A Secretary of State or the Minister of Transport or the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty may requisition for Her Majesty’s service any British ship and anything on board such ship wherever it may be.” Requisitioning of Ships Order 1982, Order in Council, Windsor Castle , April 4, 1982

The short and crystal clear order shown above seems like a nautical version of eminent domain, allowing seizure of civilian ships for use by the British government and indeed that is what it was. What brought Great Britain to such a state that the government had to size civilian ships for service rather than use those of the Royal Navy. It had been a long time in coming. At the start of World War One the Royal Navy had been the undisputed mistress of the world’s seaways. Sure, Kaiser Bill wanted Germany to have her place in the sun and made a run to have the power of his fleet equal that of the Royal Navy but the RN stayed supreme. Yet it was World War One that created the long slide for the Royal Navy. It wasn’t the loss of warships but the ruinous expense of all out war for four years. With a new naval arms race brewing after World War One between the United States and Japan , Great Britain felt the need for new construction as well and was only too happy to enter the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, even though it meant formally conceding parity of the Royal Navy and United States Navy. Britain never really recovered from World War One and as the economy boomed in the US in the 1920s, a troubled British economy only caused more and more cuts in naval expenditures. The Royal Navy barely had enough time to order new construction when danger was imminent in the late 1930s. 

World War Two was another financial catastrophe for Great Britain and at the end of the war with most of her warships worn out there was no money or inclination for extensive new construction. The USN had become the major navy of the world as a result of the huge naval construction program during the war and with the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyed and the Royal Navy folding her hand. From that point the Royal Navy was a quarter of century slide in the name of economy and the capabilities of the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) was attrited more than most. By 1981 it was apparent that the Royal Navy was on course to be an anti-submarine adjunct to the USN in European waters. A Defense White Paper in that year called for the Royal Navy to be an ASW force in conjunction with NATO operations focused on the Soviet Navy. At this time the Royal Navy had one old light carrier, HMS Hermes, in operation and a new VSTOL carrier, HMS Invincible, entering service. Negotiations were entered to sell the Hermes to Chile and the Invincible to Australia . As their Navy atrophied around them, Royal Navy planners had to make do with the limited tools still at their disposal. Most planning was focused on the Soviet Navy, as it was considered extremely remote that the Royal Navy would have to operate in remote locations and the Fleet Train was reduced as badly as the FAA in the reoccurring budget cuts and draw downs. Still the planners had to prepare contingency operations and now part of their preparations and planning consisted of identify British merchant ships that had the operational capabilities to fulfill lost capabilities of the minimal Fleet Train that survived the budget ax. Since the 1981 White Paper this had been given a major emphasis. The proposed program was given the abbreviation of STUFT for Ships Taken Up From Trade. Since the 1970s the Royal Marines had exercised with roll-on roll-off RO-RO ferries replacing purpose built landing ships but the maximum sea voyage was considered three days. 

Few of the British public may have noticed the severe reduction in the power projection ability of their navy and if they did, discounted it because the only likely threat came from the Red Navy and any dust up with them would also involve the USN. However, others were watching with an increasing interest. The Falklands Islands are far removed from centers of commerce or world events. Almost treeless, the Falklands were the home of near a million sheep but only about 1,800 inhabitants, almost exclusively of British derivation. In the age of steam power the Falklands were important as they provided an important link in the world-wide network of coaling stations set up by Great Britain to support the Royal Navy and British merchant marine. In December 1914 the Falklands made the world headlines as they were the target of Graf von Spee’s Asiatic Squadron, when he stumbled upon Rear Admiral Sturdee’s two battlecruisers with the resulting Battle of the Falklands in which the German Squadron was annihilated. Then they drifted back into obscurity. However, Argentina had claimed the islands called Los Islas Malvinas since 1829 when the small settlement of Soledad was established. This connection was of short duration because the Argentines were booted from the islands on January 3, 1833 by the British. Nonetheless Argentine maps continued to show the Islas Malvinas as Argentine property for the next century and a half. At the start of 1982 Argentina was run by a military junta run by Army general Galtieri. The economy was in a shambles but to distract attention the junta had employed the same time-worn trick of other dictatorships, focus popular attention on an external foe/threat. Galtieri saw how far the Royal Navy had fallen and considering the great distance between Great Britain and the Falklands , he figured that the British would feebly protest a military seizure of the islands but would not contest their seizure in any meaningful manner. 


Plan, Profile & Quarter Views
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Since 1953 there had been a small detachment of Royal Marines at Port Stanley but the Royal Navy’s presence came in the form of the ice patrol ship assigned for the Antarctic waters. The last of these vessels was HMS Endurance, which arrived in 1968. After five years it was announced that the ice patrol would end and Endurance recalled but with the death of Juan Peron, Argentina again demanded the Falklands and the recall of Endurance was rescinded. In another display of how short the memories of politician can be, the Endurance was again scheduled for recall with a series of final visits scheduled for 1982. In early 1982 Endurance paid her last scheduled port visits to two Argentine ports and her captain Nick Barker noticed something different. Something was afoot and Barker felt the hostility and mounting anger over the British control of the Falklands . He sent warnings back to the Admiralty where they were promptly trashed as being alarmist. On March 19, 1982 Endurance was at Port Stanley on her last visit to the capital of the Falklands . There are another set of islands even more bleak than the Falklands and 800 miles to the southeast. The South Georgia Islands had been the home of a whaling station but not mush more. Dependencies and administered through the Falklands . Uninhabited since the whaling station was abandoned, South Georgia was still claimed by Britain . On March 19 Argentines claiming to be looking for scrap metal at the whaling station, landed at Leith South Georgia and raised the flag of Argentina . Rex Hunt the Governor of the Falklands informed London and then ordered Barker and Endurance to take aboard the marines, travel to South Georgia and boot the Argentines from the islands. While Endurance was at South Georgia on April 2, the Argentines invaded the Falklands and seized the islands.

A common misconception is that it is always the party of the left that wishes to slash military expenditures. In the 1920s with the Tories in the UK and the Republicans in the US , it was the party of the right which slashed military spending. Since May 1979 the British government was run by the redoubtable Conservative Margaret Thatcher. However, her government had some weak links and the weakest of weak was Secretary of State for Defense John Nott. In 1981 Nott had slashed funding of the Royal Navy that had resulted in the recall of Endurance. He pooh-poohed Barker’s warnings about Argentina and even after Argentines landed on South Georgia he arrogantly dismissed any threat to the Falklands . In debate in the House of Commons on March 29 Nott was asked, that in view of the worsening situation in the South Atlantic , why Endurance should not be funded for a refit for continued service. Nott refused to even talk of the matter stating that it was far more important to talk about Trident missiles than nonsensical trivialities in the South Atlantic . Even after the invasion on April 2 Nott continued to display a staggering degree of ineptitude. Chief of Staff for military was Admiral Terence Lewin who was at a NATO conference in late March 1982. Lewin recognized how serious was the situation but Nott instructed him to remain at the conference so as not to alarm the allies.


Hull Details
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The First Sea Lord was Admiral Sir Henry Leach and he was called into an emergency meeting of the cabinet on March 31. Leach, who had clashed with Nott in the past over the huge slashes in the Royal Navy budget, eagerly welcomed the opportunity. He knew of the weakness and timidity of Knott, and when Maggie Thatcher asked for his advice Leach was quick to give it. As Nott squirmed, Leach lived up to centuries tried traditions of the British First Sea Lord and stated because of distance and time the Royal Navy could not get forces to the Falklands in time to prevent an Argentine invasion but could mobilize a strike force for their re-conquest within days, centered around the only two British aircraft carriers and the 3rd Commando Brigade. Leach’s counsel was much more to the liking of Maggie Thatcher than that of her depressed, pessimistic Secretary of Defense, as Nott had previously told the cabinet that there was no need for 3rd Commando Brigade. After the meeting Leach acted with lightning speed and started sending out alerts to necessary units. It was Leach and the Royal Navy who had put backbone into the response of the British Government. As the only service chief at the meeting he brimmed over with confidence in the abilities of the British military machine. The next day when asked of their assessments, the chiefs of the Royal Army and RAF were much more cautious but the die had been cast as the meeting on 31 March was the key event in determining Britain ’s response. When Lewin returned from the conference he totally supported immediate dispatch of a strike force. 


Hull Details
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Air power was crucial. The RAF had limited abilities to support operations because their nearest usable air field was on Ascension Island 3,000 miles from the Falklands . Using Vulcan bombers and Victor tankers, the RAF could make some astonishing long distance bomber raids from Wideawake airfield on Ascension but it too far away to provide Fleet defense, air superiority or combat support for ground forces. That would have to come from sea borne air frames. In this area the opaque Nott had also been up to his pernicious tricks. There were only two small carriers, the new HMS Invincible, carrying a very appropriate name considering her destination, and the old light carrier HMS Hermes. It was lucky for Great Britain that Argentina invaded in April because Nott in his characteristic clueless ham-handedness was already in negotiations to sell the Invincible to Australia and to get rid of the Hermes as well in the name of economy. An item of prime importance was to provide a suitable quantity of airframes for the naval force to provide air superiority, close air support and resupply missions. Within two days the Privy Council on April 4 had issued an order authorizing the requisitioning of British merchant ships to support the Falklands campaign. Of prime importance was providing ships capable of emergency air operations in the event of damage to one of the British aircraft carriers. What was needed were large ships with large, flat, open decks with sufficient strength to support the heaviest helicopter in use, the 23-ton RAF Chinook. While going through photographs of merchant ships, one officer spotted a couple of merchants that fit the need, the Cunard line Atlantic Conveyor and Atlantic Causeway. Designed for North Atlantic trips as a container ship with roll-on-roll-off RoRo capabilities, the ships were perfect for embarkation of aircraft, as well has carrying a great amount of provisions for the 3rd Commando. They were not financial successes in their designed routes and Atlantic Conveyor was laid up in perfect condition. The Royal Navy could not have selected a better choice to suit their needs with minimal time expenditure.  Atlantic Conveyor was immediately requisitioned and on April 16 was at the Devonport Yard to get her ready for combat operations by strengthening her deck and further clearance of top hamper. Atlantic Conveyor sailed with the strike force on April 25 with an initial load of four Chinook and six Wessex helicopters. However, upon arriving at Ascension Island she embarked more aircraft and left the island carrying 25 airframes, including Sea Harriers. In contrast Hermes left with 23 airframes (5 Harriers and 18 helicopters) and Invincible with 14 airframes (5 Harriers and 9 helicopters). One Harrier on Atlantic Conveyor was always spotted for immediate take off in case of Argentine air attack. The strike force left Ascension on April 18. 


Smaller Parts
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Of the Argentine forces, it was the Argentine Air Force which provided the greatest threat to the British. After the cruiser General Belgrano (Pearl Harbor veteran, Brooklyn class USS Phoenix) was sunk by the HMS Conqueror, the Argentine Navy was out of the picture, as it stayed in port. The exception was the use of naval aircraft flying from Argentine airfields. In contrast to the navy the Argentine Air Force and participating naval aviation units were fully engaged and were operated with high skill and bravery, providing a very formidable foe for the Royal Navy. As has been shown time and time again, the power projection ability of the aircraft carrier can reverse strategic and tactical situations. The Argentine junta had calculated that Britain couldn’t effectively employ aircraft, as the nearest British airfield was 3,000 miles away. With the British carriers in place within 200 miles of the Falklands, the British had the great advantage of providing prompt support and a longer loiter time (still limited to 20 minutes initially) than the Argentine aircraft, which had a more than 800 mile round trip to reach the islands and return. For the most part the ordnance was standard free fall iron dumb bombs but a handful of French Exocet missiles had been purchased by Argentina before the conflict. Luckily for Great Britain , only five of the smart missiles had been purchased. 

By May 1 the British force had closed the Falklands and that day forward surface ships shelled the Port Stanley airfield daily. From the very first the aircraft of the British carriers seized air superiority, which was never lost, although the skill of the Argentine pilots could impose significant damage in raids. The first Harrier was lost on May 4 when it was shot down and two more were lost at sea. Replacements for lost aircraft were immediately dispatched from Atlantic Conveyor to the carriers, as the Cunard ship never had to launch a combat mission from her deck. By May 24 the British Force was operating 80 miles northeast of the islands and anticipated a significant Argentine strike on May 25, as that was Argentina ’s National Day. Although there were Argentine strikes scheduled for May 25, the 22 sorties were not a big effort out of the ordinary. May 25 may not have been a big push but it provided one of the most successful days achieved by the aircrews of Argentina in the whole campaign. 


Smaller Parts
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The first success was a standard bomb strike on HMS Conventry, which was operating in Falkland Sound. Hit by three bombs, the Coventry was torn apart and sunk within 15 minutes. By this time Atlantic Conveyor had already flown off all of the embarked Harriers, six smaller helicopters but only one of the four Chinook heavy lift helicopters. The ship still carried all of her combat stores to supply 3rd Commando Brigade and was scheduled to close the Falklands that afternoon to land the supplies and balance of helicopters. As the Coventry was sinking, the British carrier force was only 60 miles north of East Falkland . Argentina had already used two of the five Exocet missiles, one sinking HMS Sheffield, and with only three left, it was vital to use the last three in attempt to take out one or both of the British carriers. It was the Argentine Naval Air Arm Super Etendards that carried these missiles. A strike was launched on May 23 tasked to kill carries but the British force was not spotted and aircraft returned home with their precious missiles. Early on May 25th information came in from Port Stanley reporting that a large British force was operating around 100 miles north east of the island. At 1:30PM two Super Etendards left the Rio Grande airfield in Tierra del Fuego bound for the Falklands , carrying Exocets to be used only against Hermes and Invincible. After refueling from a C-130 tanker the aircraft went to the deck 30 feet above the water when 150 miles from the anticipated British position.

When they turned on their radar the aircraft immediately pinged off a target of two large and one small ships. When 30 miles from the target both aircraft simultaneously fired their Exocets at 3:52PM and immediately turned for home and climbed. After another refueling they successfully landed back home at 5:38PM. To protect the critical carriers, merchant ships and escorts were placed on the west side of the formation, as it was less damaging for the mission to have one of them struck rather an irreplaceable carrier. The three ships painted by Argentine radar were Atlantic Conveyor, Ambuscade and Sir Tristram. In the British force Ambuscade and Brilliant had picked up the aircraft and warships in the force started firing off their chaff systems when the missile launch was detected. It worked, as the clouds of chaff confused the Exocets. However, the missiles still picked up one target. Atlantic Conveyor had not been fitted with a chaff system and stood out like a red neon sign in the homing radar of the missiles. The ship was turning to present her stern where the heavy RoRo ramp would act like armor but was too slow in responding to the wheel. At 3:38PM one missile hit the side of Atlantic Conveyor. As it entered the port side the missile passed through the engine control room before igniting between the 2nd and 3rd decks. Although the warhead did not explode, unexpended fuel started a sever fire that quickly became out of control. 

Smaller Parts
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There was a great big, vibrating thud and then, almost instantaneously, the explosion happened inside the ship. It really rocked the ship. I saw Robby running, thrown off his feet. The rest of us hit the deck and just lay there for thirty seconds at most. I saw one of our lads coming round the corner of the superstructure – the front of his shirt was all open, his face was black, tears were streaming down his face. All he kept saying, over and over again, was, ‘Fucking great ball of fire.’ I got hold of him and asked him if he knew who I was but he kept saying the same thing. Then I noticed small bits of metal in his chest and and some cuts on his face and realized he was wounded.” Roger Green FAA, Atlantic Conveyor (Task Force The Falklands War 1982, Penguin Group, London 1985, by Martin Middlebrook, at page 245) The second missile may or may have not followed in the same location. There was only one point of strike on the ship and unless the second missile hit that same area, it failed to strike. “There was a thump, a big thump, you could feel it through your feet. They piped that we had been hit and we were to hit the deck. I thought that they had got it the wrong way round; it made it difficult later on because we didn’t know whether we were still under attack. I tried to get in touch with the bridge but the telephones had gone out. A message was piped to send eight blokes to act as a stretcher party. I sent them off under an R.A.F. sergeant but they came back a few seconds later because of the smoke. Their eyes were streaming and even their respirators couldn’t help. There was no way they could make it. I detailed off one of the lads to go to the bridge and tell them we couldn’t get to the back end of the ship.” Nigel Stronach FAA, Atlantic Conveyor (Task Force The Falklands War 1982, Penguin Group, London 1985, by Martin Middlebrook, at page 245


NNT Atlantic Conveyor - Major Parts Dry-Fitted
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The ships of the task force immediately sent helicopters with fire fighting teams but even with all of the specialized man power, the fire could not be controlled. Worse, it was quickly spreading towards a hold in which 75 tons of cluster bombs were stored. At 4:15PM the Master of Atlantic Conveyor, Captain Ian North, issued the order to abandon the ship. Captain North was last to leave but he and eleven other crewmen were lost. The task force rescued 150 of the crew. The Atlantic Conveyor hung on for several days. The fire was too intense to remove any of the stores and the bow was blown off in one explosion. Yet on May 27 she was still afloat and the tug Irishman took her under tow. Twice the tow line parted and by the morning of May 28 Atlantic Conveyor had disappeared beneath the waves. She was the only merchant ship lost but it was a crippling strike. When struck by the Exocet, the Atlantic Conveyor was still carrying to critically needed supplies for 3rd Commando and three of the four Chinook heavy lift helicopters, which even ore crippling than the loss of the supplies. The strikes of May 25 may have been one of the most successful days for Argentine aircraft but it was also one of the worst days in that losses were very heavy over Falkland Sound. It was a turning point in that Argentina was down to one Exocet and the British carriers were still fully operational and the quantity of Argentine combat aircraft and their courageous crewmen had greatly dwindled. Never again would British forces face a serious air threat after May 25. 

The NNT Atlantic Conveyor
Normally, I would not lead a review with problems encountered with a kit but in the case of the NNT 1:700 scale Atlantic Conveyor, the problems were so atypical of NNT kits that I will mention them first. Anyone that has purchased any of the NNT kits already knows how well they are packaged to prevent damage to the resin parts in transit. However, my copy of the Atlantic Conveyor did come with parts damaged in transit. The most serious was the top of the cutwater where there is a solid bulkhead at the tip of the forecastle had two small parts broken off as shown in the photographs. The broken parts were there so some careful application of CA and gentle sanding to smooth will fix this breakage. It is best to use a narrow sanding stick for the internal face because of the narrow width between the top of the bulkhead and forecastle deck. A few of the very thin solid bulkheads were broken off but this is a straightforward fix by simply reattaching or using very thin plastic panels or resin to replace. I always save the resin casting sheets in kits to use as an excellent source of repair material as in most cases resin bulkheads are thinner than the thinnest plastic strip. Later I received an e-mail from Norbert Thiel of NNT asking if the kit sent to me had any damage. I had not told him that indeed it had some damage because it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t easily repair. Apparently other Atlantic Conveyor kits from the initial release had similar breakage problems due to inadequate packaging, as it has been the largest NNT model to date. This has subsequently been corrected but if anyone has such damage, NNT will replace any damaged parts at no charge. Now that I have covered the defects, I’ll cover the numerous pluses of another superb NNT model. 


Photo-Etch Frets
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The NNT Atlantic Conveyor is in her Falklands fit and includes a deck load of Harrier fighters, Wessex and Chinook helicopters, so that big top deck will be covered with eye candy. The hull casting is a large slab sided affair, typical of any era merchant ship in which cargo volume was the prime consideration. As with modern container/cargo ships the superstructure is at the stern with a long, flat cargo deck stretching from the bridge to the cutwater. It was exactly that broad flat deck that caught the attention of the RN Captain when he selected Atlantic Conveyor for service with Her Majesty’s forces. As far as the hull sides, there are indented areas which house the anchors, three small square windows at the stern and a RoRo ramp inset on the transom stern. What is really  remarkable is the exquisite thinness of the solid bulkheads at deck edge. Their remarkable thinness is what made them so vulnerable to transit damage. Even so only one small/short bulkhead was damaged on my sample. When the Royal Navy refitted the Atlantic Conveyor in April 1982 it was service as an auxiliary carrier and of course elimination of deck fittings was a requirement. As a result there are a cluster of fittings at the forecastle with assorted windlasses, bollards and other anchor gear and then a smooth deck running from the bow to the towering superstructure at the rear. Lining the deck edges amidships are cargo containers. A few containers or deck edges are cast integral to the hull but the vast majority of the cargo containers are separate parts. The containers were piled up creating a wall at deck edge surrounding the aircraft park on deck with the intention of providing protection for the aircraft from Argentine attack and inclement weather. Deck fittings resume at the very stern with a couple of winches at the RoRo cargo door. 


Photo-Etch Frets
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The superstructure is composed of two major parts, a three story base and a four story tapered tower with conical stack. The lower three deck piece did have significant damage to the deck edge bulkheads but as mentioned at the start is easily repairable. The part itself is well detailed with square windows at the front face and portholes on all four faces. Additional detail comes in the form of vertical ladder, recessed entrance vestibules and electrical/equipment panels. The tower bridge is very nice except that it had the only true casting defect that I found in the kit. My sample had a void front face bottom on the port quarter that will need to be filled a smoothed. Although it will take longer than simply replacing a broken bulkhead, the repair job is so small that it is a mere speed bump. The sloping tower has square windows with wider rectangular windows for the navigation deck at the top. The aft face presents an interesting contrast with a step structure and smooth conical exhaust stack. Three other major parts cast on a runner are the aft cargo door, forward bulkhead, which separates the forecastle from cargo deck, and partial quarterdeck. The forward bulkhead and cargo ramp are very nicely detailed. In fact when the Super Etendard Exocet attack was detected, the Atlantic Conveyor tried to turn to present her stern so that any missile strike would hit the heavy ramp, rather than the thin skinned hull. The ship was too slow in responding to the wheel and the ploy failed. Nonetheless when you see the NNT cargo ramp you can appreciate why Captain North tried to present the ramp to the missile.

There are numerous smaller resin parts. There are 25 separately cast cargo containers. The containers ringing the aircraft park were left their original colors, creating a riot of colors on the ship. Colors for the containers are orange, green, red-brown, light gray, white and black. Four identical runners provide ship’s boat, davits and I-shaped container support structures (part 3). Another sheet with eight runners has smaller support panels, RAF Harrier ordnance and fittings. Most of these were broken from the runners in transit but the parts themselves were not damaged. Another sheet provides some of the larger parts such as the radar dome, platforms, small mast, larger boat and anchors. One last runner has small parts, which appear to be life raft canisters. Sixteen Harriers are included with two variations. The GR3 Harriers of the RAF Harriers could be distinguished from the FS1 Sea Harriers in two details. The RAF birds had a longer tapering nose and more ordnance store pylons than the FAA Harriers with their conical nose and fewer pylons. NNT provides both types. Some were broken from the runner in transit and will need the tips of their noses reconnected. NNT provides four of the big heavy lift Chinook Helicopters. Atlantic Conveyor carried five when she sailed from Great Britain but landed one at Ascension Island , where she embarked the Harriers. The loss of three of these four Chinooks was a severe blow for 3rd Commando. Six medium Wessex and one small Lynx helicopters are included. All aircraft have good detail from paneling, windows, and photo-etch details. 


Decals
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Photo-Etch, Decals & Instructions
Two photo-etch details are included. One fret are ship parts and the other fret is for aircraft parts. Most of the ship photo-etch are runners of four bar railing. Additional ship details consist of support braces, anchor chain, vertical railing, two bar railing, accommodation ladders, boat gear and skids. The aircraft detail fret has landing gear and rotors for the helicopters and the wing stabilization struts for the Harriers. The large decal sheet has two green and white aircraft launch/landing markings, one for stern and one for the bow. You also receive bow and stern nameplate with the stern plates listing Liverpool under the name. There are a number of large black container doors (D9) and smaller doors (D8). The balance of the set consists of aircraft roundels although the side decals were off registry in that the center red dot was not exactly centered. Instructions are workable but take study. They consist of two large back-printed sheets. One sheet is just a list of parts and color information. The second sheet has a plan, profile and sections on one side and assembly instructions on the other sides.  Resin parts are numbered without a letter designation, PE parts have an E designator and decals have a D designator.
Identify each part before assembly and compare with the plan and profile drawing. The instructions would have been better in a larger more modular approach that presented a bigger view of each step. Separate drawings for each of the aircraft types are also shown. 


Box Art & Instructions
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Verdict
The Cunard Atlantic Conveyor is the largest NNT effort to date. This ship was a key component of the Royal Navy strike force for the seizure of the Falkland Islands and her loss to an Argentine Exocet was one of the most severe blows suffered by the British in the campaign. NNT has produced a superb 1:700 scale Atlantic Conveyor with resin and photo-etch parts, full detail sheet and more aircraft on deck than either of the two British Aircraft Carriers.

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