One of the characteristics of the years leading into World War One was the frenzied pace of battleship construction by almost every navy of any size in the world. When the World War started, new capital ship construction ceased as the resources were transferred to projects that could be completed quicker than the long building time of a battleship. At the end of most wars of any size, there is a retrenchment, a reduction in the size of the naval budgets but not so with the major powers that were among the victors of World War One.
The United States kept designing and building battleships during the war, in part because the USA was not in the war until 1917 and in part because the country had the wealth and industry to continue building battleships as well as all of the other projects required by the war. The Imperial Japanese Navy was not content to stand still a see their most likely future adversary grow unchallenged.
The Japanese answer was the 8-8 Program comprising eight battleships and eight battlecruisers of record shattering size and power. The first installment in this program were the two battleships, Nagato and Mutsu. Laid down in 1917 and 1918, they were the first battleships to mount the sixteen-inch gun and were true "fast battleships" capable of 25 to 26 knots. They accelerated a trend seen in earlier Japanese designs, the building of battleships that were larger, faster and better armed than any other contemporary design.
The end of the war only saw the tempo of construction increase in the US and Japan and the realization by Great Britain, drained by four years of intensive and incredibly destructive warfare, that to keep up with her former allies, she too would have to join another battleship building frenzy. Japanís next two battleships were the Kaga and Tosa, laid down in 1920. Designed for 39,33000 tons normal load with ten sixteen-inch guns and 26 Ĺ knots, they were refinements of the Nagato class. The first four battlecruisers of the 8-8 Program were also started in 1920-21, the Amagi, Akagi, Atago and Takao were to be 41,217 ton normal load, 30 knot designs carrying 10 sixteen-inch guns. The next four battlecruisers were more fast editions of the Tosa Class battleships of 42,600 tons normal displacement, again mounting 10 sixteen-inch guns with a speed of 29 ĺ knots. They were given the numbers 9 through twelve but two were named. Kii was number 9 and Owari was number 10.
The last four ships in the program were the true behemoths of the plan. Four battleships of unprecedented size and strength, designed by Admiral Hiraga, who had designed the Nagato Class. These four, designated numbers 13 through 16, were to be 915 feet long and displace 47,500 tons normal load. With a machine plant producing 150,000 shp, they would be capable of 30 knot speed. They designed to mount eight eighteen-inch/45 guns with a secondary of 16 5.5-inch/50 in casemates and four 5-inch AA guns in open mounts. Lastly they were to be equipped with eight 24-inch above water torpedo tubes in fixed positions in the hull. They were to be laid down in 1922 and completed in 1927. With the Washington Treaty they were stillborn and were cancelled. Of the 8-8 program only the two Nagatos remained as battleships, with Akagi and Kaga being finished as large carriers.
The very large hull (not surprising since the design was 915 feet oa) is very clean with no warp and no bubbles or voids other on the bottom of the casting. Absolutely no cleanup is needed for the hull. The breakwater is a trifle thick but the shielding for the five-inch AA gun positions has a very nice thinness. There are certain fine details cast integrally with the hull, including the bow chrysanthemum, paravanes and ventilator fittings. The hull casting even has a see-through sternwalk, that only requires a little work to open it up. There are bollard plates but you will have to add the posts from the plastic rod included in the kit, although it would be preferable to use a smaller diameter rod.. No portholes are indicated on the hull or superstructure sides, so they will have to be drilled by the modeler with a pin vice or painted/inked in. Anchor chain will have to be provided by the modeler, along with any smaller detail that the modeler wishes to add. The most significant parts not provided in the kit that will have to be added are the four five-inch AA guns. IHP recommends using the Skywave/Pitroad detail sets for these, as well as boats, anchors, searchlights, small guns and other parts. However, deck detail is more comprehensive than the details shown in the plans shown in either Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy 1869-1945 by Jentschura, Jung and Mickel, or Battleships and Battle Cruisers 1905-1970 by Siegfried Breyer.
The four turrets are one piece castings of turrets and guns. The stack is one piece with a solid cap. The other twelve pieces in the kit are found on two resin runners. Remarkably, all pieces were clean and free of flash, requiring only a minimal cleaning before assembly. Three plastic rods of two diameters are provided for the hexapod pagoda foremast and tripod mainmast. The detail on the smaller parts is satisfactory. The basic shapes are there with detail to be added by the modeler. As an example the bridge has raised bridge windows, rather than inset ones. The kit contains no photo-etch, so railing and other items should be acquired from a third party, if desired.
The only exceptions that I found about the fine finish were the six positioning holes of the various deck/platform levels of the pagoda. The instructions state, "You may have to adjust the holes in the superstructure levels to make everything fit properly. Some trial and error will be necessary." That statement is most certainly correct. After cutting the six legs for the hexapod pagoda, I dry fit the multiple levels with the legs. Some positioning holes will have to be moved to get the proper tapering pagoda. The pagoda masts of this period were a series of platforms attached to a very substantial tripod, or in the case of Nagato and Project Nos 13-16 hexapod. Many levels did not touch the higher or lower levels. The pagodas only became solid with later refits when open areas were enclosed. Getting the right taper to the hexapod and fit of the various platforms should be the only significant challenge to building this kit. Although not for the beginner, it appears to be well within the talents of the average modeler and only requires patience in the fitting process.
With patience and care, especially with the pagoda alignment and platforms fit, the average modeler should be capable of building this large and striking design. Imperial Hobby Productions has a limited edition of this kit available in December 2002.