The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
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The seaplane carrier was a purely Japanese concept, not duplicated by the United States or other Allies, though the Langley served a somewhat similar role. It was a ship with numerous catapults for launching seaplanes and with cranes for their recovery. The Japanese intended to use these seaplanes for reconnaissance purposes, allowing the full strength of their conventional carriers to be devoted to strike missions and combat air patrol. The concept was not particularly successful, since the seaplane carriers had difficulty keeping up with the carrier fleet, and the seaplanes lacked the performance to mount an effective combat air patrol to protect their mother ships.
It is likely that the Japanese also saw seaplane
carriers as a way to get around the fortifications clause of
Treaty, which prohibited any further development of bases
outside the home islands. The seaplane tenders could act mobile
bases for maintaining aircraft in areas without regular naval
bases without violating the fortifications clause, since their
repair facilities would be entirely afloat.
Seaplane carriers of the Chitose class were designed so that they could be rapidly converted to conventional light carriers on the outbreak of war. This did not actually take place until 1943. The results were again disappointing, as the ships had unremarkable aircraft capacity and almost no protection.
Kamikawa Maru class
Sagara Maru class
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