- Payne, Alan
- Naval technology
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1978 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
IN 1905 JAPAN, WITH HER VICTORY over the Russian Pacific and Baltic Fleets, had become the major naval power in the Pacific. When HMS Dreadnought was launched in February 1906, Japan decided to build her own Dreadnoughts. But progress was very slow.
The first new battleship, the Aki, laid down in 1906 proved to be one of the first turbine driven battleships, but was only a Semi-Dreadnought having a main armament of four 12-inch and ten 10-inch guns. Construction was very slow and the Aki was not completed until 1911.
It was not until January 1909 that Japan laid down the first of the many Dreadnoughts built in Japan. The first two were the Kawachi and Settsu of 21,000 tons armed with twelve 12-inch guns, the designed speed being 20½ knots.
In 1909 the Japanese decided to build four battle cruisers and at first considered an improved version of the British Invincible class, but before the information became available the Japanese produced their own design, which was simply a fast Aki with a mixed main armament. Then in November 1909 the first of a new class of more heavily armed British battle cruisers was laid down.
This was the Lion, to be followed by the Princess Royal in May 1910 at Vickers, Barrow.
The Japanese Navy was now forced to scrap their own design and decided to seek the technical co-operation of the Admiralty, and transformed their original idea of a 19,000 ton ship to a modified Lion of 27,500 tons. As Japan and Britain had a treaty of alliance at that time, the Admiralty was able to give considerable technical assistance to the Japanese.
The Japanese ordered the Kongo from a British shipyard in order to obtain the best possible design, and also to give the constructors in the naval and private yards in Japan the opportunity to study the latest building and design techniques of the foremost naval power in the world. At the time the order was placed in October 1910 with Vickers, the Japanese had only just launched their first Dreadnought. The Japanese had a lot to learn in the art of building and designing battleships, they knew that in 1905 all Admiral Togo’s battleships had been constructed in foreign shipyards.
The Japanese were extremely lucky with their first battle cruisers. The Kongos were the most powerful and effective class of battle cruisers designed before the 1914 war. Kongo was designed by Sir George Thurston, a brilliant designer, and built by Vickers as the prototype of four sister ships, the other three being built in Japan. Later the Admiralty was forced to admit that the Kongo design was superior to the Lion and they therefore redesigned the fourth ship of the class, the Tiger. But at no time did the Admiralty ever admit that the Tiger’s design was in any way connected with the Kongo.
Jane’s Fighting Ships is not so reticent about the connection – ‘Comparison between the Lion and Kongo designs showed the Japanese ship to be superior in armament and protection. Work was suspended on the Tiger and her design was altered to embody certain improvements displayed by the Kongo. These alterations resulted in the Tiger being one and a half years on the stocks before launching.’ It is a fact that the other three battle cruisers spent only twelve months or less on the stocks. Tiger should have been launched in June 1913, which was only a month before the Kongo ran her trials.
Although Tiger had the same waterline as the Lion her normal displacement was 2,000 tons more, due partly to the beam of the Tiger being increased two feet to 90’6″. Sir George Thurston was a great believer in having the maximum beam possible and gave Kongo 92’0″ or 1’6″ more than Tiger. As the latter’s waterline length was 698’0″ she was 2’6″ longer than the Kongo and consequently had a finer underwater form. Tiger had considerably more power than Kongo and was therefore faster, but she had a much higher fuel consumption.
There was a striking difference of appearance between Lion and Tiger, as the latter had three funnels equally spaced with X turret immediately aft of the third funnel. In Lion the third or Q turret was situated amidships between the second and third funnels. Tiger and Kongo were similar in appearance with the same arrangement of main armament, the main difference was that Kongo had a tripod mast between the second and third funnels. On the whole the Tiger was a more impressive looking ship and appeared more than a thousand tons heavier.
The main particulars of the Kongo class are given below:
|Length over all
|Length on waterline
|Normal Displacement (tons)
|Designed shaft horse power
|Designed Speed (kts)
|8 x 14″guns
Eight 21″ submerged torpedo tubes
|8 x 13.5″guns
Four 21″ submerged torpedo tubes
|8,000 miles at 14 knots