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Zao from World Of Warships: Legends

Introduction to the Japanese Cruiser Zao

The Japanese Cruiser Zao represents a conceptual step in Japanese naval engineering, an embodiment of what might have been had historical circumstances not led to its cancellation. Conceived under a significant naval building program, the Zao was meant to further develop the capabilities demonstrated by previous heavy cruisers such as the Takao, Tone, and Mogami classes.

Design and Armament

In the planning phase, Zao was intended to carry an impressive array of twelve 203 mm guns, distributed across four turrets. This armament configuration was traditional for Japanese heavy cruisers of the time, providing a balance between firepower and operational range. The guns were to be complemented by secondary armaments and an array of torpedo tubes, as was standard in the design philosophy of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the interwar period.

Armor and Protection

Attention was also given to Zao's protection. The cruiser's armor design focused on providing resistance to 203 mm high-explosive shell hits, which were a common threat from enemy ships. Designers intended to craft a resilient vessel capable of engaging in combat with contemporaries, featuring armor on both the belt and deck, as well as protective measures for the vital components such as the propulsion system and magazines.

Historical Context

During the pre-war period, Japan was invested in expanding and modernizing its fleet. Heavy cruisers, with their long range and potent weaponry, were a cornerstone of their strategy, meant to project power across the Pacific and defend Japan's widespread maritime interests.

The construction of the Zao and its sister ships, however, fell victim to the changing tides of war and international treaties. The limitation on naval armaments by agreements such as the London Naval Treaty, as well as shifting priorities and resource allocations as World War II progressed, led to a reduction in the number of ships ordered and eventually to their cancellation.


Although Zao never sailed the seas, its design reflects the ambitions of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It is a testament to the era's advancing naval technology and the strategic importance placed on cruisers. Modern interpretations of the Zao's design capture the imagination, depicting what could have been a formidable addition to Japan's naval forces during a tumultuous period of maritime history.

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