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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.