"Sheffield and her sisters represent a nadir of British warship design, as first produced. Later modifications in light of combat experience do little more than meet the objections to the design from when Sheffield appeared, and its weaknesses were either self-evident or in direct defiance of history." (British Warship Designs Since 1906, 1985 by G. M. Stephen, at page 103)
The HMS Sheffield was the initial ship of the Type 42 destroyer design for the Royal Navy. Laid down on December 15, 1970, launched on June 10, 1971 and commissioned on February 28, 1975, Sheffield was given the name from one of the most renowned cruisers of World War Two. However, unlike the Town Class light cruiser of that war, which engaged the enemy time and time again, survived and had a long, very distinguished career, the Type 42 Sheffield would exist only a mere seven years, enter one engagement and founder as a result. The Type 42 destroyer design was the result of pure politics and resultant extreme penny-pinching.
The eight destroyers of the County Class had been started in 1959 and started entering service in 1963. Displacing 5,200-tons (6,200-tons full load) the class was designed around the Seaslug missile system. Far larger than the proceeding Daring class destroyers, they could have been very effective ships, except for one significant drawback, the Seaslug system. The Seaslug missile system followed a beam projected by the firing ship and owed its genesis to the German FX1400 guided bombs of World War Two. It was intended that the missile system would engage enemy aircraft at long range before that aircraft could launch its air to surface missile. However, that beam was subject to weather conditions and a host of other factors, which would degrade performance. As the County class entered service it was already recognized that beam guided missiles were already obsolescent at best. The Seaslug proved to be totally ineffective in its intended role during the Falklands War. Although classified as anti-aircraft destroyers, "The fallacy of this was shown by the Falklands War. One captain reportedly despaired so much of getting any use out of the Seaslug that he launched the missile at an aircraft in the vain hope that its discarded boosters would damage the enemy, rather than the missile proper." (British Warship Designs Since 1906, 1985 by G. M. Stephen, at pages 98-99)
By the early 1960s it was recognized that the Royal Navy would need at least twelve missile destroyers to modernize her aging destroyer fleet and to carry better missiles than the Seaslug. The follow up design to the Counties was the Type 82 destroyer of the HMS Bristol class. The Bristol was designed around the Sea Dart missile system. The Sea Dart was a medium guided missile with a maximum range of 35nm and altitude range of 100 to 60,000-feet. The missile with a semi-active guidance system was far more effective than the Seaslug. However, as initially designed, they were ineffective against low-level attacks and could not handle saturation attacks. The Type 82 jumped in displacement to 6,100-tons standard (7,100-tons full load), even though the ship was shorter than the preceding County design. Initial plans called for four Type 82s with another four envisioned to replace the early County class ships. HMS Bristol was laid down in 1967, launched in 1969 and completed in 1973. However, due to a change in government, Bristol became the only ship built to the Type 82 design. The Bristol was already ordered when in 1966 the Labour government decided to cancel not only CVA-01 full deck carrier design, but also the balance of the Type 82 destroyers. It was also decided that the Royal Navy did not need large carriers, eliminating the original mission of the Type 82 as escorts for the large carrier.
"The demise of the CVA-01 carrier programme and the cancellation of all but one Type 82 destroyer – both politically motivated decisions – left the Royal Navy with a potential situation where it would be seriously lacking in any effective form of defence against air attack. The fleet air defence provided by the carrier’s fighters and airborne early warning aircraft would soon disappear and the limitations of the Seaslug surface-to-air missile aboard the ‘County’ class ships were already recognized. In these circumstances it was vital to get the new Sea Dart missile into service as soon as possible so that it would be available in the mid-1970s when it was expected that the last of the carriers would have paid off." (Royal Navy Destroyers Since 1945, 1989, by Leo Marriott, at page 116) Even the government saw the need for new destroyers for the anti-aircraft role but true to any bureaucracy imposed artificial and severe restrictions upon the new design based on a maximum cost of 11 million pounds sterling for each vessel. The result was the Type 42 destroyer.
To achieve a destroyer design to carry the Sea Dart missile within the cost restrictions imposed severe design constraints. The initial Type 42 destroyer was the minimum size vessel capable of deploying the Sea Dart missile system. One look at the dimensions of the Type 42 design reflects how much smaller these ships were from the preceding Type 82 design. With a length of 412-feet (oa) and beam of 46-feet, they were almost 100-feet shorter and ten feet narrower than HMS Bristol. At a displacement of 3,500-tons standard (4,100-tons full load), they were almost half the weight of the Type 82 design. To save costs the final design was greatly shortened. This decision made the ships extremely cramped, extremely wet and eliminated any margin for future upgrades on the completed destroyers. "Sheffield was too short. It is rumoured that 30ft of her hull was chopped off at the design stage for a minimal saving in unit cost. Whatever the reason the short length of the hull gave rise to a host of problems. Some reports suggest the ship had a tendency to dig her nose into a heavy sea, and the forward 4.5in gun position and the Sea Dart launchers both look very wet. Internal arrangements were cramped, maintenance and repair difficult, and reports suggest the Operations Room was particularly crowded and thus rendered inefficient. The ships in their first form appear to have marked a quantum leap backwards from the ‘Leander’ hulls." (British Warship Designs Since 1906, 1985 by G. M. Stephen, at page 103)
Six Type 42 destroyers were initially ordered with the lead ship HMS Sheffield. Originally ordered in 1968, when construction started in 1970, the ships took an extraordinary long time to build at five years. This was longer than it took the British ship building industry to build battleships of the past. Two of these were lost in the Falklands War. Sheffield was hit by one aircraft launched exocet anti-ship missile on May 4, 1982 and sank while being towed to South Georgia. On May 25, 1982 another Type 42, HMS Coventry, was hit by three bombs and sank in fifteen minutes. Both losses reflected a lack of a point defense system and inadequate damage control. A third sister was more lucky. HMS Glasgow was hit on May 12 by a single 1,000 pound bomb, which fortunately passed through the ship without exploding. If it had exploded it would have been likely that she would have been lost as well, in which case, three of the initial six Type 42 destroyers, designed for anti-aircraft missions would have been lost to air attacks within the span of a month.
The initial Type 42 design was modified after the ships started entering service. In 1976 two of the new ships were ordered, followed by orders for two more. The differences between these four and the initial six Type 42 destroyers was in the electronics fit. The Type 1022 radar, replaced the Type 965 radar of the initial design. It was far more effective and further enhanced by new computer software. They also shipped the Lynx helicopter, rather than Wasp, carried by the first ships as fitted. One additional change was the addition of an ASW STWS-1 torpedo system. The first six ships were given the designation of Type42A or batch one ships and the second four Type42B or batch two ships. Only two of the Batch Two ships were ready by the time of the Falklands war but only one of these, HMS Exeter, saw action. The size of the design did not change until the Type 42 was reworked for a third design. This design actually reverted to the initial design for the ships before government politicians had economized the design by shortening them.
The Manchester class, Type 42C or Batch Three, ships were 41-feet longer than the Batch One and Two ships, all added at the bow. The extra buoyancy conferred by the extra internal volume made the ships far dryer and far more seaworthy. The lengthening also eliminated a lot of the crew congestion found in the original design and allowed far more missiles to be carried in enlarged magazines. Other changes over the two preceding designs was substitution of the Type 2016 sonar from the initial Type 184 sonar and the inclusion of a larger squared transom stern from the rounded stern of the original ships. This increased the area of the flight deck and made air operations safer. Four destroyers of the Type 42C or Batch Three design were ordered and were laid down in 1979 and 1980. They went into service from 1982 to 1985. With their far longer forecastle, they are mush more attractive and sleek looking vessels over the other two versions. (History from: British Warship Designs Since 1906, 1985 by G. M. Stephen; Royal Navy Destroyers Since 1945, 1989, by Leo Marriott)
Dragon HMS York Type 42C Batch Three Destroyer
This model is the Premium Edition of the Batch Three Type 42 destroyer. As such it portrays the most attractive variant of the Type 42 destroyer design with the long bow and remarkably sleek appearance. As is true with other Dragon Premium Edition kits, the HMS York kit adds items not found in the initial release of the model. With this kit that includes a brass photo-etch fret, new decals and a newly tooled 4.5-inch mount. The box is overly large for a destroyer kit and unlike the Dragon Essex kits that used every square millimeter of box volume, the box contains more air than parts. Total parts count is over 200, so although the parts included is about one third of the parts counts of the Dragon Essex class carrier kits, for a destroyer model in 1:700 scale, the number of parts provided by Dragon in this kit is still substantial in spite of the unused volume of the box. Also in conformance with other Dragon Premium Edition releases, many of the original parts on the injected plastic sprues are not used in building the kit. Optional parts and ship specific differences among the four ships are also covered in the instructions.
Hull, Decks & Superstructure – Sprue A
Although there are no seams to fill, the hull sides still have a few blemishes to smooth. My copy of HMS York had slight dimples on each side of the hull where the flair of the bow joined the main part of the hull. These are minor and appear to be easily capable of sanding smooth. On each side of the hull at the top there is a feature that extends along most of the length of the hull. This was not found on the Batch One or Batch Two ships. After consulting Combat Fleets of the World 2000-2001, I discovered that these are stiffening strakes added to the Batch Three destroyers after their completion. These strakes also create a little bit of a different look at the juncture of deck and hull. When I first examined the hull I noticed that the deck rounded down along its juncture with the strakes. This rounded juncture did not seem right, as I expected a sharp angular edge where the deck meets the hull. Further examination of photographs of the ships does indeed show that this rounding of the deck to the stiffening strake is present with the traditional angular juncture of deck and hull found at the extreme bow and stern where the strakes do not run.
Detail on the deck is sparse, although this probably the result of the actual design of the ships, rather than omissions by Dragon. There is a vertical forward breakwater with an enclosed structure at the apex in front of the 4.5-inch gun. This alone is different enough from your run of the mill breakwater so as to attract attention. There are two angled and separated features behind the gun mount and in front of the Sea Dart missile mount that further distinguish this design. They slant backwards as they go outboard, so they appear to form a second breakwater but they are too thick to just serve that purpose. Just behind them is the top of the missile loading position. This slopes upward as it approaches the Sea Dart launcher in front of the bridge and has rounded corners, further increasing the unique look of the vessel. The only other centerline features on the deck is the circular base for the 4.5-inch gun and locator lines onto which the superstructure subassemblies are attached. At the edges of the deck are two twin bollard plates at the bow and additional two plates at the stern on each side.
The lower hull is very nice for full hull builders. The distinctive sonar dome is present and there are two sets of bilge keels on each side, which slant more downwards than outwards. These bilge keels may be a trifle thick but they do look good. There is also a smaller centerline keel towards the stern. On each side of the lower hull are two circular depressions for separate fin stabilizers, location depressions for the shaft housings, locator holes for the shaft supports and locator holes for the twin rudders.
The superstructure bulkheads are separate from the upper deck parts. There are two superstructure subassemblies. One is from the bridge to mainmast and the other is for the aft helicopter hangar. There are positives and negatives to this design choice taken by Dragon. The positive is that the bulkheads have an abundance of crisp detail on each part and the negative is the need to smooth the seams where the parts join each other. Each of the bulkheads has an impressive array of features, such as doors, piping, fittings as well as portholes. The two halves of the lower part of the stack structure is especially nice with multiple fittings and exhaust cooling rectangles. The smaller deck pieces are also detailed but not to the same extent as the bulkhead parts. The small forecastle part for the extreme bow has open chocks, four more twin bollard plates, anchor gear, anchor chain and locator holes for the forward jack staff, although the staff itself is too thick and should be replaced with rod or stretched sprue. Superstructure decks include items such as life raft canisters, fittings, and base mounts for various fittings. The stack cap and masts are also well detailed. The masts come with plastic yards as part of each mast piece. Although these are well done, they are somewhat thick and most modelers will probably want to remove these and use the brass replacements found on the included brass photo-etched fret.
Weapons & Fittings – Sprue B
Only about half of the B Sprue is used and comprises the various weapons and fittings for the ship. Actually most modelers will use fewer of these parts than indicated in the instructions, as many of the plastic parts also have brass replacement parts on the photo-etch. Plastic parts include the helicopter, rotor blades, main radar, radar domes, fire control radars, boats, rafts, small guns, torpedo tube mounts, ventilator intakes, anchor and assorted other fittings. The largest and nicest of these parts are the two halves for the Lynx helicopter. Although the tail rotor is too thick (a separate brass tail rotor as well as main rotor is included in brass) and the panel lines to deep, the sides of the Lynx have cleanly defined windows as well as other fittings. The main radar is solid and should be replaced with the brass radar included on the fret.
Lower Hull Fittings & Stand – Sprue C
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
One of the distinguishing aspects of a Dragon Premium Edition from their earlier releases of the model is the presence of a dedicated brass photo-etch fret for the model. For the HMS York kit these parts include foremast yards, mainmast yards, main mast aft spar, main radar, both main and tail helicopter rotors, flight deck safety netting, and a full set of deck railing. I cannot overstate that the completed model will be far finer by using these brass parts in lieu of any plastic parts included in the kit and by adding the brass parts, such as safety netting and railing, where no plastic equivalents are included. As the most extreme example there is the main radar. In plastic it is one solid chunk of plastic but with the included brass parts it is a very delicate and intricate array made up of seven brass parts. There is no comparison between the two assemblies. The included brass fret significantly increases the detail of the finished model to almost every aspect of this model.
Another feature of Dragon Premium Edition models over their former reincarnations of the same kit is the inclusion of a new decal sheet. For the HMS York kit the Italian firm of Cartograf prepared a new decal sheet. Included on this sheet are names and hull numbers for all four members of the Type 42 Batch Three destroyers: HMS York D 98, HMS Manchester D 95, HMS Gloucester D 96 and HMS Edinburgh D97. The names are in red and are placed on either side of the stern and the hull numbers come in two sizes. Two large decals are provided for the hull sides and a smaller version for the transom stern. Warning circles are provided for the 4.5-inch mount and Sea Dart mount. The flight deck has full markings with a landing circle, guide lines to the hangar, and individual ship initials. Also included on the sheet are helicopter markings, two white ensigns, hull draft lines and stack markings.
The instructions are one back-printed sheet, folded into eight pages. Page one has drawings of all of the parts with unused plastic parts shaded in blue. Also 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 4.5-inch and Sea Dart mount assemblies. Page three includes assemblies for the Lynx, masts main radar and stack. Page four is of superstructure subassemblies. Page five continues superstructure subassemblies and attaching assemblies to the forward deck. Page six includes attaching subassemblies to the aft deck, deck detail, flight deck decal placement and lower hull assembly. Page seven is a profile and plan of the destroyer showing other decal placement. Page eight shows stern decal placement, final assembly, attachment of upper and lower hull halves and mounting on the stand. Throughout these instructions Dragon illustrates which plastic parts have brass replacements, designated by a "MA" nomenclature. Also of note is the inclusion of specific parts used or removed for specific ships within the class. The HMS Gloucester has the most differences with the Manchester having some deck fittings removed. York and Edinburgh appear to be identical in assembly.
Dragon presents another of their Premium Edition kits, this time HMS York, Type 42 Batch Three Royal Navy destroyer. Although only the 4.5-inch gun mount appears to be the only new inclusion among the plastic parts, there is a full brass photo-etch fret and new decal sheet included. The brass alone substantially upgrades the kit from previous all plastic models of this ship. It is fitting that Dragon chose to upgrade the Batch Three version first. Although the Type 42 Batch Three destroyers did not see action in the Falkland War like the Batch One ships, their 41-feet of extra length make them the sleekest and most attractive destroyers in the series.