designed for the Imperial
Japanese Navy by the British designer Sir George Thurston and the first ship,
Kongō, was built in Britain by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness in 1913.
Kongō was the last Japanese warship to be built outside Japan and
provided the Japanese with a construction template. At this stage in
naval design (before the Battle of
Jutland), the battlecruiser concept was still attractive,
and the three more of the class were built in Japan.
Following Japanese practice for battlecruisers, the four ships were
named after mountains.
This was the first Japanese warship class to have guns, mounted in
four twin turrets. The secondary battery was in casemates
The design had been developed privately by Vickers, based on the
design of . It was in advance of contemporary Admiralty
designs, as all of its main guns were
fore or aft, eliminating the restricted arc of the amidships
turret. The design was considered successful enough for the last
projected ship of the Lion class to be built to an improved design
as HMS Tiger
The equipment needed to provide main gunnery fire-control required
high, stable superstructures and the Kongōs
distinctive Japanese "Pagoda Mast
structures. The anti-aircraft armament was increased as well.
Inter-war modernization reduced the number of boilers, and added
protection in the form of armour and bulges, so the Japanese
re-classified them as "fast
World War II
Despite the upgrades they were considered lightly armored and armed
compared to their World War II contemporaries.
All four ships saw extensive action in World War II, due to their
high speeds (compared to other Japanese battleships which were
mostly held in reserve). They served as carrier escorts, and also saw
ship-to-ship and bombardment duties around Guadalcanal.
All were sunk by the end of the war.
- (金剛): launched on 18 May 1912, sunk 21 November
1944 by a US submarine with heavy loss of life
when a magazine detonated as she capsized.
launched on 21 November 1912, abandoned on November 1942 after being severely
damaged by US cruisers and later fatally crippled by US aircraft at
launched on 1 December 1913, lost November 1942 at Guadalcanal, in one of the only two battleship duels in the
entire Pacific Theatre. Fighting two modern US fast
battleships, Kirishima inflicted damage on the , but was
fatally crippled in return by , causing her to be scuttled.
- (榛名): launched on 14 December
1913, sunk on 28 July
1945 near Kure Naval
Base, Hiroshima, by US aircraft.