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IJN Ise/Hyuga BBCV

By: Daniel H. Jones

Prior to World War II several navies operated aircraft carriers or aircraft support ships. The three major powers, England, the USA, and Japan developed what came to be known as fleet carriers and gave much thought as to their most effective employment. From a glance at the ship listings it might seem that the aircraft carrier was the dominant force but this was not so. The "gun club" element still dominated strategic thought in all three navies. Carriers were regarded as supporting ships to the battle line, providing scouting planes to locate the enemy and to launch strikes to "soften up" the opposing fleet so they could be finished off by the battleships. Nowhere was the cult of the battleship as "queen of battle" more strongly entrenched than in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Their strategic plan for fighting the US Navy was to lure the American fleet across the Pacific for a great climactic battle in home waters. The total destruction of this invading force was to be accomplished by... the battleships, much as the Russian fleet was annihilated at the Battle of Tsushima. That the battleship was still predominant in IJN planning is supported by their commitment to the construction of the most powerful examples of the type ever built, the Yamato class. With the formation of the Kido Butai, (the Nagumo task force), the Japanese invented the carrier task force concept that proved so effective later in the war. Obviously there were many officers with advanced ideas regarding carrier aviation but they were still in the minority. In the IJN the "gun club" still controlled planning and policy decisions.

Ironically, the Japanese Navy was to prove the fallacy of this thinking with their preemptive strike on the USN battle line at Pearl Harbor. With no battleships available the USN was forced to shift their emphasis to the aircraft carrier as the center of a striking force, though they still continued to build a new generation of battleships. At the Battle of the Coral Sea neither fleet sighted the other, the entire battle being decided by carrier aircraft. At Midway, when four Japanese carriers were lost orders were issued to continue the operation. The battle fleet was to close and destroy the American ships. After a few hours of steaming towards Midway the orders were rescinded and the surface fleet withdrew. The lesson was obvious and could not be ignored. A surface fleet could not survive without carriers when facing a fleet that had them. The battleships were impotent in the face of this new threat.

In the days following the debacle at Midway, the Japanese Navy frantically sought ways to make good their carrier losses. Some submarine tenders and seaplane tenders were available for conversion to carriers, (they had been designed with this in mind). Suitable liner hulls were taken over for conversion to light carriers. Most radical, especially in the eyes of traditional line officers, was the plan to take four battleships out of the battle line and modify them to operate aircraft. The Fuso, Yamashiro, Isa, and Hyuga were selected for this conversion which consisted of removing the aft two turrets and constructing a handling deck, hangers and two catapults. The decks would not be large enough for take off or for landing aboard so the aircraft would have to be catapult launched and be equipped with floats to land alongside and be hoisted aboard. A new type of fast seaplane, capable of both scouting and attack, was to be designed for these ships. Conversion began on the Ise and Hyuga but the planned work on Fuso and Yamashiro was held back pending testing results from the first two ships. Work on the seaplane, the "Norm", went forward but very few were built. Neither Ise or Hyuga ever operated aircraft apart from some limited testing. There were never enough aircraft to equip the ships and there was also a shortage of trained pilots. In their only sortie in this configuration, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, both ships were part of the Ozawa decoy force and had no aircraft on board. Almost all of the carriers in this group were sunk but both Ise and Hyuga sustained only minor damage.

After returning to home waters, both ships had their catapults removed. This was done to improve the arcs of fire for the center turrets. The IJN was now totally on the defensive and the concept of operating seaplanes on Ise and Hyuga was abandoned. Both ships remained anchored in home waters for the remainder of the war. Both were sunk at Kure Harbor in shallow water by air strikes from US navy carrier planes.

In 1/700 scale Hasegawa has kits of this class in both versions, as a battleship, (Hyuga), about 1941 and as the unique BB/CV, (Ise), after conversion. This article will primarily concentrate on the Ise, the BB/CV version. This is one of the earlier efforts in the waterline series and has a number of omissions and inacuracies, mainly due to the need for many parts to be common to both kits. Too many compromises have been made for the sake of ease of production but most can be dealt with. Bridge levels and platforms are essentially correct for the Ise and apart from cleaning up and adding better parts and photo etch there is little to be concerned with here. (If you are doing the earlier battleship version some major rework is needed on the bridge). One omission should be added, the supporting legs of the underlying tripod structures that the platforms are built on. From the back and side of the bridge these legs are external and very visible. Locate the positions on each level and drill boles on each platform. When assembled, except for the top two levels, insert two lengths of plastic rod through the platforms down to main deck level. This will make a tremendous improvement in the appearance of the bridge structure.

The main problem with the Ise is in the area of the catapults. Hasegawa has the catapults standing alone from the aft structure and this is wrong. A structure connects the catapults to the aft area and this will have to be added. It looks formidable but it is really quite easy to do. See the sketch drawings and the templates for guidance. Note also the forward legs of the aft tripod structure are exposed also. These can be added from plastic rod as was done for the aft side of the bridge.

Masts, particularly the large mainmast, should be replaced with scratch built assemblies from plastic sprue or brass wire. Most of the splinter shields could be improved by replacing with Evergreen plastic strip. Gold Medal Models makes a photo etch sheet, IJN Battleships, that contains the lattice supporting structure around the funnel as well as two catapults. Adding this will improve the model very noticeably.

The supports under the aircraft deck edges are solid triangles of plastic on the kit. These are individual strut supports on the ship and can be improved upon by either replacing or by carving away the back side of the plastic. I prefer the latter method, see sketches. Also, at the stern, the supporting lattice structure is solid and has been simplified. This should be cut away and a scratch built replacement fabricated. This is the hardest job and there is really no short cut that I have discovered. You may opt to forget about doing this as the overhang hides much of the area when looking at the model from above.

All of the guns can be improved by replacement from the Skywave weapons sets, particularly the 25mm which should come from set E-7. Some of the Skywave ship's boats are nicer also. For railings, I recommend the Tom's Model Works, two bar set.

Aircraft: If you resolve to display aircraft on board or on the catapults, there is no "Norm" available but testing was done with the Nakajima "Pete" and with the Kawanishi "Jake". Both types are available from the Skywave sets or from other kits in the waterline series. I would recommend replacihg the Hasegawa "Jakes" with other parts as they are a little crude in appearance compared to some of the other planes available.

As you can see, some considerable investments in both time and money for extra materials are necessary to bring this kit up to speed. Whether it is worthwhile depends on how well you like the subject. Ise is one of my favorite ships, having built four models of her over the years in four different scales. If you do all of the suggested modifications and additions the results are very noticeable and the kit can look right at home with other ships in your collection. An old kit is not especially a bad kit, it just needs more work.

Drawings - Not to Scale

Detail showing the structure that needs building up around the catapults. Near catapult omitted for clarity
IJN Ise 1945
Bridge structure
Stern details
Bow details

1/700 Scale Drawings

IJN Ise/Hyuga
Bridge Platform levels
IJN Ise/Hyuga 1944
Side profile
IJN Ise/Hyuga 1944
Top profile

This article originally appeared in Plastic Ship Modeler 1994/4 and is reprinted here with the permission of the author and editor.

Copyright © SMML 2003