In wartime new classes of warships are constantly being introduced and the capabilities of each following class build dramatically upon those of the predecessor. One clear example was the evolution of the USN destroyer of World War Two from the Gleaves class to the much heavier, larger ships of the Sumner/Gearing classes. During peacetime the evolution of warship designs can be slower and is motivated as much by finances and manpower restrictions as by combat requirements.
As the 1970s were coming to a close the USN had a problem. In the post Viet-Nam War financial environment the USN certainly did not carte blanche to buy new systems or platforms and yet some existing classes of destroyers were nearing the end of their service life. The Leahy and Belknap guided missile cruisers (CG) started out life as large destroyers or destroyer leaders (DL) but were reclassified to cruisers when conventional cruisers were eliminated from the naval arsenal. After all it would be embarrassing if Congress asked why the Soviet Fleet could afford missile cruisers and the USN could not. The Decatur class destroyers were also scheduled to be phased out.
The large building program for the Spruance class destroyer was in full swing but that class did not exactly fit the need as suitable replacements for the Leahy and Belknap classes. One primary reason that the Spruance class would not fit the intended role was the radar fit. The navy wanted the new design to used the fixed array Aegis radar. The navy was happy with the Ticonderoga class CG with Aegis system built on the Spruance hull but the Ticos were expensive at over one billion dollars per copy. The navy could not afford to replace the earlier CGs with Ticonderogas on a one for one basis. What was needed was a cheaper, but still capable platform which would mount the Aegis fixed array.
After trying a number of designs the Arleigh Burke Guided Missile Destroyer DDG was selected. As is true with almost every warship design, the destroyer was a number of compromises. To keep down costs a number of features were sacrificed. Both the Spruance and Ticonderoga classes mounted two five-inch guns but the Burke design only had one. As the navy already had a great number of ships in service that carried helicopter hangars, it was decided to only provide a landing deck but no hangar. The class had the all important SPY-1D Aegis radar but fewer illuminators. The navy considered all of these compromises as acceptable in order to produce the Burke design at 75% of the cost of a Ticonderoga.
The Arleigh Burke class has gone through a number of changes and the navy has differentiated among them by calling changes Flights. The Flight are:
Flight I - The original design of the Arleigh Burke class was a compromise as all warship designs are. Completed with flight deck but no hangar. Destroyers DDG-51 through DDG- 71 are flight I.
Flight II In appearance flight II are the same as flight I, except various antennae. Flight II destroyers improved data sharing, upgraded electronic countermeasures and added the ability to fire the Block IV Standard Missile. Destroyers DDG-72 through DDG-78 are Flight II ships.
Weapons - Sprue B
Flight IIA - This variant marks a major departure from the initial design in appearance as well as capabilities. With Flight IIA a hangar for two helicopters was added, along with moving the rearward facing Aegis arrays one level higher and deletion of forward missile loading crane in favor of six additional VLS cells. Flight IIA ships are six feet longer than previous variants. . However, there are also visual differences among the Flight IIA ships. DDG-79 and DDG-80 used original smooth shaped 5-inch/54 Mk45 gun mount. Starting with DDG-81 the class mounted the angular shaped 5-inch/62 gun mount. Starting with DDG-89 the CIWS was deleted for the VLS Quad Pack ESSM. Starting with USS Pinckney DDG-9 an AN/WLD-I(V)1 remote mine-hunting position was added to the starboard side of the hangar. There is a sliding screen which is used to cover this position and the RIB stowage had to be rearranged to have them one above the other, rather than one behind the other found in the previous ships.
The Arleigh Burke class of destroyers have 56 units in the class already built, building or authorized. The last five units (DDG-108 through DDG-112) have not been authorized. Considering that Flight I units displaced 8,842-tons and Flight IIA units 9,200-tons, little less than the displacement of WWII USN cruisers, this class of destroyer is monumental in not only capabilities but also in impact on the modern USN. (Bulk of history from: Arleigh Burke class Destroyers, Warship Pictorial 24 by Kurt Greiner, 2006 Classic Warship Publishing)
The Dragon USS Pinckney DDG-91
Sprue A Forecastle and Superstructure
Plastic yards are included on this sprue, however, most modelers will probably use the alternate brass parts included with the kit. Included are the 20mm CIWS systems and the instructions indicate that these are optional parts. However, as of DDG-89 the class did not appear to carry this system. Other small parts are good. RIB, sliding padeyes, tops for same, other foremast parts, and tracking radar. Solid propeller guards are disappointing. Some parts, such as the aft Aegis array superstructure are not used, as the are appropriate for earlier variants but not the Flight IIA.
Sprue B Weapons
Sprue C Hull
This sprue contains the upper and lower hull parts. The hull is divided at the waterline and lower hull parts are provided, so a full hull model can be built. The upper hull does reflect the "V" shape hull form. Designed for improved seakeeping as well as a semi-stealthy arrangement to avoid vertical surfaces, this design is characterized by a wider deck than waterline. The anchor well on the port side does appear deep enough, so it may only take a minor modification to the separate forecastle piece to get the right look. The base of the forward superstructure and forward stack is part of the upper hull piece. Both upper superstructure and stack also display the prominent air louvers. The hull appears to be that of the Flight I kit, since it has fore and aft RIB positions and the hangar is added. It this is the same upper hull as provided in the Arleigh Burke Flight I kit, then it will be slightly too short. Unfortunately, flight deck markings are raised on the deck. Whether, you wish to sand it smooth will be up to you but judicious cutting of the raised portion near other deck fittings should allow smoothing the deck with minimal chance of obliterating deck fittings.
The lower hull comes in two halves. Dominated by the prominent sonar dome, the only negative of these two parts are the too thick bilge keels. Other lower hull parts included on this sprue are propellers, propeller shafts, and twin rudders. Also included on this sprue is a stand for the full hull model.
Sprue E Flight IIA Specific Parts
This sprue contains the parts to make this kit the Flight IIA variant. Specifically for Flight IIA ships from USS Pinckney and thereafter. Since this sprue contains mine hunting alcove, this model represents DDG-91 and thereafter. To represent any Arleigh Burke ship earlier than the Pinckney from DDG-81 Winston S. Churchill through DDG-85, DDG-89 and DDG-90 Chafee, simply delete parts E28 (mine-hunting housing) and E30 & E31 RIB stowage. The hangar parts, aft Aegis array, stern, new stack tops and other parts are found here. As with other superstructure parts, Dragon has provided fine detail on the bulkhead parts, especially the hangar doors. The stack caps are smooth as they should be. Earlier variants had raised stacks above the stack body but these were eliminated in the Flight IIA. I do have a couple of quibbles with these parts. For one the mine-hunting station is covered by a mesh screen in the actual ship to prevent the alcove from providing a radar return. The DML position appears more like an articulated roller door on a carrier, as opposed to a mesh screen. On the Flight IIA variant the aft VLS position is flush with the deck. On the model it is raised. However, since the VLS coaming is a separate part, it should not be too difficult to remove some coaming and/or slightly enlarge the opening on the deck to get a flush fit. The stern plate reflects the round down-turned Nixie fittings. The actual openings are not present but can be easily added with a pin vice. Also included is the angular 5-inch/62 mount.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
Most of this fret consists of railings. There are six runs of four bar railing and three runs of three bar rails. The three bar rails have stanchions at the bottom, rather than a bottom gutter as found in other photo-etch railing designs. Other brass parts include option helicopter rotors. There are also a number of other platforms and yardarms, which are replacements for plastic parts. In all cases, the brass parts will provide more acceptable detail than the plastic parts.
As with all recent Dragon releases, DML has included a comprehensive set of decals by Cartograf. Names and hull numbers are provided for USS Winston S. Churchill DDG-81 through DDG-85, and DDG-89 through USS Chung-Hoon DDG-93. Since the kit represents the modifications that first appeared with the mine-hunting installation, youll have decals for three of the class. However, since the part with the mine-hunting position is separate and the kit comes with fore and aft RIB stations, you can choose to build DDG-81 through DDG-90 by simply not installing parts E28, E30 and E31 and by mounting the RIBs on the chocks that are part of the hull. Other markings are for the flight deck, warning circles, efficiency Es, ensign, jacks and a really nice squadron marking for the stack.
The instructions are in the standard DML format with a single back-printed sheet, which folded comprises eight pages. Page one shows the sprues with unused parts shaded in blue. Page two provides construction icons and paint colors used in Aqueous Hobby Colour, Mr. Colour and Model Master colors, as well as the construction segment for the helicopter. Pages three through six contain construction modules for the kit. Page seven shows brass railing placement and page eight a plan and profile of the ship for decal placement.
Although, not without some problems that need correcting, the Dragon 1:700 scale USS Pinckney DDG-91 presents a solid kit. As designed DDG-91 through DDG-93 can be built but with omission of a few parts DDG-81 through DDZG-85 & DDG-89 through DDG-90 can also be modeled. DML provides the plastic parts, brass parts and decals that you need for any one of ten of the Flight IIA Arleigh Burke destroyers.