Author: Walter Sonderman

 

 a flagarticle was translated by Axel Verheijen; the Dutch text can be found here… nedvlag 

 

Deel 1. De Intrepid onderweg. Let op de twee kleuren van het vliegdek

      Photos courtesy U.S. National Archives; photo showing the two colors of the flight deck


Right before the start of World War II, just as the United States Navy had commissioned the Yorktown-class aircraft carriers in the late 1930s, the Washington Treaty, under which these ships were tendered, came to an end. Japan had unilaterally terminated this treaty (and the associated London Treaty) and also left the League of Nations (the predecessor of the United Nations) in 1933.


Free from the restrictions on tonnage and number of ships set by this Treaty, the Americans had the Yorktown class directly succeeded by the Essex class ships. These did show similarities with their famous predecessors (besides the Yorktown itself also the Hornet and of course the Enterprise), but were in fact more than 20 meters longer, 3 meters wider and at least a third times heavier. From performances during fleet exercises with the large Lexington-class aircraft carriers (which were in effect further developed from the earlier battle cruiser designs) the US Navy had understood very well that future naval battles would not be decided by battleships but by air superiority. The Japanese navy had understood this even better and fully exploited their advantage in the first six months of World War II.

 

Essex-class aircraft carriers, an introduction

Longer, wider and heavier than their predecessors, the Essex-class ships had room for an air wing that could contain more than 100 aircraft. An important innovation was the placement of two lifts at the edges of the deck. This meant there was more space for parking aircraft on deck (so-called deck parking) and the air operations were not hindered by parked aircraft. This concept was perfected by the US Navy in World War II: the number of aircraft carried was determined by how many aircraft could be parked on deck. The hangars were intended mainly for maintenance and repair. This concept was possible because the US Navy relied completely on their own aircraft and escorting ships for the protection of their aircraft carriers.
The British Navy on the other hand had a different philosophy whereby the number of aircraft that could be carried depended on what could be accommodated in the hangars: the British aircraft carriers from World War II were therefore equipped with armored flight decks to protect their planes.

De Franklin na de kamikaze schade

   Photos courtesy U.S. National Archives;

De Franklin na de kamikaze schade

The Essex-class flight deck was not armored, the main protection consisted of the only 38 mm thick armor of the main deck (the hangar deck). There is something to be said for both philosophies (after all, they were born from different situations), but the fact is that the American carriers had between 90 to 100 aircraft on board, while the comparable English Illustrious-class originally could only carry 36 aircraft. The placement of the machinery and side armor was much improved over previous designs. More anti-aircraft guns had also been installed. The ships were a big success: not a single Essex-class ship was lost during World War II. Two ships, the USS Franklin (CV-13) and USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), were badly damaged by kamikaze attacks but were able to make the journey back home on their own.

Thanks to extensive standardization remarkably short construction times of between 14 months to 2 years were achieved. At the end of the war no fewer than sixteen had been put into active service, while eight more followed. Construction of eight ships was suspended after the end of the hostilities. There was no navy that could match this pace of construction. It is therefore safe to say that this class of ships ultimately decided the war in the Pacific in favor of the Allies.

During construction modifications were implemented constantly. The total of 40mm and 20mm anti-aircraft guns was drastically increased, new and improved radar systems were added, the original hangar deck catapult system (though it worked well during tests on the Yorktown class, it was obviously not put to use during the hectic time of war) was removed, the ventilation system and details of the armor protection were changed. Hundreds of major and minor changes resulted in the fact that no ship in the series was the same.

At the beginning of March 1943 one significant change was made to the ships that were in the initial construction phase at the time. The change consisted of lengthening the bow above the waterline into a "clipper" form to provide the two 40mm four-barrel Bofors setups with a better arc of fire. This gave rise to the so-called "long-hull" version of the Essex class (also referred to as the separate Ticonderoga class) although the hull length at the waterline had obviously not changed. Thirteen ships were ordered, four of which were ready for combat in 1944.

USS Intrepid in the Philippine Sea

Post war modifications

After the war the 24 Essex class ships, along with the three much larger Midway-class aircraft carriers, formed the backbone of the United States Navy which had become by far the largest Navy in the world.

The introduction of jet planes, which were larger and heavier than propeller planes, necessitated further upgrades to the carriers in the early 1950s. The upgrades were carried out under the SCB-27 program (where SCB stands for Ship Characteristics Board) and included:
- Reinforcement of the flight deck
- Enlarged and reinforced elevators
- The introduction of steam powered catapults
- Heavier arresting gear
- The removal of the four twin 5-inch / 38 gun turrets in front and behind the main island
- The replacement of the 40mm Bofors guns with the much more effective 3-inch guns
- A completely redesigned main island with integrated funnel

The so-called ready rooms for the flight crew, which were originally situated directly under the flight deck, were placed below the armored hangar deck. A large escalator on the starboard side transported the heavily loaded flight crews to the flight deck. The escalator's housing which is visible on the outside is a characteristic feature of these upgrades.
The fuel capacity of the carriers was significantly increased during the upgrades.

Because of these upgrades the displacement of the carriers increased from 27,000 tons to nearly 33,000 tons. Much of this increase was in the so-called “topweight”. To counter this the armor belt was removed and blisters were fitted to the hull sides to compensate, increasing the total width by nearly 3 meters . The draft of the ships was increased by the upgrades, reducing the top speed from 33 to 31 knots. The differences between the short-hull and long-hull ships became non-existent as the bow was now the same for all ships.
The upgrade process, which could take up to 2 years, was seen as very successful. A similar conversion of the Midway class was noticeably less successful: these ships were already characterized by a low freeboard (the height from the waterline to the deck) at the time of construction, which was further reduced by the conversion, making those ships take in a lot of water even in calm seas.

USS Intrepid Korean War


After the extensive SCB-27 upgrade program at the beginning of the 1950s, the SCB-125 program followed later that decade. This program was in theory less extensive, yet did significantly change the appearance of the ships. With this upgrade the angled flight deck, which was a development of the British Navy, was installed which hardly required any changes to the structure of the ship. At the same time the ship was fitted with an enclosed hurricane bow. The upgrades of the SCB-125 program therefore took only six to nine months to complete.

Thanks to these upgrades the ships were once again able to provide excellent services in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

With this extensive introduction coming to an end we arrive at the topic of this article: the USS Intrepid as it served during the Vietnam war.

 

De Interpid refuelling from USS Nitro

 

The USS Intrepid

I've been to New York quite a few times for work and vacation purposes. A favourite weekend trip during these stays was the USS Intrepid, or officially the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

As a hotel during my stays I often chose the Hilton Garden Inn at Times Square because the hotel was on West 48th Street, while the Intrepid Museum was on West 46th Street. The hotel was on 8th Avenue, the ship on 12th Ave., so that meant it was only a fifteen minute walk to the museum. Not only that, but a lot of alternative hotels lack the attraction of Times Square😉. The museum provides a lot of information on the development and history of the ship (although the Concorde airplane next to the ship actually has no part in that history). Much of the bridge, crew restrooms, hangar bays and so on have been preserved. It’s a funny sight seeing the escalator under the island to transport the flight crew to the flight deck. This part of the ship is off limits to visitors. And it's not hard to see why: a foot can easily get trapped in the gaps in the construction…

Deel 1. Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum

 

 Like all Essex-class carriers, the USS intrepid went through an exciting period during World War II. The ship took part, amongst others, in the battle for the Gulf of Leyte, effectively eliminating the Japanese Navy fleet for good. This battle is widely regarded as the greatest naval battle of all time. Shortly after the war the ship was withdrawn from service but was returned to service as an attack aircraft carrier (CVA) in early 1952 to undergo the SCB-27 upgrade program described above. In 1957 the SCB-125 upgrade program was carried out in which the ship received the characteristic angled flight deck. In 1961 the ship was classified as CVS-11, an anti-submarine aircraft carrier. In this capacity, the fighter and attack aircraft were replaced by aircraft equipped for anti-submarine warfare, such as the Grumman S-2 Tracker. The ship was also assigned an important role in the American space program: in 1962, American astronaut Scott Carpenter and his Mercury capsule, the Aurora-7, were picked up from the sea by helicopters from the USS Intrepid. In 1965 the same was done with the Gemini 3 flight picking up astronauts John Young and Gus Grissom along with their capsule (see the two photos below taken during that moment).

 

Gemini 3 Intrepid 

 

Gemini 3 Intrepid Recovery

 

A Mercury and Gemini capsule are therefore part of the exhibition in the museum. Later in 1965 the ship was readied for participation in the Vietnam War, where it was classified as an attack carrier (still carrying the CVS-11 designation). The attack and fighter planes were “borrowed” from other aircraft carriers such as the Oriskany. More about that later in this article, as the model built here relates to that period. After three sorties off the coast of Vietnam between 1966 and 1968, the ship was used again as an anti-submarine aircraft carrier and was finally decommissioned in 1974. In 1982 the ship started her career as a museum in which it still excels and where I have spent many pleasant hours.

The 1/350 scale kit

Gallery Models, a Model Rectifier Corporation (MRC) brand, released the 1/350 kit #64008 of the USS Intrepid at the end of 2014.

intrepid gallery models 350

Revell had and still has an angled flight deck Essex-class carrier in its catalogue, an “evergreen” from the original American Revell brand. As a child and young adult I too built that famous 1/542 kit: I built it as the Essex, but also as Yorktown, Wasp, Lexington, Hornet and Oriskany. That's why a 1/350 scale model of a modern angled flight deck version of an Essex-class carrier was high on a lot of wish lists. Some 20 years ago Trumpeter released several excellent kits from Essex-class carriers. But unfortunately only in their World War II versions. A modernised version of this carrier could only be built with a lot of conversion work. At the Small Scale Convention of 2014 in Heiden (Germany) I spoke to Frank Ilse and Torben Keitel of the German Gamblers, who had started such a conversion. When MRC, which had previously released excellent kits of the LHD-1 Wasp and the LPD-21 New York, announced the imminent release of a post war Essex-class carrier kit a dream of many ship modellers became a reality. They were not disappointed, and neither was I. Gallery's kit turned out to be simple to build and contained out of the box a lot of photo-etched (PE) detail parts for the railing and for the various antennas on the island. The cooperation with modellers during the development of the kit was clearly noticeable. Yet there were also some points of criticism. To start with there were only 18 aircraft included in the kit. And the accompanying decals for these aircraft were very generic and contained a curious mix of all squadrons that had ever been on board the ship.

Another point of criticism was the length of the hull. When I put the hull next to that of a Trumpeter kit, there turned out to be a reasonable difference between the two brands. Something that Martin Quinn of Modelwarships had also noticed. I took part in a discussion on Modelwarships’ forum: so many people provide just as many opinions. But on the subject “length at the waterline”, which was a much talked about subject, the opinions didn’t differ that much . Essex-class ships in their later configuration had a standard displacement of nearly 40,000 tons against 30,000 tons in their World War II configuration and thus had a greater draft. Maarten Schönfeld obtained yard drawings and from calculations of the length from a fixed point at the bow to a fixed point at the rudder, the kit length of the MRC kit turned out to be accurate within one or two millimeters. In other words the length of the Trumpeter kit is actually incorrect (too long). Be that as it may, the MRC kit resembles an Intrepid and therefore it is an Intrepid😉.

There’s still some speculation that Gallery Models itself or maybe Revell (as they did likewise for the Wasp and the New York kits) would release a different version of this kit. But sadly that has not happened to this date. Incidentally, apart from the USS Intrepid only the USS Hancock and the USS Ticonderoga can be built from the kit. For the other ships a relocation of the starboard lift is required, situating it closer to the main island. And that is no easy task. The shape of the bow is also different on some of the other ships. During my stay at the Euro Model Expo (2019) in Lingen (Germany), I understood from Torben Keitel of SSN Modellbau that he is working on decals for the "Hannah" and the "Tico". The USS Intrepid and the two ships mentioned above differ from each other in a number of details. In fact none of the Essex-class ships is exactly the same as any of the other ships in the class.

Incidentally, during the research into the different variants, I found out that Revell did a fine job with their 1/542 kit, considering it is over 50 years old now!
Aircraft carriers are easily divided and built into multiple larger subassemblies like the hull and hangar deck, the flight deck, the island and the masts, and finally the airplanes (airwing) and tractors.

Hull, Hangar deck and elevators

The hull of the Intrepid consists of a fairly bulky, but perfectly molded single piece of styrene. Merit / Trumpeter / Gallery, there are always some doubts about these manufacturer's preliminary research on their subjects, but in terms of injection molding quality, they currently are on a par with Dragon. No sink marks, no flash, no deformation, yet with a lot of small details such as doors and grilles for the air conditioning.
This bulky hull means that if you want to build her as a waterline model, a saw (and a sturdy one it should be) will have to be applied. The waterline is not indicated on the hull, which makes cutting the hull slightly more difficult. I measured the waterline height as best as I could, based on reference photos. Next I attached a black marker to a wooden block of the required height and simply pulled the block around the hull to mark the waterline.
The hangar deck is also molded in one piece and fits like a glove. Both instruction leaflet and kit box heroically exclaim “Detailed flight deck and hangar deck!”. But the reality is that the detailing of the hangar deck just includes the tie-down rings, nothing more.
The model clearly shows that the unarmored flight deck actually rests on a relatively light construction on top of the actual hull. That construction consists of only three parts, including the longitudinal walls. Again, perfectly molded and perfectly fitting. I decided to add the so-called Conflag station (the station for firefighting in the hangar) using Evergreen sheet material. I also added the sloping part under the island (which contains the uptakes to the funnel) and provided a bit more detail on the sides of the hangar using the same material.

Deel 1. Detailwerk in de hangar

 

Since I had no intention of adding lighting, the detailing could be kept fairly limited to some uprights and several platforms for which I also used Evergreen materials.
The hull was assembled very quickly, complete with all the platforms and catwalks, the smaller details for the elevators, the escalator housing under the island and the prominent platform for the antiaircraft guns at the rear. It was a pleasant build as I was working on a good kit, a very good kit one could say. In the design of the kit a lot of effort has been spent on the buildability, whereas a company like Dragon often tends to get carried away in producing impossibly small parts for the sake of detail. That wasn’t the case here, luckily.

 

I provided as many platforms as possible with railings as some of them (especially the one under the angled flight deck) cannot be reached later on in the build. When removing the photo-etching railings from the PE fret supplied by Gallery Models they immediately curled up slightly, which made placing and mounting them a challenge. That's why I used my favorite railings set (350-12 Modern USN Warship) from Gold Medal Models instead. I tend to always have many sets of these in stock.

 

Deel 1

The hull construction went without a hitch following the instructions and in no time I was able to concentrate on painting the ship. I first sprayed the hangar deck in dark gray (Tamiya TS-48). The decks of the various platforms received Xtracolor FS16118, Gunship Gray. Next I masked the platform decks with Tamiya tape, trying not to damage the already installed railings. Now I could comfortably spray the hull in Tamiya Dark Ghost Gray (AS-25).

 

Deel 1 2. En na het spuiten

 

Deel 1 2. En na het spuiten

 

The hull shows a large number of gratings, for which I used a black wash. Below the waterline I used Humbrol Gloss Red (19) and on the waterline Humbrol Gloss Black (21). I used gloss paints to provide a smoother surface for adhesion of the decals for the underwater markings. Concerning these decals I have a point of criticism: the underwater markings are missing from the decal sheet, as are the ship's name decals for the aft. I got the latter from my buddy Jos Visser. The underwater markings came from a Gold Medal decal set, specifically 350-1D (Naval Ship decals), of which I also have dozens in stock. 

Deel 1 2. Foto ets onder de liften

 

Deel 1 2. Foto ets onder de liften


After applying the decals the whole hull was sprayed with Testors Dullcote. The hangar walls are simply painted with Tamiya Matt White (TS27).
The next step concerned the two corner lifts: one on the starboard side and one on the port side at the end of the angled flight deck. These corner lifts were of a light construction and featured a network of load-bearing tubes. These are beautifully displayed in the kit with PE parts, which firmly places this kit in the territory of experienced modellers. The PE part for the lift on the starboard side needs to be folded which was easily done with a special folding tool.

 

The netting along the edge of the flight deck is also provided as PE parts. I decided to paint the lifts separately: first the dark base color, then after masking the desired areas I sprayed the hull color. The deck markings would be painted in the next step when tackling the flight deck.

 

Flight deck and catwalks

As with the other large parts, the flight deck is also flawlessly cast in one piece. I had already decided earlier to spray the flight deck before mounting it on the hull because this way there’s no need to mask the hull completely. After a few dry fits, the deck clicked tightly onto the hull superstructure. It actually fit so tightly that I could only remove it again with some effort. I was still having a blast building this ship!

I sprayed the flight deck in Tamiya Gunship Gray (TS-48) and after ample drying time masked the remaining section of wood which was then sprayed in Tamiya Dark Ghost Gray (AS-25). These two different flight deck colors were a typical feature of the USS Intrepid. Later during the service life of the ship the wooden part of the deck was covered with thin steel plates and painted completely dark gray. Now I could start with the deck markings. The lines were provided as decals in the kit, but I am not fond of these kind of long thin decals. Instead I decided to use masking tape to carefully tape most of the lines and also the deck number (nothing easier than an “11”) on the flight deck and spray them white and yellow. Only for the red and white “foul lines'' and the lines for the lift edges I used the kit decals. It turned out that I had made the right decision as the kit decals broke into pieces when trying to place them. Luckily I was able to repair the damaged decals and in the end managed to apply them all.

Catwalks are the walkways along and under the flight deck. They have to be installed separately. So I decided to provide them with their railings and spray them separately to mount them later, when I had attached the flight deck to the hull. This way it’s easier to prevent damaging them. I replaced as much as possible the molded steps (called “Aztec stairs” because of their close resemblance to the steps of Aztec pyramids) with photo-etched steps, which look much more realistic.

Deel 2. Een catwalk met railing

 

I also installed various platforms and PE supports under the deck. Since I had not yet removed the masking tape for the lower side of the hull, these could be easily sprayed at that point. I just turned the ship over on its flight deck for that. It is important to study the construction drawings and properly plan the construction!

Deel 2. Romp en dek klaar

A very striking feature on the deck edges are the so-called “floater baskets”. These are aluminium baskets in which the life rafts are housed. They were not included in the kit supplied PE set, but a number of sets for these baskets were purchased through Tom's Modelworks. Folding these baskets is one of those assembly line jobs. The life rafts are made of paper, which has been folded several times. I used the, in the meantime, released (and very expensive (€ 150, -)) set from Tetra Model Works (set SE35006) as a template. I actually considered ordering this set, but I was already so far into the construction of the ship that I wouldn't be using half of it anyway.

Deel 2

 

Island and masts

The island on an aircraft carrier is a fairly dominant structure, it always attracts attention, especially when adorned with additional details. The island of the USS Intrepid with its typical large funnel and the crew lift on the starboard side is no exception. Although the island was easy to build, it took about as much construction time as the complete hull structure!

Deel 2. Het eiland in aanbouw

 

Strangely enough the windows of the two bridge floors are simply molded solid together with the floors, whereas in the subsequent kit of the USS Kennedy the windows are provided as separate clear plastic inserts. On the USS Eisenhower on the other hand I had to use Microscale Kristal Klear to create the windows from the inside as these were molded open but there was no insert provided.

 

The island was put together according to the instructions and once again everything fitted perfectly. I found out that a platform on the starboard side was missing, so a little scratch building was called for. The other platforms, antennas, bridge floodlights, supports for platforms and the platforms themselves were all provided for. The perforated walkways under the bridge windows and along the funnel were perfectly executed in PE brass. As was the windshield on the open bridge where I again created the windows with Kristal Kleer. But not after I sprayed the part in the appropriate color first. I did replace the photo-etched antennas with steel wires. Of course the photo-etched railings and stairs were also installed at this point. 

 


Deel 2. Het eiland met decals

 

The masts are fairly complex metal structures, which are largely made up of PE parts supplied in the kit. Again: this kit is really not for beginners. The instructions fall a bit short here: it was only after studying several photos that I managed to figure out how to fold the support structure for the radar mast on the starboard side. Folding itself turned out to be a breeze on the other hand.  

The main mast is made of plastic but is embellished with a lot of PE parts for the radars and the supports. I decided to add even more PE details such as the railings on the yards. Again, I used the Tetra Model Works set as a guide. With some scratch building in PE using parts from the Modern USN Warship set (no. 350-12) from Gold Medal Models I actually achieved a similar result. It never hurts to have lots of generic detail sets in stock!

DSC02302

 

The main mast is made of plastic but is embellished with a lot of PE parts for the radars and the supports. I decided to add even more PE details such as the railings on the yards. Again, I used the Tetra Model Works set as a guide. With some scratch building in PE using parts from the Modern USN Warship set (no. 350-12) from Gold Medal Models I actually achieved a similar result. It never hurts to have lots of generic detail sets in stock!

Deel 2. Het Fighting I logo

 

Maarten Schönfeld came to the rescue here by designing and printing the required decals. I immediately had two sets of them printed! For the so-called ribbons (the awards the ship has received during its career) I could draw from my own spares stock.

 

Deel 2. Het Fighting I logo

 

The so-called UNREP markings were sadly also missing from the kit. UNREP is the abbreviation for Underway Replenishment, which is a method of transferring fuel, munitions, and stores from one ship to another while underway. The UNREP markings indicate where a supply ship can send the supply lines to. Strangely enough there were no decals on the market for that, until now that is, as SSN Modellbau provides a fitting solution here.

With the missing decals one of the kit's biggest omissions has been mentioned. An omission that in fact didn’t stop with the bridge and flight deck as we'll see next.

Deel 2. De UNREP markeringen

 

Aircraft and tow tractors

The main attractions of any aircraft carrier are of course the aircraft. The ship appears empty without this particular hardware. That's why I don't really understand that only 18 (otherwise good looking) aircraft are included in the kit: four Vought F-8 Crusaders, four Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, four Douglas A-1 Skyraiders, two Grumman E-1B Tracers and four Kaman UH-2 Seasprite helicopters. Photos of American aircraft carriers en route almost always show decks full of aircraft: the concept of deck parking that I discussed earlier is shown there in detail. So to liven up the deck I decided to add ten extra F-8s, ten A-4s and five A-1s which I purchased from L'Arsenal. The casting quality of the resin kits was a bit disappointing to me, but with some careful painting and good decals they could be turned into nice looking aircraft.

Deel 2. Een Skyhawk volledig afgebouwd

Deel 2. Een Skyhawk volledig afgebouwd

 

I contacted Mark Tutton of "Starfighter Decals" to inquire if any decal sets were in the works to replace the sparse and, moreover, incorrect kit decals. As a matter of fact there were, but it would take some time before they’d be available. I bridged that time with building and spraying / painting the planes, which took about as much time (or more) as building the ship itself. After consultation with Mark and some research of my own I decided that I would go for Carrier Air Wing Ten (CVW-10) on the Intrepid at the time of the second Vietnam sortie from May 11, 1967 to December 30, 1967. The air wing of the Intrepid was a mix of air wings from other carriers, mainly those of the Oriskany. The Intrepid, originally an anti-submarine carrier, was in fact put into service as an auxiliary attack carrier, a temporary attack carrier so to speak. The share of planes from the American Navy in the Vietnamese air war was so high that it was actually short on aircraft carriers. As such, the Intrepid did not have its own air wing. A good example was fighter squadron VF-111. On board the Oriskany this squadron called themselves “Omar’s”, a detachment on board the Intrepid was designated VF-111 Det. 11 and called “Omar’s Orphans” which flew the Vought F-8C Crusader. The designation “Det. 11” was also used on VFP-63's RF-8G Crusaders, VAW-121's E-1B Tracers and HC-2's UH-2B Seasprites.

I decided to also add a Trumpeter Douglas KA-3B Skywarrior so that I had to build 44 airplanes in total. The KA-3B was not a permanent part of the air wing but was temporarily flown in from the Oriskany. For airstrikes, the aircraft were fully armed, but not fully fueled so as not to overburden the catapults. Shortly after take-off they were topped up in the air by the KA-3B.

The Douglas EA-1F Skyraider mentioned on the kit box turned out to be the normal single seater A-1J. To build a four seater EA-1F I had to rebuild two of the kit supplied A-1J’s. Two Crusaders were also converted into the RF-8G photo explorer version giving them slightly thicker fuselages to provide for the photo cameras. I kept the A-4C Skyhawks as they were but fitted them with refueling probes made from 0.3 mm brass rod. During the EME event in Lingen in 2017 I bought some beautiful turned metal drop tanks from SSN Modellbau (for the connoisseurs: the so-called Aero-1D 300 gallon tank). These tanks could be found on many different American aircraft, such as the Skyhawks and the Skyraiders. Trying to glue those metal tanks to the 0.1mm wing pylons with CA glue is a good exercise in patience I can tell you.

The UH-2 Seasprites are exquisite and accurately depict the single-engined UH-2B version which served as a plane guard. This was quite different from the later SH-2G, which was equipped with two engines and was an anti-submarine helicopter. Gallery's instructions tell you to spray the helicopters blue, but that's not correct. The correct color for the Seasprites is FS16081 Engine Gray.

The Grumman E-1B’s (Tracer) also looked fine. Maarten Schönfeld wanted to borrow one to use it as a base to make a resin S-2 Tracker for his Karel Doorman build. Accurate as he is, Maarten noted that the shape of the dish antenna was too pointed and the tail surfaces were too large. Thus he decided to cast an improved Tracer in resin in addition to the Trackers. I decided to buy an extra copy from him so that the aircraft count was now up to 45.

Deel 2. Een Tracer een 3D geprinte tractor en bemanning

For the air wing I chose two decal sets from Starfighter Decals. The first one was set 350-II-01 containing Carrier Air Wing 10. Additionally I also bought set 350-34-100, which contains Carrier Air Wing 16 of the Oriskany. The latter set contained even more F-8 Crusaders from VF-111, more UH-2Bs and on top of that the KA-3B.
The Starfigher decals have a continuous decal film, so they have to be cut very precisely. However, they are very thin and quickly detach from the paper and with patience yield truly fantastic results.

Assembling and painting 45 planes is quite tedious work: on average they consist of 12 to 15 parts and receive about 12 decals apiece. And that’s without the aforementioned drop tanks. I usually build about 6 simultaneously, which takes me about three weeks. Some good advice: also build something else during that time…. After a few weeks you can no longer stand building 1/350 planes. As a distraction I prefer to build simple kits, such as submarines.

Deel 2. Skyhawks en een 3D geprinte tractor

 

Another big omission by Gallery Models was the total lack of tractors and forklifts, such as the large Tilly aircraft crane. Like airplanes, the yellow gear, as it is called, is an essential presence on the decks of aircraft carriers. By now 3D printing has come to fruition, so I ordered a set of tractors through Shapeways three years ago. The Tilly came from a USS Enterprise kit, on which a newer type of Tilly was present. At first I had put this Tilly on the Intrepid unaltered, but over time I became more and more annoyed by the crane part, which was a quite crude plastic part. Mind you, this part came from an almost 30 year old kit. At the EME event in 2018 I bought a PE set by Tom’s Modelworks for the old Heller 1/400 King George V battleship. It contained parts for the aircraft cranes which, with some careful measuring and cutting, I could adapt to make it suitable for the Tilly. Now the altered and correct Tilly crane could take its place behind the island again.

Deel 2. De Tilly met foto ets kraan

 

I found the tractors I had ordered from Shapeways a bit roughly printed and lacking in detail. Luckily I found another set of tractors on Shapeways specifically for the Intrepid, just before I threw in the towel. In addition to the tractors, this set also included fire trucks and a Tilly, without the crane section. This might come in handy in a later project. The tractors (Hough MD-3) looked fine, with a lot of detail on the wheels, the exhaust etc. As I see it 3D printing is evolving very quickly and could very well replace resin parts completely in the future. One of the tractors became a fire fighting vehicle, the rest I sprayed Orange Yellow with gray walking areas and some generic numbers from the decal stockpile. SSN Modellbau provided me with a PE set for the widely used small forklift trucks. Building this is again a huge test of patience…

DSC02341
         

 

Finishing off the build

After completion of the planes I placed them on the deck with wood glue. The positions of the 45 aircraft were determined using various photographs of the USS Intrepid and other Essex-class carriers as a reference. I wanted to show a quiet scene aboard the ship as it’s heading for its position at Yankee Station. Yankee Station was a location in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam which the aircraft carriers of the U.S. Navy used to initiate their air raids from. If you’d like to look it up, it is about 190 kilometers east of Đồng Hới, latitude 17° 30' North and longitude 108° 30' East.

In this scene almost all the planes are on deck, most likely to clean the hangars, with the ship just having been resupplied. The tractors are almost done parking the planes. On the starboard side of the main deck, crew members are busy collecting and transferring the supplies into the hangars using the forklifts.

DSC02295

 

DSC02295

 

After all the aircraft and vehicles had found their place, the final job was to install the crew figures. For the crew I used Eduard PE sets 17-503 and 17-515, Aircraft Carrier Figures. 320 crew figures in total. 17-515 is made in 3D, which means that each figure consists of 2 parts which must be glued together. Of course these figures are not really 3D, but the big advantage of these Eduard sets is that they are already pre painted in the right colors. Even the numbers for the plane captains have been added.

By positioning the crew figures in different postures and actually giving them something to do (every man on a flight deck has a specific task) their flat nature is less emphasized and you can breathe some life into the scene. A few men are gathered at the back of the flight deck, probably for a quick smoke. We are talking 1967, remember...

DSC02241

Final thoughts

 

With the Gallery Models kit a large and impressive model can be built out of the box, especially with the included very useful PE set. Earlier in this article I already praised the buildability. It was obvious that a lot of thought had gone into the design of the kit and that the developers made good use of the input from the modelling community. This is a highly detailed kit.

 

The downsides are for the modeller who has a mild form of AMS (Advanced Modeller’s Syndrome) wanting to build a realistic model. Point by point these downsides are:

● Only 18 aircraft, and not all types are covered
● The decals for the included planes are very generic and a curious mix of squadrons that had at some time been on board of the USS Intrepid
● No decals for the island
● No deck vehicles (“yellow gear”)
● No floater baskets.

 

With over 1,000 parts, this kit is not a weekend project or a project for inexperienced builders.

I've mentioned the Tetra Model Works PE set (set SE35006) in this article, which addresses the problem of the floater baskets. A beautiful and very complete set, but very expensive: € 150, -. Add to this the fact that I had to add about 30 aircraft through l'Arsenal and two decal sets via Starfighter Decals (together again € 90, - and that doesn’t even take into account the missing decals for the island). Taking this into account Gallery could have made even more of this already excellent kit in my opinion. Will they up their game with a USS Ticonderoga or a USS Hancock?

Finally, a special thanks goes to Maarten Schönfeld for helping me out with the research and printing of the decals and planes and to Jos Visser for taking the pictures accompanying this article.

Author:  Walter Sonderman

 

References:

- Essex-class Carriers, Warship design histories, Alan Raven, ISBN 9780870210211

- On Deck USS Lexington (CV-16), ISBN 089747449X

 

- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Essex-class_aircraft_carrier
- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Intrepid_(CV-11)

http://www.navsource.org/

 

DSC02233

DSC02233

 

DSC02233

DSC02233

DSC02233

DSC02233

DSC02233

 

DSC02233

 DSC02233

 

DSC02233

 

 DSC02233

 

This article of Walter Sonderman was originally published on this WWW.IPMS.NL website on September, 2019.

The article was translated by Axel Verheijen and published May 21, 2021 on this WWW.IPMS.NL website 

(c) Copyright, author Walter Sonderman and IPMS The Netherlands.