, 1970)

Shokaku (Japanese Aircraft Carrier, 1941-1944) At Yokosuka, 23 August 1941, shortly after she was completed.

Aircraft carrier Shōkaku (1941–1944).

(IJN Photo)

Japanese aircraft carrier Zuikaku, November 1941.

Zuikaku (1941–1944, )25,675 tonnes. With the exception of the Battle of Midway, Shōkaku and Zuikaku participated in every major naval action of the Pacific War, including the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Indian Ocean Raid, the Battle of the Coral Sea, and the Guadalcanal Campaign. Both carriers were sunk during the 1944 Pacific campaigns.

Unryū-class

(Yamato Museum Photo)

Unryu leaving Yokosuka, 16 July 1944.

Aircraft carrier Unryū (1944–1944), Amagi (1944–1945), Katsuragi (1944–1945), 17,480 tonnes. The design for these ships was based on the aircraft carrier Hiryū. The IJN planned to build 16 ships, however only 3 were completed and 2 almost completed (one of which was sunk as a target then salvaged and later scrapped) before the project was abandoned in favour of Shinano's construction. Unryū was sunk by the USS Redfish, Amagi capsized after air attacks and Katsuragi was the only heavy carrier to survive the war.

(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo, 80-G-485841)

Kasagi, 84% complete. Construction stopped on 1 April 1945. Scrapped between 1 September 1946 – 31 December 1947.

Taihō-class

(IJN Photo)

IJMS Taiho anchored in Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines, May 1944.

Aircraft carrier Taihō (1944–1944), 30,250 tonnes. A slight break from the traditional Japanese carrier designs, Taiho was a heavily armoured carrier expected to withstand multiple bombs and torpedo strikes. However, design faults and poor damage control allowed it to be sunk with one torpedo from the USS Albacore on 19 June 1944.

Shinano-class

(Collection of Kure Maritime History Science Museum, Photo)

Japanese aircraft carrier Shinano underway during her sea trials, 11 November 1944.

Aircraft carrier Shinano (1944–1944), 65,800 tonnes. Initially laid down as the third of the Yamato-class battleships, Shinano was converted into an aircraft carrier due to the Japanese defeat at Midway. She was sunk on 29 November 1944, by torpedoes from USS Archerfish.

Light Aircraft Carriers

Hōshō-class

(Kure Maritime Museum Photo)

Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Hōshō conducts tests in Tokyo Bay in December 1922.


Light aircraft carrier Hōshō (1922–1945), 7,470 tonnes. This was the first purpose-built carrier in the world. It was scrapped 1946.

Ryūjō-class

(hoto from the Archives of the Kure Maritime Museum)

The Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carrier Ryūjō underway on 6 September 1934.

Light aircraft carrier

Ryūjō (1931–1942), 8,000 tonnes. Sunk in 1942.

Hiyō-class

(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo, 80-G-701429)

IJN Jun'yo, in Ebisu Bay, Sasebo, 25 September 1945.

(AGC-7, 80-G-352473)

IJN Jun'yo, in Ebisu Bay, Sasebo, 25 September 1945.

Light aircraft carrier Hiyō (1942–1944), Jun'yō (1942–1946), 24,150 tonnes. Converted from an ocean liner in 1939. Hiyō was sunk and Jun'yō was scrapped 1946–1947.

Zuihō-class

Japanese aircraft carrier Zuihō at Yokosuka, Japan, on 28 December 1940.

(IJN Photo)

Japanese aircraft carrier Zuihō at Yokosuka, Japan, on 28 December 1940.

Light aircraft carrier Zuihō (1940–1944), sunk during the Second World War.

(IJN Photo)

Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō, 20 December 1941.

Shōhō (1939–1942), 11,443 tonnes. Shōhō was the first Japanese aircraft carrier lost during the Second World War.

Chitose-class

(IJN Photo)

Japanese aircraft carrier Chitose.

Light aircraft carrier Chitose (1938/1944–1944), Chiyoda (1938/1944–1944), 11,200 tonnes. Both ships were seaplane tenders before their conversion in 1943. Both ships were sunk in 1944.

Ryūhō-class

(IJN Photo)

Japanese aircraft carrier Ryūhō, 1942.

Light aircraft carrier Ryūhō (1934/1942–1945), 16,700 tonnes. Converted from the submarine tender Taigei 1941–1942. Recommissioned as Ryūhō 1942. Scrapped 1946.

Escort Carrier Taiyō-class

Taiyo

Escort carrier Taiyō (1941–44), Chūyō (1942–43), Unyō (1942–44), 17,830 tonnes. All were sunk during the war.

Kaiyō-class

Kaiyo

Escort carrier Kaiyō (1943–1945), 13,600 tonnes. Converted from ocean liner Argentina Maru. Scrapped in 1946.

Shin'yō-class

Aircraft carrier Shinyo.JPG

Escort carrier Shin'yō (1943–1944), 17,500 tonnes.

Akitsu Maru-class

AkitsuMaru.jpg

Escort carrier Akitsu Maru (1942–1944), Nigitsu Maru (1942–1944), 11,800 tonnes. Operated by the Imperial Japanese Army. Worlds' first Amphibious Assault ships.

Shimane Maru-class

ShimaneMaru-1945.jpg

Escort carrier Shimane Maru (1945–1945), 11,989 tonnes.

Yamashio Maru-class

YamashioMaru-1945.jpg

Escort carrier Yamashio Maru (1945–1945)16,119 tonnes.

Kumano Maru-class

KumanoMaru-1945.jpg

Escort carrier Kumano Maru (1945–1945), 8,258 tonnes. Operated by Imperial Japanese Army.

Seaplane Tender Nisshin-class

Nisshin in speed testing, 1942

Seaplane tender Nisshin (1942–1943), 11,499 tonnes. Also a midget submarine carrier and minelayer.

Kamikawa Maru-class

Kamikawa Maru

Seaplane tender Kamikawa Maru (1937–1943), Kiyokawa Maru (1941–1946), Kimikawa Maru (1937–1944), Kunikawa Maru (1937–1945), 6,862 tonnes. Hirokawa Maru of the same class was converted to an auxiliary (anti-aircraft) cruiser instead of seaplane tender when it was impressed for Navy service.

Akitsushima-class

Akitsushima in 1942

Seaplane tender Akitsushima (1942–1944), 4,725 tonnes.

Kamoi-class

Kamoi in 1937

Seaplane tender Kamoi (1922-1947), 17,273 tonnes.

Notoro-class

Notoro in 1943

Seaplane tender Notoro (1934-1947)15,647 tonnes. Of 7 oilers in class, Notoro was converted to seaplane tender and Shiretoko to munition ship.

Mizuho-class

Mizuho in 1940 off Tateyama

Seaplane tender Mizuho (1939-1942), 10,930 tonnes. Also served as a midget submarine carrier.