The JMSDF’s Towada was a Pitroad "planning item" as far back as 1994. The ship became a fixture on Japanese TV news after she was sent to the Gulf to support Operation Enduring Freedom, FINALLY creating enough interest so that Pitroad saw the profitability of releasing the kit.

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It was a long wait for a current, state-of-the-plastic-arts modern oiler, but the wait was worth it for me. The kit is exquisitely molded, with no flash and few molding lines, so it went together quickly and painlessly over the course of two weeks of evening modeling. I had to fill only two real seams, one near the bow and one where the helicopter deck meets the rest of the deck, aft of the island. The only negative is that about half of the gear on deck is molded on, making for some tedious masking and detail painting in cramped places. Since Pitroad molded half the stuff on sprues, why couldn’t they mold the rest of the stuff separate as well?

The hoses do not come with the kit—I used solder to make them. I also scratch-built the palletized cargo on the helicopter deck, and added a helicopter from another kit. There is no dedicated photo-etched set for this ship as of February 2003, so I used photo-etched ladders, railings and other small pieces from various Gold Medal Models photo etch sets I had around. The figures are also from Gold Medal Models.

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I especially like the "busy" feel of this ship, with all the mechanical gear on deck, and the huge gantries holding the hoses erect. Rumor has it that JAG is working on a 1/700 AOE Sacramento. I’ve seen lots of photos of Towada exchanging fuel at sea with Sacramento in the Gulf, and look forward to the many diorama possibilities is that ship become available.