Kii Class Battleship (Part 1, 1930-1940/41):
After the Geneva Conference, in February 1927, Koko had confirmed its rights to build new Battleships as stated in the Washington Naval Treaty. As an aexception the the requirements issued to France and Italy, Koko had to scrap older ships to free extra tonnage before the replacements were built. Under this requirements, the older Battlecruisers Goryo and Aratama were decommissioned and scrapped in 1927 and 1929. This left 64.045T allowed for the constuction of new ships (35.659T already vacant after the loss of the Aomegami to an internal explosion in 1925, and 14.193T from each of the older Battlecruisers), so Koko no kaigun announced the construction of two 32.000T battleships, the first Laid down on July 20th 1927 at Toumachi Naval Arsenal, the second started on December 1929 on the same slipway after the launch of her sister. The sisters recieved the names Kii and Owari in January 1930, while the lead ship was undergoing her fitting-out process. The entire construction phase went on with very little fanfare, with very few informations about the ships layout beign avaliable outside naval circles, even less for the few foreign observers that managed to catch a glimpse of the new ships before they hit the water.
What was known at the time was that the new ships would have freatured and armament of ten 409mm guns in five twin turrets, a belt of 254mm, a 356mm conning tower and a top speed of 23knots. Crew was 1.542men. It was rumored that range was planned at 8.000nm at 14knots, that torpedo bulkheads were 25mm thick and that minor bulkheads and deck armour were somewhere betnween 10mm and 140mm thick, although exact numbers had not been disclosed. Turret armor was beleived to be similar to the Amagi and the Japanese Nagatos, with 305mm of face armor, 175mm sides and 229mm on the barbettes.
During Kii sea trials, a few observers managed to put their eyes and the new Koko no Kaigun battleship. RN and USN higher-ups thus recieved confirmation of the 23-knot top speed, reached at the best of five runs, made between the 4th and 6th of April, 1930. A secondary armament of sixteen 140mm guns in casemate mounts was also observed, with apparently four 120mm guns fitted for anti-aircraft duties.Their overall appearance resembling Amagi with a more built-up superstructure, a clipper bow and a single funnel. Still, while many official figures were considered confirmed, the dimensions of the vessel, 254m in lenght overall, and armament carried, led the Westerns, especially the British, to believe that the ships displaced some 35.600T if not a bit more, a figure closer to the RN Nelson and Rodney, which had very similar armament and speed. The now quite reliable suspicion that the basically completed Kii and the under construction Owari were some 3.000/4.000T over their intended and allowed weight raised more concerns within Western Naval staffs. There were already suspects that the IJN Heavy Cruisers of the Myoko Class and the Takao ones currently under construction exceeded the 10.000T limit, having two battleships from another navy doing the same concerned many, especially the US Navy. The overweight issue of the Kii class is considered the main reason why the London Naval Treaty provisions were especially heavy for Koko no Kaigun, panning most of the current construction programs, and negating once again Aircraft Carrier tonnage to be exploited.
Kii was eventually commissioned in September 1930, replacing amagi as Koko no Kaigun's flagship. However, despite the expedient was partly foiled leading to unwanted consequences, it was also true that the gamble had still somewhat succeeded. Kii and Owari true specifications were vastly superior to wat was offically declared or even guessed by foreign navy observers, something that was not truly realized until the late 30's, in the largest naval deception until the Yashima and Yamato classes entered service almost a decade later.
Kii true standard displacement was 42.601T, her main belt was 305mm thick, inclined inwards by 12°, a 140mm strake protected the upper belt, with 152mm outer belt further protecting the hull outside the proper armoured citadel. Torpedo bulkheads were 73mm thick, wioth the main deck beign 130mm, extending on the quarterdeck above the steering gear with 37mm plates. Turret faces were 305mm thick, the sides and roof reached 229mm and the barbettes were 305mm thick. Conning tower was protected by 369mm of armor. Lastly, while the single funnel did a good joob in fooling about the ship's powerplant, it was instead a simple trunked unit, as the engines powered the turbines with 156.598shp for a top speed of 30 knots. The 4th and 6th of April trials were Kii reached 23knots was basically just for show, a single speed run was performed at dawn, further off Toumachi bay away from prying eyes, on april 3rd, offially rated as a manouvering trial. The ship easili reached her intended top speed. Another run was made in August 1930, a third on november of the same year, all confirming the ship's capabilities. Even so, Kii still had the unflattering record of beign the last battleship in the world to be commissioned with a casemated secondary battery, and the forecastle proved to be quite wet in heavy weather.
Kii's sister, Owari, was not launched until 1932, and commissioned by mid 1933. During her construction, many modifications were made to update her design in face of advancing naval technology, also exploiting a large part of the budget intended for Yagumo modernization, which was instead canceled as the ship was converted into a training vessel as thw London Naval treaty dictated. The first change, was the removal of the secondary casemate battery, repaced by eight twin 140mm turrets, eight 127mm anti-aircraft guns in four twin mounts were also installed in place of the four single 120mm fitted on Kii. The searchlight platform built around the funnel was extended, and both the fore and aft superstrucutres were highly modified in order to house more advanced fire-control devices. The funnel was different and higher, the mainmast shorter, the second starboard anchor was never fitted. A catapult was fitted on top of turret 3 to operate a Nakajima E4N floatplane. Ultimately, Owari looked so different from her ssiter that she could have been addressed as a separate class. she displaced 42.847T standard -although like her sisters she was claimed to be 30.000T, and believed by foregners to be 33.600/34.000T- and replaced Kii as Koko no Kaigun's Flagship once she entered service. She had a complement of 1.547 officers and men
By 1937, with treaty limitations collapsing -although Koko no Kaigun was effectively ignoring most of them since 1934- the Naval Staff approved a massive and comprehensive refit for the two Kii class ships: kii was the first to enter the yards, drydocked at Toumachi Naval Arsenal for her reconstruction.
During the works, the hull was lenghtened by 8 meters aft for a overall lenght of 262,08m, with beam increased to 34,8m with the addition of anti-torpedo bulges. the main 305mm armour belt was removed, and replaced with a new 409mm one, this too inclined 12° inward. An extra splinter bulkhead was added to the internal torpedo bulkhead, increasing the overal thinkness of the system to 76mm, and another 37mm plate was added inside the torpedo bulges. Deck armor thicknes was increased to 164mm while quarterdeck armor reached 55mm over the steering gear. Turrets recieved extra armor plates to reach a maximum thickness of 508mm. The four 120mm anti-air guns were replaced by four twin 127mm ones, ammunition stowage for all weapons was increased between 20 to 60 more rounds per barrel. The 40mm anti-aicraft machine guns initally fitted were removed, and replaced with twenty 25mm machine guns in ten twin mounts.
Engines were slightly refurbished fr an increased power of 171.035shp, enought to mantain the 30-knots top speed, extra bunkerage allowed the range to increase to 10.000nm at 16knots. The superstructure was comletely reconstructed in order to house the most advanced fire-control equipments, directors and rangefinders, the searchlight platform was enlarged, the funnel heightened and the mainmast cut down. Her second starboard anchor was removed, and a catapult was fitted at the stern in order to operate three nakajima E8N reconnaisance floatplanes. Complement increased to 1.746 officers and men.
The refit increased the ships standard displacement to 49.149T, for a full load 56.097T, draft increased to 10,21m. This made the forecastle of both ships even more wet at top speed in anything but calm seas, but this was deemed a reasonable price to be paid in lieu of the enormous improvements in amror protection, firepower and fire control. The refitted ship silhouette somewhat resembled that of the Japanese battleship Nagato, which was considered satisfactory as it could have made identification attempts from eventual enemy spotters more confusing.
Once recommissioned, in early 1940, Kii acted again as Koko no Kaigun's Flagship until the start of the Pacific War.
Owari was dryodocked at Kousaten Navy Yard in 1939, undergoing a similar modernization process. The refit proved to be less extensive, at least for the superstructure, which was already more built up than that of Kii, already housing most of the fire-control platforms that were needed. the 127mm anti-air guns were also already in place. Hull modifications and armor upgradings were the same as Kii. When recommissioned, by mid 1941, her appearance was much closer to that of her sister Kii that it was at commissioning, with the only striking difference beign the turreted secondary armament.
Both sisters joined the rebuilt Amagi, forming Sentai 2.
Ships in class: (laid down-launched-commissioned - fate)
Kii 1927-1929-1930 - ?
Owari 1929-1932-1933 - ?
This concludes the 1922-1930 entries, there will be some history updates and a 1930 Fleet sheet before I'll move to the 1931-1941 timeframe.