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IJN Kongo Battlecruiser / Battleship (1913)

Authored By JR Potts, AUS 173d AB | Last Updated: 7/31/2014

The IJN Kongo was sunk by the USS Sealion in 1944, marking the last time a battleship was sunk by a submarine in naval history.

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In 1911 the Imperial Japanese Diet (Teikoku-gikai) passed funds to support the Naval Emergency Expansion Bill that authorized the design and construction of a battleship and four battlecruisers. Due to a lack of port facilities and big guns in Japan proper, the Japanese navy approached Great Britain and Sir George Thurston to propose blueprints of a battlecruiser to be built in England for the Pacific nation. An agreement was reached and the keel to what would become the IJN Kongo was laid down on January 17th, 1911, at the Vickers shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria and she would be formally commissioned in August of 1913.

The IJN Kongo was first of a class of four-strong 26,230 ton battlecruisers for Japan and the last major Japanese warship to be built out of the country - the other three would be built in Japan. She was the first ship in the Japanese navy - and the world - to feature 14-inch (356mm) main guns and four dual-mounted turrets, two held forward and two aft. This arraignment allowed a full complement of 8 x big guns to engage a target in unison. As built, the secondary armament were sixteen single-mounted 6-inch (152mm) guns with eight located to port and eight to starboard. Anti-aircraft protection was 8 x 3-inch (76mm) guns in single mounts, these evenly divided around the ship deck structure. As in most capital ships of the day, the Kongo was fitted with 8 x 21-inch (533mm) torpedo tubes in mounts of four on each side of the ship.

As mentioned, the three remaining ships of the Kongo-class were built in Japan using the blueprints of the original. Next in line came the IJN Hiei in 1914 followed by the IJN Haruna and the IJN Kirishima, both of these in 1915 and all three built at local Japanese shipyards. Each was completed with a small bridge and two identifiable tripod masts. The ships sported three funnels and a sleek profile. Interestingly, the Vickers design supported the present-day methodology of the battlecruiser as having heavy armament, a high maximum speed and limited armor protection. The armor protection used in 1913 was 23.3 % of the ship's total weight and she was built to take fire from 14-inch enemy shells at ranges up to 21,900 yards. Her overall firepower made the IJN Kongo, and her class, some of the most formidable ships in the world at the time.

The British appreciated the Kongo design to the point that the Lion-class of battlecruisers and her lead ship - the HMS Tiger - were thought to have been influenced by the Japanese design. The British knew war was coming to Europe and contacted the Japanese to lease the Kongo and her sister ships, however, Japan politely declined. On August 3rd, 1914 the German Empire declared war and, within days, the Japanese government demanded that Germany remove their troops from Tsingtao. Germany refused and Japan declared war against the German Empire on August 23rd and subsequently attacked and took the German island possessions in the Marshalls, Caroline, and Mariana Islands and the stronghold islands of the Palau group. Kongo and Hiei, assigned to the First Battleship Division, were directed to support Japanese troops by patrolling the Chinese coast. Kongo spent World War 1 at the Naval base at Sasebo or on patrol along the Chinese coast.


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Specifications for the
IJN Kongo
Battlecruiser / Battleship


Country of Origin: Imperial Japan
Initial Year of Service: 1913
Operators: Imperial Japan


Crew: 1,201


Length: 692.3ft (211.01m)
Beam: 91.7ft (27.95m)
Draught: 27.5ft (8.38m)
Displacement: 26,230tons


Machinery: (1913) 4 x Shaft Parsons Turbines; (1924) 4 x Shaft Parsons turbines; 10 x boilers; (1937) 4 x Shaft Parsons turbines; 8 x boilers.

Surface Speed: 27.5kts (32mph)
Range: 9,206miles (14,816km)


Armament:
1913:
8 x 14" /45 caliber (356mm) Mk I main guns (4x2)
16 x 6" /50 caliber (152mm) guns (16x1)
8 x 3" /40 caliber (76mm) Dual-Purpose guns (8x1)
4 x 6.5mm anti-aircraft machine guns

1924:
8 x 14" /45 caliber (356) Mk I main guns (4x2)
16 x 6" /50 caliber (152mm) guns (16x1)
4 x 3" /40 caliber (76mm) Dual-Purpose guns
4 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes (16 x torpedoes)

1937:
8 x 14" /45 caliber (356mm) Mk I main guns (4x2)
14 x 6" /50 caliber (152mm) guns (14x1)
4 x 3" /40 caliber (127mm) Dual-Purpose guns (4x2).
8 x anti-aircraft machine guns

1944:
8 x 14" /45 caliber (356mm) Mk I main guns (4x2)
8 x 6" /50 caliber (152mm) guns (14x1)
8 x 5" /40 caliber (127mm) Dual-Purpose guns (4x2).
122 x 25mm Type 96 anti-aircraft autocannons


Air Arm: None as built. Three floatplanes from 1924 onwards.


Ship Class: Kongo-class
Number-in-Class: 4
Ships-in-Class: IJN Kongo; IJN Hiei; IJN Haruna; IJN Kirishima