In the last couple of years we’ve been treated to some spectacular photo-etched “Super Sets” in 1/700th scale that rival the detail of larger 1/350th scale sets.  And, the kit makers have taken notice too.  Many have been busily re-tooling older warships with more and better detail, new features, and even some grade-up PE frets of their own.  Without a doubt it’s a great time to be a 1/700th scale modeler. Until recently 1/700th PE components were produced by a handful of companies, some of whom created products not well-known or widely marketed outside of Japan .  But recently, new companies are taking on the mission of super-detailing waterline ships and moving our hobby to the next skill level at a break-neck speed.  Most notable are numerous offerings coming from FlyHawk Model, a Chinese manufacturer, since entering the world of 1/700th ships. You may not be familiar with FlyHawk Model – and that’s understandable since they have only been around for a couple of years.  But make no mistake, their PE products are some of the best on the market.  Judge for yourself, as I review of one of their 1/700th Super Detail Sets, FH 700025 for Essex class carriers. I know of only one word to describe this Super Detail Set – Breathtaking!  You may be familiar with the sets that have been introduced for IJN fleet carriers, and marveled at their detail.  Prepare yourself to be challenged…  FlyHawk has gone to the next level with its Super Detail set for Trumpeter’s Essex class carrier kits.

Fret A: This first fret contains radio antennae; boat cranes with pulleys and hooks; funnel handrail; yardarm with weather vanes and anemometers; LSO platform, windscreen and safety jump net; and guardrails that surround the 2 inline flight deck elevators.

Fret B: Here’s the supporting structure for the deck edge elevator with safety net, SC-2 and SK radar suites (just to name a few), and Mk 4/12 fire control radar for the Mark 37 directors.  There are also optional choices provided to capture the look of any Essex carrier during any time of the war with any radar suite.  You’ll also find the replacement parts for the tripod mast platforms, several catwalks with railing, and numerous structural support girders.

Fret C: On this fret are pulleys and cable ends for the arresting wires, catwalks with guardrails, upgrades to the kit’s 5” guns (port side, single mount), and much more.

Fret D: Doors, hatches, anchors, ladders and swinging booms are included on this fret.  There is plenty of detail on the doors and hatches to enhance realism of your finished carrier, particularly if you give them to a light wash (shadow).

Fret E: Fret E contains crash barriers, several gun tubs and galleries, splinter shields, and gun directors.  20mm Oerlikon guns make up the bulk of detail pieces on this fret.

Fret F: Many of the catwalks found underneath the ends and along the edges of the flight deck are provided on this fret.  But, these are definitely not generic in any way.  They are all custom to a specific location and include the steps or ladders to move from one level to the next – exquisite! 

Fret G: On this fret are replacements for the aft compartments visible under the flight deck that, by comparison, make the kit’s parts look like mere plastic chunks.  You’ll also find superstructure parts to support the forward edge of the flight deck.

Fret H: FlyHawk leaves nothing to the imagination as parts for the bracing under the forward flight deck are provided on fret H.  And for those of us that have tried to scratch build thin splinter shields – relax!  On this fret you get all the platforms with splinter shields and braces that surround the navigation bridge, admiral’s bridge and on various other levels.  I particularly like the shield that fold up around the platform as opposed to having to attach them with Ca as a separate item – much easier to do.  And the folding score lines appear to make that a simple task (if there is such a thing in 1/700th scale!)

Fret I: The next fret has the rest of the structural bracing for under the forward flight deck and the remainder of the ship’s railings.  Elsewhere FlyHawk crafted parts to simulate limp chain railing, but here the railings are solid.  Again, each section is designed to fit a precise location and upgrade the overall appearance of your Essex carrier.

Fret J: The final fret has enough quad 40mm Bofors for every timeframe of an Essex carrier in WW2.  This fret provides a dozen guns (to be folded into pairs of twins), gun mounts, splinter shields, and railing.  Quad Bofors have been reviewed by FlyHawk before (add link) and, despite any concerns about thickness, are much better looking than the plastic parts.

Instructions: This is an enormous set and a dream come true for the experienced Essex modeler.  But, you should be ready to spend time planning each sub-assembly and carefully identifying parts you intend to swap out in favor of photoetched pieces.  FlyHawk provides illustrated instructions on 7 pages (A4 size) with folding and shaping icons that are familiar, and which reference the kit’s numbering for easy substitution.  Words are also printed in English.  Yet, I would have preferred to see a little more verbiage to describe each sub-assembly and its placement.  So, you’ll need to spend time carefully planning each step before actually doing it. Tip: With such an extensive set, making over-sized copies of the photo-etched and kit’s instructions would be helpful so you can make notes, especially about your sub-assembly and painting sequences.  Once upon a time we could just “glue and spray” and get a satisfactory result.  But today, any of the complex WW2 camo measures worn by Essex class carriers will test your planning, assembly and masking forte.

ess1dir.JPG (49236 bytes) ess2dir.JPG (47441 bytes) ess3dir.JPG (45374 bytes)
ess4 dir.JPG (48983 bytes) ess5dir.JPG (72767 bytes) ess6dir.JPG (65886 bytes) ess7 dir.JPG (60052 bytes)

Overall impressions: This 10 fret Super Detail set is incredibly well done.  PE parts are relief etched and loaded with intricate detail.  The exactness of each part is intended to give as close to a realistic look as possible in this miniature scale.  I’m sure this set will provide hours and hours of (frustration and) pleasure.  It’ll easily challenge the skills of the best naval model craftsmen.  And, you’ll want to keep your reference books handy to confirm many of the intricate sub-assemblies. Grade-up pieces for your air wing are not part of this set.  Separately FlyHawk offers 2 detail sets for USN carrier aircraft, which I will review in the near future.  Thus, the entire Super Detail set is devoted to making the appearance of the Trumpeter Essex class carriers as realistic as your skill allows.  Will it work for Dragon or the older Hasegawa Essex kits?  I don’t see why not.  If your scratch-building skills are not up to par you should still give it a try.  Even if minor surgery is needed, FlyHawk’s details will make all the difference and make your model really stand out.

FlyHawk has done several Super Detail sets, but this one for Trumpeter’s Essex carrier kits is a masterpiece.  It’s available from many sources at about $50 (USD), which makes it a great bargain.  Indeed, even if you used only half of these beautiful parts it will make a fantastic improvement and still be well worth the investment.  In short, this Super Detail set really has much more than most of us could ever want or imagine.

Reviewed by Duncan Kennedy