The four Virginia class guided missile cruisers were equipped to fulfill multiple tasks in all warfare mission areas. The ships were equipped with two twin-rail missile launchers for AAW with ASROC capability; two 5" .54 caliber gun mounts for AAW and ASUW; two three-barrel torpedo launchers for ASW; and a LAMPS helicopter for ASW. Two pressurized nuclear reactors were capable of propelling the ship at speeds in excess of 30 knots, providing the endurance and capability to operate with other conventional and nuclear ships over extended periods of time and great distances. During the 1980s the ships were outfitted with the Tomahawk Cruise Missile System, the Standard SM2(MR) Missile System, and the AN/SPS-49 Air Search Radar. Planned Refueling Complex Overhauls were canceled in the early 1990s due to the expense of maintaining the nuclear propulsion components, and the ships were all decommissioned after a relatively brief period of service, averaging somewhat less than two decades. Thus the CGN-41 was commissioned in 1980 with a life expectancy of 38 years, though it was retired in 1997 after only half that period in service.
I choose the following method. I carefully drilled shallow holes in the bases and platforms to seat the rods, using the measure thrice, drill once plan. I did not drill the holes all the way through the platforms but rather drilled them almost through so that there was material for the rods to butt up against. I then started stacking the pieces, using thick, gel-type super glue. The gel type gives you a good 10 seconds or so of wiggle time, though it is thick enough to hold the parts upright before drying. I'd place a part then quickly look at it from above, the front and the side, adjusting as needed. Once I had it in place, I used a tiny drop of super glue accelerator to freeze the part before moving on to the next level. It is easier than it sounds but don't start working too late at night.
Because the yardarms stick out quite a bit, I left them off the masts until I
had done most all of the other assembly. Otherwise I am certain I would have
snapped them off by accident while working on other parts of the ship. As it is
they did pull a bit as the rigging shrunk.
As mentioned, JAG did an amazing job of casting the entire hull and superstructure as one piece. This can in a way complicate your painting and masking, as since the pieces are not separate, you have to mask every level and platform. This takes some time, and demands a flexible, thin masking tape. I used Tamiya brand yellow tape, but you may prefer something else. I don't think regular tape will work well in this role.
After spraying the ship with the chosen gray, I started with the ambition to mask the entire thing and paint the darker deck color all over in one go. This did not work, as it was quite difficult to place the tape everywhere without ending up places I did not want to remain the hull's gray. I found it easier to mask a section, cover the rest of the ship with tape/paper, spray and then move on. Obviously if you prefer brush painting this is not applicable. Speaking of brush painting, this may be one ship that you may wish to reconsider. JAG has molded some very delicate details on the superstructure, such as hatches, ladders, life rings, hoses and the like such that you do not need to add PE replacements. That's the good news. This does however commit you to laying down a very thin coat of paint so as not to obscure these details. That argues strongly in favor of an airbrush or spray can.
As is their custom, JAG supplies ship-specific photo-etch. This includes for the Virginia just about everything you will need except some ladders and all the railings. One important note: the instructions indicate the location of PE parts with letters (A, B, C) instead of the numbers used for resin parts. The actual PE shape is not drawn on the exploded parts view, so it would be easy to leave off some part. While the usual rule off keep modeling until there are no parts left in the box, would apply, the actual assembly of the ship is such that it is easier to apply some of the PE at different steps in the build, as waiting until the end and gluing on whatever is left over would be more difficult.
Gold Medal Model Figures
There have been a few questions about the figures. The figures are from Gold Medal Models. You get about one hundred per set. They are very small. The way I paint them is as follows, although others may have better ideas. I spray the entire fret with matte white. I then brush paint the clothes/torso, trying to leave the face and arms white. I then go back with a 000 brush and paint the skin colors. Sometimes I use a 0.05mm marker to draw on belts, ties, etc. By laying on lots of thick coats of color on the body/clothing, you can make the figures more three-dimensional.
Once everything dries, I cut the figures off at the feet about 10 or so at a time. I then squeeze out
a puddle of super glue and with tweezers, touch each figure to the glue and then place them on the ship. Work from the inside of the ship out so new figures don't mess with the old ones. The figures come in about 8-10 different poses. Mix them up so the same poses are not next to each other. For the purists among us, yes, many of the figures are gesturing wildly and otherwise posed in a way wholly inappropriate when manning the rails. I can only say that Gold Medal Models sells these in sets, so unless they were willing to sell me a custom set with everyone at the proper pose, this is a fudge we may have to learn to live with. In addition, after painting these 100 men for the Virginia in one evening, my next project will be a 1/700 scale seeing eye dog...
My Assembly Sequence
While every modeler will approach a kit like this is his/her own way, my rough sequence of assembly was as follows: Clean up of parts (wash in dish soap to degrease, trim, sand, etc). Drill out various access holes and portholes and drill small holes to later receive rigging. Assemble vertical portions of the masts, leaving off the yardarms. Add PE parts that will be painted the same gray as the hull then airbrush hull, superstructure and other parts. After drying over night with acrylics, longer with enamels, mask and airbrush no-slip deck color, touching up as needed with 000 brush. Paint deck details, including anchor chain by brush. Decal decks and bridge, leave off hull numbers for now to avoid ruining them in handling. Paint details on hull and superstructure such as life rings. Detail other parts, such as ships' boats, while the rest of the kit dries. Add railings and other PE but not railing, add rigging, then install railings. Finally, add decal hull number and crewmembers.
Mid Life Conversion
I think that in most cases, this would not be a good kit to start into resin and photo-etch. While the parts count is low, the painting and masking can be challenging and the modeler needs to think through the assembly sequence to maximize the potential of the kit. If your experience has been mostly with pre-determined assembly sequences as is common with most injection molded kits, this may be a more difficult than necessary place to start into resin kits.
That said, for those with some resin and PE experience and an interest in the Cold War navy, this kit is a great project. I enjoyed this project a lot and unlike some kits, I was actually a little sad when I figured I was done. Some of the fiddly things of working with resin are not present, so you spend more time detailing and less time gluing deck layers together. I like a bit of color against all that gray, and so the decals included make it easy to build a very attractive model right from the box. I felt that I was working to highlight the amazing job the pattern maker did in creating the kit, rather than sanding and filling to help cover up some of the things the pattern maker did that he shouldn't have done.
JAG has once again stretched the envelope on what can be done in 1/700 scale, and a moderately experienced resin builder will enjoy this kit.
USS Virginia Home Page
http://ng.netgate.net/~huston/cgn38/ Good selection of photos though not all useful to the modeler. Check out the "virtual tour" of the ship's interior spaces.
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/ship/cgn-38-gallery.htm Another useful source of photos.
FAS (Federation fo American Scientists)
http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ship/cgn-38.htm Lots of data, some photos, links to other sources. Good thumbnail description of ships' systems.
http://www.navsource.org/archives/04/040138.htm Good selection of mostly B+W photos; see also the Virginia's sister ships on the same site.