3 x 2 18.1"/45,|
16 x 3.9"/66,
numerous x 25mm AA
|VTS Rating||4 6 8|
Much of Japan's naval tradition and thinking came from the British Royal Navy. When Lord Fisher, Britain's eccentric First Sea Lord, induced Britain to build the Superb, Courageous', and Hood's, the Japanese considered building something similar. "Fisher's Follies" were too weakly armored to stand up to much punishment, but a fast big-gun ship had great appeal to Japan. Current fast battleships of the IJN could keep up with the Akagi but not the new generation of Soryus and Shokakus being built. Across the Pacific the USN had the powerful and fast Constitution, big guns that could stay alongside her carrier consorts. Though Japan had many 34-knot cruisers to accompany her 34-knot carriers, she had no big-gun ship that could keep up. Soon Japan learned that even the Netherlands was building a 34-knot battlecruiser to send to the East Indies.
By 1936 the IJN had settled on 18" or larger guns for capital ships, and so considered five single turrets for Aratama on a slim hull like an enlarged Furious. Gradually a more conventional three twin-turret arrangement was worked out. To save weight, no secondary medium caliber guns were fitted, just heavy and light AA. German-type compartmentation was incorporated for better flood control, in response to the perceived weaknesses of past battlecruisers. For a ship of her size, her "throw weight" of ordnance in a set amount of time was below world standard, but any hit from her large-caliber shells would be impressively damaging. In a reversal of the trend to convert 'fast' battleships to carriers, an elongated Shokaku-class hull accommodated extra boilers for a then world-record 220,000 SHP. Aratama ("Violent Spirit") was not designed to stand alone, but be a "good companion" for carriers or cruisers, and thus earned the nickname "Geisha Battleship."
Aratama went on the Pearl Harbor raid and was the first capital ship to break through the Malay Barrier in Japan's drive to Ceylon. She was always by the side of Shokaku, even in death. Both were sunk in the great carrier battle off the Solomons. When Aratama's greater turning radius put her increasingly isolated from the rest of the twisting fleet she became an easy target to hit, but tough to sink, taking seven torpedoes and twelve bombs. As the fleet twisted back on itself, the battered Shokaku pulled alongside her "Geisha" and they both slowly sank together.