A Tale of Two 1/700 Fletcher Class Destroyers

A Comparative Review by Rob Mackie

 


The Models
Samek Models (Czech Republic): USS The Sullivans (DD 537)
Fletcher Class Destroyer (late version)

Tamiya: USS Fletcher (DD 445)

Scale: 1/700 waterline

Media:
Samek: Polyurethane resin and photoetched brass

Tamiya: Injection molded plastic

Strengths:

Samek: Excellent casting, useful PE fret, generally accurate

Tamiya: Easy to build, clear instructions, price

Weaknesses:

Samek: Bow profile slightly wrong, no parts list, somewhat expensive

Tamiya: Minimal surface detail, inaccurate and out-of-scale guns

 

The Ship

Fletchers were the most famous and important of US WW2 destroyers. Their sound design and long range enabled them to fill a multitude of roles - shore bombardment, fleet screening, air protection, anti-submarine/surface ship warfare et al. US shipyards turned out an incredible 175 Fletcher class destroyers during World War II. They saw action exclusively in the Pacific, where their range and versatility were particularly important.

The Samek kit is a late war Fletcher variant while the Tamiya kit is an early version. The early Fletchers retained the rounded bridge of the preceding Benson class destroyers, while later variants had a squared-off, open bridge. This was considered more suitable for the anti-aircraft /fast escort role in which the Fletchers were primarily used in 1944-45. The later Fletchers also carried a much enhanced complement of 40mm Bofors and 20mm anti-aircraft guns. To both compensate for the additional top weight and preserve stability, one of the two quintuple torpedo tubes was deleted, and the MK 37 director atop the bridge was lowered six feet.

The Models

The Samek kit's 73 pieces are flawlessly cast in a cream colored resin. Edges are sharp and "in-scale", with no voids or air bubbles of significance. The smaller parts are cast on a thin resin wafer, with detail on either side. This is the sign of a highly skilled resin caster. I wonder if the Samek people have been talking with Doc Modell? Minimal cleanup is required and parts fit is commendable. The Tamiya Fletcher is, well, a Tamiya kit so it is molded to prevailing injection standards. I've seen better Tamiya efforts, but this one is not bad by any means. But it won't take your breath away.

When compared to profile drawings the Samek version's bow is too sharply raked. The bow of the Tamiya Fletcher is more accurate. This is not a significant flaw however. A little bit of careful sanding will quickly fix the Samek problem. Otherwise the hull and deck structures of both kits seem accurate.

The Samek destroyer has some molded in detail, while the Tamiya version has none. Both models could benefit from additional detailing (hoses, conduits, deck support stanchions etc), though it is not essential in this scale.

It is amazing the difference a little stretched sprue can make. The six depth charge launchers on both kits are oversimplified representations. Consider replacing them with brass from the Tom's PE destroyer fret.

The Samek kit includes an Eduard photoetched fret. It is very well done but lacks deck railing and depth charge racks. There is no photoetch included with the Tamiya kit. It badly needs the Tom's Fletcher PE fret to bring it too life. But at least the Tamiya kit includes a useable mast. The Samek version gives you a 1:1 template for building your own, but no brass. This is not difficult as the Fletcher mast is a simple "T" that should take all of one minute to fabricate from brass rod. And the Samek mast will look spectacular when embellished with the many mast details on the Eduard PE fret.

The guns on the Samek kit are particularly well done. Unlike the Tamiya Fletcher, whose 5" gun enclosures are undersize and whose secondary armament ranges from bad to awful, the Sullivans' armament looks right. The dual 20mm guns are rendered in photoetched brass and are especially convincing.

The Tamiya instructions are very clear, no surprise here. Fortunately, the Samek instructions are also quite adequate, though they lack a parts listing, an irritating omission.

Summary

Both of these kits will build up into accurate Fletcher class destroyers. The Tamiya edition, while not bad by any means, could have been better. Tamiya sets the standard in injection molded kits, so we always expect a Tamiya kit to be a knockout. This one isn't but the price is right at US $13, it is widely available, and it is the more suitable kit for someone new to 1/700 ships modeling.

The Samek Fletcher is the better of the two, and in my opinion the best 1/700 Fletcher currently available. Its flaws are minor and it will look nice right out of the box. Samek should have gone all the way and included railing and depth charge racks on the PE fret. This would obviate having to buy any aftermarket photoetch. And at US $28 the Samek Fletcher is not cheap. But it's still the Fletcher of choice in 1/700 scale and a very good kit.