Anti-aircraft weapons systems evolved in the 20th Century. At the start of the century they were nonexistent because there was no airplane to threaten warships. However, with the first heavier than air flight in 1903 the airplane evolved at a terrific pace. Slightly over a decade after man's first flight, the airplane evolved as a weapon of war, first for reconnaissance, then as a fighter and finally as a bomber. During this time the first AA guns were fitted to warships, usually in the form of a few high angle (HA) guns. Between the world wars both aircraft and AA defense continued to evolve but aircraft matured at a faster rate. The Royal Navy fielded the 40mm Pom-Pom 2 pdr weapon system in the late 1920s to counter this threat but the USN remained fairly complacent. The 5-inch/25 DP, supplemented by .50 machine guns proved woefully inadequate at Pearl Harbor. The US Navy went on a crash program to rearm their warships with modern AA weapons systems. The 5-inch/38 DP gun was the long distance system, the 40mm Bofors gun the mid-range system and the 20mm Oerlikon the close in system. Additionally two types of radar were fitted. Search radar would locate an enemy air attack and tracking radar was deployed late in the war to control the gun fire of some systems, allowing the system to be more effective. 

After the war this system continued to evolve as twin 3-inch AA guns with their own targeting radar replaced 40mm mounts in aircraft carriers and many other warships. However, a new age dawned in aircraft defense in the mid-1950s with the advent of the Surface to Air Missile (SAM). The Luftwaffe had inaugurated the aircraft launched anti-shipping missile in 1943, when two aircraft missiles struck and sank the Italian battleship Roma but an effective AA missile was not developed until a decade later. A family of missiles were developed for the warships of the USN in the 1950s, as various ships were converted to receive them, such as the CAGs and CLGs, or built with them in mind, such as the new DLGs. However, the three missile systems of Terrier, Talos and Tartar still relied upon two different radar or sensor systems, search and targeting, to engage aircraft. As search radar turned in a 360 degree revolution, the aerial targets would be lost when the radar array was pointed away. Each target would have to reacquired when the array turned back in the target's direction by which time the position had changed a significant distance. Illuminators or targeting radar could handle one target at a time. This combined system was subject to be overwhelmed by mass attacks by aircraft and more critically by new generation air to surface missiles. Further, mass aerial attacks by bombers and missiles, along with submarines, were just the tactics developed by the Soviet Union to counter NATO navies. To counter the growing threat, the USN started the Advanced Surface Missile System (ASMS) in 1964. In 1969 this program was renamed Aegis and would produce a revolutionary SAM system that married search and targeting radars in one combined system, that would maintain continuous contact with targets and that  be capable of prosecuting multiple targets at the same time. 

The Aegis system went into service with a new warship design in October 1983 with the Ticonderoga class missile cruiser (CG). When she entered service Ticonderoga possessed capabilities far beyond other warships thanks to the AN/SPY-1 fixed array radar and Aegis suite of hardware and software. The SPY-1A arrays can track over three hundred targets simultaneously. Four Raytheon SPG-62 Illuminators are carried that are married in with the SPY-1A phased array. By time-sharing with the phased arrays, more than twenty separate targets can be engaged simultaneously and the system is capable of fully automatic mode. The initial units of the Ticonderoga class were equipped with twin missile launching positions fore and aft. However, this design, used since the initial CAGs and CLGs of the 1950s was slowed by the fact that missiles could be launched as fast as they could be loaded on the rails. The launcher would have to turn to a reload position and even with automation this took time. Another factor was the possibility of mechanical failure. With ever turn the launcher was subject to a breakdown. A new missile launching system was another feature that would even further improve the effectiveness of the Ticonderoga class. In mid production cycle, the twin arm missile launchers were relieved by Vertical Launch Systems (VLS). Each missile was housed in its own silo and the entire missile complement could be automatically expended in automated defense. Additionally, the ASROC ASW rocket could be housed in a silo. The initial five units equipped with Mk 26 missile launchers, could not fire the ASW rocket off their launchers, so the VLS provides more flexibility in that regard. 

On May 8, 1986 the twelfth ship of the Ticonderoga class was laid down at the Bath Ironworks in Maine. Launched on July 12, 1987 as USS Philippine Sea CG-58 , the ship was commissioned March 3, 1989. With a homeport of Mayport, Florida, he first deployment for Philippine Sea was to the Mediterranean and Red Seas as part of Operations Desert Shield ad Desert Storm. During Desert Storm the ship fired ten Tomahawk missiles and had crew members board many merchant ships. Her next deployment came in 1991 in the Caribbean Sea as part of a counter-drug operation. In 1992 Philippine Sea went back to the Med and Red Sea. During this tour, another 39 merchant ships were boarded. After a dry dock period in 1993 Philippine Sea became one of the primary escorts in the USS Saratoga Battle Group in early 1994, followed by another tour of the Caribbean at the end of the year. In 1995 she was flagship of USN Baltic Operations and then joined the USS Enterprise Battle Group in 1996 and maintained a continuous connection with the Big E for many years.  On August 8, 1998 Philippine Sea sunk the decommissioned Richmond K. Turner CG-20 as part of a Sinkex off of Puerto Rico. As part of allied naval operations in the Adriatic Sea, Philippine Sea launched the first Tomahawks as part of the Kosovo conflict. Philippine Sea had just returned from her latest tour with Enterprise when she was called back to the middle east. In October 2001 she again launched her Tomahawks at Taliban targets in Afghanistan. She was back with the Enterprise in October 2003 and served as the command ship for Maritime Interdiction Operations in the Gulf. During this period her boarding teams seized two dhows filled with millions of dollars in illegal drugs and also guarded the Basra Oil terminal. 


Sprue A - Hull and Superstructure
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Sprue A -  
The new Dragon Premium Edition 1:700 scale USS Philippine Sea continues the process of the upgrading of earlier kit releases by DML. In this case it is the Ticonderoga class missile cruisers with VLS. Most of the plastic parts were found on an earlier release but DML upgrades the kit with brass photo-etch, a full hull option and a new set of decals. The A sprue contains the primary components of the kit. Included on this sprue are the upper hull, forecastle and flight deck. The hull is the usual hull/main deck combination. The hull sides are mostly featureless. Although there are not many features on the sides of modern hulls DML could have added the vertical strake and a couple of smaller features found abreast of the flight deck. At the bow there is an open well onto which a separate forecastle fits. behind that is the space for the forward gun mount and raised VLS forward installation. There are a couple of twin bollard fittings and a couple of deck fittings found between the gun and VLS position but it appears from photographs that there should have been an additional set of bollards, plus some open chocks. There is more detail aft. At the rear end of the main deck is the aft VLS position. There appears to be a large deck access door plus a couple of other details. The best deck detail is found on the truncated quarterdeck. The aft gun mount is found here, along with the Harpoon canisters. Deck detail includes ring base for the gun, locator lines for the Harpoon mounts, three small twin bollards pre side, two small deck access hatches, and locator positions for other fittings. 

There are two forecastle parts on the A Sprue. The Philippine Sea uses the much nicer one with solid bulkheads. This piece is very distinctive with a criss-cross of vertical and horizontal strakes/supports on the inside face of the raised bulkhead. This part is nicely done and highly detailed. Other detail includes deck hatches, somewhat small anchor windlasses, anchor chain, anchor hawse, ring base for forward gun and three bollard fittings per side. Unfortunately DML has raised the warning lines forward of the gun mount. There are some items missing. There are no oval drains that allow water to drain outboard from the forecastle. A photograph of Port Royal CG-73 shows the presence of two small tubs to the rear and outboard of each windlass. They are not present on the DML Philippine Sea. The next largest piece is the flight deck. The only detail on this piece is the raised lines for warning markings. At least you won't remove detail when you sand these off the piece. My greatest peeve with modern DML kits is their retention of those archaic raised warning lines! 


Sprue A - Hull and Superstructure
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DML really shines in the great detail provided on the superstructure bulkheads. Five such small bulkheads are found on Sprue A. Even these small parts exhibit excellent detail with doors, piping, vertical ladders, life rings, ventilation louvers, and small machinery fittings. A hangar box features interior detail with interior support ribbing. Some of the armament and equipment for the model is also found on Sprue A, although not of these are used. There is a very nice SH-60 helicopter composed of six parts, two fuselage sides, two wheel struts, aft stabilizer and either folded or extended rotors. Additionally, much finer brass rotors are provided on the enclosed fret, but only in a deployed position. Nice Harpoon canisters, CIWS Phalanx and five inch gun mounts are also found here. Parts not used include the Mk 26 missile launcher, missiles and ASROC launcher. Other fittings include anchors, stern piece, ensign staff, jack staff, and ship's boats. 


Sprue B - Superstructure and Masts
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Sprue B -  
While A sprue provides the hull, B sprue adds the superstructure and masts. Before attaching the plastic masts, the modeler has a decision. DML has plastic masts found on this sprue and brass masts found on the photo-etch fret. My personal view is that it is almost always better to go with brass photo-etch parts, rather than plastic parts. This is true especially with fine lattice designs like these masts, as the injected plastic parts can never equal the delicacy of etched brass. The towering superstructure is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Ticonderoga class missile cruiser. It has a distinctly Japanese look, resembling an Atago class heavy cruiser or medieval Japanese castle. The reason is simple, the phased array radar needs 360 degree coverage and has to be placed fairly high on a ship to achieve this result. Any model of any member of the Tico class needs to have detail here. DML as provided that detail. The decks maybe rather sparse and the raised warning lines maybe a put-off but the superstructure parts are well done. There is a significant amount of detail molded onto the superstructure sides. First of course are the SPY panels with their octagon shape. However, there is a wealth of detail beyond this with vertical ladder, detailed doors, replenishment positions, life raft canisters, portholes, louvers and piping included. Some of this molded on detail is heavier than the equivalent brass parts, such as the doors and vertical ladder but I believe that the result is entirely acceptable in 1:700 scale. 

In addition to the major superstructure parts, there are quite a number of smaller parts included in Part B. The stack bases have excellent ventilation louver detail and other smaller panels of louvers are equally fine. The bridge parts are outstanding with some fine overhead detail. The four SPG-62 illuminators are well detailed. Other parts found are various superstructure decks, stack caps, radars, masts, yards, and boat platforms. As with the masts, solid plastic radar is never equal in detail to even mediocre brass parts, and the DML brass is certainly better than that. 


Sprue B - Superstructure and Masts
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Sprue C -  
This sprue provides the parts for two areas, the underwater hull and full hull display stand. Of course if you want a waterline model, you won't need these parts, so you'll have spare parts to give Aunt Bertha that sleek bottom that she has always wanted. The lower hull is marred by greatly over scale bilge keels, which resemble a long triangle of cheddar cheese than thin bilge keels. Still, I'm more likely to leave these in place as their excessive width is seen only from certain angles and replacement is probably more trouble than its worth. Other lower hull parts include the propellers, propeller shafts and rudders. Stand components include the stand base, hull cradles and nameplate, however, you'll probably not use the "Ticonderoga" nameplate for the Philippine Sea, as this kit is not suitable for the initial, Mk26 missile launcher units, in the class. 


Sprue C & D - Lower Hull and VLS
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Sprue D
This sprue provides the specific parts for the VLS equipped ships in the class. There are only two parts on this sprue, both VLS raised deck positions with the rows of hatches to the individual missile silos. You will notice that there is a single door covering three missile positions on both parts. In early VLS ships, missile loading cranes were mounted there. 


Brass Photo-Etch Fret
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Brass Photo-Etch Fret -  
One of the big attractions of any Dragon Premium Edition is the photo-etch set prepared for the release. The two best features of the fret are the optional brass lattice masts. This is especially true with the foremast, as it has a relief-etched deck house with open windows at its base. The taller mainmast also has a far finer appearance than the plastic masts provided in the kit. The masts are folded to their triangular shapes and separate various mast platforms are then added. The included brass yards will further add to the fineness of the brass structures over their plastic rivals. Three runs of crisscross safety netting are provided for the flight deck. With the Philippine Sea, DML provides a full set of deck railings. These come in various patterns. Six runs of different lengths are three bar open end stanchion design, with no lower gutter for the main deck. Eight runs of different lengths are four bar rails with a lower gutter for the superstructure. 


Decal Sheet
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Decal Sheet -  
Another consistent feature of a DML Premium Edition release is a new decal sheet. This is certainly true with the Philippine Sea. Cartograf of Italy produces these decals and as you can see from the 2007 copyright date, they are brand new for this kit. The largest of the decals is the decal for the flight deck. Unfortunately, to use this to its best effect, you'll need to remove the raised lines on the plastic part through some light sanding. The same situation applies for some of the white rectangular warning lines. A series of nice red and white circular warning stripes surrounding various ordnance is provided as well. Ship names and numbers provided are, Bunker Hill CG-52, Mobile Bay CG-53, Antietam CG-54, Leyte Gulf CG-55, San Jacinto CG-56, Lake Champlain CG-57, Philippine Sea CG-58 and Princeton CG-59 and Normandy CG-60. The ship numbers are in low-viz gray with black shading. The helicopter is also equipped with a set of decals. The quality is top rate. 


Box Art
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Instructions 
The Philippine Sea instructions are in standard DML format. One pack-printed sheet is folded into eight pages. Page one has drawings of all of the parts with unused plastic parts shaded in blue. Remember that some of the unshaded plastic parts may not be used if you substitute the included brass part. Page two has text instructions in English, Japanese, Chinese, German, Spanish and French. This page also includes a listing of the colors needed to paint the model with GSI Creos Corporation Mr. Colour and Model Master Color paint numbers. The bottom half shows the SH-60 helicopter, Harpoon mounts, five-inch gun mounts and SPG-62 illuminator assemblies. Page three includes assemblies for the superstructure. Page four is of deck attachment, superstructure attachment and lower hull assembly. Page five continues stack, foremast and boat subassemblies. Page six includes attaching subassemblies of the mainmast, SATCOM and VLS positions. Page seven has final assembly with optional attachment to lower hull and display stand. Page eight is a profile and plan of the missile cruiser showing decal placement. Throughout these instructions Dragon illustrates which plastic parts have brass replacements, designated by a "MA" nomenclature. 


Instructions
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Verdict
The 1:700 scale USS Philippine Sea, CG-58, represents the VLS equipped version of the Ticonderoga class Aegis missile cruiser. Dragon extends the Premium Edition execution to one of the primary AA platforms of the modern USN. With a brass fret with lattice masts, radars and a full set of railing, not to mention a new gorgeous decal sheet, Dragon adds more bang for the buck with this Premium Edition

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