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Furutaka Class Heavy Cruiser

Furutaka after reconstruction - June 1939
Furutaka after reconstruction - June 1939
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Ship Builder Laid Down Launched Completed Fate
Furutaka Mitsubishi, N 5 Dec 22 25 Feb 25 31 Mar 26 Lost 11 Oct 1942
Kako Kawasaki, Kobe 17 Nov 22 10 Apr 25 20 Jul 26 Lost 10 Aug 1942

Displacement: 7,100 tons/7,213 tonnes (standard); 9,540 tons/9,692 tonnes (full load).
Length: 607ft 6in/185.16m (oa); 580ft/176.78m (pp); 595ft/181.35m (wi).
Beam: 54ft 2in/16.5m; Draught: 14ft 9in/4.49m (mean).
Machinery: 2-shaft Parsons (Kako, Curtis) geared turbines; 12 Kampon boilers.
Performance: 102,000shp:341/2kts; Bunkerage: 1,400 tons oi1+450 tons coal.
Range: 6,000nm at 14kts.
Protection: 3in main belt; 1.25in deck; 2in magazines; 1in max gunhouses.
Guns: six 7.9in (6xl); four 3.1in (4xl); two 7.7mm MGs.
Torpedoes: twelve 24in (6x2 fixed).
Aircraft: one, one catapult.
Complement: 625.

Design

These two ships were the 7,500-ton cruisers mentioned above in connection with Yubari, and were intended to outclass both the British Hawkins and US Omaha type cruisers. Despite the fact that they were armed with 8in guns, however, they were in fact pre-Washington Treaty ships, the general design having been agreed some six months or so before the signing of the Treaty.

In this design, the principles tested in Yubari were expanded into a more recognisable cruiser type. Particular attention was paid to the reducing of hull weight while maintaining its strength by means of an undulating sheer line and use of the side armour as longitudinal strength members. The length to beam ratio was very high at 11.7, to give the high speed demanded. Unfortunately, despite all the efforts to reduce weight, the displacement turned out nearly 11 per cent, or almost 1,000 tons, overweight. The reasons for this have never been explained, but it may have been due to poor control of the weighing of equipment and fittings on installation.

The protective scheme was not intended to offer defence against 8in shellfire, but only against 6in shells. The main belt was 3in NVNC and 13.5ft deep, of which 10.75ft were designed to be above the waterline at trial displacement. However, the increased draught due to the overweight resulted in a deeper immersion of the belt, so that only 7.24ft remained above the waterline. The belt itself was 262.5ft long, covering the machinery spaces. It was inclined 9° from the vertical, bottom to top, and was not backed by skin plating. Above the main belt, the side plating was 1in on .75in HT steel. The main armoured deck abutted the top of he side armour and was 1.5in (35mm) thick NVNC armour, while the upper deck was given 28.6mm plus .75in (19mm) both HT steel. Box protection was applied to the magazine spaces, with 2in sides and 1.5in crowns. There was no armoured conning tower. The gunhouses had 1in faces and .75in roofs.

The main propulsion plant was arranged on a four-shaft layout, but not on the unit principle. There were seven separate boiler rooms, each with two boilers, of which the foremost had two medium oil-fired units and the after pair two mixed-firing units. The remainder had large oilfired units. Except for the foremost space, which was full beam in width, the remaining boiler rooms were separated from one another by midships longitudinal bulkheads, as were the four turbine rooms. Parsons turbines were fitted in Furutaka and Curtis units in Kako.

As designed, the main armament comprised six 7.9in 50cal 3 Nendo Shiki 20cm guns on single 'A' mountings in weatherproof gunhouses. This gun fired a 242.5lb (ll0kg) projectile, and had a range of 24,700yd at 25°. Elevation and training were electric.

The secondary armament was the 3.14in (8cm) Nendo Shiki HA gun in four single mountings, disposed on the beam amidships. This gun fired a 5.99kg shell, and had a maximum vertical range of 29,850ft. Light AA was restricted to a couple of 7.7mm Vickers MGs. It had originally been intended that the torpedo outfit be fitted on the centreline, as in destroyers, but, as Britain had found in the 'Countys', the height of the weather deck above the waterline presented problems. As a result the tubes were of the fixed pattern, installed on the main deck, three pairs on each beam. Two pairs were above the engine rooms and one forward of the bridge structure. They were equipped for 61cm torpedoes, and in wartime 24 torpedoes were shipped.

These ships had been designed for scouting purposes and were therefore fitted to operate aircraft, but at the time of their design there was no catapult available. Instead, a flying-off platform was fitted to the roof of No. 4 turret. In the event these platforms proved unsatisfactory, and the seaplane, when embarked, had to be handled by crane and launched from the water. A hangar was fitted abaft the funnels.

Both ships were authorised in March 1922 and ordered on 22 June that year, construction costs being covered by the funds already approved for the cancelled capital ships. Construction initially proceeded very quickly, both being launched before the end of 1922, but thereafter industrial and material problems delayed completion.

Modifications

In the winter of 1926/27 the funnels were heightened and their caps altered to reduce smoke interference on the bridge and control platforms. In 1930 the flying-off platforms were removed. Reconstruction work was carried out on Kako in 1931/32 and on Furutaka in 1932/53 at the Kure yard, when the heavy AA armament was completely revised. The 3.14in guns were landed and replaced by four 4.7in 10 Nendo Shiki 12cm guns in single shielded mountlgs. This gun fired a 45lb shell with a maximum vertical range of 32,800ft. A catapult was fitted between No. 4 gun and the hangar, and an E4N2 oatplane was embarked.

On 4 July 1936 Kako began a major reconstruction at Sasebo, while Furutaka was taken in hand at Kure on 1 April 1937. During this work the main armament was altered by the subtitution of Mk 2 guns for the original weapons, in twin mountings with a maximum elevation of 5°. These guns were re-bored 200mm barrels from Haguro and Ashigara, as there was a shortage of No.2 guns at this time. The fire control and bridge arrangements were also modified. The secondary battery was not altered, except that the gun positions were modified. Four twin 25mm were added and two twin 13mm. The fixed tubes were landed and replaced by two quadruple 24in trainable banks with four reserve torpedoes on each beam. A heavier catapult, an aircraft handling boom and facilities for operatng two E7K2 floatplanes were fitted. The ships were completely re-boilered with ten oil-fired units, and the machinery was overhauled. To improve stability and compensate for the weights added, the beam was increased to 55ft 7in by the addition of wider bulges. Even so, the stability was less than desired. Little else appears to have been done to these two ships before their loss in 1942.

Service

Furutaka, as completed 1926
Furutaka, as completed 1926
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Furutaka 1927-28, while she was the 4th ship of the 5th Sentai (squadron), as signified by the two bands (one wide, one narrow) painted on her after smokestack.
Furutaka 1927-28, while she was the 4th ship of the 5th Sentai (squadron), as signified by the two bands (one wide, one narrow) painted on her after smokestack.
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Furutaka, Kinugasa and Aoba - at anchor off Shinagawa, Japan, October 1935. The three bands painted on her after smokestack signify that she is the third ship of the 6th Sentai (squadron).
Furutaka, Kinugasa and Aoba - at anchor off Shinagawa, Japan, October 1935. The three bands painted on her after smokestack signify that she is the third ship of the 6th Sentai (squadron).
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Both ships entered service with the 5th Cruiser Squadron and remained with that formation until Furutaka reduced to reserve on 1 December 1931. She recommissioned for the 6th Cruiser Squadron on 15 November 1933, while her sister joined the same squadron on 20 May 1933 before reducing to reserve herself on 15 November that year. The major refits took place between 4 July 1936 and 27 December 1937 (Kako), and between 1 April 1937 and 30 April 1939 (Furutaka). On completion of this reconstruction, both returned to reserve. At the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, both ships formed part of the 6th Cruiser Squadron in the South Seas Force. This squadron supported the second attack on Wake Island on 23 December, then returned to Truk by January 10. Their second sortie was to cover the landings at Kavieng and on Rabaul in January/February, returning to Truk to refit on 10 February 1942. On completion, the ships sailed to support the landings at Lae, Salamaua, Buka, Bougainville, Shortlands and Manus, returning once more to Truk on 10 April. After participating in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, both left for Kure on 31 May, where they arrived on 5 June. Kako returned to Truk on 23 June and her sister on 4 July. During the Solomons campaign the two ships operated with the 6th Cruiser Squadron from Rabaul. However, on 10 August 1942, while returning to Kavieng after the Battle of Savo Island, Kako was hit by three torpedoes from the US submarine S44 off Simbed Island and sank in five minutes. Her sister survived until October, when, during the Battle of Cape Esperance, she was shelled to a wreck by the cruisers of TF64 and then sunk by a torpedo from the destroyer Duncan, which was herself badly hit by Furutaka and Japanese destroyers, sinking in the early hours of the next day.

Kako in the 30s with her original armament
Kako in the 30s with her original armament
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Kako
Kako
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Kako underway during exercises in 1940, with her forward gun turrets trained out to port, as seen from another Japanese warship. NH 73014
Kako underway during exercises in 1940, with her forward gun turrets trained out to port, as seen from another Japanese warship. NH 73014
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Furutaka and probably Kako rearmed
Furutaka and probably Kako rearmed
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