1945 Akizuki Class Destroyer, Item # BB-102
Reviewed July 2020
by Dan Kaplan
|By the mid-1930s, it was recognized in naval circles that
the rapid advance of military aircraft design would soon require improved
weaponry and some specialized ships to defend against them. The Japanese
took note of early plans to develop such a ship type by other navies, notably
the Royal Navy’s Dido class cruiser and the United States Navy’s Atlanta
class cruiser. The Japanese had their own plans to modify some existing
light cruisers of the Tenryu and the 5500ton class light cruisers, but
the obsolescence of these ships, coupled with budgetary restraints and
their navy’s emphasis on offensive-minded torpedo squadrons, rendered such
At the same time, design work had begun in 1935 on a successor to the 12.7cm 40cal HA (high angle) AA gun. Eventually known as the Type 98 10cm 65cal gun, it would be recognized as perhaps the Japanese Navy’s best secondary weapon design of the war. Adopted in 1939, it was a true dual-purpose gun, and highly regarded by the IJN.
By 1938, the foreseeable need for such a vessel had become pressing. Six vessels incorporating the new gun and a new, sizable hull were authorized under the Maru 4 building plan of 1939 as the Akizuki class destroyer. A further ten ships were authorized under the 1941 Additional Naval Armaments Supplemental programs. All six vessels of the first program and six vessels under the second program were completed. The remaining four vessels were cancelled, as were another sixteen vessels that were authorized but never laid down.
Construction of the first four ships began prior to the start of the
war, but all twelve vessels were completed during wartime. Later construction
featured some changes to fit and AA armament. The last four ships were
completed too late to see any meaningful action.
Designated the “B” type destroyer, the Akizukis utilized a longer (by 50 feet) and slightly wider hull displacing approximately 40% more than the concurrent “A” type destroyers (Asashio, Kagero and Yugumo classes). The powerplant and machinery remained the same as with the Type A destroyers: two propellers driven by two Kampon geared steam turbines fed by three boilers and producing 52,000shp. A slight change in the reduction gearing allowed for a slightly lower RPM. Top speed was 33 knots and the maximum range was 8000 nautical miles at 18 knots.
These new ships had a long forecastle and a larger bridge than previous destroyers. Though nominally three stories in height, the bridge was built two meters higher than the earlier types to provide better visibility over the superimposed B turret. It also incorporated the helm station on the compass bridge deck level, as opposed to the more common IJN practice of being located one deck lower. The bridge was topped by an open, air defense position and a modern Type 94 High Angle director for the forward main batteries. Another Type 94 HA director was to be emplaced on the aft deckhouse for the rear main batteries.
Eight of the Type 98 10cm/65cal guns were carried in twin mountings in four large, fully enclosed turrets, two forward and two aft, with B and C turrets superimposed over A and D turrets. The Japanese Naval General Staff insisted on a torpedo battery to provide for an offensive capability, so one shielded mount of four tubes carrying four 61cm Type 93 (Long Lance) torpedoes was situated amidships, along with one set of four reloads.
Defensively, two twin 25mm AA mounts equipped the initial ships, but changes to the AA fit came quickly. Triple mounts replacing the twins, and additional triple mounts were emplaced in port and starboard pairs opposite the bridge, funnel, and aft deck house. Production lags for the Type 94 HA directors led to its deletion from the rear position and replacement by yet another triple 25mm AA mount. By late in the war, numerous single 25mm AA mounts were added as well.
For ASW work, two athwartship depth charge racks and two Y throwers were installed aft of D turret. Six individual roll-off racks ringed the stern, three per side. As the war advanced, the single racks were replaced by the more typical, multi-charge roll off racks and a greater number of depth charges carried.
The first seven vessels laid down followed the original design and are known as the Akizuki group. Fuyuzuki became the lead ship of a slightly modified second group of four sisters. Originally identical to the first batch, this subgroup featured some simplifications of the design to aid and speed wartime production.
Most prominent of these new features was a simplified bow form below the waterline and a re-arrangement of the main engine room air intakes around the funnel with simplified ducts. There were also changes to the layout of torpedo trolley rails on the main deck, repositioned placements and bandstands for the triple 25mm AA mounts, and the elimination of the aft Type 94 HA main gun director. As mentioned, this director was replaced by another triple 25mm AA mount and bandstand. Some changes to the upper foremast to better accommodate new radars was also enacted. The rear of the bridge superstructure was also enlarged, to better accommodate a radar compartment.
The design of the last vessel was further simplified, and was considered
part of a third batch known as the Michitsuki group. Of these, only Hanazuki
was completed. Mitchitsuki’s construction was halted when 16% complete
and she was broken up after the war. The rest of the group was cancelled.
Though hers was a relatively short career, Fuyuzuki’s was eventful. Laid down in May, 1943 at the Maizuru Naval Arsenal, she was launched the following January and completed by the end of May, 1944, a fairly quick interval for construction. She was assigned to the 11th Destroyer Squadron for training, which included several forays as an escort for various small convoys.
On July 14, Fuyuzuki was assigned to the 41st DesDiv, 10th Destroyer Squadron of 3rd Fleet along with sister Shimotsuki. Convoy escort duty continued, mostly to and from Japanese home waters in the company of the light carrier Zuiho, which provided air cover for the various convoys.
In mid-October of 1944, she was torpedoed by USS Trepang while escorting light cruiser Oyodo in Japanese home waters. Hit by one torpedo, her bow collapsed back to number one turret, which also suffered some damage. Fuyuzuki was repaired at Kure and returned to duty in mid-November. As such, she missed participating on the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Fuyuzuku rejoined Shimozuki as part of DesDiv41 along with a second sister, Suzutsuki. Shimozuki was sunk a few days later by submarine torpedo. The reduced DesDiv 41 engaged in escort duty for Junyo; mostly to and from Manila between late November thorough mid-December. A brief refit took place at Kure in mid-December. Additional 25mm AA were added, the Type 21 radar atop the foremast was replaced by a Type 22, and a new Type 13 radar affixed to the mainmast. The division then engaged in training on the Inland Sea for the first three months of 1945, Fuyuzuki’s brief grounding upon a sandbar in mid-January notwithstanding.
In April, DesDiv 41 was tasked as part of the escort for battleship Yamato and light cruiser Yahagi for the Ten-Ichi Go Operation to eliminate US naval and landing forces off Okinawa. The task force was decimated by US naval aircraft before reaching its objective. Only four destroyers, all damaged to some extent, survived, including Fuyuzuki. She rescued hundreds of men, primarily from Yamato and destroyer Kasumi. She was also tasked with scuttling Kasumi with torpedoes.
Fortunately, Fuyuzuki had incurred only light damage and light losses, mostly due to strafing and some rockets, and was repaired at Sasebo Naval Base after her return.
She relocated to the port of Moji in early June, on the far west side of the Inland Sea, not far from Kure. Fuyuzuki remained there until Japan surrendered to the Allies on August 15th. Unluckily for her, she hit a mine five days later, severing her stern around her aftmost athwartship depth charge rack. The severed portion included her rudder and props, rendering her immovable.
Otherwise, she was in good condition. She was disarmed and designated
a special transport ship. The authorities used her as a floating repair
depot vessel to support minesweeping duties in the immediate postwar period.
Eventually, she was partially scrapped at Sasebo in 1948. The remnants
of the hull were subsequently used as part of a nearby breakwater, along
with the partial hulls of several other destroyers.
|This kit is the latest iteration of a 1/350 scale kit of Akizuki (1942)
that first appeared in 2008 under the Hobby Station label. I have had some
difficulty in researching the origins of this initial kit. This is just
my conjecture, but I suspect that the project was commissioned by a chain
of Japanese hobby shops known as Hobby Station, perhaps in conjunction
with, or with the design and/or production handled by Monochrome, as it
next appeared under the Monochrome label in 2009. (If anyone has additional
information, I’d welcome it.)
In turn, the Monochrome label represents a division of Trumpeter Models, meant for Japanese distribution. Between 2008 and 2011, Monochrome subsequently released a 1942 limited edition and a 1944 version of Akizuki, and then again as a kit of Suzutsuki 1945 with new parts, including a bridge structure specific to Suzutsuki.
In 2016, the kit re-appeared under the Wave label as an Akizuki 1942/44 kit, meaning that it contained parts for either fit. A new variant, Fuyuzuki, also with some new parts, was released in late 2017. The Hobby-Wave Corporation is a Japanese hobby designer and distributor, mostly of anime related items. I’m not sure if they have actually purchased the molds for this kit, or they are just acting as a new distributor. These kits remain the only styrene injection molded versions of an Akizuki class destroyer to appear in 1/350.
The Fuyuzuki kit is very sharply molded in a light gray styrene plastic. Various sprues are protected by styrene foam. There are eleven spruces plus hull, base, forecastle and main deck. The kit totals approximately 320 pieces, plus a small PE fret and decal sheet. There is a small amount of flash on a few pieces (on the older sprues from the original kits), but no sinkholes appeared on my review sample.
The kit is labeled as a 1945 version, but one aspect of its fit is really more appropriate for 1944. It could conceivably be used to represent any of the four sisters in Fuyuzuki subgroup. I happened to have a Hobby Station Akizuki 1942 and a Monochrome Akizuki 1944 in the stash, so comparisons could be made.
|The hull comes as a one-piece full hull, packaged in its own polybag with foam wrapped around the bow for protection. The molding is very sharp and crisp. This aspect shows particularly well at the bow, on the bilge keels, and at the stern waterline knuckle. The fineness of the bow is superb. A properly shaped bullnose, recessed hawseholes for the anchors, a degaussing cable with brackets, and portholes with eyebrows complete the hull detail. The porthole recesses are sharp, and each has an eyebrow that is concise and properly scaled.|
|There are no hull plating lines, though a raised waterline seam is provided for. The bow form and silhouette are near perfect for a late war ship. This makes for an interesting comparison with the bow used for the Akizuki kit, which is correct for the first batch of vessels. Apparently, Monochrome took the step of molding a late war bow and hull for its Suzutsuki release. Suzutsuki lost its original bow in January, 1944, which was replaced by another with the simplified curves. This version is what’s been used for the Fuyuzuki kit.|
|Know that the Fuyuzuki batch of ships were built with significantly less portholes and a slightly different shape to the degaussing cable around the area of the forecastle break. The earlier Akizukis also had most of their portholes plated over by late war. I’m not sure I understand why, if Monochrome created a new kit hull, the portholes weren’t covered as well. (see additional comments under “Photo Etch” later in the review.) Fortunately, the unnecessary portholes can be sealed or covered over, and the differences in shape to the cable for the Fuyuzuki batch of vessels is minor.|
|The only real knock against the hull is that there are some noticeable mold seam lines on the underwater portion of the hull ahead of, and to a lesser extent aft of, the bilge keels. Sanding can correct that.|
The hull scales out as well as can hoped for. Fuyuzuki’ s particulars versus the scale and kit:
|This piece is common to all of the Akizuki class kit versions. It’s
sharply molded with metal deck treading, linoleum tie-downs, bollards,
spurnwaters, holes for deck ventilators as well as recesses for various
hawser reels. There’s also holes for a breakwater, capstan, and raised
outlines meant to anchor the base of superimposed turret number two as
well as the bridge. Hawseholes, anchor chains, and retaining chains complete
Surprisingly, there is no base ring or reinforced deck plate for A turret, which is mounted directly on top of the deck in the kit. I think there’s supposed to be a ring there, though it would be hidden by the turret. Everything else is clearly delineated.
|This is a new main deck piece, specific to the Fuyuzuki batch of vessels.
It differs from the Akizuki deck in that the track of the torpedo trolley
rails is flipped around in their placement around the torpedo mount. I
believe it was thought to simplify handling or movement on deck.
This is a simple looking piece, devoid of any standing structures so
as to enable easier painting. Like the forecastle deck, it’s sharply but
subtly detailed, with more metal deck treading, linoleum tie-down strips,
spurnwaters, hatches, engine room skylights, rails for the torpedo trolley,
one molded-on hawser reel (medium), the base for the torpedo tube mount,
a raised section to anchor the aft deckhouse, and rails leading to roll-off
depth charge racks at the stern. As with the foredeck, there’s no base
ring for D turret.
|Sprue A x2|
|This is a large sprue, and is carried over from the Akizuki 1942/1944 kits. It contains the components for two of the main battery mounts including a Model A turret, a turret base and two paired sets of Type 98 10cm/65cal barrels and elevation mounts, two of the four Long Lance torpedo warheads for placement in the quad torpedo tube mount, an anchor, one “Y” depth charge thrower, a paravane, hawser reels and mushroom deck vents of varying sizes, auxiliary air intake vents for the engine room, boat chocks, styrene access ladders, one of two athwartship depth charge racks, molded depth charges for it, caps that allow the turrets to rotate, optical equipment for the bridge, life rings, propeller guards, the Type 94 HA (high angle) director for the main battery, a 9m cutter, davits for a 9m cutter, parts for a 9m motor launch, two full Type 93 Long Lance torpedoes, some lumber for emergency flotation, and a few pieces I can’t identify. One numerous item (A20) resembles an oil drum.|
|All the pieces are sharply molded. The muzzles of the main guns are opened up slightly, the Type 94 HA director is crisply shaped, and the turrets are notable in both their correct shape and riveted surfaces that appear in scale .However, the covered ventilation ports that were placed three to each side of the turret are mis-shaped. They should be round, flatter and less prominent. In fact, just like the ones on the top of the turret. Some sanding should remedy that flaw.|
|More confusing is the presence of the aforementioned part A20. I have no idea what these are for. The instructions indicate their placement all over the stern of both early war and late war versions of these kits. No such equipment was placed on the actual ships. Ironically, the color photos of the kit that accompany the instructions clearly shows the completed kit WITHOUT these pieces attached.|
|I was thinking that, perhaps, they might have been improperly shaped 25mm ammo boxes for the single 25mm AA guns, except that the kit already provides some proper ammo boxes. Not to mention that no single 25mm guns appeared on an early war fit ship. They seem to be too small for an oil drum. I just don’t know what they might be.|
|This is another large sprue carried over from previous
Akizuki class kits. On it: the quadruple torpedo tube mount and shield,
the front facia of the bridge, the AA command position/roof of the compass
bridge level, both propeller shafts, both propellers (each angled to turn
in opposite directions), the propeller shaft brackets, the rudder, the
component bulkheads and top for the raised base for superimposed B turret,
the top to the quadruple torpedo storage bay, some RDF loops and small
rangefinders, torpedo handling davits, a torpedo trolley, a deck winch,
the breakwater, the base to the Type 94 HA director, the 90cm searchlight,
the funnel cap/grill, the galley pipe, the pieces tor the small mainmast
(including a proper X shaped set of yardarms) meant for the early batch
of sisters, a maneuvering light array, the bulkhead under the forecastle
deck break, and a handful of other small pieces of equipment.
Again, the quality of the moldings is very high. The funnel grill is extremely nice for styrene, though not quite as airy as a photoetched version. The bridge facing has open window frames up at the compass bridge deck level. There’s a little flash on the torpedo tube mount shield, but the shape and detailing of the piece, including rivets, is superb. Ditto some flash on the torpedo tubes themselves. The mainmast is an early war type and not used on this particular kit.
|This sprue is meant for the late war ships, both the Akizuki and Fuyuzuki batches. Most of the components are dedicated to the rather complicated foremast, which has upper and lower assemblies. The only other piece is a bandstand for a triple 25mm AA mount set atop the location of the rear Type 94 HA director that was planned for these ships.|
|Sprue F x 2|
|This is another late war sprue, good for either batch of vessels. This
is comprised of single and triple 25mm AA guns. The triples come with a
separate base. Also placed on the sprue is a small mushroom deck vent and
a Type 13 radar meant for the aft mast.
The guns are nice, though better versions in styrene, brass/resin, and 3D printed have appeared since these were tooled in 2008. They maybe a little short in length. The radar is nice for styrene, but a photoetch version would certainly improve appearances in this scale.
|Sprue G x 2|
|This is a small sprue carried over from the Akizuki kits. Deck vents, depth charge handling davits, 25mm ammo boxes, a twin 25mm AA gun and mount are among the pieces here. The twin 25mm mount isn’t used in this kit, but my comments regarding the single and triples apply here as well.|
|The last of the large sprues, and one that is dedicated
the Fuyuzuki kit. On it, one will find both halves of the revised funnel,
two different bandstands for the 25mm AA, the bulkheads and top of the
aft deckhouse/torpedo bay storage, both sides of the bridge structure,
housings for various large air intakes for the engine rooms, ancillary
piping for the funnel, some AA bandstand support columns, portions of the
searchlight tower base, two halves that comprise the torpedo reload gantry
girder, and the tripod legs that make up a late war main mast.
As with the other sprues, the details are very sharp.
|This is a sprue for late war fits, first seen in the Suzutsuki kit.
Composed of only a few pieces, there is the rear bulkhead for the bridge
as well as the large compartment extension used to house the radar operators
that filled in the lower back of the bridge. Also included are the short
remnants of what was a massive internal tripod that supported the Type
94 HA director atop the bridge; most of which was covered up by the new
compartment. Lastly, there are two AA bandstands and column supports mounted
to either side of the bridge in the Fuyuzuki batch of ships
|The last of the sprues, this too is a sprue for late war fits, also
first seen in the Akizuki 1944 kit. Here, only the compass bridge deck
and Type 21 radar are used. Unused for this kit are two AA bandstands and
supports mounted to either side of the funnel in the Akizuki batch of ships,
along with an ancillary pipe.
The Type 21 radar is correct for Fuyuzuki in her as commissioned 1944 fit, but for 1945 and the Ten-Ichi Go operation, she had replaced this radar with a horn-like Type 22 radar. That piece is not included with the kit, and would have to be obtained elsewhere. As with the Type 13 radar, a photoetched version of the Type 21 would greatly improve its appearance.
Regarding fit: This is probably a good time to mention that there are no long, bulwark-like splinter shields included for the single 25mm AA guns. She would have worn neither single 25mm AA nor splinter shields at her commissioning, but these were installed by the time of her sortie with Yamato on the Ten-Ichi Go operation.
|The kit comes with a one -piece, molded styrene base in brown. It’s reminiscent of lateral keel blocks (if there is such a thing) placed in a dry dock.|
|The kit comes with a small fret of brass photoetch that has been included with all the class kits. Most welcome are replacement frames for the two athwartship depth charge racks, plus internal dividers and hatches to reconfigure the torpedo reload storage bay in its open configuration, with the kit supplied torpedoes. Also included are some vertical access ladders, lookout positions for atop the bridge, splinter shields for the triple 25mm AA mounts, and what appears to be round covers or fillers for the portholes on a late war ship. Strangely, no mention of these last items are listed anywhere in the instructions.|
|There is one small sheet, carried over from the Wave Akizuki 1942/1944 sheet. It’s very nicely printed with no registration issues. However, only applicable to this kit are the flags. The ship’s name rendered in Katakana style characters is for Akizuki.|
|This is a 12-page booklet printed on glossy paper. The box art is reproduced, there’s two pages devoted to the sprue compositions, plus some seven pages of exploded, three-point perspective assembly instructions, and two pages of full color devoted to painting the ship. The paints are keyed to the Mr. Hobby Acrysion Color line from GSI Creos. The instructions are very straightforward.|
A handsome, balanced design, the availability of the Akizuki class in 1/350 scale makes it very attractive to modelers. The release of a late war Fuyuzuki kit essentially completes the 1/350 offerings of the class. One thing that has always, and continues to, impress me about this kit is the sharpness of the molding. It was great upon the original release, and does not seems to have deteriorated at all, some flash on the older sprues notwithstanding. The few flaws are all easily correctable.
The official retail price is 6000 yen, about $57. However, there seems to be limited availability in the US, so shipping from overseas will add to the overall cost. Sample kit courtesy of Hobbylink Japan.
of Dan Kaplan's work.