In October of 1944 Admiral William Halsey had his chance. Aircraft from his carriers had routed a Japanese surface fleet that had been steaming eastward across the Sibuyan Sea. Their scattered remnants were in full retreat. Now he had discovered the main Japanese force, their carriers, located to the Northeast of the Philippines. His carriers and fast battleships turned their bows northward to speed to their climatic engagement. Aboard his flagship, USS New Jersey Halsey could envision his battleships pounding the Japanese carriers and two strange old battleships. He had 50 miles to go before the Japanese fleet would be in gun range, when reality intruded into his vision.

The Japanese center force under Admiral Kurita had reversed course and steamed through the then unguarded San Bernadino Strait. It was in amongst the CVEs of the Taffeys supporting the landings at Leyte Gulf. Halsey bitterly turned southward again to come to their aid. By the time his battleships returned to the San Bernadino Strait, the Japanese fleet was gone. Although carrier aircraft had savaged both the Center Force and the Northern Force, the New Jersey and her sisters of the fast battleship force never had worthy targets for their 16-inch guns. As we know now, Halsey had fallen for the Japanese decoy, Admiral Ozawa’s largely toothless northern carrier force. The carriers were there but they had few aircraft and the ones that they did have were obsolete and crewed with inexperienced airmen.

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If Halsey in New Jersey had continued northward, the main defense of Ozawa’s force would have come not from the carriers but from two strange hybrids, Ise and Hyuga. Following the catastrophic carrier losses at the Battle of Midway, these older battleships had been selected for conversion into hybrid battleships/carriers. The aft 1/3rd of their main armament was landed and a hanger and flight deck added. The hybrids carried 22 seaplanes. Although less effective than standard aircraft they were chosen because they could be recovered by the ships and thus be reused for multiple sorties. 

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By the mid-1950s the New Jersey and her sisters had been laid up in reserve for some time from their last activation for the Korean War. In late 1961 it was proposed to convert the class into commando ships by removing the aft 16-inch turret and adding a hanger for 30 helicopters (20 in the hanger and 10 on deck), 14 LCM-6 landing craft and accommodations for 1,800 marines. A study was conducted and it was determined to be a feasible conversion but the expense involved ended this proposal. 

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By 1979 the Soviet Union’s surface to surface capability had risen dramatically. To counter this the Navy proposed reactivating the Iowa Class. Phase I of the reactivation process involved getting the battleships back into service quickly with a minimum of new additions and modifications. This did occur and all four came back to join the fleet. The plan however, envisioned a Phase II. In Phase II the aft 1/3rd of their main armament was to be landed and a hanger and flight deck added. The hybrids were to carry 12 AV-8B Harrier STOVL "jumpjets". Although less effective than standard aircraft they were chosen because they could be recovered by the ships and thus be reused for multiple sorties. Does this sound familiar? There were a number of different designs for this Phase II conversion, one of which was by Martin Marietta. The Martin Marietta version had an A shaped flight deck with two ski jumps on the forward edge. The flight decks would measure 330 feet by 150 feet. A large-scale model of this design was produced and exhibited in the Pentagon. However, by 1984 the conversion idea for these "Battlecarriers" had evaporated and the Iowas remained true gun (as well as missile) platforms. (Bulk of design history from The Hybrid Warship by R.D. Layman and Stephen McLaughlin.

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During this period the Japanese model company of Nichimo saw the Martin Marietta design and liked what they saw. Nichimo already had a model of USS New Jersey in its 30cm "Box Scale" range, so in an example of art imitating life, the company produced a new model of the New Jersey to replicate the Martin Marietta Phase II design. Parts of the all gun New Jersey model were reworked and new ones added to the existing components. In a short period of time Nichimo now had a new entry into it’s 30cm Box Scale model lineup, the USS New Jersey BB62 Faces II. The hull measures 11 ¾-Inches (298mm) and so comes in at something like 1:908 scale. In an odd but understandable error in translation, the new Nichimo model was called "Faces II" rather than "Phase II". However Nichimo had the kit out well before any competitor and thought that this would allow modelers to be on the cutting edge of naval design. Of course as it turned out, it let the modeler build a "What If" warship. 

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The Nichimo USS New Jersey Battlecarrier (a name coined at the time) has been out of production for some time but the kit can sometimes be found for sale at shows, swap meets or on E-Bay. If you see one and are interested, the photographs in this article will show you what you get. Nichimo decided to make this as a motorized model, so you get a plastic support for a small motor to be powered by three batteries with a single shaft and propeller for the lower hull. The kit can be built full hull or waterline as it is separated at the waterline. Although designed for motorized use, the lower hull does have the bilge keels and bulbous forefoot. 

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The upper hull reflects the conversion process with apparently the same upper hull as the all gun New Jersey but with new parts for the superstructure and a new flight deck that fits over the aft 1/3rd of the deck, concealing the aft 16-inch barbette. Although the deck does have planking, otherwise it is fairly lacking in detail. The bow also appears to be too wide. As you can see, the smaller parts are not crammed with detail. Some leave a lot to be desired, such as the foc’sle with its oversize anchor chain and 5-inch/38 turrets with their telephone pole shaped barrels. On the other hand some parts range from average to good. I especially like the three Harriers, missile canisters and CIWS positions. Instructions are fairly simple. They consist of one sheet back printed drawings with Japanese text and also include an one page English text supplement. 

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Verdict
The Nichimo USS New Jersey Faces II is old tech. Clearly not on the cutting edge of the plastic industry, even for 1980. The parts range the spectrum in quality. However, that being said, the kit does exert a strong attraction. It is the only kit that has been produced of this new verse of an old song. When Bill Halsey stood on the bridge of the New Jersey, only 50 miles from being able to engage in a gunnery duel with the hybrid Ise and Hyuga, he would not be able to envision the future.  That almost 40 years later, his flagship was seriously considered for almost exactly the same type of hybrid conversion as that received by the two Japanese hybrid opponents.

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