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  1. HMS Ark Royal 1939 1:350 Merit International via Pocketbond Despite the fact that the Ark did not survive WWII, she was considered a lucky ship, having a few close scrapes that she survived, and as such she was seen as a good posting. She was involved in a lot of action, including the hunt for the Bismark before being hit by a torpedo in the Mediterranean in 1941, slowly sinking beneath the waves whilst being towed to port. Only one crew member was lost, having the misfortune to be low down in the hull when the torpedo struck. Laid down in 1935, with launch following two years later and a further year taken up with the fitting out of the hull. Several famous squadrons embarked on the Ark during her fairly short service life, flying Swordfish, Skua, Roc, Fulmar and Albacore torpedo bombers. She was involved in the hunt for the Graf Spee, and before deployment to the Med., where she became part of Force H, returning to duties after a refit. She also hunted the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau where she was damaged after a failed launch of a Swordfish resulted in the depth charges it was carrying going off under the hull. After repairs she was involved in hunting the Bismark, having a close squeak that almost ended in the accidental destruction of the Sheffield, followed by eventual contact with the real quarry, where a successful attack from Ark Royal Swordfishes led to the Bismark's partial disablement and subsequent destruction. After this she returned to Force H, ferrying aircraft to Malta but on their return trip to Gibraltar, she was picked up by U-81, which managed to hit her with just one torpedo amidships. The damage was massive, due to the relatively deep hit, exacerbated by her movement, and she soon began to list to the side. Although they managed to stablise the situation briefly, water continued to encroach through open hatches, and the list increased after which the crew were evacuated to HMS Legion, who was assisting in trying to keep her afloat. She later capsized and broke into two parts, ending up quite a way from the expected wreck location. She was discovered by a BBC documentary crew early in the new millennium, who concluded that after the engines failed nothing could save her due to some design flaws that were not appreciated at the time. The Kit This is a new tooling from Merit International, and has been awaited with baited breath by many fans of the Ark, myself amongst them. I have no idea why I find her so intriguing, and I freely profess that I'm no expert on her, but I have a fondness that I can't explain. The box is best described as BIG, as at 1:350, she scales out at 696mm long. Gulp! Deep breaths Mike – don't wonder how you're going to photograph the hull parts and the box top. Moving on. Inside the huge top-opening box are the two hull halves and the carrier deck, which notably has no cut-outs for the lifts and thereby no view into the interior. Beneath a card divider are the rest of the sprues, all in the same mid-grey styrene. There are twenty three sprues of various sizes (excluding the aforementioned hull & deck), plus eight Photo-Etch (PE) frets of varying sizes. A large black stand and sheet of decals complete the parts list, and of course the instruction booklet rounds out the package with a folded glossy A3 sheet containing the painting and marking instructions for both the ship and her complement of aircraft. Speaking of which, you get the following spread over thirteen small sprues. 5 x Fairey Swordfish 4 x Fairey Fulmar 4 x Blackburn Skua The Swordfish also have 5 sheets of PE for their interplane struts, which will enhance their realism substantially, especially if you are brave enough to rig them with… human hair? The detail on the aircraft at this scale is excellent, and even the wings are commendably thin, as are the props. Ideally you could do with squadron strength of at least one of the aircraft choices, but it's not a major problem, although at this stage there are no extra sprues available separately from Merit. The absence of aircraft lifts is a shame, as this would have opened up some extra potential deck-handling scenarios that add a little interest to any aircraft carrier model. I'm sure it won't be long before this happens via aftermarket however. As with most ship kits, there is a lot of repetition in the parts count, as there are multiple instances of anti-aircraft gun emplacements, lifeboats, cranes and of course the aircraft lurking around the decks. Construction starts with the hull sides, which are detailed up with long rectangular boxes into which dividers and lifeboats are placed, to simulate some of the detail. A number of PE railings are used to prevent folks from pitching off the sides in bad weather, and these along with the interiors will need painting before they are installed. With both halves completed, the hull halves are brought together, being held at the correct width by the addition of three strong mini-bulkheads that plug into sockets on each side of the hull. Inserts are also provided for the open deck sections under the bow and round-down at the stern, which can be fitted once the two halves are together. A single rudder is also fitted, and additional PE railings are added fore and aft, before the flight deck is dropped into place. At this stage eight anti-aircraft guns are added to their emplacements, with twin 4.5" barrels slotted through the enclosed gun-shield, the latter being slide-moulded to obtain maximum detail. The hull is inverted briefly to install the twin screws and their driveshaft fairings, and then she is flipped over again to begin the installation of the various suspended walkways that festoon the exterior of the upper hull, complete with the life rafts that were usually visible in period photos strapped to the sides of the hull. Eight davits are made up from a combination of PE and styrene in various configurations, and these are added to the sides of the hull in the raised position throughout the rest of the construction process, as are a number of bofors 40mm pom-pom guns. More railings are added throughout the process, and the two ship's cranes are installed at midships near the launches. Toward the bow a set of parts for the last-ditch retrieval nets are supplied, which block the route of an aircraft that has failed to trap-on to the front and sides of the last usable section of deck before the pilot gets his feet wet. The penultimate task is to build the Island, which is fairly simple, consisting of only a few decks plus the bridge, smoke stack to the rear with a PE grating, additional Pom-Pom mounts, and a number of lights for communications. A set of PE railings are fitted to the crow's nest, around the radar installation, and to form the bracing for the topmost section of the mast. Finally the aircraft are up for construction. The five Swordfish are complex, and made from a number of parts, including four for the landing gear, separate upper and lower wings, a two-part fuselage with the tail captive to one side for finesse, separate engine cowling and prop, elevators, and of course the PE to simulate both the interplane stuts and the rigging, which will take some care to do well. The four Fulmars are a much simpler affair, with two fuselage halves, a single piece wing, two gear legs, two elevators and the prop, as are the four Skuas, although they have a single piece elevator instead. The island is then attached to a raised part on the deck, which prevents it being fitted the wrong way round. Three more bofors sets are also added along with another set of netting to complement the last-gasp set further toward the bow. Assuming everything is painted and decaled, the finished model can be rests on the supplied plinth with a name plaque provided with raised lettering to inform the casual observer. Markings The decal sheet is fairly large due mainly to the white lines on the desk and the markings for the aircraft. The boot topping must be painted, and as there are no moulded-in lines to assist with this, you will need to be careful when masking it up to ensure that it doesn't wobble during the process. The decals are serviceable, however, some of the roundels are a little squiffy, but at this scale it isn't all that noticeable. Some of the more complex lining on the deck has a substantial amount of carrier film accompanying it by necessity, so a good glossy surface will be needed to keep them from silvering, followed by additional gloss-coats to hide the raised edges of the film. Only the national markings are supplied for the aircraft, and their positioning is shown in scrap diagrams around the guide, with paint colours called out in Gunze shades, but with conversions to Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol provided in tables at the top of the sheet. Conclusion Maritime Modellers have been waiting for a decent model of the Ark in 1:350 for some time, and now we have one. It lacks a few of the expected aspects such as the lifts and some semblance of a hangar, but otherwise it is well detailed and a good quality model. It's certainly an item ticked off my modelling wish list. Apologies go to Pocketbond for the delay in getting this one done, which was mainly due to photographing the large parts and my poor memory. Keep your eyes open for the upcoming review of the comprehensive upgrade set from Tetra Model Works soon. It's a work of art! Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  2. USS Kitty Hawk, CVA-63 Merit International 1:350 The history of USS Kitty Hawk closely parallels the course of naval aviation over the past 37 years. Built in Camden, NJ, Kitty Hawk was heralded as the first in a new class of "super carrier" at her commissioning at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on April 29, 1961. The 82,000-ton ship departed her homeport of San Diego on her first Western Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment in 1962. Since that time, Kitty Hawk and a variety of Carrier Air Wings have completed 18 deployments in support of operations including Vietnam, the Iranian hostage crisis, Operation Restore Hope in Somalia and air strikes against Iraq, and as the leader of the joint, coalition offensive strike launched in response to increasing Iraqi violations of United Nations sanctions. Kitty Hawk underwent three overhauls in the Bremerton, Wash., Naval Shipyard in 1977, 1982 and 1998. The ship's most significant maintenance period, however, was a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard beginning in 1987. That rigorous four-year overhaul added an estimated 20 years to the planned 30-year life of the ship. The ship displayed the long reach of carrier aviation by completing a world cruise on the way to Philadelphia and returned by rounding the southernmost tip of South America. The ship set sail on its 17th deployment on June 24, 1994. During the six-month cruise, the ship, and Carrier Air Wing Fifteen, under the direction of the Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group FIVE, provided a stabilizing influence in the Western Pacific during a time of great tension in the Far East. Soon after her return from deployment, the ship was awarded the Battle Efficiency Award, or Battle "E," given yearly to the best carrier in the Pacific Fleet. In October, she welcomed aboard the proud members and imposing airpower of Carrier Air Wing Eleven, fresh off a deployment to the Persian Gulf aboard the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN 72). The Kitty Hawk and Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN, refined their teamwork during workups, enjoying a very successful participation in Exercise Rim of the Pacific '96, a multi-national exercise taking place around the Hawaiian Islands involving the maritime forces of Canada, Japan, South Korea, Chile and Australia, in preparation for deployment in October 1996. The Kitty Hawk/CVW-11 team made port calls in Hong Kong and Singapore. Christmas was celebrated in port Bahrain, and two Gulf port calls were made to Jebel Ali, U.A.E. Returning from a successful tour at the "tip of the spear", the crew enjoyed liberty in Fremantle, Australia and Hobart, Tasmania. After a brief stop in Hawaii, Kitty Hawk returned to San Diego April 11, 1997. In August 1998, Kitty Hawk changed its homeport from San Diego, Calif., to Yokosuka in Japan and relieved the USS Independence (CV 62) as the only carrier forward deployed to another country. On March 2, 1999, Kitty Hawk departed Yokosuka on a three-and-a-half month deployment to the Arabian Gulf where she operated in support of Operation Southern Watch. Before entering the Indian Ocean she participated in Exercise Tandem Thrust in the Pacific, during which the former USS Oklahoma City (CLG 5) was being used as a target. After the exercise, Kitty Hawk visited Apra Harbor, Guam, on April 3, 1999, before departing for the Persian Gulf where she patrolled the No-Fly-Zone over southern Iraq. Kitty Hawk departed the Gulf on July 15, 1999, and returned to Yokosuka where she arrived on August 25, 1999. The year 2000 saw Kitty Hawk and her Battle Group operating in the western Pacific. The carrier took part in Exercise Cobra Gold 2000 and conducted port visits to Phattaya, Thailand; Hong Kong and Singapore. After the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, on September 11, 2001, the Kitty Hawk Battle Group was ordered to deploy to the Indian Ocean and was later involved in combat missions against the Taliban and Al Qaida in Afghanistan. The Battle Group returned to Yokosuka on December 23, 2001. On March 21, 2002, the Kitty Hawk became the first carrier in the US Navy to perform test firings with the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) System. On October 25, 2002, the Kitty Hawk Battle Group left Yokosuka for a regular scheduled underway period. After a port visit to Hong Kong November 29 through December 3, the Battle Group returned to Japan on December 13. The ships got underway again late January with orders to deploy to the Persian Gulf as part of the build-up of military forces in the area in preparation for the war against the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. she arrived on station late February/early March and from March 20 on, participated in air strikes against targets in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After serving 104 continuous days at sea, Kitty Hawk returned to Yokosuka May 6, entering a dry-dock period ending Oct. 17. 2004 was an eventful year that involved a series of inspections, exercises, and port visits. On Feb. 19, a new chapter in the book of Kitty Hawk Strike Groups history began with the first landing of an F/A-18F Super Hornet on board the ships 4.1-acre flight deck during the ships 12th FDNF underway period. The VFA-102 Diamondbacks introduced the improved F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet to the 7th Fleet area of operation, replacing the F-14 Tomcat, after more than 30 years of service. Kitty Hawk capped off the year with Annual Exercise 2005, which ran from November 9 to 18. Annualex provided Kitty Hawk with the opportunity to increase its military partnership with the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force. She was one of 61 naval vessels which participated, including: two U.S. submarines; 10 other Navy ships; and 49 JMSDF ships. The ship departed Fleet Activities Yokosuka, June 8, 2006, for its 16th FDNF underway period. During the 99-day deployment, the ship took part in Exercise Valiant Shield, a multi-service war game involving three carrier strike groups, 22,000 personnel, and 280 aircraft June 19 to 23. It was the largest military exercise conducted by the United States in Pacific waters since the Vietnam War. The carrier then pulled into Otaru, Japan, on Hokkaido Island from July 1 to 5 after Valiant Shield. Also during the deployment, the crew made three more port visits: Singapore; Fremantle, Australia; and Laem Chabang, Thailand. Dozens of distinguished visitors boarded the carrier during this underway period for tours. Visitors included the U.S. ambassador to Thailand, the Royal Thai army commander in chief, and various officials from Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, and Japan. The ship returned to Yokosuka September for a short period before departing for its summer deployment. During this two-month deployment, Kitty Hawk and embarked Carrier Air Wing 5 travelled more than 15,200 nautical miles and launched more than 8,000 aircraft. After a stop in Sasebo, Japan, the strike group took part in the 18th Annual Exercise, a week-long exercise which had more than 100 American and JMSDF ships training together, between November 9 and 14. The deployments last stop was Hong Kong, from November 23 to 27. Kitty Hawks Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Division organized 20 tours of Hong Kong and its surrounding areas, including mainland China, for 702 Sailors. The ship also hosted Japanese author Hiromi Nakamura who interviewed 41 Kitty Hawk Sailors for a book about Kitty Hawks flight deck. After returning to its homeport on December 10, the ship settled down for the holiday season and the New Year. The ship then went through a four-month maintenance period, during which the ship hosted Vice President Dick Cheney. The carrier then departed May 23, 2007, after completing sea trials and pilot refresher training, known as carrier qualifications. Kitty Hawk kicked off the summer cruise with Talisman Saber 2007, in which the United States and Australia combined land, sea and air forces. The exercise brought together more than 12,000 Australian and 20,000 U.S. personnel from all branches of the armed services. The ship made port visits to Brisbane and Sydney, Australia. Then-Prime Minister John Howard and current Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Academy Award Winning Actor Russell Crowe made visits to the ship while it was moored in Sydney. Kitty Hawk then participated in Exercise Valiant Shield 2007, one of the largest annual exercises in the Western Pacific. The week-long exercise involved about 30 ships, 280 aircraft and 22,000 U.S. Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines who worked together to build joint combat skills. The 30 ships involved with Valiant Shield were from three carrier strike groups: Kitty Hawks, USS Nimitzs (CVN 68) and USS John C. Stenniss (CVN 74). During the exercise, Rear Adm. Rick Wren, commander of the Kitty Hawk strike group and Task Force 70, had command of all three strike groups. The ship also took part in Malabar, a six-day exercise that took place in the Indian Oceans Bay of Bengal, involving more than 20,000 personnel on 28 ships and 150 aircraft from the United States Navy, Indian navy, Royal Australian navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force, and the Republic of Singapore navy. The ship returned to Yokosuka September 21. After a short in-port period, she set out for its final fall deployment October 21, 2007. Kitty Hawk participated in the 19th Annual Exercise, the maritime component of Exercise Keen Sword 2008. The exercise was the largest joint exercise for the Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force. The ship also had a port visit in Muroran, Japan. This was the first time a U.S. Navy ship made a visit to the port. The carrier pulled to its homeport November 27 after 38 days at sea. She stayed in port for a 5-month maintenance period before setting out to complete sea trials and carrier qualifications. On May 28, 2008, the Kitty Hawk left Yokosuka for the last time enroute to Guam and continued on to Pearl Harbor, Hi., to participate in RIMPAC 2008. Before heading out to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, for decommissioning in May 2009, the ship stopped in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to turnover with the USS George Washington (CVN 73) and thereafter continued to San Diego, Calif. She currently resides at the Bremerton Naval Yard in Washington State whilst a preservation group tries to garner enough funds to turn her into a museum ship. The Model Its certainly been a great year for the maritime modeller, with a wide selection of 1:350 scale ship kits being released, and it doesnt seem to be diminishing. There arent many 1:350 aircraft carriers released in the course of a year, but this month we have seen two, the USS Enterprise from WWII, reviewed HERE and this magnificent beast, the USS Kitty Hawk. The kit, naturally, comes in a huge top opening box, with a dramatic piece of artwork on the top of the ship at sea, and is a good indicator as to the size of the model. The kit is made up from over 1400 parts, which will build into to a model some 935mm long, with a width of 245.4mm. Inside, the single piece hull is protected in its own protective compartment with cardboard enclosures protecting the bow and stern sections. There are two separate boxes, each with a line profile of the ship on the lids, and these contain all the sprues and most of the individually moulded parts, such as the bridge and two piece hanger deck. You have to remove both of these boxes to finally get your hands on the massive, single piece flightdeck. This amazing piece of moulding is flawless and includes all the tiedown points, blast deflector bays and arrestor wires. The biggest disappointment is that, other than the hanger deck, there is absolutely no details included for the hanger, unlike the Enterprise release. This is quite a big empty space to fill and you will need good references to produce whats required for the particular era this kit is designed to replicate. Of course, the simple method would be just having all the hanger doors closed up, but you cant, as the closed doors also arent included. Its like the kit was signed off before the design was finished. I guess the other disappointment is that the ship has been modelled as she was not long before her retirement, rather than the more interesting period when she took part in the Vietnam war. Perhaps Merit will release an earlier incarnation of this fine ship. Although it seems the Kitty Hawks sister ship the John F. Kennedy, due to be released soon, is also for a late period fit. Although the kit is a large one and there are a lot of parts the instructions dont appear to be that thick, even though there are forty pages. Each stage of the build is very clearly drawn and shouldnt cause too many problems with following them, but care should be taken on some of the more complex sub-assemblies and where there are multiple parts of the same type, such as the life rafts spread around the flight deck edges. As with the other kits from Merit reviewed so far, the parts are all beautifully moulded, with no sign of flash. There are no perceivable imperfections, other than on the underside of the hull where the moulding sprues have been removed, although it wouldnt take much to clean these areas up. The kit includes fourteen sprues, the separate hull, bridge, flightdeck, and two hanger deck parts moulded in light grey styrene, with twenty two sprues of clear styrene, two sheets of etched brass and two large decal sheets. Construction begins with the two hanger deck section inserted into position within the hull, the aft section of which is fitted with two large bitts, five smaller bitts, a cleat and a large deckhouse, on what will become the quarter deck. The quarterdeck bulkhead is fitted with two side walls and glued into place, before the area is further detailed with a large mezzanine deck, five large stern mounted bumpers, a platform on the aft edge of the quarterdeck, and another attached to the bulkhead and fitted with the stern light cluster. The four hanger door openings are fitted into their respective openings in the hull, after which the hull can be turned over. The four propeller shafts each have two A frame supports and finished off with the propellers themselves. Each rudder is moulded with a separate rudder post, presumably so that the rudders can be posed to the modellers wishes. To complete the work on the lower hull, other than painting of course, is the fitting of the two lone bilge keels. Some small sub-assemblies are next on the build list, with the two Mk.29 Guided Missile Launch Systems, (GMLS), with each of the four launcher boxes being made from six parts, and two boxes fitted to each launcher pedestal. The two lifeboats are next, with the interior section being fitted to the hull, then each boat being fitted to their own cradle. Three hull sponsons, which require a number of holes to be opened up before the rest of the parts can be added. On the starboard side there are from forward to aft, the main sponsons are for the Rolling Airframe Missile, (RAM), saluting guns, radar structure, RAS, mooring, and Phalanx CIWS. There are also three small sponsons a deck lower than the larger ones. On the port side, the main sponsons are for the RAM, lifeboat, mooring, and Phalanx CIWS. As with the starboard side there are smaller sponsons dotted along the side. There are also a large number of unidentifiable box structures fitted on both sides; some of these are radar arrays, and other I guess are stowage boxes. Before the flight deck is glued, the large island support sponson is glued into position. The hull assembly is now put to one side so that construction can move onto the island. Before actual work on the island itself can begin several of the islands platforms need to be populated with the various deck fittings and smaller radar arrays, such as the Automatic Landing System, (ALS), array. The island is then fitted out with eleven floodlight fixtures, a couple of hose reels and other fixtures. The bridge deck is now attached to the top of the island structure, along with the large rear platform and its two support braces. The clear parts that make up the bridge and Admirals bridge are glued to the bridge roof, followed by a support rail that fits between the windows of the two bridges, which is in-turn fitted with two more floodlights, whilst four more are fitted to the bridge roof. With the bridge in the position and the separate starboard side bridge structure in place, its FLYCOs turn. His control position is sited at the rear of the island but at the same level as the bridge, FLYCOs bridge is made up from three large parts and numerous aerials, and further flightdeck lighting. Several platforms are fitted onto the island at this level, and include two side looking radar arrays. One level above the bridge is pretty much an aerial farm, with radomes for SATCOM, AN/SPQ-9 and other functions sited there, along with an AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare System, AN/SPS-49 surface air antenna and other unidentifiable antenna. The single pole mast is fitted with three triple legged platforms near the top, each kitted out with different aerials and radar domes, the topmost being the TACAN dome. Below these platforms the large yardarm is attached along with yet more platforms including the one carrying the four piece radar array. The completed mast is stepped, and the large funnel cap glued into position, followed by yet more aerials and radar arrays on their respective platforms. Moving back to the hull, there are several more large sponsons to assembled and fit, including those for the Sea Sparrow launchers. Each of the sponsons is also fitted with a cat walk around the outer edge and yet more aerials, platforms and ESM arrays. The biggest of the sponsons is that fitted port side which also includes a boat deck cut-out. Whilst the hull is upside down for the sponson fitting, the deck edge lift tracks are fitted, two per lift, and the flightdeck overhang structures are attached. All around the flightdeck catwalks there are fixtures and fittings added, such as the refuelling area hose reels, ladders, access hatches and the numerous liferafts. The four lifts are now installed, as are the four jet blast deflectors, which can be posed either raised or lowed, plus the PE radar mast and its associated fittings, including the AN/SPS-48, and attached to the deck just aft of the island which can also now be fitted, along with the large deck mount crane. With the carrier now pretty much complete, the aircraft and deck vehicles can be assembled. The kit provides, twelve F-18F Hornets, five E-6B Prowlers, two E-2C Hawkeyes and two HH-60H Rescue Hawks, plus Dumbo, the large mobile deck crane, forklifts, and deck tractors. Each is made up from multiple parts creating some very nicely detailed aircraft. If you need more, then they are easily accessible. Decals The two very large decal sheets are very well printed and should keep you busy for hours. The first sheet is for the ship and contains all the flightdeck stripes, lift surrounds, weapons lift surrounds and large numbers for the foreward end, the island, with ships numbers and ships medal tally etc. The aircraft sheet includes markings for all the aircraft, including special schemes for at least one from each squadron, including the Hornets of VF-102 Diamondbacks. Each aircraft is provided with national insignia and titles along with tail codes/artwork and aircraft ID codes. Best get your optivisor out for these, as you will need them. Conclusion As stated above its turning into a bit of a carrier month, and Im certainly not complaining. This is a great kit and will look magnificent on the mantelpiece. Just a shame its been spoilt by a little lack of imagination in the design stage, or it's been rushed into production, especially as its still possible to view the ship at Bremerton. If they had included at least some of the major parts for the hanger, such as the prominent fire doors etc, and given the option of having the hanger doors closed up, then this could have been one of those fabled uber kits, but alas, its close, but no cigar. Maybe the likes of CMK or Eduard will come to the rescue, or shares in plasticard will hit the roof as so much will be needed, by those wishing to scratchbuild the interior. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  3. OSA II FAC Merit International 1:72 History The Project 205 Moskit (mosquito) more commonly known by their NATO reporting name OSA, which mean s Wasp in Cyrillic, are a class of missile boats developed for the Soviet Navy in the late 1950s. Until 1962 this was classified as a large torpedo boat. The OSA class is probably the most numerous class of missile boats ever built, with over 400 vessels constructed in 1960-1973 for both the Soviet Navy and for export to allied countries. The boats were designated as "large missile cutters" in the Soviet Navy. The Project 205 boats are bigger than the pioneering Project 183R (NATO: Komar class) boats, with a mass four times greater, and nearly double the crew. They were still meant to be 'minimal' ships for the planned tasks. The hull was made of steel, with a low and wide superstructure made of lighter AMG alloys, continuous deck, and a high free-board. The edges of the deck were rounded and smooth to ease washing off radioactive contamination in case of nuclear war. The hull was quite wide, but the Project 205 boats could still achieve high speeds as they had three Zvezda M503 radial diesel engines capable of a combined 12,000 hp (15,000 hp on Project 205U onward) driving three shafts. The powerful engines allowed a maximum speed of about 40 knots together with reasonable endurance and reliability. There were also three diesel generators. Two main engines and one generator were placed in the forward engine room, the third main engine and two generators in the aft engine room. There was a control compartment between the two engine rooms. The problem related to the weak anti-aircraft weaponry of the earlier Project 183R was partially solved with the use of two AK-230 turrets, in the fore and aft deck. An MR-104 Rys (NATO: "Drum Tilt") fire-control radar was placed in a high platform, and controlled the whole horizon, despite the superstructures that were quite wide but low. Even if placed in the aft, this radar had a good field of view all around. The AK-230 turrets were unmanned, each armed with two 30 mm guns capable of firing 2,000 rpm (400 practical) with a 2,500 m practical range. Use against surface targets was possible, but as with the previous Komar ships, once all missiles were expended it was planned to escape and not fight. Truly effective anti-surface gun weaponry was not available until the introduction of the Project 12341.1 Molniya (NATO: "Tarantul") class corvettes, with 76 mm guns. The missile armament consisted of four box-shaped launchers (protected from bad weather conditions) each with one P-15 Termit (NATO: SS-N-2 "Styx") missile. This doubled the available weapons compared to the Project 183R, giving greater endurance. The missiles were controlled by a MR-331 Rangout (NATO: "Square Tie") radar and a Nikhrom-RRM ESM/IFF that even allowed targeting over the horizon, if the target's radar was turned on. With all these improvements, these ships were considerably more effective. They had one of the first, if not the first close-in weapon systems (CIWS). The survivability rating was improved to 50%, and the required volley of 12 missiles could be launched by only three ships. Sinking a destroyer was therefore regarded as 'assured' using only six ships (two squadrons of three vessels), making the Project 205 vessels easier to coordinate and even cheaper than would be the required number of Project 183R boats to achieve the same effectiveness. As a result of these improvements, Project 205 boats were without equal in the late 1950/early 1960s. Over 400 were made in USSR and another 120 in China. Some of the improved Project 205U (OSA II) were equipped with the 9K32 Strela-2 (NATO: SA-N-5 "Grail") surface-to-air missiles in MTU-4 quadruple launchers, in an attempt to improve air-defences. This new model also had improved more powerful engines, and new cylindrical missile boxes, with the improved P-15U missiles. The later 205M and 205mod boats had longer tubes for the further-improved P-15M missiles. The Model Having released their OSA 1 last year in both Russian and Chinese variants, the maritime modeller community was pretty assured that an OSA 2 would be released shortly after. Well, here it is, in all its glory. Whilst this and the original Osa 1 kit do share quite a few sprues, there is enough here to justify a completely new kit. Naturally the hull is the same, mast, radar and CIWS turrets, as are the bridge section of the superstructure, propeller shaft assemblies including the rudders and the majority of deck furniture. The biggest difference is in the main weaponry, whereas the Osa 1 housed the missile in large boxy canisters, the Osa 2’s are in much sleeker round tubes which gives the whole boat a less clunky look. The moulding is excellent, particularly the single piece hull, which must require quite a mould on its own, and only needs a quick rub down where it was attached to the moulding sprue. The hull, separate single piece deck, bridge, and rear superstructure, plus the seventeen sprues are all moulded in light grey styrene, there is one sprue of clear styrene, two sheets of etched brass, three metal propeller shafts, some brass wire a length of chain and a small decal sheet. The moulding of all the sprue mounted parts are up to Merits usual high standards, with no sign of flash or other imperfections and only a very small number of moulding pips. There doesn’t appear to be much detail pre-moulded onto other parts, but what there is has been very nicely done. The instructions are very clear and easy to read, and there isn’t too much work done in each step, which helps keep things uncluttered, and is something other manufacturers could take note of. Before starting the build, you will need to remove some of the detail from the hull, as they are only required for the earlier Osa 1. The deck is attached straight away, which will give the hull some rigidity for handling, along with four PE anodes, two, low down on each rear quarter, with four more on the stern, just below the waterline. If you are intent on building the kit as part of a seascape the you can skip the next step, which is the fitting of the three metal propeller shafts, their A frame supports, (3 off each), and the propellers themselves, plus the three rudders. The foredeck is kitted out with various items of deck furniture, the three piece hawse pipe, three piece Jackstaff, capstan, three piece anchor, anchor chain, six piece chain locker hatch, three piece cable drum, five piece magazine hatch, bullring, six bitts, and two mushroom vents. Moving right aft, the three piece Ensign staff, four bitts, another three piece cable reel and the rear blast deflectors are attached. The Bass Tilt radar is a quite simple sub-assembly, yet surprisingly well detailed. The radar drum itself is provided in two halves, which when joined together are detailed with a couple of PE parts and a control box attached to the bottom section. The mounting is assembled from nine parts and fitted with the drum assembly. The radar assembly is then fitted to the mounting base which is also fitted with a PE railing. The now completed radar assembly is fitted to the top of the control box structure, which is detailed with a watertight door and an access ladder. On the aft end of the mounting base there is an aerial base onto which the brass rod is attached and topped off with a cruciform aerial and pommel. The main mast is made up of two halves, fitted with a large three horned platform, which is braced with four support arms on the underside. The top of the mast is the location of the main radar, four large PE parts and one styrene part, whilst the ECM mast that sits behind the radar array, is made from three PE parts and a single styrene part. Two further yardarm platforms are fitted with individual flat plate arrays, each made from a single piece array and twelve di-poles. The yardarms are further kitted out with a navigation light and two support braces. With the various radar arrays attached the mast is also fitted with more light navigational and steaming light fittings, a two piece anemometer and seven individual rungs up the mast. The main armament are obviously the four Styx missiles, each missile body is in two halves, complete with fin/rudder, which, when joined, the wings and horizontal tailplanes are attached, along with the two piece rocket nozzle and single piece RATO rocket which fitted under the tailplane. Each missile is housed in its own cylindrical pod which consists of a two part launch rail, which is glued to one cylinder half after which the other half can be glued in place. The missile assembly is then slid onto the rail the rear panel fitted to the cylinder along with the access hatch. The front hatch is hinged from the top and can be posed open, with the aid of two gas struts allowing the missile to be viewed or closed. Each launcher is then kitted out with fittings, including the hatch actuators, two hand rails, an access hatch, the three piece front support legs and the three piece rear support legs. The four assemblies are now put to one side while other sub-assemblies are built up. The first sub-assembly is, what looks like manual guidance system which consists of a four piece ring sight fitted on top of a pedestal, which itself is fitted with two control handles, a circuit box and a locking wheel. Each of the two CIWS turrets is assembled form the turret base, single piece turret, the two barrels, trunnion and barrel cover, two hand rails, and the framework for the turret covers, (not included). There are two searchlights, one smaller than the other, yet built up in the same way, with the mounting yoke, searchlight, with three separate wing nuts and finished off with a PE handle. The open cockpit will be fitted out with the three piece navigational radar, instrument panel, radio box, and two three lever panels, one is probably the throttle, but the other I’m unable to identify, and all covered with a frame and two clear parts. The cockpit area is finished off with the watertight access door and steering wheel. The two superstructure sections are joined together and the windows fitted, along with the cockpit side plates, cockpit sub-assembly and screen. Two watertight doors are fitted on each side and handrail lengths circumnavigate the whole superstructure. Two roof panels are then attached, followed by the rear watertight doors, rear mounted stowage boxes and two liferings, with their PE cradles. The superstructure is finally fitted to the deck, followed by the three piece after gun mounting, the two piece foreward mounting and two, ventilators. The launcher sub-assemblies can now be glued into their respective positions, along with two, two piece liferafts, pedestal sight, plus its associated rail, main mast, Base Tilt mounting, the two CIWS turrets and a smaller ECM mast, and three whip aerial bases plus aerials. The model is finished off with the fitting of the deck edges parts and the railing stanchions, which come in three different varieties, some two piece and some three pieces, along with four railing sections with canvas screens which are fitted alongside each launcher. The kit does not provide the railings themselves, so it’s up to the modeller how they go about reproducing them. This does allow the modeller to use a more scale thickness that could be produce in styrene or the ubiquitous cotton. If not displaying in a seascape the kit does include a sturdy stand for the model to rest along with a nicely moulded plaque. Decals The small decal sheet provides individual numbers for the modeller to produce any of the class used by the USSR, in addition to a wavey Jack and Ensign. This is probably the only area that is a bit of an anticlimax as these craft have been used by quite a few countries, maybe not as many as the Osa 1’s, but it would have been nice to have the option of at least one or two more. Conclusion The Osa 1 kit released last year was a very nice surprise and while this isn’t so much of a surprise it is still a very welcome addition to the 1:72 catalogue. The kit is very nicely produced and would be a good candidate for modifying it to R/C use as it’s a nice size for use in many boating ponds. It is certainly not a complex kit so should be suitable for any modellers with at least a little experience with etch, yet it is still well detailed out of the box. Very highly recommended Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  4. X Craft Eduard 1:35 The release by Merit International of the British X Craft midget submarine was greeted with much enthusiasm, as it was thought that this interesting subject had been neglected for far too long. To have one in 1:35 scale made the release even sweeter. That said there were a few problems with the kit, some of which can be sorted by the use of the single etched sheet contained in this set from Eduard. The biggest problem in the kit is probably the propeller in that it is wrong in shape and style, this is resolved by the use of the etched blades contain on this sheet. With careful rolling you should be able to get the correct curve of each blade before gluing them to the pre-prepared kit hub. The rest of the set contains various access panels, hatches and fittings for the top of the hull, whilst the underside of the hull is fitted with replacement keel panel. The snorkel is fitted with a new perforated end piece and cap whilst the control linkage on the lower fin is fitted out with new cap plates. Conclusion This is a very nice and easy to use set which would add some much needed detail to this great kit. The inclusion of the propeller blades and correct keel panels really add to the look of authenticity. Highly recommended Review sample courtesy of
  5. New releases available now! 1/35 US Presidential Helicopter and US Navy Rescue Helicopter from Gallery Models! 1/350 USS John F Kennedy from Merit International! 1/72 R-R Armoured Car from Roden 1/35 Scud Crew figures + missile warheads from Trumpeter! 1/16 PzBeobWg Ausf J from Trumpeter! 1/35 GAZ-66 with ZU-23-2 AA Gun from Trumpeter! 1/35 T-62 Mod 1975 with 4 new figures from Trumpeter! 1/48 Su-11 Fishpot from Trumpeter! 1/700 HMS Dreadnought 1918 from Trumpeter! Ask at your model shop for all these and more!
  6. Tupolev G-5 MTB Merit International 1:35 The G-5 was a Soviet motor torpedo boat built before and during World War II. Approximately 300 were built, of which 73 were lost during the war. Four were exported to the Spanish Republican Navy during the Spanish Civil War and others were transferred to North Korea after the war. Three were captured by the Finns, but only two were used before all three had to be returned to the Soviets after the Moscow Armistice in 1944. The class was an improved and enlarged version of the Sh-4-class motor torpedo boats which were derived from a design by Andrei Tupolev, the noted aircraft designer. It was intended to use Soviet-built engines and carry larger torpedoes than its predecessor. A prototype was designed and built by TsAGI the Central Aero-hydrodynamic Institute) in 1932–33. As its intended engines were not yet available two 1,000 bhp (750 kW) Isotta-Fraschini engines were imported from Italy. Unarmed, and with a partial fuel load, it achieved a maximum speed of 63.5 knots (73.1 mph; 117.6 km/h) during its trials in the Black Sea during 1933 and the decision was made to place it into production. The G-5 used a single-step, hydroplaning design with a whaleback upper hull. It was mainly built from duralumin which saved a significant amount of weight, but greatly complicated its use in service because of duralumin's susceptibility to galvanic corrosion in salt water. One captured Soviet torpedo boat commander said that G-5s could only be kept in the water for 5–7 days during the summer and 10–15 days during the winter before it had to be removed from the water and treated with anti-corrosion measures. The hull was divided into three compartments by two transverse bulkheads. The superstructure was very small to reduce top-heaviness, and crewmembers could not stand up inside it. Designed to use a version of the Mikulin AM-34 aircraft engine adapted for maritime use as the GAM-34. The two engines were fitted in the forward compartment of the hull. Each engine had its own transmission and drove a bronze propeller .67 m (2 ft 2 in) in diameter. The initial version of the GAM-34 was less powerful than planned at only 675 bhp (503 kW) and the initial Series 7 boats could only reach 45 knots (52 mph; 83 km/h). However the minimum speed was 18 knots (21 mph; 33 km/h) which caused a great deal of trouble when trying to moor and when manoeuvring in close proximity. The two torpedoes were carried in troughs set into the rear deck in a manner derived from that used by the British WW I-era coastal motor boats captured by the Soviets during Russian Civil War. The torpedoes were pushed off the stern by an arbor with a bell-shaped head that was activated by an explosive charge, but the torpedo motor was not activated until a wire trailing from the boat snapped, giving the boat time to turn away from the target. This launching system was very light, but it required additional training to properly aim the torpedo and prior coordination when making massed torpedo attacks to prevent the boats from ramming each other or the torpedoes. The gun armament initially consisted of a single 7.62 mm (0.300 in) machine gun, but this was upgraded to a 12.7 mm (0.50 in) DShK machine gun in later models. Some later boats carried two DShKs although the mounts varied; some were placed in a tub in the forecastle, but others carried theirs in a rotating turret behind the superstructure, above the torpedoes. Some boats carried 82 mm (3.2 in) ROFS-82 or 132 mm (5.2 in) ROFS-132 rocket launchers in fixed mounts above and behind the wheelhouse. The Model When this kit was first announced it was met with a fair bit of surprise, be it a very welcome one. The kit comes in quite a small box for the scale, as it’s not a very big craft, especially when compared with the similarly scaled Vosper and US PT boats released by Italeri. What there is though is beautifully moulded, with some very fine detail on the hull and small superstructure. On opening the box the modeller is confronted with six sprues of grey styrene, the two part hull, the moulds of which must have taken some machining to get all the well rendered curves reproduced, a single piece bridge structure, a sprue of clear styrene, a small sheet of etched brass and a smallish decal sheet. The biggest disappointment is the complete lack of internal detail, which seems to be coming a bit of a trademark for Merit. It’s like they get bored of a subject and just release as is, without any further thought on what the modeller might like to see in a kit. This does give the scratch builders and aftermarket companies something to do, but it would have been nice to have some included. Construction begins with the fitting of a small cross member just aft of the bridge opening on the inside of the upper hull, and the opening up of three holes on the upper deck. The upper and lower hulls are then joined together before being turned upside down for the two propeller shafts, which are moulded complete with their support bearings, and the two propellers. The hull is turned right side up and the two rudders, with their separate steering wire attachments fitted. Each of the three rear mounted torpedo rails are made up of two parts. These are then fitted to the centre and sides of the torpedo troughs. The transom mounted support braces are then attached, followed by to access hatches and the torpedo support cradles. The engine compartment hatch, front machine gun tub ring and forward access hatch are all glued into place, whilst along each side there are two hull strakes fitted. The various vents, hatches are attached to the sides, with the engine room clear skylights and hatch handles being fitted to the deck. The deck is also fitted with the various cleats, bollards, handrails, and boat hooks. Staying with the deck fittings, the ventilators, jack staff, torpedo trough fittings, ensign staff and the two fuel tank racks are glued into place. The three fuel tanks are each made up of upper and lower halves, which, when assembled are fitted to the racks fitted earlier. The tanks are then fitted with the eight sections of pipe work, six of which lead to the inside of the deck via the torpedo recess. Each of the long exhausts are then assembled from fourteen parts and attached to each side of the deck. At this point, we finally get to build the primary weapons of the boat, the two torpedoes. Each of them is made up from upper and lower halves, four part contra-rotating propellers, (the propellers blades being etched brass). The propellers are sandwiched between the two halves of the body, with the separate upper and lower propeller guards being attached. Each of the two DShK heavy machine guns are assembled, each made from a single piece barrel/breech, to which the rear mounted firing handle is attached, along with two fittings for the mount. The triangular mount is then fitted, along with the counterweight and three piece ammunition tank. The large searchlight is then assembled, with the mounting cradle made up from four parts and the searchlight from another three. The bridge structure is then fitted out with the five windows and top mounted screen, followed by the torpedo sighting plate, various vents, navigation lights and four hand rails. The torpedo sight is then fitted to its plate, followed by the searchlight, four piece mast, and the rear mounted gun tub, made from four parts, to which a previously assembled DShK is fitted. The forward gun tub is made from five parts and fitted with the remaining DShK. To complete the model the torpedoes, bridge and forward gun tub assembly are all fitted and the model displayed on the five piece stand, which comes complete with nameplate. Decals The smallish decal sheet contains a pair of Soviet Naval Ensigns, one straight, the other slightly wavy. The rest of the sheet contains three of each number 1 – 9 and ten zeros, to make up any numbers the modeller wishes. Although the boxart shows the two boats without numbers, it will require some research to determine what numbers were used. Conclusion This is a great looking kit, and from the build progressing on Britmodeller as I type, it looks like it goes together well. As mentioned above, you will have to add some interior as there are a few areas that make the whole boat see through. Fortunately there are some photos available that will help with this. All in all though, this will make into a very interesting and unusual model. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  7. M-ATV MRAP Trumpeter 1:16 History In the summer of 2008, the U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) began to examine the possibility of developing and procuring a lighter-weight, all-terrain capable MRAP variant to address the poor roads and extreme terrain of Afghanistan. Source selection activity considered responses from more than 20 companies to a Request for Information (RfI)/Market Survey dated 21 August 2008 and in mid-November 2008 the U.S. government issued a pre-solicitation for an M-ATV. In early December 2008 the M-ATV formal Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued. The original M-ATV program requirement was for between 372 and 10,000 vehicles, with the most probable production quantity stated as 2,080. In March 2009, it became known that two each of six different vehicle types (from five manufacturers) had been delivered to the U.S. Army for two months of evaluation, at the conclusion of which up to five ID/IQ (Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity) contracts would be awarded. In addition to Oshkosh's proposal, BAE Systems submitted two proposals, these being a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) derived design and an FMTV-based Caiman derivative. Force Dynamics (a Force Protection/General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) joint venture) offered Cheetah, GDLS-C (Canada) offered an RG-31 MRAP derivative, and Navistar offered an MXT-based solution. After GDLS-C's RG-31 was eliminated from the competition in May 2009, it was announced that the five remaining bidders had been awarded ID/IQ contracts, and were each to deliver three production-ready test vehicles for the next stage of the competition. At the completion of testing, the U.S. DoD stated that it planned to select a single M-ATV producer but could, at its discretion, place production orders with multiple producers as it had done with the initial MRAP procurement. On 30 June 2009, the M-ATV contract award was announced with a single ID/IQ contract award to Oshkosh. Brigadier General Michael Brogan, United States Marine Corps program officer for MRAP, stated that the Oshkosh M-ATV was chosen because it had the best survivability and Oshkosh had the best technical and manufacturing capabilities of all the competitors. The Oshkosh bid was also the second cheapest. The initial M-ATV delivery order was valued at over $1 billion and included 2,244 M-ATVs. The overall M-ATV requirement had increased in early June from 2,080 to 5,244 M-ATVs, these split 2,598 (Army), 1,565 (Marines), 643 (U.S. Special Operations Command), 280 (Air Force), 65 (Navy), and 93 for testing. In July 2009, the first 46 M-ATVs were delivered, and in November the 1,000th M-ATV was handed over. Oshkosh reached its contractual obligation to produce 1,000 M-ATVs per month ahead of schedule in December 2009, and by using its existing manufacturing facilities in Oshkosh, WI (50%), and making use of its recession-hit JLG telescopic handler facility in McConnellsburg, PA (50%). The first vehicles arrived in Afghanistan in October 2009 and were to be all delivered by March 2010. In total 8,722 M-ATVs were delivered to the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for use in Afghanistan. M-ATVs were delivered in two main variants. The base model is designated M1240 with the Objective Gunner Protection Kit [OGPK] manned turret); it is designated M1240A1 when fitted with the Under-body Improvement Kit (UIK). The second main variant is designated M1277 and is fitted with M153 CROWS remote-controlled weapon station (RCWS). Produced in smaller numbers, the SOCOM-specific variant is designated M1245; M1245A1 with UIK fitted. As part of the overall divestiture of the wartime MRAP fleet, the U.S. Government will keep about 80% (around 7,000) of the M-ATV fleet, 5,651 of these (inc. 250 for SOCOM) to be retained by the Army. Work is currently underway at Oshkosh's Wisconsin facility and the Red River Army Depot to reset the around 7,000 M-ATVs retained to a common build standard. Oshkosh was awarded an initial 500-vehicle M-ATV Reset contract in August 2014. Three additional contract options for 100 vehicles each were awarded in December 2014. Total contract value is in excess of US$77 million. Deliveries are under way and will continue through September 2015. Reset work centres on returning vehicles to Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) 22 standard: essentially the build standard for the final M-ATV production batch. LRIP 22 includes upgrades such as the UIK and enhanced Automatic Fire Extinguishing System (AFES). Reset work also adds Engineering Change Proposals (ECPs) that include acoustic signature reduction (muffler), Modular Ammunition Restraint System (MARS) ammunition storage, and some Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) relocation. On 28 May 2015, Oshkosh announced the U.S. Army had awarded it a contract modification for the reset of 360 additional M-ATVs. The modification includes options for the reset of up to 1,440 additional M-ATVs. Deliveries for this latest modification are to start is October 2015. Oshkosh is on contract to reset a combined 1,160 M-ATVs with a total value of over $115 million. The Model The first thing you will notice about this kit is that it comes in a very big box with an artists impression of the vehicle on the front. Originally released as a ready built model by Merit International, sister company Trumpeter have now released it as a kit. On lifting the lid of the box off, you are confronted with a sea of plastic and a second box which contains both the larger single piece items and the small parts, to keep them safe. In total there are ten sprues of grey styrene, two of clear styrene, eight separate parts, also in grey styrene, one small sheet of etched brass, four metal springs, eight metal shafts, one metal link shaft, twenty three screws of various sizes/types, five large vinyl tyres, each three inches in diameter, and a smallish decal sheet. The moulding of all the parts is superb, particularly on the large separate parts that make up the chassis and body parts, with crisp details, such as bolt heads. There is no sign of flash or other imperfections, such as sink marks on even the largest parts. Although it appears to be quite a small vehicle, the completed model measures out at 386.3mm long and 159mm wide so will take up quite a lot of display space. Construction begins with the with the wheels with the four central hubs being fitted with two inner hub parts before having the large vinyl tyres slipped over them. The inner hubs and brake accumulators are then attached. The wheels are then put aside whilst construction concentrates on the chassis. The large single piece chassis is fitted with the four suspension mounts, each pair fitted with two piece differentials which include the drive shafts for each wheel. Each suspension mount is then fitted with upper and lower wishbones and ball joint. Between the two wishbones a metal sprint is fitted, before the whole assembly is fitted to the mount, followed by the shock absorber and wheel assembly. The steering rack is then attached to the front axle and the large transfer box is fitted on the centreline, attached to the rear cross-member and the drive shaft fitted between the transfer box and rear differential. The front bumper is fitted with two uprights and attached to the front of the chassis. On the underside of the bumper there is a large crossbeam which is attached via two brackets. Whilst on the underside, the two scuff plates are fitted over the front and rear differentials. The build moves onto the cab, with the firewall being fitted with the two foot pedals, followed by the instrument binnacle, to which the instrument panel is attached and detailed with the appropriate decals. The steering column is added next, followed by the navigation screen which has a map represented by a decal, on view. The cab floor is fitted by the two racks that make up the centre console between the seats. The three passenger seats are each made up of a squab and backrest, whilst the drivers seat is mostly moulded in one piece, with just the base frame and headrest to be fitted. With the seats in place the front bulkhead/instrument panel is fitted, along with the door frame uprights and metal steering link shaft and put to one side. The next major component to be assembled is the CROWS II gunners/commander cupola. The upper, armoured section of which is moulded in one piece, to which the lower section, which has been fitted with the access hatch, is added, along with the clear parts that represent the armoured glass. The 50cal heavy machine gun is a super bit of moulding and only requires the fitting of the pintle mount, two piece ammunition box, breech to plate and shield attachment fitted before it can be added to the cupola. The splinter shield is then fitted with the two armoured glass parts before being fitted to its mount on the machine gun pintle. The instructions now tell you to add the cupola to the single piece main body section, but it may be possible to leave this off till you’ve finished painting, although it does require a fixing ring to be fitted from the inside. The armoured windscreen parts are then fitted from the inside to the body section, along with the PE grille screen, and three boxes associated with the cupola rotation. The cab assembly is then fitted from underneath the body, along with the inner wings and the door hinges fitted to the door posts. Each of the four doors are fitted with their associated armoured glass parts, door cards and hinges. Each of the doors can then be hung on the opposite hinges allowing them to be opening if so desired. The front doors are then fitted with large wing mirrors. The main cab/body section is then fitted to the chassis assembly, along with the large single piece under chassis angled plate. The next stage is the fitting of the rear mud flaps and large equipment frame/truck bed. The upper beams of the frame are closed off with a single part that covers the three sides, whilst the storage lockers are fitted to the single piece wheel are section. The upper frame is then attached and is fitted with the three aerial bases. The assembly is then attached to the rear of the chassis and fitted with mudflaps, radio box with another aerial base, grab handle and reflectors. The three piece towing hitch is then attached, as is the spare wheel mounting frame, and step frame. The large exhaust is also fitted, along the right hand side of the vehicle. The thick DUKE aerial is fitted to the right hand side rear wheel arch, whilst to the rear the spare wheel, with two part hub is attached to its mounting frame. At the front the two piece headlights are attached, along with the two reflectors. Finishing off the build the modeller just needs to fit the roof mounted floodlights over the drivers and co-drivers positions, rear door mounted floodlights, two more aerial bases, one on each side of the scuttle, with the right hand one fitted with a two piece flat plate aerial. There is a two piece camera unit fitted on the centreline of the scuttle, between the two windscreens, whilst at the front the flag shaped anti-IED device is fitted to the mounting plate on the bumper. Finally the two three piece access steps are added to each side. Decals There is only one colour scheme provided, that of overall sandy brown. Most of the decals provided on the sheet are for the various instruments and placards inside the vehicle, with just the vehicle ID numbers on the front, rear and sides and a couple of caution/tie down markings on the sides. Only one vehicles ID marks are provided. Conclusion Having seen the built model at Telford in November, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this kit. But from what I’ve seen in the box I really like it and it actually screams, BUILD ME, so it could end up jumping to the top of my build pile. Although quite large, the model doesn’t seem overly complicated, but with enough detail provided to make an out of the box build worthwhile. For those who wish to go the extra mile there is plenty of scope to add further details, such as maps, bottles, ration packs, personal kit and weapons. It’s certainly a good size to display, either at home or at a show. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  8. USS Enterprise, CV-6 Merit International 1:350 Enterprise sailed off the South American for her shakedown cruise and operated off of the east coast of the United States and the Caribbean Sea until Apr 1939. Transferred to the Pacific, she trained navy pilots on carrier operations. When Pearl Harbor was struck by the Japanese in Dec 1941, she was en route from Wake, thus escaping potential damage or destruction. Her aircraft scouted the area for retreating Japanese vessels but failed in the search attempt. They did, however, find and sink submarine I-70 on 10 Dec 1941. In late Dec 1941, she sailed for Wake to assist the defending the garrison, but it was already too late to make a difference. Beginning in Jan 1942, she began operating in the South and Central Pacific. On 1 Feb 1942, her task force struck the Marshall Islands, dealing significant damage, although the Enterprise received minor damage herself. During Feb and Mar, she continued to supply the aircraft that attacked various Japanese bases in the Central Pacific. She returned to Pearl Harbor in late Mar 1942 and received repairs. In Apr, she provided air cover for the USS Hornet to launch the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo and other Japanese cities. In early May, Enterprise sailed south in anticipation of what would become the Battle of Coral Sea, but she arrived too late to participate in the action. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 26 May, and immediately began to prepare for another anticipated action somewhere off of the Hawaiian Islands. On 28 May, she set sail from Pearl Harbor as the flagship of Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance "to hold Midway and inflict maximum damage on the enemy by strong attrition tactics." On 4 Jun 1942, a combination of luck and skill on the part of pilots from three American carriers led to the discovery and sinking of four Japanese fleet carriers. Enterprise's pilots were given credit for the sinking of Soryu and Akagi. She returned to Pearl Harbor undamaged on 13 Jun. On 15 Jul 1942, Enterprise sailed for the South Pacific. As a part of Task Force 61, her aircraft support the landings on the Solomons Islands on 8 Aug. On 24 Aug, she participated in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons. With Enterprise's aircraft lured to a sideshow by light carrier Ryujo, aircraft from Shokaku and Zuikaku passed the anti-aircraft curtain laid down by North Carolina and other ships and attacked Enterprise. One of the three bombs that hit Enterprise passed through several decks aft and exploded deep in the carrier and caused serious fires and casualties. However, effective damage control kept her from being disabled. She was able to restore use of the flight deck briefly while the Japanese aircraft returned for fuel. Enterprise managed to transfer the majority of her aircraft to Henderson Field at Guadalcanal before limping away to the southeast to fight another day. During this confrontation, Enterprise's aircraft also disabled the Japanese seaplane carrier Chitose, though she would be saved. After down time between 10 Sep and 16 Oct, she returned to Task Force 61 in late Oct. On 26 Oct, she engaged in the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands with carrier Hornet. Initially hidden in a squall, Enterprise was hidden from Japanese detection, leading to Hornet bearing the entire weight of the attack by herself. But by 0930 that day, Enterprise's aircraft found the Japanese carrier Shokaku and commenced their own attack. Without adequate fighter cover, Enterprise's dive bombers suffered heavy losses, but did successfully plant several 1,000-lb bombs on Shokaku causing damage so heavy that she was to be placed in repairs for nine months. At 1000, Japanese aircraft found Enterprise, and just like Enterprise's aircraft they mounted an uncoordinated attack on the enemy vessel. Out of the 23 bombs released, only two landed on the Enterprise. The first hit exploded 50 feet under the forecastle deck, and the second crashed into the third deck before exploding. Despite damage, Enterprise was not disabled. The Japanese sank the carrier Hornet and sailed away with a tactical victory. On 30 Oct 1942, Enterprise made port call at Nouméa, New Caledonia for repairs. On 11 Nov, she sailed prematurely for the Solomon Islands again with repair crew still on board due to war demands. She arrived at the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, in which battle her aircraft helped in the sinking of 16 ships (including helping to sink the battleship Hiei) and damaging 8. She returned to Nouméa on 16 Nov to complete her repairs, and spent most of Dec 1942 and Jan 1943 at Espiritu Santo for training. On 30 Jan 1943, Enterprise's aircraft flew air cover during the Battle of Rennell Island. Between 1 Feb and May 1943, she covered troops and supplies being shipped to the Solomons Islands. On 27 May 1943, she received the first Presidential Unit citation won by an aircraft carrier. On 20 Jul 1943, she made port call at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for an extensive overhaul. Returning to action in Nov 1943, the Enterprise provided air-support during the landing on Makin Island. During the night of 26 Nov, she launched the first carrier night fighters of the United States Navy. She returned for Pearl Harbor after launching an aerial attack on Kwajalein on 4 Dec. Between 29 Jan and 3 Feb 1944, the ships aircraft, as members of Task Force 58, attacked the Marshall Islands and Kwajalein. On 17 Feb, she attacked Truk in the Caroline Islands. Three days later, she launched a strike on Jaluit Atoll. From this point on, she provided air cover and close ground support on nearly every landing operation, large or small, in the Pacific. One of the major engagements she participated during this time was the Battle of the Philippine Sea between 19 and 20 Jun 1944, where she provided air cover for the landings at Saipan. At the end of that battle, 429 Japanese aircraft were shot down at the total cost of 29 American aircraft. Between Oct 10 and 20 1944, Enterprise attacked Taiwan, Okinawa, and the Philippine Islands in preparation of an invasion of the Philippines. During the Battle of Sibuyan Sea, her aircraft played a major role in the sinking of several major Japanese vessels. She returned to Pearl Harbor on 6 Dec 1944 after another month of support in the Philippines area. She returned to the Philippines at the end of the year, performing raids on Japanese shipping as well as providing day- and night-time fighter escort for bombers that headed for the Japanese home islands. During the Battle of Iwo Jima, Enterprise's aircraft provided air cover between 10 Feb and 9 Mar. On 15 Mar, she departed Ulithi for attacks on Kyushu, Honshu, and Japanese shipping but was turned back on 18 Mar after receiving damage from a Japanese bomb. Between 5 Apr and 11 Apr, she supported the Okinawa landings and received damaged from a kamikaze aircraft. She returned to Okinawa once again on 6 May after receiving repairs at Ulithi, but was once again damaged by kamikaze on 14 May 1945. She sailed for repairs at Puget Sound Navy Yard and remained there until the end of the war. After the war, Enterprise participated in Operation Magic Carpet that brought troops back to the United States. While in Britain, she received the British Admiralty Pennant, the only ship outside of the Royal Navy to receive the honour. Enterprise was decommissioned in Feb 1947 and after a bid to save her for use as a museum ship failed, she was sold for scrap to the Lipsett Corporation of New York City. The Model At last, those of us who build maritime models in 1:350 have a kit of the USS Enterprise from WWII. It’s been an awful long time coming, but has the wait been worth it. Well, we shall see. The kit comes in quite a large oblong shaped top opening box, although not as large as one would expect. Inside there are seventeen sprues in a light grey styrene, which is also used to produce the single piece island, central hanger roof section, two hanger floor sections , two flight deck sections and of course the magnificent single piece hull. In addition there are fifteen sprues of clear styrene for the aircraft, five sheets of relief etched brass, a large decal sheet and a large black stand. As we have come to expect from the likes of Merit, the moulding of all the parts is superbly done, and there is only one small area with an imperfection, and that is a small sink mark on the single piece hull, around the area of a sprue gate, as seen in the close-up picture of the bow., Of course there is no flash, but there are quite few moulding pips, mostly on the smaller parts. For those who wish to build this kit as a waterline I’m afraid that you’re out of luck, unless you wish to take a Dremel to the hull. Speaking of which, the hull plates do look a little over done, but it’s nothing a bit of sanding can’t cure. What is nice is that much of the interior of the hanger deck is included, although it’s not overly detailed, so will give those super detailers something to do. Taking the hull in hand, construction begins with the fitting of the four propeller shafts. Each shaft is attached to the hull via two A frames and a propeller. Once the single rudder has been attached the hull can be turned over using the steadying nature of the large base the main hanger deck, along with the separate foredeck, with two holes opened up from the underside, can be glued into place. The foredeck is the scene of the next four steps in the instructions, with the fitting of the four capstans, eight cleats, eight bitts and two hatches. The six flight deck supports are attached, along with the anchor chains, two 20mm cannon and the Jackstaff. Now, although the instructions call for the PE railings to be added to the foredeck at this point, it would probably be best to leave them till later in the build as they would be prone to being knocked off. The two, two piece platforms are assembled and glued into position and fitted with their PE railings. The three inner panels for the foreward lift are fitted. The ships weaponry is built up in a series of sub-assemblies, with the twenty three 20mm Oerlikons made up from the cannon/pedestal, and PE gun shield, the quad 1.1” machine guns are made up from 3 styrene parts and the eight 5” mounts consist of the single gun barrel, breech mechanism, railings and gun captains stand. The foreward superstructure, consisting of three parts is glued to the foredeck, with the port and starboard 5” gun decks attached four of the 5 gun assemblies can be glued in place, along with the quad 1.1” machine gun mount, its platform and two support legs, which is glued right on the prow, just aft of the Jackstaff. The foredeck flight deck supports fitted earlier are now fitted with the flight deck strengthening beams, moulded as a single part, (This area is ripe for the aftermarket companies to reproduce in PE, much like Hasegawa did with their carrier detail sets). The port and starboard bow catwalks are assembled and attached to the crossbeams and the side of the hull, with a PE catwalk folded to shape and fitted to the foreward beam. Much like the foredeck, the quarterdeck area is kitted out with the various deck fittings, capstans, bitts, cleats and hatches, followed by the rear bulkhead, flight deck supports and crossbeams. The rear 5” decks and their guns are glued into position, along with the aft catwalks and stern mounted PE catwalk. The starboard hanger walls are each made up form two halves, providing detail for both the interior and exterior. These are then detailed with various styrene catwalks and PE platforms, whilst the hanger side openings are fitted with their respective shutters. Although the shutters are moulded in the closed position, it wouldn’t take much to either cut a number off the block of shutters, or leave them off altogether and fashion rolled up versions out of spare PE or even paper and scratch build some supports. The port hanger walls/hull side plates are quite a bit different form their opposite halves, but are again detailed using a mix of styrene and PE, and also have the shutter parts in the closed position, (see above for solution). Both hanger walls/hull side assemblies are now glued into position on the hanger deck, along with a boat davit on the port side. Before the flight deck can be attached, the interior of the hanger deck is further detailed with the addition of some trunking and wall sections, whilst on the exterior the numerous inclined ladders of varying lengths are fitted between the various platforms and decks. The four ships boats each consist of the upper and lower hulls, and which once assembled are each glued to their respective six piece cradles, and into position on the ships side decks. Along with the two aft mounted cranes, each made up form three PE parts. The hanger roof structures, consisting of three large individual parts are glued to the hull sides, covering the hanger. The two flight deck sections, the largest of which requires certain holes to be opened up, are glued into place, along with the PE railings on the exposed main deck areas. With the flight deck on, she’s beginning to look like a carrier, but there’s quite a few parts to add before she’ll really look the part. These include the three lifts, the bow anchors, crash barrier, three gun tubs, two director tubs, the eleven piece deck crane, which, apart from the king post, is made up entirely from PE and the three quad 40mm bofors mounts, each consisting of four parts. The rest of the catwalk railing can now be attached, and the ships light AA weaponry fitted into their positions along the catwalks. The degaussing cable run is made up from several lengths of PE, which needs to be carefully fitted around the top of the hull, just beneath the main deck level. The two Mk 37 directors are each assembled from four styrene and seven PE parts, whilst the main CXAM radar array consists of five styrene parts and five PE parts. The foremast is now built up for the main platform onto which the multiple arms of the PE supports are attached to the underside, along with the three support legs, and long vertical ladder. There is a second platform fitted on support legs, and window framework attached to the topside of the first and the mast top, with yardarm, along with the CXAM radar are glued to the top platform. Two more yardarms are attached between the first and second platforms. The single piece island is fitted with the Admirals and control bridge decks, then festooned with styrene platforms, searchlights, and other deck fittings, plus a the associated PE railings The funnel cap is glued into place and fitted with three PE funnel caps and a length of railing that surrounds the entire cap walkway. The two Mk37 directors are fitted, one on the foreward end and one of the aft end of the island structure, these are followed by the foremast assembly and the main mast. The completed island assembly is then glued into position on the starboard side of the flightdeck, completing the build of the ship. But what of the aircraft I hear you ask, well, each of the three types, TBD-1, SBD-3 and F4F-4 each come in multiple parts, the two fuselage halves, separate wings, horizontal tailplanes, cowling, undercarriage and propeller. There are five aircraft of each type, if you want to fill the flightdeck, then Trumpeter already do separate packs of these aircraft. The wings of the F4F-4 and TBD-1 can be posed folded, whereas the wings of the SBD didn’t have the option to fold. Decals The very large decal sheet, which unfortunately was curled up in the review sample as its only just smaller than the box is wide and it got a bit squished, is actually very well printed. There are a full range of markings for the flightdeck, including the lift surrounds and three dotted lines. Two that extend the full length of the deck and the middle one extends aft from the bow to just aft of the middle lift. The large flightdeck id numbers could be used, but these were generally painted out during the war, or at least painted black, whereas these are a very bright white. There are also examples of the Stars and Stripes plus Jacks in wavey or straight forms. Each of the aircraft is provided with a full set of stars, plus individual aircraft codes. The decals look suitably thin, so great care will be need when laying the flightdeck stripes down, they appear in good register and nicely opaque, which will be handy if you use the large deck numbers. Conclusion It’s great that, at last, the maritime modeller can now build all three US carriers used at the Battle of Midway. It has been a long time coming, and they say patience is a virtue, particularly for a modeller. Well that patience has been rewarded with a super looking kit. I’m not a huge fan of clear styrene for use with the aircraft, preferring them to be made from standard coloured material, but I guess I’ll have to live with that, as there’s no other option at the moment. From what I’ve seen during the research for this review, the hull looks to be ok in shape, only the plate detail may be a little on the heavy side, which will be a relief to those that found the Trumpeter Hornet kit a let-down with the hull. I’m sure that once built it will make an excellent addition to any collection. Very highly recommended Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
  9. British X-Craft Merit International 1:35 Known individually as X-Craft, these vessels were designed to be towed to their intended area of operations by a full-size 'mother' submarine - (usually one of the T class or S class) - with a passage crew on board, the operational crew being transferred from the towing submarine to the X-Craft by dinghy when the operational area was reached, the passage crew returning with the dinghy to the towing submarine. Once the attack was over, the X-Craft would rendezvous with the towing submarine and then be towed home. Range was limited primarily by the endurance and determination of their crews, but was thought to be up to 14 days in the craft or 1,500 miles (2,400 km) distance after suitable training. Actual range of the X-Craft itself was 500 miles (930 km) surfaced and 82 miles (152 km) at 2 knots (3.7 km/h) submerged. A number of development craft were built before it was felt that a realistic weapon had been produced. The first operational craft was HMS X3 (or HM S/M X.3), launched on the night of March 15, 1942. Training with the craft began in September 1942, with HMS X4 arriving in October. In December 1942 and January 1943 six of the "5-10" class began to arrive, identical externally but with a completely reworked interior. Their first deployment was Operation Source in September, 1943, an attempt to neutralise the heavy German warships based in Northern Norway. Six X-Craft were used, but only 2 successfully laid charges (under the German battleship Tirpitz); the rest were lost, scuttled or returned to base. Tirpitz was badly damaged and out of action until April 1944. This was the only multiple X-craft attack. The lost craft were replaced early in 1944 with X20 to X25 and six training-only craft. On April 15, 1944 HMS X24 attacked the Laksevåg floating dock at Bergen. X22 was intended for the mission, but had been accidentally rammed during training and sunk with all hands. The X24 made the approach and escaped successfully, but the charges were placed under Bärenfels, a 7,500 ton merchant-vessel along the dock, which was sunk; the dock suffered only minor damage. On September 11, 1944, the operation was repeated by X24, with a new crew; this time the dock was sunk. X-Craft were involved in the preparatory work for Overlord. Operation Postage Able was planned to take surveys of the landing beaches with HMS X20, commanded by Lt KR Hudspeth, spending four days off the French coast. Periscope reconnaissance of the shoreline and echo-soundings were performed during daytime. Each night, X20 would approach the beach and 2 divers would swim ashore. Soil samples were collected in condoms. The divers went ashore on two nights to survey the beaches at Vierville-sur-Mer, Moulins St Laurent and Colleville-sur-Mer in what became the American Omaha Beach. On the third night, they were due to go ashore off the Orne Estuary (Sword Beach), but by this stage fatigue (the crew and divers had been living on little more than benzedrine tablets) and the worsening weather caused Hudspeth to shorten the operation, returning to Dolphin on 21 January 1944. Hudspeth received a bar to his DSC. During D-Day itself X20 and X23 acted as lightships to help the invasion fleet land on the correct beaches (Operation Gambit), as part of the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP). The craft was about 51 feet (15.5 m) long, 5.5 feet (1.68 m) in maximum diameter and displaced 27 tons surfaced and 30 tons submerged. Propulsion was by a 4-cylinder Gardner 42 hp diesel engine, converted from a type used in London buses, and a 30 hp electric motor, giving a maximum surface speed of 6.5 knots (12 km/h), and a submerged speed of 5.5 knots (10.1 km/h). The crew initially numbered threecommander, pilot and ERA (Engine Room Artificer, i.e. engineer) but soon a specialist diver was added, for which an airlock, known as a wet and dry compartment, was provided. The ERA, usually a Navy Chief Petty Officer, operated most of, and maintained all of, the machinery in the vessel. The weapons on the "X-Craft" were two side-cargoes - explosive charges held on opposite sides of the hull with two tons of amatol in each. The intention was to drop these on the sea bed underneath the target and then escape. The charges were detonated by a time fuse. The crews also had a number of limpet mines which were attached to a ships hull by frogmen and it was these mines that were used in the last attack by an X-Craft against the Japanese heavy cruiser Takao in Selatar harbour, Singapore The Model After the disappointment of the disappearance of the proposed Italeri kit of the X-Craft it was great to see Merit International taking up the mantle and releasing one instead. The kit comes in a very attractive and sturdy top opening box with a picture of an X-Craft in its element. Inside there are five sprues of medium grey styrene, a small sheet of etched brass and a small decal sheet. The moulding is really very nice. With lots of well formed surface detail and even large indents where required. There is no sign of flash, (always a good thing in a new release), but there are a lot of moulding pips, especially on the smaller parts, so care will be required when removing them. Although it is classed as a mini-submarine, the kit still measures out at around 18 inches long, (448.5mm) and just over 3 inches, (77.2) wide. Unusually the two hull halves are not symmetrical, as the starboard halve comes moulded complete with the main deck attached. This mean there is little or no seam to worry about. Construction begins with the inner entrance hatch linings being fitted to the insides of the hatch openings, before the two hull halves are closed up and two strakes, one forward and one aft attached. Next up is the attachment of the front section of what passes for the superstructure, followed by the propeller, (which does appear to be rather undersize), but will need to do some more research before making a definitive judgement. On initial release there was some argument on whether the rudders and rear dive plane were incorrect. But, thanks to the research by a BM member, it has been proven that the kit is in fact correct and it appears that the example held in the museum at Duxford has been rebuilt incorrectly. With the rudders and dive plane in position the two rear fins are fitted. Along with the support tie rods, control rod horns, the control rods themselves and the protective guards that cover the points where the rods exit the hull. With hull now virtually complete its on with the more fiddly parts, these included the release mechanisms for the external charges, bow and stern mounted bull rings, and superstructure anti wire guide. The two hatches are made up of six parts, the inner and outer hatch sections, a grab handle and three parts to the hinge. These assemblies are then fitted to the superstructure. The keel sides are then fitted with the charge fitting rods and their respective clamps, along with the PE gratings. The charges themselves are single piece mouldings, onto which the seven filling ports are attached to the side and the attachment fixings to the top. There are some photos of the charges that show the filling ports were also covered with a teak rubbing strake, but this isnt present in the kit, but could easily be scratch built should you wish. The rest of the build includes the fitting of the multi-part towing eye on the bow and the release lever, but unfortunately now of the prominent cabling is provided, so its out with the research to add your own. Finally the air induction mast, snorkel, attack periscope and what I believe is an observation port, each being fitted with their respective guards. Two stands are included in the kit to display the completed model on along with a nameplate. Decals The small decal sheet contains just two large White Ensigns, one flat, the other in a fluttering style. The ensigns were very rarely used, with the most noted exception being one of the X-Craft used to mark the lanes for the D-Day invasion. They are nicely printed and the flat Ensign would probably be best used on the plinth this model could be mounted on. Conclusion At last, we have a model of an X-Craft, and in a good sized scale too. Although some of us maritime modellers were bitterly disappointed with the Italeri kit suddenly being removed from all new mould news, but this release has turned disappointment into joy. Its not quite perfect and will need some additional details provided by the modeller, but its a very good basis to start with. Very highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of UK Distributors for
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