Overview of the Japanese Battleship Hizen
During the mid-1930s, the Imperial Japanese Navy was engaged in a clandestine race to build the most formidable battleships of their time. This era was characterized by naval treaties such as the Washington Naval Treaty and the London Naval Treaty, which were, in part, aimed at limiting a post-World War I arms race. Despite these treaties, many nations, including Japan, engaged in discrete naval expansion and technological development.
The pre-draft battleship project that laid the groundwork for Hizen was part of Japan’s covert response to these limitations. Its ambitious designs were a testament to Japan's intention to assert its naval prowess in the Pacific. These blueprints were drawn at a time when battleships represented the epitome of naval strength and strategic influence.
Design and Specifications
The Hizen project envisioned a conventional superfiring arrangement of its turrets—a design where turrets are mounted above the main deck, one behind the other, allowing the rear turrets to fire over the forward ones. The proposal included four turrets, each equipped with three 410 mm guns. This armament scheme was typical of battleships at the time, reflecting a balance between firepower, range, and accuracy.
In addition to its main battery, Hizen was designed to carry a formidable secondary armament of 155 mm guns, housed in triple-gun turrets. These were intended to deliver a strong and comprehensive defense against both surface and airborne threats, providing a secondary layer of firepower.
Speed and Displacement
Among the variations in Hizen's preliminary designs, the projected speeds varied from a modest 24 knots to an impressive 31 knots, signaling a significant focus on maneuverability for a vessel of its size. With planned displacements ranging from 49,000 to 69,500 tons, the Hizen would have been one of the heavier battleships of its time, depending on the final specifications.
Perhaps the most innovative feature of the Hizen project was its hybrid diesel and steam turbine propulsion plant. This propulsion method would have allowed for greater operational flexibility and possibly improved endurance, a critical aspect for Japan's strategy of distant naval engagements across the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean.
The ideas and innovations encapsulated in the Hizen project did not culminate in its construction. However, it is evident that elements of the Hizen design were carried forward into the legendary Yamato-class battleships, which represented the pinnacle of battleship development.
Although the Hizen never sailed, its conceptualization played a crucial role in shaping Japan's naval ambitions, reflecting the immense resources and ingenuity devoted to battleship design in a brief window between world wars before the focus shifted to air power and aircraft carriers. Its existence in blueprint form provides a fascinating glimpse into what might have been and the direction naval warfare could have taken under different circumstances.