20 cm/12 short naval gun

The 20 cm/12 short naval gun was a naval gun used by the Imperial Japanese Navy to defend merchant ships and land bases during World War II.

20 cm/12 short naval gun
Artillery - War in the Pacific National Historical Park (Ga'an Point) - DSC00883.JPG
A 20 cm/12 short naval gun at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park (Ga'an Point), Agat, Guam, USA.
TypeNaval gun
Coastal artillery
Anti-aircraft gun
Anti-submarine gun
Place of origin Empire of Japan
Service history
In service1943-45
Used by Imperial Japanese Navy
WarsWorld War II
Production history
DesignerKure Naval Arsenal
ManufacturerKure Naval Arsenal[1]
No. built250[2]
MassTotal: 4,000 kg (8,800 lb)
Barrel: 630 kg (1,390 lb)
Barrel length2.43 m (8 ft) L/12[2]

ShellSeparate loading cased charges and projectile
Shell weight47–55 kg (103–122 lb)
Caliber203 mm (8 in)
BreechInterrupted screw
CarriageCenter pivot H/A L/A[3]
Elevation-15° to +75°
Rate of fire5 rounds per minute[2]
Muzzle velocity305 m/s (1,000 ft/s)
Effective firing range3,300 m (10,800 ft) at 75° AA
Maximum firing range6,300 m (20,700 ft) Horizontal[3]


Since Japan is an island nation with relatively few resources it relied upon a large merchant fleet to import the resources needed for its industry and economy. As Japanese shipping losses mounted during the latter half of World War II the Japanese began to organize their shipping into escorted convoys and they began arming their merchant ships to defend against attacks from Allied surface combatants, submarines and carrier-based aircraft. The 20 cm/12 short naval gun was a multi-purpose gun introduced during 1943 which combined the roles of naval gun, anti-aircraft gun, coastal defense gun, and anti-submarine gun.[3]


The 20 cm/12 short naval gun was an autofretted monoblock gun with an interrupted screw breech that fired separate loading cased charges and projectiles. The trunnioned gun barrel had a hydro-spring recoil mechanism above and below the barrel and was mounted on a center pivot H/A L/A gun mount.[3] The gun was normally mounted on merchant ships above 5,000 GRT and its large projectile would have been capable of destroying an enemy submarine making a surface attack.[2]

The gun also saw use on land as a coastal defense gun on hills overlooking Japanese harbors and installations or as an anti-aircraft gun. In the anti-aircraft role, a group of four guns shared a central range and height finder for barrage fire against level bombers.[3] It was described as heavy and its 8° a second elevation/traverse was considered slow so its ability to track small fast moving targets such as dive bombers, torpedo bombers, and fighters was probably limited. It is credited with being able to fire five rounds per minute but that is probably optimistic because the projectiles were heavy and the gun needed to be loaded at +10° between shots. [2]


The projectiles were propelled by a 2 kg (4 lb 7 oz) bagged charge inside a separate loading brass or steel cartridge case.[4] In addition to the types listed below there may have been anti-submarine, armor-piercing, illumination, and incendiary ammunition.

Type Length Weight Explosive weight Explosive
Anti-Aircraft 56 cm (1 ft 10 in) 55 kg (122 lb) ? Trinitroanisole[5]
High Explosive 56 cm (1 ft 10 in) 50 kg (111 lb) 12.9 kg (28 lb 8 oz) Trinitroanisole[6]
Incendiary-Shrapnel 56 cm (1 ft 10 in) 47 kg (103 lb) 14 kg (30 lb) ?[4]

Similar weaponsEdit

  • 12 cm/12 short naval gun - A similar Japanese anti-submarine gun which fired fixed QF ammunition.
  • BL 7.5-inch naval howitzer - A British anti-submarine gun used during the latter half of World War I.
  • 8 inch Mark 7 & Mark 8 - Two American anti-submarine guns designed late in World War I that never entered service.



  1. ^ "The Japanese short-barrelled 12cm and 20cm dual purpose naval guns. Their technical details, war-time distribution and surviving examples". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  2. ^ a b c d e Campbell, John (1985). Naval weapons of World War Two. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 199. ISBN 0870214594. OCLC 13085151.
  3. ^ a b c d e Japanese Artillery Weapons. United States Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas. 1945-07-01. p. 60. OCLC 51837610.
  4. ^ a b "Japan 20 cm/12 (8") Short Gun - NavWeaps". www.navweaps.com. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  5. ^ The Mobile Explosives Investigation Unit, no.4, United States Navy. (1945). Japanese projectiles & fuzes. p. 124. OCLC 220671983.
  6. ^ Department of the Army, United States (1953). Japanese explosive ordnance:army ammunition:navy ammunition, 1953. U.S. G.P.O. p. 506. OCLC 506057724.


  • Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.

External linksEdit