In the early 1880s it came as a shock to many that the USN ranked about 19th in size, and probably less in power, in a list of the world’s navies. Newspapers thundered that this condition was deplorable. Like so many Chicken Littles, they agonized that Brazil could send their armored cruiser Riachuelo to stand off New York City and demand tribute from the worthy burghers of that metropolis. Likewise Chile could send one of their cruisers up the west coast to San Francisco to demand that her citizens hand over all of their sour dough. The Civil War relics of the USN were powerless to stop them. Something had to be done to correct this manifest imbalance. The result was the new American Steel Navy. The first group authorized consisted of three protected cruisers and a dispatch boat but in three years the US was ready to try her hand at armored warship construction.  

In 1886 Congress authorized the first two armor plated warships of the steel navy. As the United States had no warship designers with experience in large warships and very few with experience in designing any type of warship, the USN relied on foreign designs. The USS Maine was an enlarged version of the Brazilian Riachuelo, a British built cruiser. In fact the Maine was described as an armored cruiser when laid down and launched. It was only before commissioning that she was rated a 2nd class battleship. The Texas was designed by a Englishman working for Armstrong and was rated a 2nd class battleship from the start. Since America lacked the infrastructure, forgings for production of large guns, armor plate and machinery were purchased from firms in Great Britain and the USN was in the warship construction business in earnest. Clearly these two ships were inferior to the world’s standard battleship. They were of limited displacement and capability. One reason for this was the lack of construction experience but a more compelling reason for their 2nd class nature was politics. 

Congress did not like the term battleships. To many of the legislators the word battleships represented empire as best epitomized by the British Empire . Far-flung holdings controlled by the overwhelming power of large battleships. Some politicians thought of American as a Jeffersonian ideal of gentlemen farmers tilling the soil with their sinew and sweat in an enlightened agrarian society. Of course that idea was long dead, as the American Civil War had only increased industrialization of the country. Some saw the country as Yankee Traders to the World’s Markets and failed to see the need of a navy to protect trade. Others were afraid of antagonizing foreign powers into an expensive arms race. The building of small 2nd class battleships for self-defense was acceptable to these groups.

The first true group of American designed and built battleships was the three ships of the Indiana class BB-1 through 3, authorized in 1890. To get these past Congress they had to be described as “Sea Going, Coast Line Battleships”.  They were given low freeboards and limited endurance. Congress was mollified with these caveats, as worries of foreign adventures dissipated with ships designed to stay close to the American coasts. The device that Congress used as a governor to restrain and constrain battleship design was displacement. By mandating the heaviest armor and armament within a limited displacement, the sacrifices had to come in machinery, endurance and size. A small authorized displacement hamstrung the navy and its designers. The next design was USS Iowa BB-4. The Indianas were limited due to their very low freeboard and short range so for the Iowa of 1892 the navy convinced Congress to authorize “Sea Going Battleship No. 1”. The Iowa was designed to take to the open seas as a true deep-sea version of the Indianas , although the phrase “sea-going coast-line battleship” had crept back into her description. Before being finished it was decided that there would not be separate numbering systems for sea-going and coast-defense battleships and Iowa was renumbered battleship #4. At first glance, the Iowa appears to be a slightly larger version of the Indianas . The armament dropped to 12-inch guns instead of the 13-inch guns to free weight for machinery, coal capacity to increase range and for most importantly, raising the forecastle one level higher than on the Indianas . The high forecastle deck ran to the end of the superstructure and made the Iowa a much drier and infinitely superior deep ocean battleship over the Indianas . Displacement increased by 1,000 tons and length by 24-feet over the earlier design. These were the ships with which the USN fought the Spanish-American War. As a result of naval victories over out-matched Spanish forces, popularity for the navy in Congress as well as the public leaped. With the acquisition of distant territories the new Imperial Republic now had to worry about defending them and talk of limited coast line battleships disappeared. 

Profile, Plan & Quarter Views
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However, before the victories of 1898 spurred the big battleship for the USN, there were two more classes approved by Congress. The Kearsarge class of 1894 and the Illinois class of 1896 were both of constrained design. Both of these designs still were limited by small displacement limitations, significantly lower than those of foreign contemporaries. In December 1894 President Grover Cleveland asked for three new battleships and the House of Representatives agreed. The Senate however, was suspicious of naval spending and would only authorize two. They were still called “sea-going coast line battleships” but allowable displacement was increased to 10,000 tons from the 9,000 tons allowed for Iowa . Earlier in 1894 the wooden sloop of war Kearsarge, which had sunk the famed Confederate raider CSS Alabama in 1864, had run aground and wrecked. The Secretary of the Navy asked for permission to name one of the new battleships Kearsarge. Federal law mandated that battleships be named after states, so Congress had to pass an exception to the existing law. USS Kearsarge BB-5 was the only American battleship not named after a state. The second ship was USS Kentucky BB-6.  

Even with an increase of 1,000 tons, USN designers still had more features that they wanted to fit than could be accomplished in 10,000 tons. One design called for an enlarged Iowa with the same arrangement of 12-inch main and 8-inch secondary turrets but with the addition of 5-inch guns for defense against torpedo boats. However, another group were unhappy with the lighter 12-inch guns of the Iowa . They wanted to revert to the heftier 13-inch ordnance of the Indianas . To mount the larger gun and keep other improvements, the turret mounted 8-inch guns would have to drop from eight to four. The use of the 13-inch gun finally was accepted and designers had to figure out how the new design could obtain the same broadside fire of 8-inch guns as had been achieved with the Indianas and Iowa . Clearly both 8-inch gun turrets had to be on centerline as did the main 13-inch turrets. How could this be accomplished and keep the ships at 10,000 tons? This quandary and solution thereto created the most distinctive feature of these two ships, the double story turret. 


Hull Details
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From the start the placement of the main turrets and 5-inch battery had been decided. The entire fervor came with the placement of the 8-inch intermediate battery. For weight savings the guns had to be paired with two groups of two and for protection of this substantial ordnance they had to be placed in armored turrets. Wing positions were out because that would halve the broadside of the earlier two designs. Two different solutions were explored, championed by two different Bureaus in the navy. At this time the USN consisted of a number of different bureaus each run by a flag officer reporting to the civilian Secretary of the Navy. There was no overall naval staff for operations or synchronization of the different bureaus. Each bureau was more or less a semi-independent fiefdom protecting its own interest from other bureaus. So decisions were determined by committee and consensus, as the Secretary had to rely on the advice of his bureau chiefs. The Bureau of Construction and Repair championed a super-firing arrangement in which the 8-inch turrets would be placed higher and behind the main gun turrets. This of course was the arrangement that was eventually adopted worldwide. However, the Bureau of Ordnance wanted superposed 8-inch turrets. If you break down the words the difference is immediately apparent. Super-firing means guns firing over other guns, while super-posed means guns positioned or “posed” over other guns. Because the blast effects of super-firing guns were unknown at the time, the majority of the committee whose mission was to chose the 8-inch gun positioning favored the superposed gun arrangement. As it was, it was not until the French Henri IV that super-firing guns were tried, however, the USN did finally did get back on the right path with dreadnought construction, as all USN dreadnoughts used the super-firing arrangement. It is interesting to speculate the “what ifs” if the super-firing solution had been chosen for BB-5 and BB-6 in 1895. Would the USS Michigan come about five years earlier?  

There were advantages to the arrangement. The 8-inch turrets had a far greater arc of fire than the wing mounted turrets in the earlier designs. They sat higher and had a better field of observation. Because of their height they were considerably drier. There was no blast interference with the crew of the 13-inch guns below. Weight was saved since the 13-inch gun barbette protected the 8-inch guns as well, eliminating the weight of barbettes as well as separate machinery for the 8-inch gun turrets. Fire could be concentrated as one officer controlled the fire of the twin 13-inch and twin 8-inch forward and one officer controlled the aft fire. All of the advantages were there but there were very significant disadvantages to the superposed arrangement. There was always the old argument against putting all of your eggs in one basket, or in the case of Kearsarge, two baskets. One lucky shell strike or even machinery failure could disable half of the heavy and intermediate guns. The superposed 8-inch guns were fixed atop the main turret. They could not train on targets independent of the 13-inch turret below. The weight of each combined turret at 728 tons was almost twice that of the main turrets in Iowa at 463 tons. This great increase in weight meant that the turret roller paths and supports would have to be substantially improved, which ate into the weight savings argument of the common barbette. If all four guns of the arrangement were fired at the same time, the rearward pressure at 506 tons was more than twice as much as in Iowa at 220 tons. Shock to the hull and ship’s machinery and fittings was also increased. Because of this general support requirements had to be increased, using up more of the weight savings. Probably the worst disadvantage came with the increased height of the 8-inch battery above the water line. Although the guns had a much better field of fire by being placed so high, the ship’s center of gravity was significantly increased, making the design much less stable. To reduce the center of gravity and increase stability the freeboard was lowered to a level not far removed from the Indianas .  

Hull Details
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The Kearsarge and Kentucky had not even been laid down when design work on the following Illinois class was begun. In March 1896, three months before congressional authorizations for the class, a special board was appointed by the Secretary for the Navy to examine the best plan for installing the main armament and other design features of battleships to be authorized that year. The board visited the USS Indiana that had just been completed in November 1895, the incomplete USS Iowa that had just been launched that March, and studied the design characteristics for the Kearsarge, which was not laid down until June 1896. The board recognized that any battleship design of a set displacement was a series of compromises and that any feature could not be emphasized without taking away something from other design features. The three major features were armament, armor and speed, as characterized by machinery. Two other intertwined features were seaworthiness and habitability.

As a starting point the board assumed that the displacement for the new design would be the same as with the Kearsarge design and that the required speed of 16-knots and same range would be approved. The board departed from the previous three designs in recommending that the eight-inch intermediate guns not be mounted. Their view was that a new 6-inch gun with increased rate of fire could make up for the deletion of the 8-inch ordnance and that the intermediate weapons complicated ammunition supply. Further, the weight saved by deletion of 8-inch turrets could be employed to enhance other features. However, the board wished to employ the same 13-inch main guns as was to be fitted to the Kearsarge class. The main gun turrets were to be placed as close together as the design would allow in order to limit the area to be covered by the maximum width of armor. The secondary would be a new model of 6-inch rapid-fire guns, which promised far better performance from the slow firing model found on the Indiana . Seven were to be mounted on each broadside in such a way as to allow four to fire ahead and two behind. 


Smaller Resin Details
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An innovation in this process was to change the trial displacement and requirements. With Indiana the location of the waterline and placement of the belt armor was determined upon the assumption that the ship would carry only one-fourth of her total capacity for coal. Even with the Indiana at half capacity, much less full load, the armor belt would be far more submerged than as designed. For Iowa the calculations were based on one-third coal capacity. For the Illinois design the trial standard would have the coal capacity at two-thirds full capacity. This decision placed the armor belt at optimum position for the most likely scenarios in which the class might engage in combat. It is interesting to note that post World War One Japanese designs also adopted a similar 2/3rds capacity rule for their new warship trials. The board emphatically recommended that no feature should significantly detract from the seakeeping qualities of the design. 

President Grover Cleveland called for two new battleships but Congress authorized three. Congress further authorized an increase of 1,000-tons in the new design from the preceding 10,000-ton Kearsarge design. However, in large measure because of the board recommendations and contrary to normal design practice, the three ships of the Illinois class actually were of almost the same displacement as the Kearsarge. The Illinois design had exactly the same length and beam as the Kearsarge but because of the closer placement of the turrets, the superstructure length was shorter. As Iowa had addressed the low freeboard of the Indianas , so too did the Illinois address the low freeboard of the Kearsarges. As with Iowa design, the Illinois design was given a high forecastle that ran to the aft end of the superstructure. Some authorities have stated that the Illinois design was a copy of the British Majestic class design. This is based upon the fact that the Illinois had her two stacks side by side, as in Majestic, rather than the traditional one behind the other layout. This stack placement in fact had more to do with the design requirement to have the main gun turrets placed as close together as possible, rather than any deliberate copying of the Majestic. To shorten the space, the machinery area had to be reduced in length. One way to do this was to change the internal arrangement of the machinery. Two boiler rooms of two compartments each were arranged back to back with the rear of the boilers meeting at centerline. Instead of taking up length, the new boiler arrangement took up width, shortening the length of the machinery spaces. It was anticipated that this arrangement would also increase the efficiency of the fire-rooms. Boilers were inboard of the fire-room working spaces with coal-bunkers aligned along the outboard sides of the fire-room. This allowed coal to be brought to the boilers over a shorter distance. The two rows of boilers placed back to back along centerline determined that twin side by side stacks would be fitted to vent the fumes from the boilers. Although the navy hoped that the machinery layout for the class would be more efficient than the traditional tandem design, the Illinois class never fulfilled this prediction. Their speed was not increased and they proved to be coal hogs.  

Smaller Resin Details
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Another obvious external difference from proceeding designs was the shape of the main gun turrets. All eight of the earlier battleships had the vertical side pill box turret designs. In this feature the USN may have copied the Royal Navy Majestic design, which had introduced the style of turret employed by the Illinois . The sides of the counterbalanced turrets still had a slight curve but the forward face was angular and slanted back at a sharp angle. The USN had recognized the ballistic benefits of slanted armor from before the time of the American Civil War. This benefit was one reason that Confederate iron clads were given slanted armor casemates, however, it was not until the Illinois design that the USN returned to employ the concept. Rather than cluster the secondary guns together as in Kearsarge, the Illinois spaced them out so that large numbers would not be disabled by a single shell strike. Four were on each side amidships with another pair one deck higher in sponsons on each side. The final pair was located in sponsons on main deck near the bow. These two, along with the forward two in the upper deck sponsons provided the required four-gun bow fire. The aft pair in the upper deck sponsons provided the required two gun rearward fire. 

Up to this point US battleship designs had two stacks and a maximum speed of 16-knots but for the Maine class of 1902 a very harmonious three stack design was chosen. A much larger power plant was incorporated jumping the shp from 10,000shp to 16,000shp creating a maximum speed of 18-knots. The Maine class has one peculiar distinction that sets it apart from other US designed battleships, Russian cousins. The Maine BB-10 was the lead ship, laid down February 15, 1899 at the Cramp Yard in Philadelphia . Cramp had also designed and built the Retvisan for the Imperial Russian Navy, which was laid down nine months earlier and still under construction, so both ships were being built at the same yard at the same time. Both shared many design features, had three funnels and used Krupp armor, which was a first for a US battleship. As a further refinement of the Illinois class, the Maine class, Maine BB-10, Missouri BB-11 and Ohio BB-12, continued with a six-inch secondary armament. They inaugurated submerged torpedo tubes for USN battleships, a rather dubious distinction, since battleship launched torpedoes never scored a single hit in the history of the world’s battleships. They were also very wet in any seaway. With the contract for the Maine ’s, there was a developing chorus lamenting the six-inch secondary armament. Always emphasizing armament and armor at the expense of speed, the chorus demanded the return to the eight-inch secondary gun armament. The next design did indeed revert to the 8-inch gun secondary but also was a heretic to the US battleship design theory by also providing for a higher speed. This was the lucky (for the modeler) BB-13 design known as the Virginia class. 

Smaller Resin Details
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Prior to the Virginia class, previous US designs with eight-inch secondaries had four gun broadsides but for lucky 13 the American admirals wanted more eight-inch firepower with a broadside but the question was how to provide another eight-inch gun turret within Congressional appropriation requirements. Fortunately for the USN Teddy Roosevelt was President and the USN was the darling of Teddy and the Congress and there were very limited constraints on USN battleship designs. To provide for a six 8-inch gun broadside, a big jump in machinery power and to maintain the same protection standard of previous designs, some compromise had to be made somewhere. The double turreted Kearsarge had been a failure but maybe this time, designers could make it work. So, it was back to the future with two story turret. Both main gun turrets had a fixed 8-inch gun house placed atop them with a separate twin gun 8-inch turret placed on each side. Unfortunately it was old wine in a new bottle and the double story turret of the Virginia had all of the drawbacks of the double story Kearsarge. Since the eight-inch position was fixed atop the 12-inch turret, these secondary guns had to train wherever the 12-inch guns were training, leaving only the amidship twin 8-inch gun turret on each side to engage independent targets. The turrets provided too much top weight and had a higher center of gravity, an inherent threat to stability. As a result they rolled badly in any seaway and thus made a poor gun platform. The gun crew of the lower 12-inch guns also suffered concussive effects from the firing of the upper 8-inch guns and four heavy guns could be knocked out with one lucky hit. The Virginia class had incorporated 8-inch guns but had kept the heavy 6-inch battery from the Maine class with twelve 6-inch guns and twelve 3-inch guns. 

There was a huge leap in displacement from the 12,846-tons of the preceding Maine class. The Virginia class tipped the scales at 14,948-tons, clearly placing the design in the competition with the designs of the rest of the major navies of the world, once and forever ending the latent coastal or limited battleship proclivities of Congress. Part of leap was of course the increased firepower but another part was a further leap in machinery weight. The Virginia ’s power plant provided 19,000shp providing a top speed in excess of 19-knots, which was a fast battleship for the time and with the limitations of triple expansion coal fired steam plants. Twelve large tube Babcock and Wilcox boilers provided the steam. Krupp steel cemented over Harvey nickel steel provided the armor with a belt of 11-inches maximum tapering to 4-inches at the ends. The main gun turrets had 10-11-inch armor and secondary turrets 6-inches. The conning tower had 9-inches in armor. They were 441-feet 3-inches (134.5m) (oa) in length, 76-feet 3-inches (23.25m) in beam and had a draught of23-feet 9-inches (7.24m) mean. 


Major Parts Dry Fitted
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Previous battleship designs had been built in twos and threes but for the lucky 13 class, five of the battleships were ordered, Virginia BB-13, Nebraska BB-14, Georgia BB-15, New Jersey BB-16 and Rhode Island BB-17. Virginia was laid down at Newport News on May 21, 1902, launched April 5, 1904 and commissioned in May 1906. All five battleships were laid down within a span of five months from April to August 1902 and commissioned within a span of eight months, February to September 1906. The class is sometimes called the Rhode Island class as although numbered last was the first to complete in February 1906. They completed with the then standard military masts but in 1910 these were replaced with cage masts. With the introduction of USN dreadnought designs with the Michigan class and with more and more of the all big gun battleships joining the fleet in the building frenzy leading up to World War One, the battleships of the Virginia class were soon relegated to second class status. In 1917 when the United States declared war against Germany Virginia was in reserve and under refit at the Boston Navy Yard but her skeleton crew provided a boarding party to seize a German merchantman in Boston harbor. Upon completion of the refit, including removal of the 6-inch gun battery, in August 1917 Virginia joined the 3rd Division of the Battleship Force, Atlantic Fleet, She was a gunnery training ship from 1917 into 1918 and had two stints as flagship, in December 1917 as flag 1st Division and from December 1917 to September 1918 as flag 3rd Division. In September 1918 the Boston Navy Yard carried out another quick refit to make her ready for convoy escort. She escorted two convoys before the war ended in November and the following month served as troop transport bringing the Dough Boys back home from Europe . She served in this capacity until July 1919 but stayed in service for another year until being paid off at Boston in August 1920. With the conclusion of the Washington Navy Treaty of 1922 Virginia was caught up in the rush to scrap obsolete and obsolescent battleships and all predreadnoughts fell in this category, Three of the five Virginia class battleships were scrapped in 1924 but Virginia and sistership New Jersey went out with style, as both were sunk September 5, 1923 providing targets for Billy Mitchell’s bombing experiments. 

Niko USS Virginia
Niko Produces two models of Virginia class battleships, the Virginia shows the design as built with the original military masts and the Rhode Island shows the design as modified with cage masts. The Virginia kit is fantastic with superb casting, which is packed with incredible detail. The hull casting represents Niko at their best but there are some problems with the armament castings. With any predreadnought, most of the detail comes with the hull. Unlike boring featureless hull sides of later battleship Lucky 13 has hull sides festooned with detail. You can start with the two anchor hawse placed low near the water line with distinctively different horse collar shaped hawse. Just behind the hawse, at deck edge are characteristic angled anchor washboards, as anchors with stocks were cated up to the washboards as designed and only later were stockless anchors raised to the hawse. Just aft of the washboards is a protruding 3-inch gun sponson followed by deeply incised 3-inch QF tertiary gun position. Aft of the A turret area the 6-inch gun positions appear. They are larger but just as finely incised as the 3-inch positions and are clustered two forward of the amidship 8-inch turret and four aft with a shelf on each side. The amidship 8-inch gun positions are on sponsons going outboard from the tumblehome sides. At the stern are two more incised 3-inch QF positions on each side. The Virginia is bristling with guns like a porcupine,  The armor belt runs the length of the ship at the waterline but there is no diminishment in width from amidship to the ends. The 01 level of the superstructure as well as fore and aft conning towers are part of the hull casting. You’ll find the same attention to detail with the superstructure bulkheads as with the hull. Detailed access hatches  and equipment lockers abound, as well as two 3-inch QF slits. Another nice feature is the hemisphere curve inwards at the amidship secondary turret positions. The forward conning tower at the 02 level has incised vision slits. 


Major Parts Dry Fitted
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If hull side detail is excellent, the deck detail is even better. The wooden deck planking detail includes butt ends, which clearly places this Niko kit above the common. Right at the top of the cutwater the detail starts with support gussets for the forecastle bulkhead. Anchor gear detail is excellent with detailed deck hawse and the characteristic USN square chain locker with side protruding windlasses. Another proof of excellence for a 1:700 scale model of a coal fired design is the presence of coal scuttles and these are in abundance on the Niko Virginia. Other forecastle detail includes fine deck access coamings and the standard twin bollards. On each side of the A barbette are the first skylights with glass detail and more access coamings. Amidships at the 01 level the parade of skylights continues. There is a metal square deck surrounding each of the three stacks so that will make an interesting contrast against the wooden planking. Additionally there are large ventilator openings or skylights on the front side of each stack metal deck, as well as circular base plates for J ventilator cowls. Even the quarterdeck is littered with detail with an assortment of windlasses, access coamings, skylights, bollard plates and other fittings.

Smaller Resin Parts
First and foremost is the armament. There is no getting around a double story turret and these happy jacks on Virginia , both real and in kit form, really make a statement. The angular and curved turrets of the Virginia are much more attractive than the rounded double story turrets of the Kearsarge class. The 12-inch and 8-inch turrets share a common face, which expands outwards before curving to the rear. Both positions have gun commander cupolas and the aft crown of the 8-inch position has an access hatch. The flat apron at the base of the turret has excellent support rib detail. The separate secondary turrets have a different crown design with three cupolas and three hatches for a very busy top. It appears that Niko is in error for the crown of the 8-inch position on the double story turrets, as photographs indicate that these crowns also had three cupolas just as appears on the separate turrets, not two as presented in the kit turrets. This can be corrected with cutting a slice of an appropriate plastic rod to add a middle cupola. Another error are the muzzles of the 12-inch guns. Niko shows some sort of disc at the end of the muzzle, which photographs clearly show was not there. At first I thought this was some sort of resin pour remnant but that can’t be the case because the smaller guns don’t have them. You’ll use eight of the nine 8-inch barrels provided. Oddly, these barrels were all not of an equal length, so take the best eight and pair them up with equal length barrels. The cure is simple enough with some gentle sanding. The 6-inch casemate tertiary guns are very well done with a one piece circular casemate with barrel fit within each hull recess and therefore can be trained at any position desired by the modeler. The QF guns come in two patterns. Part 42 has taller 3-inch guns than part 43. Both types of QF guns are well detailed but only part 43 is used, as they are inserted into the hull bow and stern positions. Part 42 is apparently for the late career version of the Niko Rhode Island. There are two problems with the QF outfit. There are eight hull QF positions but Niko only provides seven mounts. Since the guns fit inside niches, a very simple answer is to sand down the base of one of the part 42 guns. The guns are the same between 42 and 43 and only the pedestal height/design is different. A second easily fixed problem is the absence of barrels for the four QF guns located at the 01 level, two per side. The Virginia design had twelve 3-inch/50 QF, eight in hull positions and the other four in the 01 level superstructure. Niko provides the positions but not the gun barrels. Again the  unused part 42 guns come to the rescue, as you can remove the barrels from four of those for the missing 01 level guns. 

Brass Photo-Etch
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There are six major superstructure parts. Two are the forward bridge with levels 02 and 03 and the aft 02 level bridge. The 02 level forward bridge, continues the conning tower from the 01 level and has an enclosed cabin behind. The top navigation level is open, except for a photo-etched brass face. The other three parts are identical funnels with aft face steam pipes, flared base aprons and reinforcing bands. They are good parts that accurately depict the minimalist approach of USN battleship bridges of the era. There are four large gooseneck boat cranes, which were paired two forward and two aft. The forward pair were landed during the refit for cage masts, but all four were fitted as built. The cranes are nice pieces with crane engine and pulley detail. Both for and aft military masts have a two part lower structure with the shielded circular and open oval tops cast onto the mast parts. Platform supports are also integral to the castings. Three resin runners contain mostly J ventilator cowlings of various sizes with excellent base ring detail. Also included with these runners are six two part searchlights, and four cable reels. Two more resin runners round out the fittings and equipment with anchors, deck winches, flag lockers and a few other fittings. Five resin runners provide a variety of ship’s boats of various designs, including two different steam launches.

Brass Photo-Etched Fret
As usual Niko provides a full brass photo-etched set. There are some very nice relief-etched parts on this fret. Some of the nicest parts are the bow crest, open navigation bridge face and roof and shutters to show the 6-inch hull positions closed up. There are a lot of braces for the forward and aft navigation platforms. Other nice ship specific parts are boat chocks, yard arms, boat davits, small anchors, bow and stern staffs and supports, accommodation ladders with platforms and trainable treads, stack grates, stern platform, light QF guns with separate gun shields, block and tackle, stern hull side life buoy racks and boat oars. Generic parts include anchor chain, vertical ladder, inclined ladders, three runs of two bar railing and five runs of three bar railing, each of which has a bottom gutter. 


Box Art & Instructions
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Instructions
Instructions are competent but nothing special. They consist of four pages and the first page has resin and photo-etch parts lay-downs. Page two concentrates in the bow assembly with two sequential modules and a separate inset of the bridge assembly. Page three covers the amidship portion of the ship with two sequential modules. Of course page four finishes up with the stern with two sequential modules and an inset of the main mast assembly. At the bottom of page four is a painting guide profile.

Verdict
The Niko USS Virginia BB-13 1906, as built fit, has a beautifully cast hull with superb detail with a good cast of supporting smaller resin parts and full relief-etched brass fret. There are some minor, easily correctible, problems with armament parts but the uniquely American double story turrets will come through with all of their magnificent glory and splendor. Teddy Roosevelt would be beaming with this baby.

The Niko Virginia BB-13 is available from Bill Gruner of Pacific Front Hobbies, along with all of the other models from the extensive Niko lineup. For that matter Pacific Front has a full line up of about any model warship line produced anywhere in the world. 

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