Ahodori Class Light Aircraft Carrier:
The two light carriers of the Ahodori class began their life as the fourth and fifth ship of the Hayabusa seaplane tenders (or better, seaplane cruisers) that Koko was building in the early 30's to circumvent the limitations of the LNT. The two ships, named Ahodori (albatross) and Fukuro (owl) had been laid down in 1934 and 1935 respectively to the original specifications but were reordered as Light Carriers in 1936 under the second Rearmament Bill as Koko decided to denounce naval treaties. Works on the ships stopped until 1937 while the design was accordingly modified.
The hull was lengthened by 2,6m at the stern and all 140mm guns and superstructure deleted from the design. The original seaplane hangar was extended to 101x14 meters (although the forward 26 meters were exclusively dedicated to mainenance and workshop area as it was narrower) thanks to the boiler exhausts being rerouted to starboard. A newer upper hangar was added on top of the former, 116m long and 16 wide. Both hangars were 5,33m high. Two lifts served the upper hangar and one (the aft one) the lower hangar. This allowed, by design, to operate 15 B4Y torpedo bombers, 11 D1A2 dive bombers and 17 A5M fighter planes for a total of 43 machines. A 189m long and 23,9m long flight deck was added, with a distinctive overhang at the stern to maximize its length, giving the ships and overall one of 220,9 meters. The flight deck also housed two rectractable 110cm searchlights near the forward command station, a wind baffle, two crash barriers, six arrestor wires and a foldable crane for aircraft handling. The 70mm side armor belt was removed, with the exception of two sections forward and aft to protect the bomb bays. Armament-wise the original anti-aircraft armament of the seaplane tenders was retained in numbers, with four twin 127mm DP guns fitted on sponsons on both ides of the flight deck, two forward and two aft. In addition to them, eight triple 25mm machine guns were added amidship as well.
Ahodori, the lead ship and first Koko no Kaigun aircraft carrier, was officially launched in 1938 and commissioned by August 1939.
Ahodori sea trails showed that the carrier behaved better than some similar IJN light carriers, mainly thanks tho less topweigh and more careful ballasting, and could make the same 34knots of their seaplane-tenders half-siblings. However, the forward end of the flight deck beign really close to the forward lift created issues to aircraft operations and offered a small margin of error for any pilot who happened to overshoot the arrestor wires or the crash barriers. And at the time Koko's aircrews were extremely green as the naval arm of the air forces had just been established.
For this reason, between January and May 1940, Ahodori was refitted by extending the flight deck all the way to the bow, increasing its overall length to 218,8m.
Fukuro, Ahodori's sister, had been launched in December 1937, but her fitting-out lasted longer, as she was also given the extended flight deck before completion, plus some extended walkways on the starboard side and an enlarged radio-room on the port side which distinguished her from her sister. Fukuro was commissioned on February 6th 1941. By the time of her entry into service more advanced planes were available, so that she carried 14 B5N torpedo bombers, 8 D3A dive bombers and 14 A6M fighter planes for a total of 36 (37 could be carried in some circumstances, but usually they were a tight fit).
Ahodori and Fukuro formed, together with Koko's first fleet carrier -Umineko-, Koku Sentai 1 and were in the middle of the action since the very fist day of the war. On December 7th 1941 they attacked and bombed Midway island, specially carrying and extra complement of D3A dive bombers for the job. Later the same day, their planes engaged those of the USS Lenxington, and While Fukuro airwings scored no significant hits, the opened the path for Umineko torpedo attack on Lexington which damaged her and forced its withdrawal. Ahodori's planes instead were credited with the first kill of the war for Koko no Kaigun when they sank the US Destroyer Flusser (DD-368) during the battle.
In the following months the two light carriers supported Kokoan operations in the Aleutians before taking part in the unsuccessful chase of the Doolittle Raid ships in April 1942 and the kokoan raids on the French Frigate shoals and Aleutians of May 1942. Ahodori and Fukuro were deployed again in June for further raids against the Aleutians, also acting as a decoy for the US navy. The Americans were to be ambushed and disposed by another IJN/KnK combined fleet centered around the Kido Butai, which was waiting off Midway Island. Things did not go as planned, as thanks to their intelligence works the Americans knew it in advance and they were the ones that ambushed the Kido butai withdisastrous results for the Japanese. After the defeat off Midway, Ahodori and Fukuro kept operating on northern waters for the next five months, during that time they were joined by the newly built light carriers Tobuio and Ajisashi, and assigned to the newly formed Koku Sentai 2.
Ahodori and Fukuro finally reached the Solomon Islands theatre in november 1942, taking part in the aerial phase of the Third Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. The light carriers remained operational in the Solomons for months to come, executing raids on US-held positions and attacking shipping lanes, then partecipated in the battle of torres islands taking credit of the sinking of the US escort carrier Altamaha and damaging Recerchean CVL Peppermint Bay. Fukuro suffered sligth damage from a near-miss during the battle. The two again engaged enemy units on June 26th 1943 in the Solomon Sea, when they twarthed and Allied carrier raid against New Georgia. By early 1944, the two ships were the only Kokoan carriers still operating in the Slomons Islands. On February 2nd, they engaged once again enemy carriers at Stewarts Island, the third consecutive battle they fought that ended indecisively. By this time however, both Ahodori and Fukuro had accumulated enough battering to warrant a respite after fifteen months of continous deployment. Furthermore, during the last battle Ahodori had been hit by a bomb on the flight deck which, while causing manageable damage, still required repairs to be done in a shipyard, Fukuro instead needed to replenish its airwing to replace combat losses.
Both returned in home water were they recieved their fist major wartime refit: Lower deck portholes were closed over and anti-air armament augmented with the addition of four extra triple 25mm machine guns, plus another three fixed and eight movable single mounts. Red and white stripes on the aft flight deck were removed and the wooden plaking part painted dark to reduce visibility from the air. Radars were added, with Thiarian R4CA fire control ones added on the 127mm gun directors, plus a Type 13 air search set on the forward mast and a Type 21-mod7 antenna on the flight deck edge on the port side. The airwing as updated with the B6N torpedo bombers and D4Y dive bombers replacing the older B5N and D3As, total aircraft carried became 35, down from 36.
In this guise Ahodori and Fukuro, now sailing together with the entire Kokoan carrier fleet met the US Navy off Laysan atoll. together they sank one American light carrier and a Battleship, but suffered again large losses within their airwings, forcing them to return to Toumachi for further training. The next battle that Ahodori and Fukuro took part in was also the last the two ships did together. On September 10th 1944 During the second battle off Midway, Ahodori suffered a direct torpedo hit early in the battle and began taking on water. As the battle evolved disastrouly for Koko no Kaigun the crippled Ahodori became a prime targed for American dive-bombers during the Kokoan retreat. Hit another four times and set ablaze, Ahodori sank stern first, taking with her 602 of her complement of 875 men.
Fukuro had suffered two bomb hits during the battle, but survived thanks to her damage control crew. Upon returning to Koko she was repaired and refitted again. She was bulged, adding 2 meters to her beam, to increase stability and improve anti-torpedo protection. The loss of speed from 34 to 33 knots was deemed acceptable. Anti-aircraft armament was vastly expanded by fitting four 28-barreled rocket launchers in pairs torards the stern, machine gun tally reached twelve triple, six twin and twenty-five single 25mm mounts, plus another five dismountable ones, for a total of 78 barrels. Radar suite was updated by fitting newer R12CAD anti-air fire control radars, and Type 24-mod2 air-search mattress, plus a Thiarian R6R direction finder. The airwing was renewed as well, now made up by fourteen B7A torpedo/dive bomber, six C6N torpedo/reconnaissance planes and ten A7M fighters for a total of 30 machines. Since newer, and larger, planes had reduced the total airwing from 36/37 at the start of the war -even 43 when Fukuro was designed- Koko no Kaigun tried to experiment with deck parking in an effort to increase the offensive potential of its carriers. In the case of Fukuro herself, the narrow flight deck made this difficult, so that only six planes, usually four A7M for combat air patrol and two C6N for reconnaissance were parked on the deck, allowing to carry a total of 16 B7A, 14 A7M and 6 C6N. As much as in 1941 but still far short from the original 43. Lastly, she was completely painted in a two-tone bluse scheme in an attempt to reduce visibility in the open sea.
Fukuro, like all other Kokoan carriers, remained in home waters training its aircrews until June 1945, when it took part in the battle of the Philippine sea. A tactical success for the Kokoan/Japanese fleet, but a strategic defeat as well. Fukuro suffered no damage in the engagement, and returned home until October, when she departed again to join Jisaburo Ozawa northern force in operation Sho-Go, collecting every operational aircraft carrier the IJN and KnK still had at their disposal to oppose US invasion of the Philippines. The carrier vs carrier engagement, known as the battle of Cape Engano, resulted in a crushing defeat for Koko and Japan, with half of the aircraft carriers involved sunk and all othe damaged. Casualties in the airwing was monstrous as well. Fukuro herself was battered heavily, losing nearly all of its planes and suffering three direct bomb hits that buckled the flight deck and set a fire in the upper hangar. Luckily, the two next US air attacks focused on Shinano so the crew was able to put out the fire. Fukuro suffered further near-misses later in the battle but was able to retreat. Upon her return to Koko she was slated to underwent major repairs but the start of the Uprisings made this impossible. Despite she fell into Loyalist control in Toumachi harbor, her damaged flight deck, internal damage and depleted airwing made it impossible to use her effectively against the rebels. After the Armistice she was temporarily interned to Midway, then recieved makeshift repairs after the end of the war and operated as a repatriation ship until she was decommissioned in 1947 and scrapped shortly after.
Ships in class: (laid down-launched-commissioned - fate)
Ahodori 1934-1938-1939 - Sunk 1944
Fukuro 1935-1937-1941 - Decommissioned 1947