How is it possible for a warship to be so ugly and yet still be the most
beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? The
Class of guided missile cruisers makes the impossible come true
with respect to this paradox. The
class conversions are probably the most ungainly warship designs in history.
They look to me like awkward teenage children, not quite fitting into
their “bodies”. During their
major refits in the early 1960’s the ship’s superstructures were shaved off
at the main deck level and replaced with two towering “macks” (mast/stack
combination). Furthermore, the
bridge was raised some 10 levels off of the main deck.
It is no wonder that some in the USN referred to the
conversions as “The Tall Ladies”. This
nickname is fitting, because despite their clumsy appearance the ships have a
certain grace and beauty to them. Ok-
in short, I think they look really cool! Recently, Commander Models has graced us with
numerous 1/350 scale modern USN warships. When
I heard an
was in the works, I was very excited because I have always wanted to do
a model of the USS Chicago as a PIRAZ ship
. I knew it would be highly unlikely
that a 1/350 scale
class would ever be released in plastic so I jumped at the Commander’s offering.
The hull measures approximately 23 inches in length, so make some room!
The hull I received was well cast with only a few tiny pinholes that
needed filling. I should mention
that since I build exclusively waterline subjects (“half a ship” as some
friends like to joke) Ted Paris at Commander
Models cast me a half hull, which he will do on request.
Consequently, I cannot comment on the status of the lower hull for you
full-hull builders. However, the
cleanliness and quality of the upper hull leads me to believe there would be no
problems with a full hull. The main
components of the kit are the hull, forward mack/bridge piece and the aft mack.
There was a problem fitting the forward mack/bridge into its slot in the
hull. After conferring with Ted we
determined that the piece had expanded after being pulled out of the mold and
consequently had “flared” outward at the base.
The problem was corrected and the issue has since been remedied.
The aft mack fits into a small recess in the deck and goes together
without any difficulty. The bridge
decks are in two levels and fit together well.
I had to replace some of the bridge window dividers with plastic strip as
they had been damaged in shipping, but it was a simple fix.
The pieces were sanded and smoothed to clean up any pour plugs etc.
Once the major hull/superstructure components were assembled, a myriad
of small pieces were added. There’s
too much to list it all, but some of the parts include the following: 2 Talos
launchers with missiles, 2 Terrier launchers with missiles, 2 5”38 cal DP
guns, 4 SPG-49 directors, 4 SPG-51 directors, an ASROC launcher, 2 triple
torpedo tube mounts, 2 Mk-51 GFCS directors, 2 towers for the SPG-2W directors,
a bunch of boats/davits and 2 Talos cranes.
Quite a lot of stuff! In general, everything is well cast, although
several of the directors and launchers had broken parts.
Not to worry- the guys at Commander
Models usually includes several extra of each type and if you
didn’t already know this, they do have the best customer service in the
business. You need extra parts?
Just call Ted and he’ll hook you up- no questions asked.
Of particular note are the RIM-8B Talos missiles cast in white metal.
They are really beautiful to behold!
Overall, the “small bits” take up a goodly amount of time and give
the ship a cluttered and very real appearance.
The masts provided are resin and are useable out of the box.
If you desire, I would recommend using brass rod as a replacement.
It’s really easy, and once you get the hang of it you’ll be making
intricate brass masts in all of your models!
The radars are phenomenal and when you look at the SPS-30 I think
you’ll be impressed by the craftsmanship.
For those of you unfamiliar, the SPS-30 was an odd dish antennae with a
prominent side-slung feed horn. Jon
Warneke, master pattern builder for Commanders,
did a really nice job with these babies. They
look neat when placed on the model. The
other radars include the SPS-43, which is the grill-type antenna on the aft mack
(done nicely in photo-etch) and the SPS-48 square antenna on the forward mast.
Since I was trying to portray the USS
Chicago in the late 60’s I chose to scratch-build an SPS-39
curved antenna for the mainmast (see photos).
The photo-etch for the SPS-43 is awesome and very well designed…it goes
together very easily and looks quite cool!
The photo-etch set included in the kit is extensive with 3 frets and
provides all the rails and extra bits necessary to accurately portray any of the
three ships in the class. The photo-etch is very well designed and in my
opinion, one of the strongest features of the kit. In particular, the SPS-43
antenna and the lattice structure for the aft SPS-30 radar are awesome. The
rails for the main deck are (in my opinion) a little too thick to portray
lifelines, but this has always been a personal gripe of mine. They still look
great and one very nice touch is that nearly all the rail sections are
custom fitted and lettered on the instructions. There is very little cutting of
rail segments since they are meticulously measured out for you by Ted!
A full set of markings, hull numbers, UNREP lines, missile warning
circles, ship names for the class, etc., are included with the kit.
They are designed by Darren Scannell of
(eh!) and I must say, I think they are some of the best decals out there!
This guy does a fantastic job! If
you desire more markings, Commanders
makes an extra USN decal set and a signal flag set- I used both.
The signal flag sheet contains DESRON/CRUDESGRU shields, flags
(obviously) and perhaps most importantly, battle E’s and other decorations
commonly found on USN ships. The
“extra” set has waterline markings for ship’s boats, Unrep/helo markings,
refueling station markings and much more.
Stuff That I added to my model:
Since I was going to compete with this model at the IPMS USA nationals,
I added a number of scratch built and aftermarket details.
First off, I scratch built the two Talos cranes fore and aft as I felt I
could do them a little more justice. As
I previously noted the curved SPS-39 on the mainmast was scratch built in order
to portray the
in 1968-69. Note: with a minimal amount of
work, the kit can be modified to represent
during any time period! I
added a number of photo-etch details from Gold
Medal Models onto the bulkheads, such as liferings, fire hoses, oil vents.
Railings from White Ensign Models were used on the main deck because I like their
“thinness” in portraying lifelines. However,
this was personal choice and isn’t really necessary since the kit rails look
excellent. Perhaps I’m just obsessive. I
used stretched sprue for the signal lines, HF aerials and various antennae.
Finally, I ordered a set of L’Arsenal
5”38 cal brass barrels for the gun mounts.
The ultimate step for my
was to place her in a dynamic seascape. I
use liquitex acrylic gel and artist’s acrylic paints.
Ordinary modeling clay was used to form the bow waves and the gel was
applied in successive coats to get the right look.
I brushed future floor wax on the finished product to give it a “wet”
look. Anyway- I am very proud of
her! It is a great kit with a few
flaws that can be easily overcome. Highly
recommended to anyone interested in the “Tall