For as long as I have been modeling ships, I have always wanted to build the USS Long Beach. With its blocky deckhouse and odd, awkward appearance, it has to be one of the ugliest modern warships the U.S. Navy has ever operated. Despite this, I am completely and hopelessly in love with it. Its hulls lines are sleek and its decks are bristling with weapon systems (a rarity in these days). Despite its overall awkward appearance, lets face it, it looks pretty top-heavy, the ship has a very functional and war-like look to it, just as a cruiser ought to look.

Unfortunately for me, for a long time manufacturers were unwilling to offer this subject in my preferred scale- 1/350. The 1/500 offering from Revell did not "do it" for me…perhaps because it was too much like a toy and in too small a scale and yes, I am one of those scale snobs. I distinctly remember telling a good friend of mine not too long ago that "if I could just build a 1/350 USS Long Beach, then I will be able to die a happy man!" Little did I know that literally as I spoke, Commanders/Iron Shipwright was about to answer my prayers!

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The Ship:
Commissioned in 1961, the USS Long Beach became America’s 1st nuclear-powered cruiser. She was 721 feet long with a loaded displacement of nearly 17,100 tons. Originally, the ship was outfitted with two MK-10 launchers for Terriers forward and a single Talos launcher aft. Two 5" 38 caliber guns were installed side by side amidships. ASW weapons included an ASROC launcher located immediately behind the superstructure and two triple MK-32 12.75" torpedo tube mounts on either side of the forward superstructure. With changing times and changing threats, the Long Beach underwent a major conversion in the early 1980’s. Perhaps the most striking change was the deletion of the SPS-32 planar radar arrays on the bridge deckhouse. In addition, the Talos launcher was deleted in favor of two armored box launchers (ABL’s) on the fantail for Tomahawk and two MK-141 quad launchers for Harpoon on either side of the aft deckhouse. A large lattice mast was added on the after deckhouse and the new SPS-49 air search radar was added. The forward MK-10 launchers were modified to accommodate the SM-2ER missile. Two MK-15 Phalanx CIWS were added in a stepped arrangement on the after deckhouse. The pole mainmast was deleted in favor of a tripod arrangement with SPS-48E 3-D air search and SPS-10 surface search radar sets. Finally, the EW suite was updated to include the SLQ-32(V3) while Zuni chaff-rocket launchers were removed in favor of super RBOC launchers. This configuration lasted until the ship was decommissioned in May, 1995.

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The Kit:
At long last! I had myself a Long Beach! Upon opening the box I was very pleased to find an excellent, well-engineered and well-cast kit. ISW was very thoughtful in their design, and provide parts to model the ship in its 1960’s appearance with the Talos and billboard array or in its modernized appearance of 1985. The hull and middle superstructure levels were cast as a single, very clean unit in a cream-colored resin. The square bridge deckhouse (oh how I love it!) was cast as several pieces- a main block, a base level with splinter shields and, two upper pieces including an electronics deckhouse and a bridge wing. Detail parts such as boat davits, 5" gun turrets, the ASROC launcher, missile launchers, gun directors, etc. were also clean and cast well. A few pieces contained air bubbles that needed filling, but this was the exception rather than the rule. A fair warning to those of you who enjoy full-hull builds: there were a fair amount of air bubbles in the lower hull. The upper hull was clean and clear but the lower hull required some filling and sanding. As I build waterline, I happily sawed off this portion J . Despite this, if I were to ever try this kit again as a full-hull ship, the filling and sanding necessary would in no way deter me from building this kit. Any intermediate modeler with basic modeling skills can easily overcome this minor flaw. White metal parts were for the most part clean and free of flash. They included the mainmasts (1960’s and 1985), MK-141 Harpoon launchers, boat davits, SPG-55 missile directors, anchors and, two lovely Talos missiles for the 1965 version.

The photo-etch sheet is extensive to say the least. It consists of four frets with some of the best etched parts I have seen. The aft lattice mast is beautiful and has to be seen to be appreciated. All railings and P.E. detail pieces are numbered on the frets and correspond directly with the instructions, which is a nice touch.

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The instructions are generally good, but could use a little work. The drawings are excellent and it is clear in most instances where pieces ought to go. On the other hand, more written instruction would have been nice to help explain where pieces are meant to go. This is something that ISW is working on and my understanding is that future releases will have more complete prose to complement their excellent drawings. One very nice feature included by ISW is the color drawing of the ship. It shows a full hull, port side "shot" of the pre-1982 version of the ship and serves as a painting guide. It also includes a plan view to further assist in decal placement and painting. In addition, the sheet is packed with statistics and a brief history of the ship.

The decal sheet is crisp and in-scale. It includes warning circles, helicopter deck markings, National ensigns and Jacks windblown and straight, hull numbers, depth marks and the ship’s name. The decals went on with no problem and settled down nicely with an application of solvaset.

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The Model:
I built the kit straight from the box and encountered no real troubles. Testor’s acrylic paints were used and were followed up with several coats of Polly-Scale acrylic clear flat. At this point, I added a few scratch built "extras". First, I added a variety of antennae made from stretched sprue. Next, I added several small platforms to the aft lattice mast. "Spider" array antennas made from strips of carefully cut, thin brass were added to the tops of the 5" mounts. HF aerials were made from stretched sprue and added to the mast. Rigging (stretched sprue) was added to the mast/flag bags and several signal flags and a national ensign were strategically placed and bent to simulate wind. Approximately 40 Gold Medal Models P.E. figures were placed in various places around the ship, such as the deck division mustered on the port side of the helicopter deck. Although the Long Beach wasn’t normally embarked with a helicopter, I thought it might be fun to add visiting "royalty" in the form of a Vice Admiral (maybe 6th Fleet?). Consequently, I dug out a Tamiya SH-3 Sea King and detailed it appropriately with folded rotors and placed it on the fantail. The Admiral’s ensign from ISW’s excellent aftermarket decal sheet is flying from the mainmast in all its glory. In one photo I found on the internet, the crew painted "Long Beach International Airport" on the aft bulkhead directly in front of the landing area. Thinking this might be fun, I custom made a decal and added it.

I then added lines to the boat davits, making the little rope bags that hang down from above the boat with white glue, monkey lines I think they’re called. With all this done, I came to the really fun part- water-lining!

As is my custom, I like to portray my ships under way. I created waves using clay, and then added several coats of Liquitex acrylic gel. The ship was then placed in the void created by the clay waves and the gel was allowed to harden. More gel was added to the sides of the hull to make sure it was secured in the proper position. After it had dried, I spent several painfully frustrating hours trying to get the paint job just right. The final touch comes in the form of several coats of future floor wax to give it a wet look. At this point, rust streaks were added using pastel chalk. As a final touch, I thought it might be fun to add a few overboard waste dumps as I have seen in photos. Two small water cascades can be seen, one on each side, emanating from the ship and were made from a wire base with a gel medium coating.

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So, that completes my Long Beach saga. It is an excellent quality kit with only a few minor flaws. I highly recommend it if you are interested in modern USN subjects. I hope you enjoy the photos of my build! Please, let me know what you think in the message board, or email me at mudhen2@attglobal.net. Thanks!

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