Hearts of Iron 4 (HOI4) – Best Ship Designs (All Types)

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Naval combat in Hearts of Iron 4 is probably the scariest part of the gameplay for most single-player fans since it can be overly complicated.

HOI4 fans who play a lot of multiplayer know that there is always a special meta that changes with every update that they use to abuse the Navies of powerful countries like the UK, Japan, and Italy.

Recommended Read: Hearts of Iron 4 – Soviet Union (USSR) Guide

Still, if you learn how to design some of the more basic ships that you will use in all of your playthroughs, you might actually stand a chance against the meta demons.

So, in this guide, we will show you the best ship designs you can use in Hearts of Iron 4 to stop thinking about the Navy more than it’s necessary.

Table of Contents

Types of Ships

There are 5 types of ships that you will use in HOI4:

  • Destroyers
  • Submarines
  • Cruisers
  • Battleships
  • Carriers

Though designs will help you a lot, you will also need to know a bit about how naval warfare works in HOI4 if you want to win. Just using the best templates won’t be enough to win every battle.

But these ship designs that we will show you will surely allow you to win most of your battles, even if you have no idea how naval warfare works in HOI4.

Best Destroyer Ship Designs in HOI4

The Destroyer might be the most important part of a Navy in HOI4, as it acts as the shield of the Heavy Cruisers, Battleships, and Carriers. The moment you lose all of your Destroyers is the moment you will lose all of your Navy.

The most important stats for Destroyers in HOI4 are Max Speed and Organization. If those two aren’t good, the Destroyers won’t be as efficient as they should be.

Speed will determine how fast they join the battle, while Organization will help them last longer as the screen of the Navy.

There are three types of Destroyer designs that you can use in HOI4, depending on your goal when using them:

  • Shield
  • Tank
  • Anti-Sub

The Shield Destroyer Design

The whole idea with the Shield Destroyer is that you will use this only as a shield. The whole point of the Destroyers designed this way will be to stand in front of enemy fire while your backline of powerful Heavy Cruisers, Battleships, and Carriers deal the damage.

The Shield Destroyer is incredibly easy to design, as it doesn’t require many parts, and you can mass produce them more easily than any other type of ship.

So, all the parts that you will need for the Shield Destroyer design in HOI4 are:

  • Battery Slot: Light Battery
  • Engine Slot: Light Engine

That is all you need for this design. All the changes you will make to it are just upgrades. So, you can start with Light Battery I and slowly get to Light Battery IV. The same goes for the Light Engine and the Destroyer Hull.

The beauty of this design is that it is useful, and you can easily change it at any time to refit your old Shield models into something more useful if you wanted to.

The Tank Destroyer Design

If you want a real Destroyer that can deal damage to enemy ships while also taking damage, the Tank Destroyer design we will show you now is the best one to use in HOI4:

  • Battery Slot: Light Battery
  • Anti-Air
  • Fire Control Systems: Fire Control
  • Radar
  • Torpedo Launcher
  • All Custom Slots: Light Battery

Though these Destroyers won’t be able to take down fleets of Battleships by themselves, they will give you that extra firepower on the frontlines that you wouldn’t have with the Shield.

The Anti-Air and the Fire Control will also help a lot against annoying Carries with a lot of planes.

The main idea would be to fill the Custom Slots with Light Batteries, but that is not necessary if you have a good fleet behind the Destroyers.

If you feel like the Destroyers are suddenly worse at defending your fleet than they were before, you can remove the Torpedo Launcher and some of the Custom Slots.

The Anti-Sub Destroyer Design

The Anti-Submarine Destroyer is going to be very important in HOI4 multiplayer, where the other players are going to harass you with Subs at any opportunity they get.

This is why you will need a special fleet that can eliminate these Submarines and allow your Convoys to do their jobs properly.

Here is the best ship design for an Anti-Sub Destroyer in HOI4:

  • Battery Slot: Light Battery
  • Sonar
  • All Custom Slots: Depth Charge

The Sonar will allow you to detect Subs, while the Depth Charges will help your Destroyers defeat any Subs they find. You don’t really need anything else besides this.

Just put as many Depth Charges as possible and watch as Subs die left and right to your Destroyers.

Considering that many HOI4 fans in multiplayer love using extremely cheap and annoying Subs that can leave you without any Convoys and Supply, these will become necessary. It all depends on the rules of the multiplayer session.

In single-player, the AI never uses Submarines properly, so you will never have a real reason to build the Anti-Sub Destroyers. Still, this is a good design to learn in case you will ever need it.

Best Submarine Designs in HOI4

Submarines are the easiest ships to design in HOI4, since they only have two stats that matter:

  • Torpedo Attack
  • Sub Visibility

You will need to increase Torpedo Attack as much as possible and lower Sub Visibility at every opportunity. This is why designing the Submarines will be extremely easy, as there are only two things that you will need to insert in the ship:

  • Torpedo Tubes
  • Snorkels

You will have access to Torpedo Tubes right from the start, but you will need to research Snorkels to put them in the design. This part of the Submarine will be extremely useful since it is the only module that can lower Sub Visibility, protecting your Subs from attacks.

There is also a special design that many players use in multiplayer for Submarines which involves only placing two Torpedo Tubes I on the Sub and an Engine.

You build a lot of these for an extremely low production cost, and you can just chug them at enemies to destroy their hard-earned Navy with horrible ships.

However, this would generally only be a good strategy for a minor power that has a few naval Dockyards but not enough to build anything else besides Subs and Convoys.

Best Cruiser Ship Designs in HOI4

There are two types of Cruisers in HOI4: Light Cruisers and Heavy Cruisers. The Light Cruisers will take part of the screening fleet in battle alongside Destroyers, and the Heavy Cruisers will be in the back with Battleships.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t any real reason to use Light Cruisers if you have a lot of good Destroyers. However, if you want to build them, here is a really good design for them:

Light Cruiser Design

Light Cruisers need to find the right balance between Max Speed and firepower. Otherwise, they will quickly get destroyed on the frontlines of the naval battle.

Here is the best design you can use for a Light Cruiser in HOI4:

  • Battery Slot: Light Cruiser Battery (Medium Battery)
  • Anti-Air
  • Fire Control Systems: Fire Control
  • Radar
  • Secondaries: Secondary Battery
  • All Custom Slots: Light Cruiser Battery

Just sticking the design with a lot of Light Cruiser Batteries will be more than enough for the Light Cruiser.

If you feel that its Max Speed it too low, you can change some of the Custom Slots from Light Cruiser Batteries to Secondary Batteries.

This will lower Light Attack by 1 for each Light Cruiser Battery you exchange with a Secondary battery, but you will increase the Max Speed by around 0.5 know.

On the 1940 Cruise Hull, you can only put two Secondary Batteries in the Custom Slots, so it wouldn’t hurt to do it.

Heavy Cruiser Design

The Heavy Cruiser is the king of naval battles at the moment in HOI4. Though things often change, it has always been one of the best performers in the game.

If you have a good enough screen to protect them, they will destroy everything that your opponents use against you.

Your Heavy Cruiser will need to do damage to both light ships and heavy ships. This is why it will need to find the right balance between Light Attack and Heavy Attack.

Max Speed will still be important if you want them to be a part of battles and Anti-Air will be a must.

So, here is the best design for a Heavy Cruiser ship in HOI4:

  • Battery Slot: Heavy Cruiser Battery (Medium Battery)
  • Anti-Air
  • Fire Control Systems: Fire Control
  • Radar
  • Secondaries: Secondary Battery
  • Custom Slots: Heavy Cruiser Battery + Secondary Battery (Mid Slots) + Light Battery (Rear 2)

As you can see, the design for the Heavy Cruiser is similar to the one we used for the Light Cruiser.

However, there is a lot more detail when it comes to the Custom Slots. This is because we need to make sure that they have enough Light Attack to destroy the annoying screen of the enemy fleets.

So, we stick Secondary Batteries anywhere we can and then add some extra Light Batteries for the 1940 Cruiser Hull. The earlier models don’t have space for it, so you can ignore it until then.

Spotting Cruiser

In HOI4, you can’t just put your giant fleet to patrol the seas for enemies since you will end up with 0 fuel. However, what you can do is set them to work as a Strike Force that comes to help a patrol that finds enemies.

The way you would do this is you would set up a Spotting Cruiser that has one job: to find enemies while patrolling. The moment they find an enemy fleet, the rest of the Navy joins the battle and destroys everything in their way.

So, for this purpose, here is the best design you could use for your Spotting Cruiser in HOI4 to make sure you always find your enemies:

  • Battery Slot: Heavy Cruiser Battery (Medium Battery)
  • Anti-Air
  • Sonar
  • Radar
  • Secondaries: Dual-Purpose Secondary Battery
  • Custom Slots: Anti-Air (Front 1) + Aircraft Facilities

The Aircraft Facilities are the most important part of this design, as they increase the Surface Detection stat to the roof.

Combined with the Radar and Sonar, this Spotting Cruiser should be able to find any enemy fleets going through your seas.

Best Battleship Designs in HOI4

The Battleship has always been a controversial topic for most veteran HOI4 players.

To build a Battleship, you will need to spend a lot of time and resources. And, usually, what you get in return isn’t worth the effort.

Still, the Battleship is a fun ship to design and build, and it can feel very good to send one of these on the front and see how it handles the battle. So, for the average Battleship enjoyer, here is the best design you can use in HOI4:

  • Battery Slot: Heavy Battery
  • Anti-Air
  • Fire Control Systems: Fire Control
  • Radar
  • Secondaries: Dual-Purpose Secondary Battery
  • Battlecruiser Armor
  • Custom Slots: Heavy Battery + Aircraft Facilities + 2x Dual-Purpose Secondary Battery + Heavy Battery

The most important thing for your Battleship will be Anti-Air, so make sure you always have the best possible one installed at all times.

Planes on Carriers will target the backline of a navy first. They will destroy the Carriers of your fleet and then move on to the Battleships.

This is why the Anti-Air and Dual-Purpose Secondary Battery are a must here.

There will also be a choice between Battleship Armor and Battlecruiser Armor. Always choose Battlecruiser Armor, since you will still have a lot of Armor and you will have a much larger Max Speed.

Otherwise, we keep most of the same modules we used for the Heavy Cruiser, with some added Anti-Air power.

Super Heavy Battleship Design

The Super Heavy Battleship is considered by most players too much of an investment. However, if you really wanted to do it, here’s how that design would look:

  • Battery Slot: Heavy Battery
  • Anti-Air
  • Fire Control Systems: Fire Control
  • Radar
  • Secondaries: Dual-Purpose Secondary Battery
  • Battlecruiser Armor
  • Custom Slots: 2x Heavy Battery + 3x Dual-Purpose Secondary Battery + 2x Heavy Battery

Even though Super Heavy Battleships sound cool, and this design is decent, we still wouldn’t recommend using them.

They are extremely slow, which means they will constantly get hit, and they pack a serious punch against heavy ships, but they won’t really be able to hit them due to screens.

But, if you really wanted to make them, who are we to stop you?

Best Carrier Ship Designs in HOI4

Carriers only need a lot of planes on them. That is it. Nothing else matters when you build the design of a Carrier in HOI4.

So, here is the best design you can use for your Carrier ship in HOI4 to annihilate enemy fleets:

  • Deck Space 1 and 2: Hangar Space
  • Anti-Air
  • Radar
  • Secondaries: Dual-Purpose Secondary Battery
  • All Custom Slots: Hangar Space

We know this sounds like a joke, but you really don’t need anything else on your Carriers other than Hangars. Your Destroyers and Light Cruisers will do the job to protect them, which means you can use them at their full potential.

Just make as much space as possible for planes on them and let your other side of the industry do the work. Planes will dominate the seas as long as they can take part in the battles.

Since planes can attack the backline of a Navy without any problems, the Carriers will make you extremely powerful the more planes you can actually have on them.

Anti-Air is also going to be very important, considering that your Carriers will also be attacked by enemy planes first. So, the Anti-Air and Dual-Purpose Secondary Battery will be very important here.

That’s everything you need to know about the best ship designs in Hearts of Iron 4!

Have any input or suggestions for this guide? Let us know in the comment section below.

Adrian Oprea

Based in London, United Kingdom, Adrian Oprea is a Guides Writer. As a professional single-player RPG player, Adrian has often been stigmatized. He has decided to pour his frustration into writing guides!

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