During World War Two the Fletcher Class was the mainstay of the destroyer force of the United States Navy. After the war and into the Cold War the Gearing and Sumner Classes and then their FRAM versions formed the bulk of the tin can fleet. The 1970s and 1980s saw the Spruance Class as the bulk of the class but they too have passed from the scene. Now it is the Arleigh Burke Class that forms the first line of greyhounds of the Navy.

For years the Arleigh Burke was available in 1:350 scale only in the excellent resin and brass kits from Blue Water Navy, now available from Yankee Modelworks. As nice and accurate as these kits are, many modelers could not afford the price tag of the limited production Burke and Churchill kits. Panda has filled a gap by producing a fairly inexpensive styrene injection model of the Arleigh Burke in 1:350 scale. However, it was a basic plastic kit and needed photo-etch to carry it to the next level. White Ensign Models saw the need and steamed to the rescue of Arleigh Burke modelers. With the USS Arleigh Burke 1:350 Scale brass photo-etch fret, WEM PE 3550, the Panda Burke can be elevated to the status of a show winner.

The Mad Monk of Monmouth
Many may consider Peter Hall the essence of an English Country Squire, however, the mad monk is not content to merely sit in state in the Grand Hall of palatial Hall Hall. As the dark descends upon his country estate the mad monk dons his robes and starts his incantations in the arcane alchemy of turning base metal into shimmering creations of brass.

On September 19, 2003 White Ensign Models posted in their "Whats New" column, "We've heard that the Panda 1/350 USS Arleigh Burke and USS Cole are due to arrive at the end of the month, so watch this space. They'll be priced at GBP 12.76, and don't forget of course WEM PE 3550 to go with them." This date was suspiciously close to the fall equinox, when day and night, light and dark, were in balance. Clearly, when the equinox fell the mad monk became the mad magician and used all of his arts and powers to produce WEM PE 3550.

Be Careful Out There
The largest individual parts for the White Ensign Models 1:350 scale brass photo-etch fret for the Arleigh Burke are the safety nets that encircle the flight deck. The size of these parts, coupled with their intricate mesh design, instantly makes them a head turner.

Safety Netting & Railing
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Normally, generic parts of which railing is included is covered at the end of the review. However, with this fret WEM has included certain parts that make the railing of this fret stand apart from the generic and common. It is not the fifteen long runs of railing that WEM includes in the Burke fret. It is not the fact that these fifteen runs of railing have been produced by WEM in five different styles. How many times have you had to bend your railing to place on a model and have a turn at a corner without a stanchion post there. Almost all ships will have a stanchion post at every corner. About the only exception would be in designs that use solid bars of steel for the rails, rather than chain, rope or another flexible substance. With this fret WEM provides fourteen corner pieces with bracing to give you the prototypical look.

Mast Platforms & Yards
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Before The Mast
Quite a number of parts in WEM PE 3550 are designed to add a tremendous amount of detail and fidelity to the Arleigh Burke kit. No less than four separate modules of the WEM Burke fret deal with the intricacies of the foremast. There is a lower mast platform assembly, mast lower yardarm and platform assembly, mast upper yardarm and platform assembly and mast top radar dipole assembly in two different forms. The form you use depends upon the specific ship that you are modeling. Take another look at the mast in the photograph of the actual Arleigh Burke used in the title of this article. Do the plastic parts of your Panda Arleigh Burke adequately reflect, the level above level of delicate platforms, safety railing and fittings? Of course not, no plastic parts from any company could achieve the delicacy needed. With these mast parts alone, your Burke will make a statement.

Away All Boats
The Arleigh Burke comes with two RHIB. White Ensign Models gives you windscreens, steering wheels and transom supports to make these little pieces jump with detail. To go with the boat fittings, the Burke gets a brand new fit of boat cradles and very practical boat boarding frames. This last item, the boarding frame, is an especially thoughtful touch by WEM. All to often, this gear found on most warships of the 20th Century is lacking from photo-etch frets and has to be scratch-built if you want it on your model.

Boats, Machine Guns & Unrep
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Lets Get Tactical
For those small actions when the main gun would be overkill or when you need to repel boarders, WEM provides five twin .50 Cal machine guns. These ten half-inch persuaders will definitely garner the attention of the judge. Perhaps you have no time to put into a friendly port for additional supplies. In that case you will need to replenish while underway. No longer will you have to degrade your tactical condition or operational status. White Ensign Models provides detailed brass Unrep posts to substitute for the bulky and ungainly parts supplied in the kit.

Reels, Ladders & Doors
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Fanfare for the Common Man
As the above is the title for an uncommon and extraordinary musical work, so to is the quality of the "common" brass parts of the WEM Arleigh Burke fret. I have already mentioned the railing with the dedicated corner parts, but that is only one star among a constellation of uncommon generic parts. Reels are designed for hoses or cables and WEM gives you both distinct styles. Vertical ladders, inclined ladders and of course, the WEM doors are all there to round out the White Ensign Models WEM PE 3550, USS Arleigh Burke fret. WEM also provides two sheets, four pages of comprehensive instructions that does about everything but assemble the parts for you.

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There is magic at work. Peter Hall and his enablers at White Ensign Models, continue to release brass photo-etch of exacting standards. The 1:350 scale brass photo-etch fret for the Arleigh Burke is just the latest evidence of the sorcery of the mad monk. It will turn your pumpkin into a princess. The winterís solstice is almost upon us, when darkness is longest. What will Peter conjure next?

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