A Tale of Three Sevens: Hatsuharu, Shiratsuyu and Akatsuki

The changes to the IJN Destroyer line are long overdue.  While it’s possible to make ships like the Hatsuharu perform, data tracking sites have long shown that the mid to high tier IJN Destroyers have been lagging behind their American and Soviet counterparts.  This comes with the reliance on their torpedoes to inflict the lion’s share of their damage with their guns being a mere afterthought.  A lot of their damage potential seems to hinge on the incompetence of the enemy.  The higher up in tiers you go, the more players seem to have figured out how to use the WASD keys and the success rate of IJN Destroyers wanes as the effectiveness of their torpedoes drops.  The early victories that players enjoy in the Isokaze and Minekaze seem to diminish quickly at tiers 6+.  While it’s still possible to rack up some impressive games, consistency is ever elusive.
The changes coming to the Japanese destroyer tech tree are pretty extensive and seem to be working towards normalizing these results.   A fork appears at tier 4, branching off from the Isokaze and leading to two separate lines.  The Mutsuki leads one branch and the Minekaze the other.  One is being called the “torpedo” branch and the other the “gunship” branch by the community.  After playing them, I couldn’t decide which was which or keep them straight in my head.  Both trees are getting signifcant improvements to their guns.  In addition, one branch gets access to a faster torpedo reload consumable, allowing them to fire their tubes twice in 5s.  The other line has more torpedoes and reloads much faster overall.  Yeah, I know that doesn’t make sense — you now see why I got confused.  Add to this complication, I didn’t have access to the modified versions of the Mutsuki, Kagero, Fubuki and Hatsuharu initially which are all being down tiered and reshuffled between the two lines.   So evaluating the two branches from the four new ships, Akatsuki, Yugumo, Akizuki and Shiratsuyu didn’t really work.
In short?  I figured I wouldn’t bother and instead focus on a single tier where two new ships replace an old workhorse.  The Hatsuharu as we presently know her will be dropping down to tier 6.  In her place, the Shiratsuyu and Akatsuki emerge.  Tier 7 is a very interesting tier and these new ships are going up against the likes of some very respectable and well appreciated destroyers like the Mahan, Sims, Kiev and Leningrad.  Let’s take a look at how they compare.
Big Changes to the IJN 127mm Rifles
One of the most significant changes to the entire line is the evolution of the IJN 127mm/50 3rd Year Type naval rifle.  On the Old Hatsuharu, this is a high velocity weapon with hard hitting AP and HE shells with a high chance to start fires.  It’s crippled by a very low rate of fire and poor range — scarcely ever reaching up to 10km on the entire IJN line.  This weapon doubled as a dual-purpose AA mount, providing some long range flak against enemy aircraft.  While individual volleys from these guns could be very effective, they were forever crippled by their short range, the small number of guns on the Old Hatsuharu and their low rate of fire.  Still, some IJN destroyer Captains enjoyed success with these rifles, especially when downgrading the hull of their destroyers to take advantage of the larger number of gun mounts on the A and B Hulls of certain ships.
Here’s how the guns differ between the Old Hatsuharu and the two new Destroyers.
  • No longer dual purposed as an AA mount.
  • HE Shell Damage:  Reduced from 2,100 to 1,800
  • Fire Chance:  Reduced from 9% to 7%
  • Turret Rotation: Reduced from 7′ per second to 6′ per second.
  • Rate of Fire:  Increased from 6.67rpm to 8rpm.
  • Range:  Increased by at least 1.1km.
  • Armament:  The four guns of the Hatsuharu are increased to 5 and 6 guns on the Shiratsuyu and Akatsuki respectively.

The new guns give up HE alpha strike, fire chance, AA power and turret rotation speed for a 20% rate of fire increase, an additional rifle (or two) and an additional 1km range.  While this ends up being a significant increase over the Hatsuharu’s DPM, this is not enough for the new tier 7 destroyers to make up anything more than last place on the new charts.  The Akatsuki comes close to the Leningrad in raw HE damage but not enough to challenge even that low DPM destroyer.  So if either of these two ships are intended to be “gunships”, then they’re really falling short of the mark.  While the new destroyers retain the “comfortable” gunnery of the Hatsuharu, including flat shell arcs and decent potential stealth-firing windows, they’re not really to write home about.  Enemy destroyers should respect the fire coming off these ships — the Akatsuki in particular, but they are not decisive weapons.

* This is the concealment window from which these ships can fire from open water without being detected.  The distance listed here is the difference between the ship’s maximum range and their surface detection range when firing their guns.  This assumes the ship is equipped with concealment camouflage and the captain is using Advanced Fire Training and Concealment Expert skills.
 Gunships vs Torpedo Ships
Fully upgraded, the Akatsuki and Shiratsuyu retain the Hatsuharu’s Type 90 torpedo.  This was one of the first features I looked at on both ships, expecting the “gunship” to stand out based on a poor torpedo armament, but lo and behold, both were still sporting a fearsome number of fish.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised base on their gun performance, but there it is.  Now here’s where things get even more funny.  The six-gun Akatsuki has three triple launchers while the five-gun Shiratsuyu has two quadruple launchers.  In addition, the Akatsuki has a 76s reload on her tubes while the Shiratsuyu lags behind with a 101s reload.  Colour me confused.
In terms of damage potential over 10 minutes, the three ships work out to the following:
  • Hatsuharu:  43.9 torpedoes
  • Akatsuki:  71 torpedoes
  • Shiratsuyu: 47.5 torpedoes

So does this mean that the Akatsuki is the torpedo ship and the Shiratsuyu is the gunship?  But wait, I’m totally forgetting the potential of the Hatsuharu’s optional Torpedo Reload Booster which can be swapped for instead of her Smoke Generator.  This would accelerate her reload to a mere 30s each time it was used.  If we factor in a premium version (240s reset timer), we get the following values for the Hatsuharu over 10 minutes:

  •  Hatsuharu:  43.9 torpedoes to approximately 55 torpedoes.

This really seems to solidify the Akatsuki as the torpedo ship and the Shiratsuyu as the gunship… until you realize that not only does the Shiratsuyu get Torpedo Reload Booster as well, she doesn’t have to trade out her Smoke Generator for it.  What’s more, this darned thing accelerates the reload to 5s.  Yes, five seconds.  That’s it.  This means her 8 launchers can spit out sixteen torpedoes inside of 7s if you’re fast on your trigger finger.  So here’s how the Shiratsuyu looks now over 10 minutes.

  •  Shiratsuyu:  47.5 torpedoes to approximately 60.8 torpedoes.

So while the Akatsuki maintains a superiority in the sheer volume of torpedoes she can launch, the Shiratsuyu offers a difference in game play styles, allowing you to effectively land monstrous alpha strikes on command with the use of her consumable or deny a vast swathe of ocean with a wall of torpedoes that outdoes even the three quintuple launchers on the Shimakaze.  Keep in mind, these are the exact same torpedo between these two destroyers otherwise.  This is the same 10km range, 62 knot top speed and 17,233 alpha damage.  Enjoy.

Stealth, Speed and the Little Things
 The Hatsuharu was a nice destroyer when you considered her 6.7km base surface detection range, her 36.5 knot top speed and 580m turning circle with a rudder shift of just over 2.3s.   While she didn’t have the guns to really defend herself, she did have concealment and agility to get from A to B and hopefully evade the ships that were coming after her.  Neither the Shiratsuyu or Akatsuki carries on with this tradition.  They seem to each take half of these traits and divide it between them.
The Akatsuki is a large destroyer with a large surface detection range to match.  This six-gun, nine-launcher tin can weighs in at 13,100hp and with a surface detection range of 7.4km out of the box.  That’s bad for a ship that can’t outfight most of the enemies that will be shooting at it.  There’s not much in the way of good news.  While she does get a 38.0 knot top speed, this is below average for tier 7 and nowhere near the exceptional 40+ knots found on the Soviet Destroyers.  She can be outpaced by the Blyskawica and Sims.  She’s also shackled with a 640m turning circle and near 6s rudder shift time.  Yikes.
Things look considerabily better for the Shiratsuyu.  She shares the same 6.7km surface detection range the Hatsuharu had at tier 7, so that’s nice.  This will easily make her the stealthiest ship at her tier for the moment.  But it’s not all sunshine and roses here either.  She has a 34.0 knot top speed — same as the tier 4 Isokaze.  Now the Isokaze is a slow destroyer at tier 4.  By tier 7, the 34 knot speed is a real handicap.  Let me remind you that this is slower than some of the cruisers you’ll face, including all of the IJN Cruisers and most of the Soviets, never mind the destroyers against which you’ll be going head to head.  What’s worse, in a turn her speed often drops below 30 knots which makes it easy for even some of the fast battleships at tiers 7+ to overtake you.  Scary.
For both of these ships, it’s worth keeping in mind that they can and will face tier 8+ destroyers that can add on a Concealment Modification that will easily put them on par or with better stealth ratings than either of these two IJN DDs.  Tier 7 has always had this issue when facing higher tiered destroyers, so it’s not a problem unique to these vessels.  But arguably, being detected is more dangerous to these ships given the difficulties they have of fighting off other gunships.
The loss of their dual-purpose function of their 127mm has also left these destroyers more vulnerable than the Hatsuharu was to air power.  The Akatsuki has less than half of the AA DPS that the Hatsuharu had while the Shiratsuyu is more comparable but still at a loss.
So let’s take a look at the three ships in a quick summary:
The Old Hatsuharu
Armament:  Four 127mm Rifles, six Torpedoes.
Speed & Stealth:  36.5 knots, 6.7km surface detection range.
Features of Note:  Stealthiest ship at tier 7.  Able to swap her Smoke Generator for Torpedo Reload Booster.
Compared to what’s coming, the old Hatsuharu just doesn’t stack up.  With four 127mm guns, even with improved fire chance and better alpha strike per shell, she doesn’t have the DPM with her main battery to keep up with any opponents she faces.  Her best traits are her good agility combined with the best stealth rating at her tier.  She is very heavily reliant on her six torpedo tubes to rack up her damage, however she needs to sacrifice her Smoke Generator to keep pace with the damage potential of other ships with her torpedoes.  In short, power creep hasn’t been kind to the Hatsuharu and it’s good to see her getting down tiered.  I’m very curious to see what she’s like at tier 6.
The Akatsuki
Armament: Six 127mm Rifles, nine Torpedoes.

Speed & Stealth: 38.0 knots, 7.3km surface detection range.
Features of Note:  Relatively fast reload on her torpedo tubes at 76s.

I wanted to like this ship.  I really did.  Her nine torpedoes on a fast reload with a decent (but not great) top speed seemed workable.  Her six guns aren’t terrible.  With a decent Captain at the helm, I think she’ll be alright.  It’s that awful surface detection range that really holds her back from being a fair ship.  It makes facing tier 8+ destroyers a real nightmare.  Her lack of AA power also makes carriers seem downright demonic, spotting you from afar and being unable to push the maway.   Maybe being able to fire nine torpedoes with a 10km range will help pad her numbers, particularly whenever she ends up top tier and gets to pick on still-novice Bayerns and New Yorks.
The Shiratsuyu
Armament: Five 127mm Rifles, eight Torpedoes.

Speed & Stealth: 34.0 knots, 6.7km surface detection range.
Specialties: Stealthiest ship at tier 7. Has a Torpedo Reload Booster which rearms her launchers in 5s (!).

This one surprised me.  I really, really enjoyed my time in the Shiratsuyu — so much so that I played many a round after getting enough test-games in for the sheer pleasure of it.  She is slow.  Oh god, is she slow.  It’s a major setback.  There’s something really horrifying when you see an Iowa or Bismarck gaining on you in a destroyer.  But the extra range on her guns and the ability to fast-cycle a reload of torpedoes on command is a lot of fun.  Now fun doesn’t necessarily translate to good performance.  I think this ship has the right tools for the job but that low top speed really has me concerned how the masses will receive and do with her.

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