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Japan Launches Aircraft Carrier ‘Kaga,’ Named After Carrier that Attacked Pearl Harbor

On August 27, Japan launched a new, Izumo-class helicopter-carrier named the “Kaga” (DDH-184), marking another effort to Japan to protect itself while regional power shifts away from the United States and towards China. 

The ship was put to sea at the Japan Marine United shipyard in Yokohama and will be commissioned in March, 2017.

Japanese officials say the vessel will be used mostly for “anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) operations,” and won’t carry any U.S-designed vertical take-off F-35 fighter jets. 

The 24,000-ton Kaga is the second ship in its class. The Kaga and its sister ship, JS Izumo (DDH-183) are the largest ships built by Japan since World War II.

The last Japanese ship named “Kaga” was also an aircraft carrier, and it played a major role in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. That Kaga was sunk in 1942 by a squadron of Douglas Dauntless dive bombers led by Commander Wade McClusky during the Battle of Midway.

Historian Craig L. Symonds described the legendary attack on the Kaga in his book, Decision at Sea. The ship-launched Japanese fighters were busy wiping out the low-flying aircraft of Torpedo Squadron 8, when the U.S. dive-bombers arrived overhead. “Unmolested by enemy fighters, the Dauntless pilots winged over into steep dives and flew almost straight down—like a ‘silver waterfall.’” McClusky’s dive bombers aimed at the giant red sun painted at the flight deck and struck the Kaga with a series of bombs.

After hitting the flight deck and triggering numerous secondary explosions, the ship was turned into a towering inferno. Symonds wrote that “within minutes the giant Kaga was a burning wreck.”

These days, the main threat to the Japanese navy comes from China’s growing and expanding array of long-range missiles and bombers. 

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