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USS Nassau LHA-4 1982 airwing in 1:700

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For years I've been hunting Ebay for the 1/700 Dragon kit of Tarawa-class LHA. Unfortunately both original Dragon (Tarawa/Saipan/Peleliu) and Revell-boxed (Saipan) kits are fetching prices above 60 $, sometimes reaching even the three-digit level. And then some weeks ago at Scalemates I have found the assembly instruction sheet (in PDF) of Italeri 1:720 USS Nassau that I (and thousands of other people) thought to be the rebox of the crude 1970s-vintage Revell 1/720 Tarawa/Saipan kit. Then I compared the Italeri sheet with Dragon one and the conclusion shocked me totally: the 1/720 as stated on the box and instruction sheet cannot be true - this mistifaction has been done by Italeri perhaps only to "fit into" their line of 1/720 ships. And Italeri #530 USS Nassau can be easily bought for 20 Euros !

In 5 days such an opportunity appeared on Ebay and in next 3 days the kit in pristine condition (wrapped/unopened box) joined my stash. After opening the box you can find the sealed bag of plastic sprues labelled "Made in China by DRAGON" and all the sprues are identical to DRAGON 1/700 Tarawa-class ships. Even on decals set there's "1/700 USS Nassau" inscription and THIS IS THE TRUE...

Nevertheless the kit features the airwing consisting of 4 AV-8B Harriers, 4 CH-46E Sea Knights and 2 CH-53E Super Stallions - the same aircraft are already standing on the deck of my 1/700 USS Wasp LHD-1 model by HobbyBoss. Wanting to differentiate these two amphibious ship class a little I decided to build the USS Nassau with her 1982 airwing.

Of course 1982 means no AV-8B and no CH-53E. Moreover the aircraft supplied by Dragon/Italeri can be only called the caricatures of the original thing. So I dug my drawer a little to find several Trumpeter/HB aircraft surplus to fit the deck of USS Wasp and USS Nimitz. The lone AV-8B will be modified to represent the AV-8A, while two CH-53Es will be backdated to the CH-53D standard. Then I'd like to build 3 or 4 UH-1Ns using parts of SH-60s and (if patience allows) scratch-build some 2 or 3 OV-10 Broncos.     

So let's look at the Harriers: 


The main fuselage is almost the same. The nose must be shortened, the canopy lowered and the tailplane leading edge must be modified too. The biggest task however is modifying the wing - AV-8A had shorter span, more sweep, outriggers closer to the wingtips and the LERX must be omitted. Here you can see the AV-8A fuselage and the tailplanes after surgery (there's an unmodified AV-8B left on the same sprue):


Then there are the Stallions:



Here also happily the main fuselage is the same. The sponsons must be shortened, the third engine deleted (as will be one rotor blade too), the tailboom must be shortened and thinned, both vertical and horizontal tail must be shortened and the dorsal "hump" must be seriously modified. After all these operations cutting 0.8mm off each tail rotor blade and 1.4mm off each main rotor blade looks trivial.

Here you have the modified CH-53D airframe next to the "stock" CH-53E also awaiting paint job:



And here some old joke - a safety match just to remind you how tiny the 1/700 aircraft really are.



To be continued :)






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Converting aircraft in this scale is a brave undertaking!


Not sure how much you're able/willing to invest in additional parts/materials for this project, but wanted to be sure you knew about some kits that could potentially save you some time/effort/eye strain.


First, Orange Hobby makes a set of four 1/700 resin Sea Harriers intented for the Dragon Invincible class carriers.  Compared to the AV-8Bs these would require significantly less work to convert to AV-8As - in this scale, essentially just reshaping the nose & canopy.


Also, you mention a plan to convert H-60s to UH-1Ns which would be a pretty serious rebuild.  There's a Skywave "World Helicopters" set that includes a pair of UH-1Js ("twin pack" airframe equivalent to the N) and two UH-1Hs (single engine type, but you could mod the engine doghouse much more easily than the full airframe conversion from an H-60).  The set also includes a pair of  CH-53Es to replace/supplement the ones you're already modding, and several other more exotic/non-naval types:



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Frankly speaking most 1/700 carrier kit manufacturers do supply their products with such a plethora of (more or less crude) aircraft, that no one is able to put all of them on the decks (at least in "ready-to-fly" configuration). Thus after building a dozen of such models my drawer is full of 100+ such small aircraft (with 3 DOZENS of omnipresent F/A-18 caricatures among them).   

So this is neither the matter of ability nor of will to invest in additional parts for this (or any other) waterline project. For me converting these tiny aircraft is just some kind of challenge or eyeball/fingers test after 53 years of modelling :)

If the Nassau attempt is successfull (surely the pair of Broncos will be the most challenging part of it) I will try to convert subsequent dozens of similar aircraft to get the Loire 130, A5M, F8F, C-2, EA-6B, F8U, Alouette 3 and Ka-27 (feasibility studies completed). Unfortunately there are still many other aircraft that I have no idea where to start from: FJ3, F3H, Etendard, Alize, Seahawk, Sea Venom - here I will have to follow the Bronco path I'm afraid...



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Understood, if you're up for the challenge (which judging by the progress photos you clearly are), more power to you.  Just wanted to make sure you weren't adding work for yourself without knowing there was a potential alternative available. 


I don't have anywhere near the experience level you do, but having once started a conversion/semi-scratchbuild of a 1/700 Kiev class carrier (from a box-scale Yorktown kit), I have an idea of both your frustration and sense of satisfaction.


Probably the biggest loss in the demise of White Ensign Models was their "Airstrike" series of 1/700 aircraft (reisin, most with PE detail pieces). That line filled quite a few gaps in air wings and also included several non-naval types unavailable elsewhere. Not sure how much luck you might have finding any of these sets on the secondhand market these days, but I know they did the OV-10 and probably several others from your wanted list.


Several of the "study completed" types you mentioned are available from the major manufacturers in passable detail/accuracy:  C-2, EA-6B, and Ka-27 all from Trumpeter; Prowler also available from Skywave/Pit Road; and the F8U was done by Fujimi.


Can't help much on your "where do I start" list, but one lead for you is the FJ-3: One of Skywave's JASDF sets includes a couple of F-86Fs - in 1/700 the differences would be neglible, and you could probably shorten the wingspans and cut in the folds to get closer than some mainstream kits at more than 10 times the scale 🙂

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Building the Kiev class heli-carrier on the Yorktown basis is something exceeding my imagination - this must be the brave undertaking indeed!

The WEM Airstrike aircraft are very difficult to find, however in last period there appeared many 3D-printed 1/700 aircraft (e.g. Snafu Echoco series) of literally everything subject I need.

They even look quite good on the Shapeways website and I had been quite near to ordering some dozens of them before I saw the Seahawks and Sea Venoms on the Fujimi HMS Eagle deck here


Then I understood that the website shows digital renderings that are as close to the printed product as the LEGO Spitfire is close to the Airfix 1:24 kit of the same RJ Mitchell masterpiece 😪

Of course I know the Trumpeter (excellent in most cases) range of 1/700 aircraft, but buying 6 Greyhounds or Prowlers just for putting one or two of each on the Nimitz deck is a mental disaster. Thus I will try to build a new fuselage (and modify the quadruple tail) of one of the dozen or so surplus Hawkeyes I have and it will be OK. Similarly using two Intruder (more than dozen in my drawer already) fuselages one can easily get a Prowler. The Kuznetsov kit features 6 Kamov choppers, which is the standard "deck readiness" fit for this vessel. The problem is that Trumpy gives us 2x Ka-27 ASW, 2x Ka-29 assault and 2x Ka-31 AEW machines, while there have never been more than one Ka-31 available and the number of Ka-27 varied from 3 to 4. So one of the Ka-31s will undergo the rebuild to the SAR/ASR Ka-27PS configuration.

The Fujimi F8U (like the Dragon F9F, F2H, AD4 and S2F) are the other problem - they're impossible to buy for years. If they appeared on the market again it will save me a lot of time (and strain too :)). Nevertheless I wasn't conscious of the F-86 within the PitRoad 1/700 range. Moreover the S10 set includes also the S2F and E-1 that are also necessary for the early 60s fit of the USN supercarriers, so I will put it on my "hunting list" ASAP. Thank you for this info !




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