- Akizuki -
INJ Akizuki Ė Tyler
1.5 units, 21 seconds, Japanese destroyer
Destroyers are interesting boats. From a historical context they comprised large proportions of any navyís fleet and served multiple roles due to their agility, speed, and relatively low fuel consumption. They served in roles of convoy escort, anti aircraft screening for larger ships, transportation of supplies and soldiers, skirmishing with other smaller vessels, and when equipped with efficient torpedoes could give larger ships a run for their money.
In our hobby however, ships are scaled in such a way that works out well for a multitude of mid-sized battleships and battlecruisers and though building the very largest of the battleships is obtainable, they are in a lot of ways inconvenient to build and transport and are fairly difficult to build competitively and battle effectively. Because of this scaling, the very small ships like destroyers are also very difficult to build and battle effectively due to their small size and weight and the limitations on their fire power. While most destroyers in our hobby are between 0.5 and 1.0 units, there are a few of the larger/heavier ones that get to be 1.5 units, allowing for a full 50 round cannon and a Ĺ unit pump. The added length, width, and weight makes building such a small ship as palatable as it gets. The large destroyers range in weight from the Russian Tashkent at just over 5 lbs, to the larger French destroyers like the Aigle and Mogador at 4.63 and 4.88 lbs, to the smaller still Japanese Shamikaze and Akizuki at 4.3 and 4.63 lbs, to the heaviest of the German Z class at 4.22 lbs, to the USS Georing at 3.87 lbs.†
When I first started in this hobby in 2007 I got right to work on the USS Minneapolis but was hooked and interested in anything and everything having to do with ships. I started a Georing class destroyer thinking it would be a fun little project to go with the American heavy cruiser and I would use the left over material on from the cruiser. However, the weight restrictions and sheer small scale of the project made me realize that ship was just not going to happen for me (I still have a fairly crooked hull on the shelf). A little while later I set out building the Mogador (roughly 1 lb larger), having gained some much needed battling and building experience. By the time I made it to my first NATS in 2008 I did have a functioning (but not highly functioning) destroyer and ended up winning a 1 on 1 with it against another destroyer who had significant technical difficulties, and later got it sunk in campaign after making a mistake next to a Bismarck for a few seconds.
I didnít do much more than rarely tinker with destroyers on the bench over the course of several years. Eventually after getting the Nagato and Kongo functioning (in addition to building four Japanese convoy ships T103, Hikawa Maru, Hiei Maru, Chitose and starting an Aoba) I felt the urge to bring back a destroyer project. Rather than re working the Mogador I opted instead to match my newfound Japanese love affair with a small secondary ship, the Akizuki.
I canít stress enough that building a destroyer is very challenging even for advanced builders and battlers. The small weight, draft, length and beam require sacrificing several otherwise competitive advantages to be left with at most only 50 trigger pulls and a fragile albeit hyper mobile ship that canít really heavily influence a battle. Additionally, the technology used in larger ships are not transposable to destroyers, making it necessary to buy often somewhat expensive electronics, separate batteries, and CO2 mechanisms. Also, building a destroyer often comes at the expense of time otherwise spent on a more viable ship, which can lead some people to not get a primary ship on the water. In general, I think it is a bad idea for most people to build a destroyer. A destroyer should be at most a pet project that doesnít interfere with getting a competitive heavy cruiser or sidemount wielding ship on the water. That being said, this article will be about how I built mine.
The Akizuki is a wood hull. The ribs and lower subdeck is 1/4 inch plywood. The extreme bow and stern have a solid 1 inch area. The actual subdeck and deck are 1/16 inch ply wood, rather flimsy but very light weight. The bottom of the hull is strips of think plywood covered on both sides with fiberglass cloth and epoxy.
I had initially built superstructure out of 1/32 inch ABS plastic but was a bit worried about the weight and survivability of my build. I instead made wood masters of all the larger bits and pulled very light weight 2 part foam molds. The idea was that if they got shot all to pieces, I could just replace the whole section relatively painlessly.
Rudder servo is sideways, screwed into vertical chunks of ABS plastic. The downside of doing it this way is that you have to punch a hold in the side (once the balsa is on) to get it loose, ideally if it is built correctly and remains water tight this should be a rarity. There is 4-40 stainless threaded rod that is bent at angles to serve as a push arm for a larger central gear, this in turn spins the gears connected to the rudder posts. An advantage in a small ship like this is that it doesnít generate much thrust so an otherwise under powered rudder system will hold up just fine.
Rudder system from the side. You can see the rudders and props below the hull as well.
Drive system is a single smallish motor directly linked to one of the shafts. The two shafts are connected via gears so they both turn at the same time with the same ratio. This setup is fairly noisy but it gets the job done.
Drive system from the side.
Props/rudders. Propellers are simple soldered blades 1 inch in diameter.
Here she is in front of the HSM Tiger. Destroyers are tiny. The internals barely fit. The gun will be placed in the elevated turret off of center line with a down angle. The idea is that it can hit some belows, which is a way to maximize the damage dealing potential of an otherwise small and combat capacity limited ship. The downside of a down angle bow gun like this is that it will be fairly dangerous to get it on target, basically limiting your escape angles by driving the most maneuverable part of the ship directly at the enemy rather than away from them, like you can do with a stern gun. Also when shooting convoy ships it will be a bit too easy to bump them which can lead to a big penalty. I expect it will take some time to get the range figured out.
In the process of figuring out if the internals are in a good place, you really need to get it on the water and see how it floats. I put duct tape over the outside of the hull. Turns out it was fairly balanced as-is which is good since there are only minimal ways to adjust things given the limited space. At this point I will still need to see how it sinks and performs before I decide to move things around internally or not. I intended to drive it around a little in the tub but the drive system was binding a bit, good thing I worked it out now while Iím still in the early stages of the build.
Fitting the internals has proven to be challenging. I had to clip wires shorter. I took the ESC, electronic switches, and receiver as a bundle with a zip tie, technically this can lead to interference but I believe this is not very common in 2.4 GHz systems
The internals are in place and barely fit. From left (bow) to right (stern) you can barely see the very dark regulator in front of the white battery pack. The gun magazine sits just above the battery. The electronics bundle (ESC, receiver, firing boards) is jammed in just in front of the pump. The pump squeezes in right next to the drive motor which is covered by wires in this picture. The dog bone 1 to 2 drive setup is seen just in front of the solenoid. It is not ideal to put the solenoid this far away from the regulator and gun due to need for longer hoses which theoretically will decrease air flow and if I end up needing to change things for that reason I might switch the electronics with the solenoid. The blue servo for the rudder is seen in the far stern. There are only very minimal ways to adjust anything in here.
The bow gun could probably use a bit more depression, I think I will keep it like this to start and adjust after it has been out for a sortie or two. You can really appreciate how narrow the bottom of the ship is at the bow, which only exacerbates fitting the internals. The internal armor is soda bottle plastic taped together and cut to fit.
Float testing fully loaded. The ship seems to be close to properly balanced.
Another shot lower to the water with full battle load out. I still have to get some gun kinks worked out and a water line on, but she is really close to battle ready.