by: Felix Bustelo [ ]
Originally published on:
USS New York (LPD-21) is the fifth ship in the San Antonio Class of LPDs. What makes her unique from her sisters is that her bow stem has 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center towers that were destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. Two other ships in this class, USS Arlington (LPD-24) and USS Somerset (LPD-25) were named to remember the victims of that fateful day who perished at the Pentagon and on Flight 93 in Pennsylvania respectively. Arlington will have steel from the Pentagon’s structural steel girders incorporated into her bulbous bow stem and Somerset will contain steel from a crane used to excavate the wreckage of Flight 93 in hers.
The San Antonio class is the most technologically advanced amphibious assault ship in the United States Navy and the 11 planned ships of this class (6 in service, 1 awaiting commissioning, 3 under construction and 1 not started) will replace the older Austin class of LPDs. The San Antonio class is over 100 feet longer than the Austin class and its increased vehicle and substantial cargo carrying capacity is an important characteristic in their role supporting United States Marine Corps amphibious operations and expeditionary strike missions. The San Antonios are designed to be the most survivable amphibious ships ever put to sea incorporating state-of-the-art self-defense capabilities and reduced radar cross-section signature technologies. The distinctive profile of these ships is due to the octagon shaped Advanced Enclosed Sensor Masts, which enclose the ship's radars and communications antennas. These ships were designed to easily incorporate technological advances over its 40-year service.
The Gallery Models kit is the first one in 1/350 scale of the USS New York to be released. There have been a few 1/700 scale plastic and resin kits but is quite a sight in a larger scale. This is a monster of a kit measuring about 23.5 inches long and comprising of a total of 712 parts in plastic and brass photoetch.
The two largest parts are the full one-piece hull and the upper deck section. The full is well done with slots inside into which three stiffeners are to be inserted to strengthen it. I personally would have liked to have had a waterline option to model the ship in action deploying the LCACs and LCU. Then again, modeling her full hull will show off the bow stem which is probably the most famous part of this ship. The welldeck interior, which is the business end of this ship, is somewhat detailed with ample room to super-detail it with either scratch-built parts or bits from other sources. You have the option to model the ship with the doors open or closed but a detailed interior I would probably opt for open doors to show it off, all the more reason for wishing there was an easy waterline option.
The upper portion of the hull is also well done with the majority of the ship’s superstructure molded into the piece. There are numerous vent screens molded into the sides of this part which generally look good comparing to some photos of the ship. The flight deck has the numerous tie-downs molded into it. One thing that is noticeably missing is the doors and associated tracks that cover the starboard ship boat openings are. These were not fitted at the time of her commissioning ceremony but were added afterwards so I am guessing that the kit maker relied on photos of this event when the molds were made. However looking at photos of the other ships in the class would have shown just how prominent these doors are. This is a major omission in my opinion but I am sure that this will be remedied by aftermarket photoetch that someone will produce. A quick dry fit of these two parts show good fit that will need a little bit of filler and careful sanding to clean-up the joint.
The “A” sprue comes in two parts – “A1” contains the hull stiffeners as well as the welldeck (with the ramp up to the equipment deck), a SATCOMM dome and some cranes; “A2” has the bilge keels that will be attached to the lower hull. The welldeck is nicely detailed with tie-downs molded into it.
The “B” sprue contains the bulkheads for the welldeck, the upper section of the welldeck door, a RHIB and cradles, superstructure bulkheads, funnel exhaust housing and various smaller superstructure housings. The welldeck bulkheads have the wooden and rubber padding molded into which is a nice touch but the gallery (the narrow deck along the upper edge of the welldeck) is basically ignored. There are some impressions of ladders and openings for watertight doors but no other details. There should be some fire hoses reels and watertight doors in the open position at the very least to give it some detail. Also railings for the edge of the gallery are not included with the kit’s photoetch, so you will need to find an alternate source for this. As I mentioned before there is plenty of room to go hog-wild here if you care to.
The “C” sprue contains the foc’sle deck, the upper equipment deck and bulkheads, the hangar deck and bulkheads, the forward boat stowage bulkheads and some small platforms. These parts look fine to me but the foc’sle deck has the anchor chain stoppers engraved into the deck which is disappointing. A length of modeling chain is provided with the kit to use as the anchor chains and the engraved stoppers will look flat and 1 dimensional by comparison. Besides, engraved “chains” are a pain in the butt to paint. I will give kudos to Gallery Models for not forgetting this often overlooked detail, but I would recommend sanding these off and using some modeling chain to improve the appearance.
The “D” sprue contains the parts for the distinctive octagonal “masts”, transom, exterior hangar bulkhead, the propellers, prop shafts and shaft struts. Again these parts overall look good to me but there is a distinctive feature missing from the “masts”. If you look at photos of the ships in this class you will see that along the top of these structures you will see a stepped band – these are missing from the moldings and will need to be added using strip styrene as they are rather prominent.
The “E” sprue contains the two halves of the bulbous bow stem, a nameplate, the lower welldeck door/ramp, the hangar door (you have the option to build the model with the door in the open position – the rolled up door is on the “A” sprue) and several other bulkheads.
“F” sprue contains many smaller parts including platforms, a small radar/communication dome, smaller structures and other bits that appear all over the ship.
The are two “G” sprues provided which also have a myriad of small parts like bollards, liferaft canisters, Bushmaster and RAM launchers, decoy launchers, anchors, rudders, more radar domes and other sundry bits.
The “H” sprue has some larger superstructure parts such as the bridge, the bases for the octagonal masts and a smaller housing. A display base is also provided to mount the model on as well as a bit of modeling chain for the anchor chains.
The balance of the plastic sprues covers the landing crafts, amphibious assault vehicles and a variety of aircraft. First let’s look at the landing craft sprues.
The kit comes with parts to make a pair of Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) which are on the sprues labeled “WB1”, “WB2” and “WC”. The “WB” sprues contain the deck, frame, inflated skirt, ramp and bulkheads, the air props and smaller parts. The “WC” sprue has the deck housings. Parts to build one Landing Craft Utility (LCU) are provided of the sprue labeled “WD”. These landing crafts are little kits in themselves and have a great amount of detail.
Parts for a pair of AAV-7A1 Tracked Amphibious vehicles are provided on the sprues labeled “WF” and have a good amount of detail for a 1/350 scale version. These vehicles deploy from the welldeck and swim to shore so don’t be tempted to place them on the larger landing crafts. However this highlights what is missing from this kit – there are no vehicles to populate the decks of the landing craft like tanks or armored personnel carriers. So if you don’t want to have empty decks on your landing craft you will have to seek a source for these vehicles in 1/350 scale.
Parts to build a pair each of the following aircraft are provided with this kit: MV-22 Osprey, AH-1W Cobra, CH-53E Sea Stallion, CH-46 Sea Knight and UH-1N Twin Huey. This is a good complement of aircraft with nice detail but they are molded in that annoying and brittle clear plastic that is now common for most aircraft intended for ship models. You have to be careful removing the parts from the sprue and the clear plastic doesn’t seem to have the bite to help paint adhere to it. I really prefer the way aircraft came in early Trumpeter kits with was standard styrene plastic with clear parts for the canopies and windows. Also the rotors are a bit thick and should have been done in photoetch. The kit does not include any deck vehicles which would appear on a busy flight deck handling aircraft, so again you will have to seek them elsewhere.
Three frets of photoetch parts (Fret A x2 and Fret B) come with this kit and contain standard items like railings, ladders, flight deck safety netting. Vent screens for the superstructure parts, liferaft canister racks and other details are also included. The kit is advertised as providing photoetch parts so you don’t have to buy any others to complete the model, I am afraid that this is not entirely the case. The doors and associated tracks that cover the starboard ship boat openings are missing and will probably be included in an aftermarket photoetch set as well as some parts to finish detailing the welldeck section. I am sure that other added details and parts to correct other errors I may have missed will be provided in some aftermarket set.
Three decal sheets are provided in the kit. Decal sheet A has markings for the ship, covering hull, deck and welldeck bulkhead markings. Hull markings are limited to the USS New York so if you wish to build the kit as one of the other ships in this class you will have to find them someplace else. Decal sheet B has the markings for the aircraft and landing craft as well as the American flag in two styles – straight and windblown. Decal sheet C has the special ceremonial markings of the ship’s badge that was placed on the hull when ship was christened and later commissioned. These markings do not appear on the ship in active service.
The assembly instructions come in a 24-page booklet which looks identical in format to those found in Trumpeter kits (and makes me wonder just how inter-related this Chinese modeling firms may be). They are very thorough and full of detailed illustrations but I wouldn’t necessarily follow the assembly order. A full color two-side insert with painting and decal placement instructions is provided as well. The painting instructions refer to Mr. Hobby and Aqueous Hobby Color paints but there is a cross-reference table for Vallejo, Testors Model Master, Tamiya, and Humbrol equivalents.
Overall this is a good kit that does have some issues, errors and omissions. It will build in a good enough, large-scale representation of the USS New York out of the box but there is room for improvements and additional detailing; just how far you wish to go is up to the individual modeler.