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The Kuma-class Light Cruiser (球磨型軽巡洋艦) were the successors of the Tenryu-class Lighters, due that the IJN needed a light cruiser that is fast enough to catch up with the new destroyer vessels.

Also with the development of the long range,oxygen-propelled Type 93 "Long Lance" torpedoes in the 1930's, the IJN drafted plans to create a special "Night Battle Force" of Torpedo Cruisers (CLT) which is said to based from their success in the naval Battle of Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War. Thus refitting Kitakami and Ooi with modified with ten quadruple mount torpedo launchers (a total of 40 tubes), arranged in two broadside rows of five. Kiso was said to be planned for a remodel into a CLT, but were never implemented.

However, the evolution of naval aviation and simply the lack of such an opportunity meant that they never served in that role in the Pacific War. Nevertheless, their versatility led them to serve in a number of different roles through the war ranging from the Aleutian Islands to the Indian Ocean.