The London Naval Treaty of 1930 divided cruisers into two types, heavy and light. Any cruiser carrying 6.1-inch guns or smaller was a light cruiser. At the end of the decade the USN designed a new variant of the light cruiser, the AA cruiser with the Atlanta class. This class was designed to provide mass AA firepower against carrier aircraft or low flying ground based aircraft. As the 1940s opened the navy drafted new designs for their cruiser types. The Baltimore class heavy cruiser, the Cleveland class light cruiser and the Spokane class AA cruiser. However, they were also drafting up designs for a new variant that would provide even heavier guns for AA protection for the carriers and battleships of the fleet. At the time high flying heavy bombers were still considered a threat to warships. They were considered to operate at heights beyond the effective range of the 5-inch/38 guns of the Atlanta class. They were to be built a new gun design under development, the semi-automatic 6-inch/47 DP gun.

Work on the design started on May 27, 1941 with the requirements for the new design to carry the still unfielded 6-inch DP gun, have a speed of 33-knots, have extremely thick deck armor of 6 to 7-inches and no side armor. This was clearly a one-dimensional design, which would be very vulnerable in a surface action. It rapidly became clear that the extraordinarily thick deck armor requirement was so much wishful thinking. The enormous weight of that thickness of deck armor carried even moderately high above the waterline created a design with a very high center of gravity, with a severe lack of stability. Designs tried different schemes with twin or triple gun mounts and single or multiple armor decks. In every case the horizontal armor requirement could not be attained. On 14,000-tons designers figured they could mount twelve guns with two armored decks of 2 and 3.5-inched, equivalent to a single deck of 4.8-inches. This was not good enough for the desired level of deck protection, so they came up with another scheme on 12,200-tons.


Profile, Plan & Quarter Views
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This reduced the main gun battery to eight guns but included armored decks of 1.5-inches and 5-inches, for a single deck equivalent of 6.1-inches. Additionally it incorporated a 4-inch belt for horizontal protection. A twelve gun battery was desired but the Admirals didn't want to pay the 16,000-ton displacement necessary to match the requirements. The proposed design lingered for over a year, by which time war experience showed that high level bombing wasn't a significant threat. This changed with the introduction by Germany in 1943 of the guided missile. The loss of the Roma and major damage to the Savannah by these missiles proved that this new weapon system was a serious threat. This development breathed life back into the large AA cruiser concept.


Hull Detail
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The designers went back to the drawing board and lowered the main deck with a stronger sheer forward and a rising sheer aft. This decreased weight and lowered the center of gravity improved stability. On August 25, 1943 Admiral King ordered the design to proceed. It was contemplated using the funds allocated for the last seven of the Cleveland class (CL 143-149) for this new design. Then three of the seven were slated for the new Des Moines heavy cruiser design (CL 143, 148, 149). The four remaining large AA cruisers were given the names, Worcester CL 144, Roanoke CL 145, Vallejo CL 146, and Gary CL 147. Only the Worcester and Roanoke were laid down in 1945, as the other two were cancelled later in the year on August 12, 1945. 


Hull Detail
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At this point the Worcester class were also designed to carry eleven quadruple and two twin Bofor 40mm mounts and twenty Oerlikon 20mm guns. However, this was changed during construction to replace each quadruple Bofor mount with the new twin three-inch/50 AA mount and single three-inch guns replacing the twin Bofor mounts, as well as replacing the single Oerlikons with twelve twin Oerlikons. Worcester completed with six twin Oerlikons and Roanoke with eight twin 20mm guns. Four Mk 37 radars were fitted to control the AA fire from the six inch guns and also provided surface direction, as unlike other cruiser designs, no separate surface fire radars were fitted.


Smaller Resin Parts
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Worcester completed in June 1948 and remained in service until December 1958, as the last all gun cruiser. Roanoke completed in October 1948 and decommissioned in October 1958. The ships were wet in service because of their lower freeboard caused by design efforts to lower the center of gravity. The semi-automatic guns were not as successful as the semi-automatic 8-inch guns mounted on the Des Moines class heavy cruisers. After working up and training cruises for the balance of 1949, Roanoke was stationed in the Mediterranean , where she remained until May 1955. On September 22, 1955 she was sent to the Pacific, where she served out of Long Beach , California for nine training cruises. From May to October 1956, Roanoke was deployed to the Western Pacific. She finally decommissioned on October 31, 1958, six weeks before Worcester left service. For more than a decade these large cruisers remained in reserve. At first it was contemplated to convert them to missile cruisers and then in 1968 into fleet flagships but nothing ever came of these plans due to budget pressures. Finally, in 1970 they were sold for scrapping. Their six-inch guns didn't have the explosive force for shore bombardment like the Des Moines class, which fulfilled this mission off Vietnam .


Smaller Resin Parts
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The Niko Roanoke
This is one big cruiser. Don’t let the adjective “light” fool you. Niko casting is excellent with no damage (except for one broken 3-inch gun barrel) or voids, other than insignificant pin-hole voids on the bottom of the hull casting. There is almost no need for any type of cleanup required, as there is no flash, except for the film in two walkways in the superstructure. Niko cast three levels of the superstructure integral to the hull. This emphasizes how narrow the superstructure was in order to provide as much deck space as possible for armament. As mentioned above there are two covered walkway in the superstructure than have a thin film along the centerline. Use a hobby knife to clean out this film. The walkways cane be found at 02 level aft of the third turret forward and aft at main deck level between the fourth turret barbette and the superstructure. Splinter shields for the few gun tubs as well as amidship and on the superstructure are very thin and present an excellent appearance. Along those same line there are a number of overhanging platforms that are perfect in execution with no resin residue under the overhangs. There are a goodly supply of deck fittings, which are of the right size. I have one significant complaint about the hull casting. In the areas where there should be a wooden plank deck, the casting is just smooth with no planking detail. Perhaps Niko thought that plank detail should not be discerned in 1:700 scale but I’m old school and want planking detail in a 1:700 scale model.


Smaller Resin Parts
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Because so much of the superstructure is integral to the hull casting, there are only six smaller superstructure castings to be attached. The three largest are the additional bridge levels forward. Each of these exhibits the same admirably thin splinter shielding as found on the hull but in this case with vertical strengthening ribs. As you assemble these levels, the two lower levels will have their front face open for the bridge windows. Niko has provided brass bridge window frames so even though in 1:700 scale, Niko has allowed the modeler to complete the bridge with see-through windows. Bulkhead detail is cast onto these superstructure levels such as doors with minute dogging and additional windows. The other three major superstructure parts are the two stacks, each of which has thin well-executed cap apron and a director tower. The large sliding hangar door is a separate part with boat chocks cast on the crown. Six raised three-inch gun platforms/deck-houses are also provided. Each of these parts has the same excellent thin splinter shielding as previously described. Each is loaded with other detail and the centermost positions have AA director pedestals cast integral to the part.


Photo-Etch & Decals
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Armament comes with the six twin 6-inch gun turrets and twin and single 3-inch open gun mounts. If you look at the turrets, you’ll see that they have more fittings than the more conventional gun turrets designed for surface fire. Since their purpose was providing heavy high ceiling AA defense for a task force, there are more range finder fittings than single purpose turrets. Each turret has two range finders on each side with additional fittings on the turret crowns and aft face, as well as access door fittings with dog detail. Additionally the gun openings have raised fairings along the perimeter. Almost all of the lighter AA mounts are open twin 3-inch guns but there are a couple of single gun mounts for the two stern gun tubs. The twin 3-inch ordnance was the replacement for the Bofor 40mm mounts with twin mounts replacing quad Bofor mounts and the single gun mounts replacing twin Bofor mounts. Both types of 3-inch guns and mounts have excellent detail.  


Box Art & Instructions
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There is still a host of smaller resin parts to complete the larger fittings. There are four AA directors, since the design was for a very large AA cruiser and these maintain the high standard that Niko maintains in this kit. They are packed with detail for such small parts. Other smaller resin fittings include an excellent aircraft crane base, surface gunfire radar, radar platforms with pillar and radar housing, flag lockers, bridge overhead, cable reels, ventilators, ship’s boats, masts, and very nice Sikorsky helicopter.


Niko USS Roanoke with Major Parts Dry-Fitted
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A rather large brass photo-etch part is provided. About 60% are specific ship parts and 40% railing. There is some relief etching but most of the parts are not relief-etched. I especially like the open bridge windows, which is a rare feature in a 1:700 scale kit. However, there are plenty of other exceptionally detailed parts. The small circular radar platforms have open perforations and of course radar arrays are of an open grid pattern. Even the very small parabolic secondary radars have an open grid. The resin stacks have indented rectangles for the exhaust gas cooling ventilators but Niko supplies the actual ventilators in the form of brass with open ventilators. This is another rare feature not found even in 1:350 scale kits, which normally have stack ventilator opens cast integral to the funnel pieces. Other brass funnel fittings include the walkways and railing, which encircle the funnel caps. The finely done aircraft crane fits into the resin crane machinery base. There are various mast platforms and platform supports, yardarms, launch cabin, propeller guards and twin 3-inch ammo baskets. Other ship specific fittings are more generic in nature, such as safety netting, inclined ladders, davits, anchors, accommodation ladders and anchor chains. The railing portion of the fret has four types of railing. For the main deck forecastle, the railing curves to match the sheer of the bow. Additional patterns include three-bar, two-bar and one-bar railing. All has to be cut to fit the exact locations. There are also two runs of vertical ladder for use throughout the model.


Niko USS Roanoke with Major Parts Dry-Fitted
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Niko provides three back-printed sheets of instructions presented in the typical Niko modular pattern, which really should be followed in the sequence shown. Page one is a photographic matrix of the smaller resin parts and photo-etch frets, although the fret is shown as being one fret for ship specific parts and one for the railing. Page two starts with a painting guide profile, followed by forecastle assembly through the three forward main gun turrets. Page three concentrates on the 3-inch gun platforms amidship and includes detail inserts for the twin 3-inch gun mountings, and three different types of radar. Page four concentrates on the upper superstructure, bridge and stacks with additional detail inserts for the funnel fittings and brass gun fittings. Page five has masts assembly and the last of the superstructure fittings. The last page is for the quarterdeck, including the aft turrets. Additional detail inserts are provided for the helicopter, single 3-inch gun mounts, ship’s launch and aircraft handling crane. For most parts these instructions are fine to provide for proper placement but in some cases the instructions simply fall short, such exact location for placement of the cable reels. Since Niko doesn’t provide a plan, the modeler will really need additional references to provide for accurate placement.


Niko USS Roanoke with Major Parts Dry-Fitted
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Verdict – The Niko Roanoke is a very good kit with excellent resin castings and a large brass photo-etch fret. However, the hull casting has a significant shortcoming with no wooden planking detail. Further, with no plan view in the instructions, additional reference will be needed for exact placement of a few fittings. The Niko Roanoke, along with all of the other ships in their line, can be found with Bill Gruner of Pacific Front

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