The USS Enterprise CV-6 is the most honored of the carriers of the USN during World War Two. It is only appropriate, as Big E and Saratoga were the only two fleet carriers to see the start and end of the war in the Pacific. In 1942 one by one the American carriers were being lost, Lexington, Yorktown, Hornet and Wasp. Even poor old Langley, long past being a carrier was lost in that first year and Ranger wasnít sent to the Pacific at this time. Enterprise symbolizes the USN naval aviation in that first year, desperately hanging on against the very formidable Imperial Japanese naval aviation. As the Yorktown Class was the carrier of strike and counter-strike, the Essex Class was the carrier of overwhelming victory.

Trumpeter has released two 1:350 scale USN carrier kits so far, Hornet and Essex. It is ironic that the carrier class of the overwhelming USN of 1945, could have been called the Hornet Class if the navy had not decided to place more value on speed of construction than optimum operational requirements. The navy already knew what it wanted when the order for Hornet CV-8 was placed. What they wanted were the size and operational characteristics of Essex CV-9 but that would take longer to build than a repeat of Yorktown and Enterprise. With war clouds building, they went with quick construction for CV-8 and optimum characteristics for CV-9.

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The Trumpeter USS Essex CV-9 is a beautiful kit, slightly bigger and with less errors than the Trumpeter Hornet. With its finely detailed aircraft, it at first glance seems to make a fine build right from the box. However, when comparing some of the plastic parts with brass photo-etch replacement parts found in the Gold Medal Models Essex Fittings Set, No. 350-22, the original Trumpeter parts appear to be solid monoliths or obelisks more appropriately found in Egypt of Ramses II than in "Killerís Row" at the Ulithi Atoll under Admiral Spruance.

With the Hornet GMM included a 1:350 Jimmy Doolittle. With this Essex fret, GMM continues in this new tradition by including a 1:350 figure of Admiral Ray Spruance, dressed in khaki and ready to stand on the bridge of an Essex. A figure of Ray Spruance is no reason to buy a brass fret but what he brings with him on this fret most emphatically provides more than enough reasons. The fret is almost 10-inches by 6 ĺ-inches (250mm by 170mm) and is crammed with parts for the Essex.

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The theme for this fret could be radars. The Gold Medal Models fret provides a plethora of exquisitely detailed array for you Essex. From the large square SK to the parabolic SK-2; SM-1, SP, SC-2, SG, Mk 22, Mk 12 to the YE Beacon, GMM provides an alphabet soup of these crucial systems that are impossible to be adequately duplicated in plastic. Indeed the plastic SK radar provided in the kit appears to be a monolithic slab rather than a delicate sensor array. It is thick enough to exceed the thickest armor of any battleship ever launched. Once you see the GMM part, you can not be happy with building the Essex right from the box.

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The Essex has five antenna towers along the flight deck. The solid plastic parts are solid Egyptian obelisks of the New Kingdom, compared to the delicate towers of brass provided by GMM. One of the unique characteristics of the Essex Class was the inclusion of a side elevator instead of all centerline deck elevators. If you look at photographs of an Essex, you will see a support grid of trusses underneath the elevator that support it. None of these are even provided in plastic in the Trumpeter kit. Iím afraid that an elevator without these supports couldnít handle even the lightest aircraft. A Dauntless, much less the far heavier Helldiver would end up in the water alongside the carrier as the elevator collapsed under the weight, rather than having it taken up to the flight deck. The largest single subassembly on this GMM fret is the large support grid under the side elevator along with its six supporting trusses. With the GMM parts installed, your elevator can handle the job and more importantly, it will look like the steel-work of the original. By mid war the USN was installing floater nets with open baskets for all of its warships. GMM gives you 52 of these oft-overlooked fittings.


Instructions
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In addition to the radars themselves, the mast of the Essex was adorned with numbers of open grid platforms. You wonít find open grid platforms and supports in the plastic parts of the kit but with this GMM fret, you are covered. As with their Hornet fret (Click for review of the GMM USS Hornet fret), GMM provides the fine detail of the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) position, that is lacking in the kit. Yardarms, including an extraordinarily detailed foremast yardarm, safety nets, antenna spreaders, boat details and chocks, various antennas, cable reels, funnel cap grills, life rings, crane hooks and antenna screens are all included by GMM.

Rounding out this exceptional product are four different types of inclined ladders, water-tight doors, vertical ladders, anchor chain, and seven different types of railing. You can see the individual links in the drooping safety railing. The bow and stern railing is specifically designed for the kit with appropriate openings where bollards are positioned. GMM has provided over 150-inches (over 12-feet) of various railings.


Obelisk or Array - Your Choice
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Verdict
Gold Medal Models has produced another product of unsurpassed versatility and usefulness. In only using the plastic parts provided in the Trumpeter kit, you will pass up the opportunity to accurately reflect the Essex in all her finery. With Gold Medal Models Essex Fittings Set, No. 350-22, the Essex, or any of her sisters will look like they belong with the premier naval strike force of fleet carriers under Admiral Spruance.

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