Japan had announced on August 27, 2016 the launching of a new, Izumo-class helicopter-carrier with a displacement of 24,000-tons named “Kaga” in an effort to protect itself, while the United States under President Obama was somehow abandoning the Pacific theatre.
This ship was commissioned yesterday, the 22nd of March, in Yokohama and it will be carrying only helicopters, equipped for anti-sub warfare, not F-35 fighter jets. Even if it is clear that fighter jets could be also accommodated after a light refurbishing of the bridge.
The name given to this ship – in Italian this name sound ominous, as it is something related to bodily functions – shows that the Japanese government is not afraid to court controversy and it is possible that China will react to this name, Kaga. The same could happen with Australia, as it is something like if modern Germany, launching a new battleship, decides to name it “Bismark” or if Italians to call her “Littorio.”
Kaga was an old province of Japan in present-day Ishikawa Prefecture but the first ship named Kaga supported Japanese troops in China during the Shanghai Incident of 1932 and joined in the Second Sino-Japanese War, in the late 1930s. After the Marco Polo Bridge incident, in July 1937, the ship’s fighter squadrons helped escort ships taking army reinforcements from Japan to China. On 17 August twelve of the carrier’s bombers attacked Hangchow without fighter escort and 11 of them were shot down by Chinese planes. Subsequently, the carrier’s fighter pilots claimed to have destroyed at least 17 Chinese aircrafts in aerial combat while losing five aircraft themselves. On 12 December 1937 Kaga aircrafts were responsible for the Panay incident.
The Kaga was one of the carriers launching planes on Pearl Harbour, on December 1941. Then she took part in the invasion of Rabaul, in the Southwest Pacific, in January 1942, and the following month she participated in an airstrike on Darwin, Australia, to secure the conquest of the Dutch East Indies.
After bombarding American forces on Midway Atoll, the Kaga with three other Japanese carriers, was attacked by American aircrafts. Dive bombers led by Commander Wade McClusky from the Carrier Enterprise severely damaged her and when it became clear she could not be saved, she was scuttled by Japanese destroyers to prevent her falling into enemy hands.
In 1999, the relict of the Kaga was located on the ocean floor at a depth of over 5,000 meters at 560 km northwest of Midway Island.