For those who grew up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, one of the kits that you probably built was the Revell modernized Essex class or the Renwal version in 1:500 scale. One of the Revell, re-boxings of this kit was as USS Oriskany. The USS Oriskany was the last of Essex class carriers to be completed. Her construction was suspended with the end of World War Two but unlike two sisters that were cancelled, the Oriskany was kept on the ways. In this state she was the logical source for the USN to go to when changing operational parameters required a new type of carrier. 

The Essex class fleet carrier was built in more numbers than any other aircraft carrier in history.  With twenty-four members in the class and no losses in the war, the USN had an excess of carriers at the close of the war. As true with any country, after the war funding for the military forces were greatly reduced. Having a huge industrial capacity has proved to be a blessing and a curse for the USN. The US built almost 300 flush deck destroyers at the end of World War One very few of which saw action. With so many little used destroyers in reserve Congress was not inclined to fund new destroyer construction. Congress had a limited grasp on how fast technology can become obsolescent.  As a result Japan and Great Britain had a big lead over the USN before this deficit was corrected in the 1930s. The same thing happened after World War Two but this time the USN had a huge reserve of every type of warship. 

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However, changing technology almost immediately affected the carrier. Jet propelled aircraft were introduced during the war and their appearance the masses of propeller driven aircraft were obsolescent. Jet aircraft were heavier than the propeller aircraft and had higher take off speed requirements and landing speeds. The older Enterprise , Saratoga and Ranger were totally outside the bounds to operate jet aircraft. The Essex class was a 1939 design based on the Yorktown class without treaty restrictions, Only the three large Midway class carriers had an ability to operate jet aircraft. Another factor was the inter service rivalry among the Army, Air Force and Navy. All were chasing the limited dollars available and the only new carrier authorized USS United States was cancelled when the USAF convinced Congress that the money to be spent on the new carrier would be better spent on the Convair B-36 Peacemaker bomber. According to the USAF, navies were obsolete and the air force could win a war immediately with bombers carrying nuclear weapons. This was disproved with the Korean War when what was needed was tactical air support not heavy bombers. 

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Since the navy had no funding for new designs, it had to make do with conversions of the Essex class carriers. A number of different variations were fielded. Some were left in WWII appearance but USS Essex had all of her 5-inch turrets removed and a new island designed, while retailing her axial flight deck. Another design involved adding an angled flight deck to permit concurrent take offs and landings. Oriskany was the lead unit for this design, which in addition to the angled flight deck to port also included an enclosed “Hurricane” bow. The carriers received heavier decks and improved catapults capable of handling jet aircraft. The modernized Essex class continued to serve into the 1960s. Most were in a CVS anti-submarine role, as the Forrestal and later designs joined the fleet. However, with the Vietnam War some of the class still served with a limited strike capability of A4 Skyhawks. Oriskany was one of these. 

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Mountford Models has two versions of USS Oriskany in 1:1250 scale. One is the fully assembled and painted resin model consistent with traditional standard 1:1250 scale practice but the other version is in kit form at a lower price. These photographs obviously show the kit version with resin and white metal parts and full decal sheet for the flight deck. One nice touch by Mountford is the inclusion of aircraft and deck equipment. Clean up of the hull is required as resin pour stubs will have to be removed and the hull smoothed by light sanding. Another new release by Mountford is a Nimitz class carrier and a couple of the photographs illustrate how the the fleet carrier has jumped in size. 

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The Mountford USS Oriskany, in kit or assembled form, is available from Waterline Ships Co. of the UK . 

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