by Dan Kaplan
|At the outset of the 20th century, the rapidly modernizing
Imperial Japanese Navy devoted itself to creating a superior navy to defend
its interests, based on the concept of a “decisive battle”, particularly
against its emerging rival in the Pacific, the United States. Its
subsequent Eight-Eight plan placed primary emphasis on capital ships (eight
battlecruisers and eight battleships) and dictated the direction of Japanese
naval expansion until the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 limited its capital
ship programs to 60% of those of Great Britain and the United States.
This percentage was deemed inadequate by the Japanese for their purposes,
as 70% was thought to enable parity with the United States, whose own fleet
was required to defend two coasts.
A revised approach to the IJN’s decisive battle doctrine emerged as a result of these new limitations. Coupled with an emerging recognition of the significantly greater industrial capacity of the United States, this revision placed a new emphasis on the qualitative superiority of individual ships, superior weaponry that could engage at longer ranges than the enemy, the greater inclusion of lesser but still highly capable ship types arrayed in a layered offense to engage the enemy prior to major battle between capital ships, and a greater emphasis on the training of its sailors in appropriate tactics, particularly at night. All these factors were felt to work to Japan’s advantage in that an approaching enemy force could be whittled down through repeated forms of attack as it approached Japanese possessions and territories. This doctrine drove Japanese naval expansion throughout the rest of the 1920s, 1930s, and into the Pacific War, until rapid technological advances in US and Allied weaponry, equipment, detection, production and logistics overwhelmed the Japanese and rendered their doctrine obsolete.
One of the cornerstones of the revised doctrine was massed torpedo attack, particularly at night, by squadrons of heavily armed, high speed destroyers with torpedoes of greater range, speed and warhead size than those of other countries. Accordingly, much attention was given over to new destroyer design.
Beginning with the Fubuki class destroyers, each succeeding class through to the Yugumo class incorporated incremental improvements in performance, range, and the size of their respective torpedo batteries utilizing 24” diameter torpedoes, particularly the oxygen powered Type 93 (i.e. the Long Lance), the most powerful torpedo in the world at that time. Further attention was paid to torpedo reloads and rapid reload machinery.
Renewed naval expansion plans on the part of the United States in 1939-40 included new, larger, more heavily armed, and higher speed battleships. The Japanese realized that their destroyer squadrons would require still faster and more powerfully armed ships to cope with this new threat, and began designing a new destroyer class, Type “C”, to meet this need. Shimakaze (Island Wind ) was the result.
|Often described as an experimental ship (or, as the lead
ship of a planned 32 sisters, later cut to 16 vessels), she was really
a prototype design incorporated new, higher temperature/pressure boilers,
new turbines, and a bow form with a full forefoot to generate greater speed.
The new boilers operated at 40kg/cm2, 400*C, whereas the previous Kagero
and Yugumo classes operated at 30kg/cm2, 350*C.
These boilers had been previously installed in the Kagero class destroyer Amatsukaze, so they weren’t strictly experimental. They had performed satisfactorily; when coupled to the turbines typically carried by that class, they generated the class typical 52,000shp and a maximum speed of 35 knots. However, for the Type “C” class, a new, more powerful set of turbines capable of 75,000shp were installed for the first time in a Japanese destroyer. Together with the new boilers, a design speed of 39 knots was expected.
On sea trials in May, 1943, Shimakaze generated 75,850shp for a speed of 40.37 knots on a trials displacement of 2,921 tons. As part of the trials, she was also tested at an engine overboost of 105%, generating 79,240shp and a speed of 40.9 knots, the fastest speed ever attained by a Japanese destroyer, and among the fastest of all the world’s destroyers at that time.
To perform her primary role, Shimakaze carried a unique arrangement of fifteen 61cm/24” diameter oxygen powered “Long Lance” torpedoes, arrayed in three quintuple tube mounts covered with light metal, turret-like shielding. The Type 93 Long Lance torpedo was enormous: 9m/29.5ft. long, with a half ton warhead and weighing almost 3 tons apiece. The top weight generated by the enormous number of torpedoes and their mounts meant that reloads could not be carried without greatly affecting stability, so torpedo reloads and rapid reload equipment was dispensed with.
Japanese torpedo doctrine of the time posited that a broadside of nine torpedoes (as seen first in the Fubuki class and later revised to eight) should yield between one to three hits, depending on range to the target and speed of the torpedo. With the Shimakaze design, it was felt that a broadside nearly double in number would not only increase the likelihood of hits, but also the percentage of hits. Accordingly, reloads could be dispensed with as virtually the entire torpedo load of a typical Japanese destroyer was being delivered in one salvo instead of two. Or, seen another way, the equivalent of the initial torpedo salvos of two destroyers.
When launched, Shimakaze carried armament typical of Japanese first class, or Type “A”, destroyers: six 12.7cm 50cal guns in three new model Type D turrets, two triple 25mm guns mounted on a raised platform to either side of #2 funnel and a twin 13mm light AA mounted on a small raised platform in front of the bridge. Roll off racks and a “Y’ gun for depth charges were also installed. Upgrades to her AA suite came later on in the war.
Shimakaze carried herself on a displacement about 20% larger than prior destroyers, with an extra 35’ of length and a slightly higher wider beam and greater draft, mostly to accommodate the larger torpedo armament. She was also one of the first Japanese destroyers to carry their newly developed versions of radar, a Type 22 set for both sea and air search, mounted high on her large, tripod foremast.
The onset of war in late 1941 strained Japan’s already lean industrial base while limiting the availability of war material. Work on new and experimental designs was curtailed in favor of current or simplified designs. The new high pressure boilers and enhanced turbines of the Shimakaze design required more material and manhours of fabrication than could be afforded, so the follow-on ships were first delayed, and then ultimately canceled. Shimakaze remained the only member of her class ever built.
|Laid down in the Maizuru Naval Dockyard in August, 1941, she was completed in May, 1943. (Despite some claims in various texts that this design was more problematic to build, the interval between her keel laying and completion was no longer than intervals for other first class destroyers, particularly in the late 1930s. Her powerplant was certainly more complicated, but not the ship itself.) Shimakaze was pressed into service immediately, and had a short but full service life. She took over as flagship for DesDiv 21 during the evacuation of the Aleutian Islands, saw plenty of important convoy duty during the rest of 1943, received a refit that included the addition of more 25mm AA mounts and a Type 13 air search radar in March, 1944, participated in both the Battle of the Phillipine Sea and Leyte Gulf, and met her end at the Battle of Ormoc Bay during the invasion of the Phillipines in November, 1944.|
|For the longest time, it’s been my personal impression
that Shimakaze seems to exert a powerful hold on destroyer aficionados
everywhere, not just those interested in the Imperial Japanese Navy. There’s
something about her sleek and powerful lines, the clipper bow, her powerful
engines and high speed, the massive torpedo battery, and the glimmer of
unrealized potential that seems to capture a lot of imaginations.
Despite this interest, the only plastic injection kit that comes to mind is the venerable Tamiya 1/700 kit, first released over 40 years ago. That kit was among the finer efforts of the initial offerings from the original Waterline Consortium, certainly the best of all the destroyer kits originally issued, in my opinion.
The Tamiya kit seemed to acknowledge something special about the ship it was representing. It was molded very cleanly, with no sinkholes or flash on the hull that I can remember. It was the only waterline kit to come with a heavy metal waterline plate, pre-painted red, and that was attached with tiny screws, not glue. It even came with a degaussing cable with brackets, a detail that only Tamiya bothered with for some of its better kits. Given the level of molding technology then available, that kit seemed as good as it got.
Time passed, PE and styrene accessories became available, and it became possible to detail and improve the Tamiya kit. However, the bare bones of the kit remained – a mostly featureless deck, a nicely molded bridge but still bare of details, and the like elsewhere.
Of course, molding technology and market demands have changed since then, and finally, a new 1/700 version has just been released from PitRoad. This is an in-box review of the kit and, as always, I pepper my descriptions with personal opinions.
The kit is molded in a light gray plastic that is fairly hard and clean,
with no soft or greasy aspects. The detailing of features, both large
and small, is about the sharpest and best defined that I’ve seen in 1/700.
Generally speaking, the scaling of these same features for 1/700 is also
extremely good in almost all respects.
|Hull (no sprue, just bagged)|
|The hull is molded into two pieces, an upper and lower half, split along the waterline. It comes packaged together in its own clear, polybag sleeve. My example shows neither sinkholes nor flash. No sprue means that there is no sanding required to clean or to level the hull surface at an attachment point. While I’m pretty much a waterline guy, I have to say that these two halves fit together like a glove, with the seam barely showing. At first glance in its sleeve, I actually couldn’t tell where the seam was. Most impressive.||Click images
|The lower hull has a raised but recessed rim that fits
within the edges of the upper hull. It also has locator holes for corresponding
pins in the upper hull. The fit together is very secure, with virtually
no free play. The lower hull comes with nicely thinned bilge keels as well
as locating points for the prop shafts, prop braces, and rudder,
Most surprisingly, there is no waterline plate. It’s an interesting decision on the part of PitRoad. I’m guessing that inclusion of the plate would probably have marred the fine lines of the bow and stern as molded.
To compensate, the upper hull is robust in construction to preserve its shape without hogging or bending. Not perfectly flat, my example has the barest hint of a rise in the middle. It’s possible that the addition of the separate main deck might serve to correct this. I’ll also spend some time thinking about whether or not to add my own waterline plate as a bottom, but it really doesn’t need one unless showing a bit of hull red is desirable.
The upper hull is beautifully formed and finished. No hull plating lines or details (thankfully for this scale) but it does have a properly scaled and rendered degaussing cable, including brackets, It also has slightly deeper and better defined portholes than has typically come from PitRoad with their previous IJN destroyer kits. Also surprising is the inclusion of finely scaled and defined porthole eyebrows. I am no fan of these eyebrows on 1/700 ships but, here again, I have to say that this is the best example of this detail in 1/700 I’ve seen to date. Properly shaped anchor recesses are included, as are the large deck girder extensions for the deck overhang marking the end of the forecastle deck that was unique to Shimakaze among the Japanese DDs.
The clipper bow is properly shaped and impressively fine for 1/700; again, the best example yet produced by PitRoad for any of its IJN DDs. I can’t complain about it at all. The sloped stern, first seem in the Yugumo class (but not in PitRoad’s kit of the same), has been properly, wonderfully reproduced.
While the forecastle and main decks have been engineered as separate
pieces, the outer border of the hull that rims those linoleum covered decks
has also been molded atop the hull, with a slightly recessed and raised
edging (spurnwaters) all the way around, along with bollards. This rim
properly marks where the railings go (on the outside edge) and will be
very welcome for those attaching PE railings.
The hull scales out exceptionally well. Shimakaze’s particulars versus the scale and kit:
|There is no B sprue. However, the instructions depict the platform upon which the searchlight and RDF antenna are mounted as part B2. I believe this is an error; part C12 appears to be the missing platform.|
|This sprue holds the foreleg of the foremast, the quarterdeck, some AA platforms, splinter shielding for the 25mm single AA mounts, some 25mm ammo boxes, and some platform/supports. The foreleg is familiar in shape, though delicate in construction as it is thinner (and more true to scale) than typical IJN mast legs in 1/700. It is well protected by heavy sprue arms around it. This is fine for an OOB build, but it will bend with anything for rigging other than stretched sprue, in which case, replacement by brass rod is recommended, Most everything else is equally nice in detail and shape. The splinter shielding surrounding the raised platform for the supplemental 25mm AA is nicely thinned.|
|Strangely, the quarterdeck, which has molded on roll-off depth charge rails, some hatches & vents, some treading, and linoleum tie-down strips, looks like it’s been borrowed from a somewhat less detailed kit. The rails are on the thick side, the hatches are nowhere near as sharp as on other decks of the kit, and the other shapes are somewhat nondescript. It’s by no means terrible, but it is not on a par with the other pieces of decking or the rest of the kit. It looks as if this piece was handed off to the B team, or an apprentice, to develop and execute. Details like depth charge roll off racks and throwers, reels, and the like, will help distract the eye from those soft areas.|
|The “D” sprue is dedicated to the torpedo equipment: three quintuple
mounts, three sets of quintuple warheads, and three sets of shielding.
The actual quintuple mount and shield was just a widened version of the
quadruple mount and shielding carried on the Kagero, Yugumo, Akizuki, and
Matsu/Tachibana classes. The kit provides essentially the same thing: a
widened version of the finely molded quadruple mount found in the PitRoad
NE-04 & 05 equipment accessory sets. In fact, given that this kit comes
with a NE-05 DD equipment set, one can easily compare the two for similarities.
The sprue also holds the main gun director for the 12.7cm main guns, and its cupola. This model director was seen only on the late production Yugumos and Shimakaze. A version of this director appears on the earlier PitRoad E-10 DD accessory set, but this one is far more sharply molded. The original Tamiya version pales in comparison.
|Here one finds the main & forecastle decks, the #1 torpedo tube mount housing and the aft deckhouse. There’s the usual PitRoad inclusion of high detail here: treaded decking, raised linoleum tie-down lines, torpedo trolley rails, deck, anchor chains, hatches, equipment boxes, and bases for turrets and torpedo tube mounts. Everything is very crisply molded, though the trolley rails seem a tad taller than usual. Of course, the linoleum tie-downs are overscale, but then again, they almost always are for this scale. Unusually, there are some welding seams in the treaded area of the forecastle that have been included and these are noticeably overscale, but detail freaks will appreciate them.|
|On the same sprue bag comes the raised housing that lies
between #1 and #2 funnels that also supports the #1 torpedo mount. It’s
nicely formed with sharply detailed, scaled & well rendered hatches
and ladders that are sharply molded and nicely scaled. Replacing these
with PE would make no sense, in my opinion. The same is true of the aft
deck house that is also included here.
|This sprue holds most of the remaining parts: rudder, props
and prop shafts, davits, jackstaffs, all of the small main mast and the
aft legs of the foremast, funnels, funnel pipes, solid funnel grills, AA
platforms and supports, main engine air intake housing, and all of the
bridge parts. Everything is beautifully molded to scale, and the sprue
comes covered with a sheet of thin foam within its polybag, for extra protection.
The bridge base is one piece with no seams to glue and sand. Fine details include an awning rail, piping, vents, hatches, and the wind baffle screen that lies directly underneath the compass deck windows. This type baffle was a common feature on larger IJN warships, but unique to this destroyer, as other IJN destroyers never carried a baffle. While it does not have openings on the top of the baffle (virtually impossible to create to scale in 1/700 without fine PE), the large dividing vanes underneath are fantastically molded and scaled. Larger kits should have baffles this nice.
The compass deck level is equally nice, with sharply molded (and properly scaled) port and starboard running lights with semi-enclosures, and life rings. The bridge windows and roof are equally fine. It might be difficult to remove the windows and replace them with PE ladders for window frames, given how tiny this piece is.
|NE-05 Sprues A & B|
|PitRoad has been releasing new 1/700 IJN equipment accessory sets over
the last few years, making greater use of slide molding technologies to
achieve better scale and details. Personally, I consider these sets superior
to any other 1/700 IJN equipment accessory sets other than similar sets
offered by FineMolds. (Even there, PitRoad’s torpedo related accessories
are, for me, superior to those of FineMolds).
Their NE-05 set is a dedicated IJN destroyer set. It differs from the earlier E-10 it replaces in that its equipment is more specific to the Kagero and Yugumo classes, whereas the earlier set had a slightly broader range of equipment that included applications for the preceding Asashio, Hatsuharu and Shiratsuyu classes. This kit comes with one full set of the NE-05.
Perhaps most important are the three model C/D turrets, each with twin 12.7cm barrels. These are undoubtedly the finest 1/700 scale IJN DD turrets currently available. I could go on and on about them but interested readers can review my comments on them in greater detail here.
Other parts that are utilized included the single and triple 25mm AA, hawser reels, ships boats, some boat davits, torpedo davits, the Type 13 radar, searchlight, 3 m rangefinder, anchors, and “Y” depth charge thrower and depth charge racks.
Some parts are not used, such as the twin 25mm AA, 25mm ammo boxes (because PitRoad has already molded them onto the various platforms), and some of the aforementioned davits. Plus, you also end up with an unused pair of quadruple torpedo mounts, warheads and shields for the spares box, which is a very nice bonus, given the level of detail on these parts.
|A rectangular base molded in black with two supporting leafs is provided for displaying the kit in its full hull configuration.|
|The kit comes with a small, beautifully registered decal sheet with Shimakaze’s name rendered in katakana writing for the sides of the hull (limited to her trials and workup period, if at all – her photo on trials shows bow waves high enough to obscure the possible symbols on the side of her hull). Also included are two different destroyer division pennant numbers (also highly unlikely that these were ever displayed on her bow), and the standard naval ensign flag of the Imperial Japanese Navy featuring a Rising Sun.|
|There are five pages of instructions, including the parts
breakdown and painting diagram. The instructions are the typical
PitRoad exploded diagrams and appear quite thorough aside from the one
error I noticed. Interestingly, these instructions are printed on thicker,
gloss coated paper instead of the usual matt finished paper. I imagine
that PitRoad, like Tamiya before it, saw fit to add some burnish to this
kit to help symbolize the uniquity of this ship.
|Last Thoughts & Conclusion|
|The typical PitRoad practice is to release a kit in several
different fits. This release is a 1944 version, with the extra AA guns,
platform, splinter shielding and Type 13 radar required for such a fit.
Realistically, I would think that only the as-completed version would seem
likely as another release, given the similarity between the two fits. In
fact, I’m not sure why PitRoad didn’t go with the earlier version first
as that’s the obvious marketing approach.
If you can’t wait, then backdating this kit to Shimakaze’s original fit is relatively easy. One need only delete only the extras that I just mentioned, as well as the additional AA platform (parts C11, 2 & 9), while adding the searchlight/RDF platform (part C12) directly to top of the main engine air intakes (part F28) in order to recreate her appearance as completed.
So, is the new Shimakaze kit worth it? I surely think so. I haven’t looked at many of the other 1/700 injection molded destroyer kits recently released for other navies by firms like Dragon and Trumpeter but my sense is that this kit is on a par with the finest of them. I certainly think this kit superior to any other 1/700 IJN destroyer offering currently on the market, very much like Tamiya’s version when it first came out.
While kit fit remains to be seen, my sense is that there will be few issues. This is the first 1/700 IJN destroyer kit in my memory, and the first 1/700 IJN kit in a long time, that I can consider building mostly right out of the box. Personally, I anticipate adding of PE railings and funnel grills, brass barrels, and replacing the kit masts with brass rod for stiffness, but not much else. Certainly, I foresee no worries or struggles over correcting obvious errors, because there are none. I look forward to building it.
Kit courtesy of my wallet, via Hobbylink Japan. To the best of my knowledge, the kit hasn’t yet been released yet in the US but, when it is, I would expect a MSRP of around $35 - $40.
of Dan Kaplan 's work.