Japanese Battleship IJN Kongo Retake
The Kongo class of battlecruisers was Japan’s attempt to acquire or build their first super-dreadnaughts. Designed by the British, the Kongo herself was launched from the Vickers shipyard in 1912, the last major vessel of the Japanese Navy built in a foreign yard. She underwent major reconstructions from 1929-1931 and again from 1935-1938, the last time so much so that she was reclassified as a fast battleship. During the Pacific War, she participated in early South Seas operations off Malaya and the Philippines. Her class’s high speed made them ideal carrier escorts, and Kongo served that function during the IJN’s Indian Ocean carrier sweep, the Midway operation and the action off Santa Cruz. Detached to the Solomons with her sister Haruna, Kongo earned the everlasting wrath of the Marines on Guadalcanal during the night of November 13, 1942, shelling Henderson Field for an hour with her 14” rifles in a nightmare that became known in Marine lore simply as “The Bombardment”.
Kongo covered the Japanese Army’s withdrawal from Guadalcanal, underwent improvements to her underwater protection and AA defenses, escorted carriers in the Philippine Sea battle in June, 1944, and attacked U.S naval forces at Leyte Gulf’s battle off Samar. In November 1944, in company with battleship Yamato off Formosa, Kongo was attacked and sunk by U.S.S. Sealion, the only Japanese battleship sunk by submarine torpedoes during the war.
The large box comes packed full of package after package of parts sprues. A close examination of the various parts reveals a high level of detail that ship modelers have come to expect from today’s leading manufacturers. The 14” gun barrels have recessed openings. The textured deck plating is minute but well defined. The stacks have thin foot/hand rails molded on, and the separate stack piping is thin and detailed. The weapons – from the 5” AA and 6” casemates down to the double and triple 25 mm and single 13mm – are crisp with no flash. There are numerous raised searchlight and AA mount platforms with girder supports. Unfortunately, some of these are still represented as solid slabs with raised girder detail, but some are left open, to better represent the heavy, crisscross support structure that were found on nearly all Japanese battleships.
This is the “Retake” edition of Aoshima’s Kongo, the original being issued in 2008. While I don’t have the original for comparison, in some cases its easy to see the differences, since both old and new parts are included in this kit. The first change that you notice is that many of the small deck fittings, like vents and hatches originally cast as part of the deck, are now molded separately, making clean and accurate painting of the deck an easier task. This kit comes with several new deck parts with attachment holes (some drilled through, and some covered over to be punched out by the modeler) instead of molded-on parts. The anchor chains are now included as separate parts, and a new fore deck is included with the chains no longer molded on.
The full hull comes in right and left halves, but the waterline is cleverly marked inside the hull with a grooved indention that will make easier cutting to create a waterline version. There are several inter-hull supports that span her beam, but they’re short and don’t extend below the waterline, again making a waterline option easier to undertake.
The new kit contains several sets of sprues labeled “cruiser parts” or “Myoko parts”, a reference to their origin belonging to Aoshima’s earlier cruiser kits. It seems it most cases, only a very small number of these parts, such as ammunition boxes, will actually be used on Kongo. There will be a lot of leftover parts. I suspect that other parts, not specifically marked, may also have had their origin in cruiser kits. In a pleasant surprise, I found three sets of sprues that each included four different types of observation aircraft – E8N “Dave”, E7K “Alf”, F1M2 “Pete”, and E13A1 “Jake”. There are enough ship’s boats included to equip several vessels.
The kit represents Kongo in 1944 after many modifications, but parts are included to model her earlier in the war. By 1944, she had almost half of her casemate 6” guns removed. The kit includes enough casemate guns to model her complete 6” armament. I plan to modifier the kit to represent her sister, Kirishima, in 1942. My plan will be made easier by not having to cut from the deck many of the gun mounts and ammo boxes that Kongo carried by 1944.
The full story of the build and the modification from Kongo to Kirishima will be seen in an upcoming edition of the IPMS USA Journal. My thanks to Dragon and IPMS for the opportunity to build and review this fine kit.