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HMS Zulu

Atlantic Models 1:350


By the mid-1950s, the wisdom of building specialist frigate types was being questioned, particularly on cost grounds and the problems associated with getting the right ships, in the right place, at the right time. Design work was initiated on a ship that could integrate most of the specialist functions of the Type 12, 41 and 61 frigates. The outcome of the design study was the Type 81 (Tribal class) Frigate and the first of the new class was ordered in February 1956, despite the design not being finalised until February 1957. The first keel was subsequently laid down in January 1958.

The new design incorporated gas turbines as part of the main propulsion, in the COSAG (combined steam and gas turbine) system which was also used in the 'County' class destroyers. Main propulsion was provided by a 12,000hp steam turbine that could drive the ship at over 20 knots and could be augmented by a G-6 gas turbine (7,500shp) to boost the speed to around 28 knots. The main advantage of this system was that the main steam turbine could be used to give optimum fuel efficiency at normal cruising speeds and the gas turbine could be brought in to give extra power on demand. This meant that less boiler capacity was required with resultant savings on space, manpower and cost. With a gas turbine, the ship could still be powered up and manoeuvred at very short notice while the steam system was still warming up. The disadvantage of the system was that a second funnel was required to carry the gas turbine exhaust, which took up deck space. As a result, the Type 81 was the only frigate design to feature two funnels. The advantages clearly outweighed the disadvantages though and the Royal Navy gained valuable experience in the operation of gas turbines in a wide variety of operational environments and showed that the gas turbine could be reliable enough to run for extended periods. This led to the eventual development of improved models, which were installed as the only propulsion system on later classes.

The new ship also incorporated guided missiles as part of the main armament for the first time. Space was provided for a quadruple Seacat launcher and its associated GWS21 control system. The launchers were positioned either side of the foremast while the directors were on platforms either side of the second funnel. The missile was steered by radio command guidance and the target could be tracked visually or by the Type 262 radar in the director. Due to delays in the development and procurement of the Seacat, all the ships except Zulu had single 40mm AA guns installed in place of the launchers and were gradually refitted as the equipment became available. In addition to this the vessels were also designed with facilities to carry and operate a helicopter as part of the ship's equipment, which, due to the space, meant that the ship could only be provided with a single Limbo mortar.

The Type 81 had a displacement of 2,300 tons as standard, and 2,700 tons if fully loaded. It was 360 feet long, had a beam of 42.5 feet and a draught of 17.5 feet. The ship had a completely flush deck with considerable sheer with the superstructure block extending the entire width of the ship, supporting the bridge and mast. Both funnels were set aft and raked back slightly with the small hanger and flightdeck being towards the very rear of the ship.

The Type 81 had a main gun armament of two single 4.5in guns (Mk V mounting), one being just forward of the main bridge (that had three 2in rocket flare launchers mounted), the other on the quarterdeck. These had come from scrapped 'C' group destroyers but had been modified to improve sighting and loading arrangements before they were fitted to the new ships. They had a maximum range of around 19km, and while the 50-degree elevation would only give them limited effectiveness against aircraft, they were really meant to engage surface and land targets. Fire control was by means of a MRS3 director that was mounted behind and just above the main bridge and incorporated a Type 903 radar for tracking targets. The ship also had a Type 965 radar fitted with a AKE1 'Bedstead' aerial, a Type 993 radar with a 'Cheese' aerial and a Type 978 navigation radar on a small platform projecting forward from the main mast. The Seacat system provided a simple but effective close-range air defence system that was subsequently fitted to almost all British and some foreign warships. Two four missile launchers were fitted on either beam and had a maximum range of 4.75km. Anti-submarine weapons consisted of a single Limbo mortar and a Wasp helicopter, and while the inclusion of six torpedo tubes was dropped, the ship had a comprehensive sonar suite with Type 177, 170 and 162 sonars being fitted.

The ships were a giant step forward in terms of crew comfort and facilities. It was the first ship to have cafeteria-like messing facilities and bunk sleeping. Full air conditioning for all accommodation, working and operational areas was provided which meant that the class could operate in a wide variety of environments without being specially modified. A detachment of Royal Marines was carried with their weapons and equipment, the concept being first tried out with HMS Loch Killisport and having proved a success, was adopted on the Tribal and most other frigates as well.

The class was named after the 'Tribal' class destroyers that had served with distinction in the Second World War. These destroyers had represented a major change in design philosophy and so it was thought fitting that the new class of frigates was named after them. The lead ship of the class, Ashanti, was commissioned in late 1961 and put through extensive trials to test the new propulsion system and to develop operation procedures for using light helicopters on frigates. The last vessel in the class was Zulu, which was completed in April 1964. As a class, the ships saw service all around the world, with considerable time spent in the Persian Gulf, Middle East and West Indies, due to their high level of accommodation and air conditioning.

Modifications were limited - those vessels that initially had 40mm anti-aircraft guns had them replaced by the Seacat. All ships had two single 20mm guns mounted on each beam just forward of the bridge that could be used in peacetime or low intensity conflict situations where the use of the main guns or Seacat missiles might be inappropriate. This was a lesson learnt in the Indonesian Confederation in 1962 - 3 where many patrolling frigates had found that they had no effective armament to engage small boats and fishing vessels used for gun-running. Also, two Knebworth / Corvus multiple rocket launchers (that fired chaff to confuse incoming radar-guided missiles) were mounted, one each side of the bridge from 1970 onwards. Ashanti (1968) and Gurkha (1969) were fitted with the new Type 199 variable depth sonar, which was installed on the quarterdeck.

These ships were very useful for peacetime patrolling and low intensity conflict operations (what today would be called Peace Support Operations) as well as 'showing-the-flag' visits. Their limited armament and low speed made them unsuitable to be combined with the remainder of the fleet in Task Force situations and mostly operated on detached duty. With the introduction of new frigate classes and the run down in naval strength, they were relegated to first the Standby Squadron and then listed for ultimate disposal in the 1981 Defence Review, Ashanti having been mothballed in 1979 and Tartar, the last operational ship of the class, being decommissioned in December 1980. Vosper Ship Repairers actually proposed a modernisation programme, with a view to selling them abroad where the two 4.5in guns would be replaced by a single automatic 76mm gun mounted forward. The Mk 10 mortar and existing hangar and flightdeck facilities would be removed and new facilities installed that extended to the stern so the ship could operate a Lynx helicopter. A large streamlined funnel would replace the two separate ones and a new Fire Control system installed. Although there were rumours that Venezuela was interested in buying some of the class, the deal never materialised and it's a shame that the modernisation could not have gone forward with the ships being retained in Royal Navy service as the ships had been relegated to disposal well before the end of their useful lives. The Falklands conflict saw three of the ships (Tartar, Gurkha and Zulu) being recommissioned into service to cover for combat losses and ships being laid up due to battle damage. This showed the value of keeping a number of ships in reserve so that they can be activated should the need arise. The remaining four 'Tribal' class ships were not recommissioned and were stripped of any serviceable equipment to keep the other three going. By 1987, all four had been disposed of, Mohawk being scrapped in 1982, while Eskimo, Nubian and Ashanti were all sunk as targets in 1986, 1987 and 1988 respectively. The other three had another two years of service, after which they were bought by Indonesia, refitted by Vosper Thorneycroft at their Woolston yard and commissioned into the Indonesian Navy as Martha Kristina Tiyahahu (Zulu, 1985), Wilhelmus Zakarias Yohannes (Gurkha, 1985) and Hasanuddin (Tartar, 1986).

The Model
The model comes in the standard plain cardboard box with just a large sticker on the front depicting HMS Zulu at sea. On opening you are faced with a sea of polystyrene peanuts which protect the parts from rattling around. The two parts that make up the hull are wrapped very carefully in bubblewrap. The smaller resin parts are further protected by having the zip lock bags they are in surrounded by bubblewrap. The metal parts are also contained in a zip lock bag, whilst the decals, instruction CD and etch are in a separate envelope. As with the HMS Cleopatra kit, reviewed HERE, the instructions are in pdf format on a CD, so you will need either a colour printer or a laptop/computer at your workbench. Although doing both is a good idea, as having them on a screen allows you to zoom in to confirm parts placement and able to read the useful text that accompanies each section of the build, whilst having the printed version for general use. The two hull sections are beautifully moulded and matched, in fact on the review example they virtually clicked together once the leftovers of the pour stubs are removed. There are no signs of mould imperfections, air bubbles or flash on the main parts, but the smaller parts do have a small amount of flash that will need to be carefully removed. The metal parts are a different matter, they do have quite a lot of flash and on some parts it’s difficult to see where the flash stops and the part starts. But since this model is for the more expert modeller this shouldn’t cause too many problems. The etch is well up to the standard we come to expect from the man who did all the White Ensign etch which is a good job really as there is a lot of etched parts and looks like they’ll be some very complicated assemblies. Lastly, and quite importantly there is a small decal sheet, which is a great addition to these kits.





I’ll go through the build as per instructions, but, if you’ve built these sorts of kit before then you may wish to do it your own way. The first choice to whether to build it full hull or waterline, if you choose waterline you can dispense with the lower hull, otherwise check fit and glue to the upper hull. There may be a slight gap around the joined, but you should only need a smear of fill before sanding back. Careful when sanding though as you wouldn’t want to damage the beautiful resin. I generally paint the hull and deck first before adding anything other than the propshaft, shaft support and rudders then adding the main resin parts. The resin bridge, shelter deck superstructures, midships superstructure, with funnels, hanger are then fitted along with the quarterdeck mounted metal winch. Then it’s a matter of building the sub-assemblies.

The first sub-assembly is the two turrets of the main armament. Each turret consists of resin shield, metal gun barrel and in the case of the forward turret, a pair of etched rocket rails, one on each side of the turret. The Seacat launchers are next and each main unit is made of metal and detailed with the four guard rails. The Seacat missiles themselves are made up of three etched parts, which look quite good in this scale. Each of the Corvus decoy launchers are fitted with an etched falre tube folded to give more depth. The Mk10 Limbo launcher is assembled from the separate base and the triple barrelled launcher. One of the more complicated assemblies is that of the Type 965 radar, also known as the bedstead. This is made up form twenty two separate etched parts, including the front and rear faces, individual dipoles, plus the IFF interrogator array and support beams, alignment is paramount for it to look right, so care and patience are the order of the day. This goes for the other complex assembly, that of the lattice mast. This is made up of one etched part which is folded so that it forms three sides and the top of the mast. Within the mast structure there is a small platform with sensors that fit poking out of the sides, the separate fourth side is then glued into place. The mast is then detailed with the two waveguide conduits, Type 978 radar and its associated platform, top sensor arrays, which can be left off if building a later period ship, two yards and their supports midway up the mast, followed by four more yards/supports further up. The completed bedstead aerial is then fitted to the top of the mast via a short piece of rod provided by the modeller.



The bridge superstructure is detailed with etched DF antenna attached to the forward edge of the bridge roof, whilst the platforms, complete with railings and supports for the Type 993 radar and the MRS-3 Fire Control Director are attached to their respective positions on the bridge roof, followed by the radar array and director. The bridge is completed with the fitting of the two resin aldis lamps. There liferaft canister racks for single, two and four canisters, each from etched brass, which, once folded are fitted with the required number of metal liferafts.

With the bridge superstructure glued to the hull, the various railings can be fitted around the bridge, along with the inclined ladders, liferaft assemblies, both single and twin, chaff launcher enclosure, whip aerial mounts, two 20mm Oerlikon mounts, each made up of a double thickness gun and separate shield, the spare anchor and the two Seacat sub-assemblies. On the fo’c’s’le the side railings are fitted, followed by the anchors and jack staff plus its associated supports. The midships superstructure, with the two funnels attached, is further detailed with the railings, inclined ladders, two liferaft racks, with four rafts on each, and the Seacat directors which have been moulded with their gazebo roofs in the closed position. There are also two petrol tank containers fitted, one per side on the rear edge just behind the Seacat directors. Each one is made up of a folded cage into which three shelves are fitted so that they slope outboards. The rear funnel is fitted with its rear intake grille, two floodlight frames, complete with three separate floodlights, and three wire antenna masts are attached to the front of the funnel top. Forward of the superstructure deck two more whip aerial bases are attached, whilst at the rear the RAS sheerlegs are fitted.



Just aft of the midships superstructure is the Limbo well. Into this, the Limbo sub-assembly is fitted along with all the associated railings. On the outside ledges of the well structure the modeller has the choice of fitting the panels that go over the hanger roof if the Wasp is to be posed on the flightdeck. If the Wasp isn’t going to be used on the ship, then the complete cover moulding can be used. The flightdeck also has a full array of netting to be fitted around the outside. Each of the two ships boats is fitted to their respective davits, each of which are made from two parts folded to shape, the completed davits and boats are then fitted into their positions either side of the fore funnel.

On the quarterdeck the small paravane crane is fitted to the moulded base on the deck, along with the rear main gun mounting plus all the railings. If you wish to build either HMS Ashanti or HMS Gurkha you can fit the Variable Depth Sonar. This will entail quite a bit of modification to the rear of the quarterdeck, which needs to have the carved out to the correct shape and depth, the dimensions of which are given in the instructions. The VDS frame is assembled from a single etched part folded to shape, then fitted with the four piece pit wheel. The VDS body is provided as a single piece metal part, which, when fitted with its cradle, is fitted into the well. The stern is fitted with an extension plate which needs to be level with the well opening.


The single Wasp helicopter is made up from a resin airframe, to which the spider like undercarriage is attached. The undercarriage consist of the cross frames attached to each undercarriage leg, so that when fitted they all mesh on the underside. The flotation canisters are attached to the top of the cab and fitted with two support frames. The main rotor is fitted with the two control linkages, one above and one below the rotor head, then attached to the rotor mast, whilst at the rear the tail rotor is attached to its shaft. Unfortunately there is no option to show the helicopter with rotors and tail folded unless the modeller wishes to tackle a rather fiddly conversion.

The smallish decal sheet is very nicely printed, and even in this scale you can read the names on all the nameplates, two provided for each ship of the class. The sheet also included all the required numbers to produce the correct pennant numbers for the ships sides and stern, plus their respective ID letters for the flight deck, as well as the flightdeck markings. There is also a full ships worth of depth markings, a Union Jack, large White Ensign and a smaller White Ensign for use at sea. The ships helicopter also has the codes, correct for each ships flight, for each side and the nose, as well as the Royal Navy titles and roundels. Get you magnifiers out as the helicopter codes are white and therefore difficult to read, and you wouldn’t want to put the wrong ones on now, would you?


At last we have Tribal class frigate in 1:350, who’d have thought it? The standard is as high as ever, with the exception perhaps of the metal parts which seem to have more flash than I remember on other Atlantic Models kits. The resin is flawless and fits together beautifully with only the finest of fettling. From a conversation I have had with Peter it will be a challenging build, even he thinks so, so what chance mere mortals have is anyones guess. But with buckets loads of patience, care and a fair amount of experience working with these materials you should be fine. If you’d like it and it’s your first attempt at a multi-media kit like this, then I would suggest trying something simpler out first. This is one great all round package, and one Peter should be proud of; I just can’t wait to see what else is in the Atlantic Models pipeline.


Review sample courtesy of Peter Hall of logo.gif

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I have one, this probably one of the best Resin kits on the market and its not from a model massive company, just one man

"Peter Hall"


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