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Takao Class Heavy Cruiser

Chokai off China late 30s
Chokai off China late 30s
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Ship Builder Laid Down Launched Completed Fate
Takao Yokosuka Dky 28 Apr 27 12 May 30 31 May 32 Lost31 Jul 1945
Atago Kure Dky 28 Apr 27 16 Jun 30 30 Mar 32 Lost 23 Oct 1944
Maya Kawasaki, Kobe 4 Dec 28 8 Nov 30 30 Jun 32 Lost 23 Oct 1944
Chokai Mitsubishi, N 26 Mar 28 5 Apr 31 30 Jun 32 Lost 25 Oct 1944

Displacement: 9,850 tons/10,007 tonnes (standard); 15,490 tons/15,738 tonnes (full load).
Length: 668ft 6in/203.76m (oa); 631ft 8in/192.54m (pp); 661ft 8in/201.76m (wi).
Beam: 59ft 2in/18.03m; Draught: 20ft 1 in/6.11 m (mean).
Machinery: 4-shaft geared turbines; 12 Kampon boilers.
Performance: 130,000shp=351/2kts; Bunkerage: 2,571 tons oil fuel.
Range: 8,000nm at 14kts.
Protection: 1.5in to 5in main belt; 1.25in max main deck; .5in to 1in upper deck; 3in to 4in end bulkheads; 1in turrets.
Guns: ten 8in (5x2); four 4.7in HA (4xl); two 40mm (2xl).
Torpedoes: eight 24in (4x2).
Aircraft: three, two catapults.
Complement: 773.

Design

In March 1927 a new construction programme was finally authorised which, partly in response to the USA's 'First Cruiser Bill' of May 1924, included four more 10,000-ton 'treaty' cruisers. Until this time, all of the IJN's plans for new ships had met with rejection by the Government. These new cruisers were originally to have been Myoko-type ships, but in 1925 the staff requirements had been changed. Now the ships were to be equipped with 8in guns capable of AA fire, and to have their tubes on the upper deck and better protection to the magazines. Several of the improvements made to the basic Myoko design were the result of information gleaned from the British Kent class, while others, such as the fitting of two catapults, were prompted by developments in the USN.

The design of the hull was essentially the same as that of Myoko, except that Ducol steel was employed instead of HT steel. Welding was used above the upper deck level, and light alloys were incorporated wherever possible to save weight. However, the excess overweight of the Myokos was not realised at the time the new ships were being designed, and caused problems later. The standard displacement, designed at 9,850 tons, was more like 11,400 tons, which resulted in increased draught, lower freeboard, slower speed and reduced range, not to mention suspect stability.

The protective scheme was also similar to that of the previous class, with certain differences. The length of the waterline armoured belt was shorter, magazine protection was thicker and the conning tower was armoured. The magazines were protected by an extension of the side armour belt, which itself was an integral part of the hull in accordance with the current principles of design in Japan, 127mm (5in) thick for its top 8.25ft, but its lower portion was tapered from 76mm to 38mm (3in to 1.5in) at its lower edge. Horizontal protection to the magazines was 47mm. In these ships, protective plating was given to the conning tower. In total, armour represented 2,568 tons, or 16.8 per cent of the 2/3 trials displacement.

Eight-inch 50cal 3 Nendo Shiki 2Go 20.3cm guns were installed as first equipment in this class, unlike the previous ships, which were rearmed with them. They were shipped in model E turrets capable of 70° elevation in three of the class, but by the time that Maya completed, the problems associated with such an extreme elevation had been recognised and she was given E2 turrets in which elevation was reduced to 55°. The secondary armament was reduced to four 4.7in guns, as the main armament was expected to provide AA defence as well. However, the weakness of the light AA in the earlier cruisers was recognised by the inclusion of two Vickers-type 40mm (2pdr) single guns to augment the two 7.7mm MGs, although even this outfit could not be regarded as adequate, even for the mid-1920s. The torpedo outfit was originally intended to comprise twelve 24in tubes in triple banks, but considerations of weight led to the fitting of twin tubes instead. In contrast to the Myokos, the tubes were fitted at upper-deck level and partly sponsoned outboard of the hull. A rapid reloading system was fitted to compensate in part for the reduced torpedo broadside, and sixteen spare torpedoes were carried. Two catapults and the provision to carry three floatplanes was incorporated.

The main machinery was similar to that of Myoko, but increased generating capacity was provided.

All four ships were fitted to serve as Fleet flagships in peacetime and Squadron flagships in war.

Two ships, Takao and Atago, were ordered early in 1927, and the other pair early the following year. Maya, however, was laid down later than scheduled because the yard went bankrupt and had to be bailed out by the Navy.

Takao in 1932
Takao in 1932
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Takao in 1932
Takao in 1932
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Modifications

In 1936, as a result of the '4th Fleet Incident', all four ships had their hulls strengthened and some top-weight removed. The 40mm were replaced by two quadruple 13.2mm MGs.

Sentai 4 off Shinagawa, October 1935 with units of the Combined Fleet. In the foreground is Chokai. The sequence of the other ships is unclear but it may be Maya, Takao, Atago. Sentai 6 is in the distance with Aoba, Kinugasa and Furutaka, followed by the carrier Akagi at the end of the first row. To the left are Nagara, Isuzu and Natori - Sentai 8.
Sentai 4 off Shinagawa, October 1935 with units of the Combined Fleet. In the foreground is Chokai. The sequence of the other ships is unclear but it may be Maya, Takao, Atago. Sentai 6 is in the distance with Aoba, Kinugasa and Furutaka, followed by the carrier Akagi at the end of the first row. To the left are Nagara, Isuzu and Natori - Sentai 8.
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Plans were made in 1937/38 to modernise the whole class by 1941, but the shipyards could not handle the work quickly enough, and consequently only Takao and Atago were taken in hand before the outbreak of war in the Pacific. During this modernisation the surface fire-control system was updated and the light AA improved by the addition of four twin 25mm and the replacement of the quad 13.2mm by two twin 13mm. However, these were themselves replaced by a pair of twin 25mm in the autumn of 1941. The torpedo outfit was altered to four quadruple 24in banks, with eight reloads in a new quick-reload system, and new fire control system. Two new heavier-pattern catapults were fitted and provision made to embark one E13A1 ('Jake') and two F1M2 ('Pete') floatplanes, although actual equipment varied. The bridge and foremast were rebuilt to reduce weight and the bulges increased to improve stability.

the massive bridge of Chokai, June 1938 - note the closeness of the lower deck scuttles to the water
the massive bridge of Chokai, June 1938 - note the closeness of the lower deck scuttles to the water
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Chokai and Maya only had a few improvements made in the spring of 1941. The torpedo tubes were adapted to fire the Long Lance torpedoes, sixteen of which were carried, and the catapults were replaced by the heavier pattern. They also had the quad 13.2mm replaced by two twin 25mm and received an additional two twin 13mm.

Early in 1942 Atago and Takao had their 4.7in guns replaced by twin 5in mountings, while their sisters had the twin 13mm replaced by a pair of 25mm, now carrying six twin 25mm.

In July/August 1943 the light AA of Atago and Takao was increased to two triple and six twin, while in August/September 1943 the other two received two more twin 25mm. Radar was also fitted.

Between November 1943 and the following January Atago and Takao were given a further eight single 25mm, making a total of twenty-six (2 x 3, 6 x 2, 8 x 1). Chokai was given ten single 25mm at Truk in January 1944, making her outfit also twenty-six (8 x 2, 10 x 1).

Maya was modified as an AA cruiser between 5 December 1943 and 9 April 1944, while undergoing damage repairs. Number 3 turret and all 4.7in and twin 25mm were landed, as were the tubes. The hangar was dismantled and other structural alterations made. The armament was now eight 8in (4 x 2), twelve 5in (6 x 2, unshielded), thirty-five 25mm (13 x 3, 9 x 1) and thirty-six dismountable 13mm singles. She was also given four quadruple 24in banks of torpedo tubes, but no reloads. Only two seaplanes could now be operated. The light AA was further increased in August by the addition of eighteen single 25mm, of which four were dismountable.

Chokai was to have received the same treatment as Maya, but because she did not return to home waters this was never carried out. Apart from some AA additions and the fitting of radar, she remained little changed from her prewar state.

Service

Takao - 1939
Takao - 1939
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All four ships joined the 4th Cruiser Squadron on completion of work-up in December 1932, replacing the Myoko class. From 15 November 1935 they were paid off, during which time they had some strengthening work and other modifications done. Takao and Maya again formed the 4th Cruiser Squadron from 1 December 1936, joined by Chokai on 7 August 1937, but for some reason Atago remained in reserve until 1939. Takao again reduced to reserve on 15 November 1937 to await modernisation. The two active units then served in Chinese waters. Takao completed her modernisation on 31 August 1939 and Atago on 30 October 1939, and then rejoined the 4th Cruiser Squadron on 15 November. Maya was used as a gunnery training ship until she, too, joined the 4th Cruiser Squadron on 1 May 1940. Chokai served as flagship of the China Expeditionary Force for a year before joining her sisters on 15 November 1940.

On the outbreak of war in December 1941 the class was serving with the Southern Area Force in the South China Sea, where they covered the landings in Malaya and Borneo. In January the 4th Cruiser Squadron, less Chokai, was transferred to Palau. In February 1942 Chokai ran aground near Saigon and was under repair until March. The other ships covered the operations in the Dutch East Indies, culminating in the invasion of Java, and at the end of February took part in a strike against Allied shipping south of Java. In the course of this, Maya and destroyers sank the destroyer Stronghold on 3 March with a vast expenditure of shells, while Atago and Takao sank the US destroyer Pillsbury. Atago also played a major part in the sinkings of Yarra (RAN), the depot ship Anking and the oiler Francol. Chokai, after repair, covered the landings in northern Sumatra and the Andaman Islands before participating in the strike into the Indian Ocean between 1 and 11 April 1942, when she sank the merchantmen Selma City, Bienville and Ganges off the Indian coast.

After the capture of the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines and Malaya, the squadron was withdrawn to Japan to refit between April and May 1942. Their next operations were in the Aleutians in May and July (Takao and Maya), while the other pair joined the main body of the Fleet for the Midway invasion but saw no action. In August 1942 US forces landed on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. In response, Chokai, flagship of the 8th Fleet, was despatched to Truk and other units followed, including the 4th Cruiser Squadron. Chokai was damaged by 8in shells from Quincy and Astoria at the Battle of Savo Island on 9 August, and again slightly by bombing on 14 November. At the same time Maya was hit by a crashing aircraft and badly damaged.

In the engagement on 14/15 November Atago and Takao were part of the force which badly damaged the US battleship South Dakota, the US ship being hit by at least sixteen 8in shells from the two cruisers.

Between December 1942 and April 1943 all four ships returned to Japan for repairs or refit and then returned to Truk, where they were based for much of the year. On 5 November Atago, Takao and Maya were damaged during a raid on Rabaul by aircraft from Saratoga. All three returned to home yards for repair, the first two completing by January 1944, but Maya was converted to an AA cruiser as described above, and did not return to service until April. Chokai, on the other hand, remained mainly based at Truck. In March the 4th Cruiser Squadron became part of the newly formed 1st Mobile Fleet and took part in the Battle of the Philippine Sea on 19/20 June, when Maya was slightly damaged by near misses. After returning to home waters Takao and Atago were ordered to Singapore and joined by Chokai and Maya. All four were part of Admiral Kurita's Centre Force which sailed to intercept the US landings in the Philippines in November. After leaving Brunei Bay for the Mindoro Straits, Atago was hit by four torpedoes from the US submarine Darter in the Palawan Passage on 23 October, sinking in about twenty minutes. Maya was hit by four torpedoes from Dace some twenty minutes after the hits on her sister, and sank in ten minutes. Takao was hit by another two torpedoes launched from Darter just after her attack on Atago, which flooded several boiler rooms and seized the machinery. In her case, however, she was brought into Singapore, arriving there on 12 November. Chokai carried on, participating in the Battle of Samar, when the escort carrier Gambier Bay and the destroyers Hoel, Johnston and Samuel B Roberts (DE) were sunk. However, she herself was later hit by bombs from aircraft of Kitkun Bay and rendered unmanoeuvrable, and had to be sunk by the destroyer Fujinami with torpedoes.

The sole survivor of the class, Takao, lay unrepaired at Singapore, used as an AA battery in defence against B-29 raids. The ship was again attacked on 31 July 1945, this time by British midget submarines, and further damage was caused but she did not sink. After the surrender Takao was used as an accommodation hulk until scuttled in the Straits of Malacca on 27 October 1946.

good detailed view of the bridge of Takao
good detailed view of the bridge of Takao
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good detailed view of the mid section of Chokai
good detailed view of the mid section of Chokai
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Chokai around 1938, NH82080
Chokai around 1938, NH82080
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Atago
Atago
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Maya
Maya
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