Weapons

The biggest naval guns ever.

Big Guns: 9 x 46cm (18,1 inch) main guns called '16 inch specials' to confuse the enemy
Secondary Guns: 6 x 15,5cm (6,1 inch) secondary guns that could fire up to 17 miles.
Anti-Aircraft Guns: 24 x 12.7 cm, 162 x 25 mm AA, 4 x 13 mm AA
Airplanes: Seven floatplanes

Big Guns

Yamatos 18 inch guns fired 1500kg shells to 40 kilometers away shattering enemy ships in piecesYamato's nine main guns, mounted in three turrets, were the largest to ever crown a warship. They fired shells 18 inches (46 cm) in diameter, and each armour piercing shell weighed as much as a small car. They also could strike at an unprecedented range of 25 miles (40 km). Ironically, while designed to sink enemy battleships, they were never tested against one. Yamato fought allied ships only once, in the battle of Samar Gulf, where she sank one American escort and one destroyer with other ships form the Japanese force A. For her final mission, the imperial navy swapped out some armor piercing projectiles for incendiary, anti-aircraft shells, but Yamato's guns were still ill equipped for aerial warfare.

It's pretty widely known fact that Yamato's guns were the biggest on a warship ever. However, did you know that the Brits built almost equal size gun on HMS Furious already twenty years before? An 18 inch gun - just a tenth-of-an-inch smaller, was mounted. It was never really used since the ships hull couldn't take the impact and HMS Furious was eventually turned into an aircraft carrier.

One fascinating factor about the ammunition: since Japan suffered heavy losses in her naval aviation community early in the war, capital ships were expected to provide their own defense against allied aircraft. As a result of this, the 18-inch gun was provided with an anti- aircraft shell of its own, called "San Shiki" (the Beehive) Model 13. This round weighed 2,998 pounds and was filled with 900 incendiary tubes (of rubber thermite) and 600 steel stays. A time fuze was supplied, set before firing, that went off at a predetermined altitude and when the fuze functioned, the explosive and metal contents burst in a cone extending 20 degrees forward, towards the oncoming aircraft. Instantly after detonating, the projectile shell itself was destroyed by a bursting charge, increasing the quantity of steel splinters. The incendiary tubes ignited about half a second later and burned for five seconds at 3000 degrees C, producing a flame about 16 feet long.



Due to the enormous size of the guns, all AA-guns had to be protected from the blast, which would blow off anybody's skin wihin 15 meter radius.


Part of the crew gathered in front of the main guns. The blast of the 18,1 inch main gun would blow off anybody's skin wihin 15 meter radius. The AA guns were especially protected against the blast.


Each gun turret weighed more than an entire American destroyer. A single turret was about 3000 tons, while for example the whole USS Hoel (dd-533), a Fletcher-class destroyer, weighted 2100 tons.

Musashi big guns Yamatos main turret
Big guns from Musashi, another Yamato class battleship. (left)
Big guns from Yamato itself. (right)

Yamatos main guns
Yamatos 18 inch main guns rebuilt in 1/1 scale. Crewmembers are visible giving an idea of the size of the guns. Scene from the movie Otokotachi no Yamato.

Yamatos larger than life guns were the biggest ever mounted on a warship
Placement of the big guns as seen in the model built in Yamato Museum, Kure, Japan.


A submarine examining one of the giant gaping holes where the main guns were mounted.

Top view of the superguns



18 inch shell in the Yamato museum in Kure, Japan. One of these shells weighed 3218 pounds, 1460 kilograms, if it was an armor piercing shell. Normal shell weighed 2998 pounds, 1360 kilograms. And yes, these could be shot against enemies 25 miles, 40 kilometers away. However, shells had a very long fuse delay and were disappointing in service. They tended to pass through the target before exploding!

Secondary Guns

While dwarfed by the main artillery, Yamato's secondary guns were still impressive. Her six inch guns - that is, guns firing shells six inches in diameter, had a range of 17 miles (27 kilometers). And her 24 five inch guns, mounted in 12 turrets, could destroy targets nine miles away. The secondary guns had one significant advantage over the main artillery: they could shoot more rounds per minute. It took more than 40 seconds to reload the main guns, an interminable time during an air attack.

Yamato secondary guns had much faster rate of fire

Yamatos secondary guns   Yamatos secondary guns   Yamatos secondary guns
Secondary guns rebuilt for the model used in the filming of Otokotachi no Yamato.

Anti-Aircraft Guns

When first outfitted in 1941, Yamato had only 24 small anti-aircraft (AA) machine guns. By April 1945, anticipating an onslaught of Allied planes, the Imperial Navy armed Yamato with more than 150 machine guns, most in triple-mounted turrets. The majority of the guns shot 220 rounds per minute, but a few stationed at the tower bridge fired at twice this rate. Unlike the heavier artillery, the machine guns could tilt at 90-degree angles to aim at planes directly overhead. But the crews manning these guns were among the most vulnerable to direct enemy fire.

Yamatos AA guns were all in use during the last battle in the operation Ten-Go 

Yamatos AA guns were all in use during the last battle in the operation Ten-Go Yamatos AA guns were all in use during the last battle in the operation Ten-Go
Placement of the AA guns as seen from a Yamato model in the Yamato Museum at Kure, Japan. (left)
Photo of a shielded Type 89 12.7cm Musashi AA gun pattern (right)

Yamatos AA guns were all in use during the last battle in the operation Ten-Go. Type 96 25mm AA machine gun.  Yamatos AA guns were all in use during the last battle in the operation Ten-Go. Type 96 25mm AA machine gun.  Yamatos AA guns were all in use during the last battle in the operation Ten-Go. Type 96 25mm AA machine gun.
The Type 96 25mm AA guns are rebuilt in real size for the filming of the movie Otokotachi no Yamato.

Placement of Guns

Placement of Yamato's guns

Airplanes - Aichi El3A Jakes

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