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Building the Flagship Models
1/35th Scale
Close-in Weapons System (CIWS)
Rusty White
Flagship Models, Inc.

Photo 4c.jpg (11946 bytes)Naval weapons fascinate me. And the Close-In Weapon System or CIWS (pronounced "see-wiz") is among the most unique of the many special purpose weapons designed since WW2. Operating autonomously of other shipboard weapon systems, CIWS locks on incoming targets using its own radar, evaluates the threat and then destroys the cruise missile or aircraft. Firing at a rate of 4,500 rounds per minute, the CIWS saturates the target with depleted uranium 20mm shells.  It is the last line of defense for naval warships and is extremely effective in that roll.

I designed the CIWS kit so this article is not a review. I'll leave judgements about the kit's quality to others. Rather, this is a blow-by-blow account of my build-up of the test kit. Three years ago I scratchbuilt a 1/32nd scale Close-In Weapon System and it placed second at the IPMS Nationals. After being featured in FSM's Modelers' Gallery I received a lot of mail wanting to know where I got it.  I repeatedly explained that it was a one-time scratch built project. After a couple of months I thought all this had died down. Not so. Soon I was getting requests for the drawings and photographs used in building the model. To this day, I still receive inquiries about that model. I finally sold it for a fair sum to a fellow who just could not live without it. And I vowed that someday I would build another CIWS and keep it for myself.

About a year ago, while designing the 1/350th USS Texas photo etch for Viking Models, I suggested production of a CIWS kit. Both owners thought it would be a good seller and encouraged me to produce a master pattern. When it came time to hand over the bill for my efforts, the Viking people asked if I wanted to trade for casting services. This was the opportunity I had been looking for. With the availability of casting I could build another CIWS master and sell it under the Flagship name. I already had many photos, so making drawings would be easy. There were only two changes made to the new CIWS pattern. The gun would be shrunk to 1/35th scale. This made the kit a bit smaller and cut the cost of production, thus keeping the retail price down.  It also put the kit in the "diorama" scale popular with armour modelers. The other change involved creating the latest CIWS version. The only noticeable differences from earlier versions were the additions of a roller ring at the front of the barrel and stabilizing braces due to the higher rate of fire.  

perry9.jpg (31476 bytes)Photos of the latest CIWs version were hard to find. I tried the Navy without  success.  Internet friends started sending photos from their collections showing this later version.  This was the last piece of the puzzle needed to start building the masters. I especially want to thank Phillip Toy and everyone who generously emailed photos from their private collections to make this kit possible. Armed with good photos I produced a complete set of CIWS scale drawings using a CAD program. The rest as they say, is history. Masters were assembled, photo etched designed, instructions printed, box art designed and we were ready to go into production. However, I first had to assemble a "test shot" to check for fit and correct any problems. So Viking cast the parts and construction began.

After looking over all the parts, it became apparent that the kit would best be built in sub-assemblies. (1) The "dome" included the white protective covering of the radar and it's electrical components. (2) The "gun" assembly includes the 20-mm Gatling gun, ammunition drum, gun box, bullet tracks, gun mounts and barrel bracing. (3) The "base" includes the gun platform, electronics base, electronics box and electronics cabinet. (4) The 2 "pillars" include PE and brass wire.

After gluing the gun barrels and gun mechanism together, I carefully filed the metal gun mounts to insure the gun barrels would be dead center and level in the gun housing box. This is very important. If the gun isn't centered in the box, Photo1c.jpg (10935 bytes)the bracing will not fit properly.  I painted the inside of both box halves, added a wash and dry-brushed the parts to bring out the detail.  The gun was painted Testors Gun Metal and dry-brushed with silver.  The box was then assembled making certain the barrels sat dead center from the front and level from the sides. The trickiest part of this kit is installing the resin cast ammunition tracks. I found it best to completely paint the tracks, gun and box housing before performing the tricky installation step. A very important thing to remember about the gun housing box is don't remove the round pour marks. Sand them down until about 1/8" remains. Since this model is fully poseable, these round plugs allow the modeler to elevate the gun if desired.  They also attach the box to the pillars. After my gun assembly was finished, I noticed that the track going from the gun to the rear of the ammunition drum shouldn't have any slugs in the shells. This is the return track. Any shells here would have been fired already. So sand down the slugs on one of the tracks.  

The casting process produced paper-thin flash between the slugs and shells on the tracks.  This would be a nightmare to remove from between all those shells and slugs! The fix was simple. Using 100 grit sandpaper on a flat surface, I sanded the backside of the tracks until the flash was nearly gone. It was then a matter of using a toothbrush to clean the area between the shells and slugs; then re-sanding with 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper to smooth it out. 

Photo2c.jpg (8523 bytes)The ammo tracks were painted using Testors Gunship Gray and dry-brushed with a slightly lighter shade to bring out the tiny details. The shells were painted Testors Brass and the uranium-depleted shells were painted Haze Gray. A good mixture for Haze Gray is to mix two parts Testors Medium Gray with one part Testors Camouflage Gray. Once the ammo drum was installed, it was time to install the dreaded ammunition tracks. Until I tried it myself, I wasn't sure resin ammo tracks would work. After all if I couldn't bend these parts without breaking them, I certainly wouldn't expect anyone else to. I feared they might have to be cast in metal. Even though the resin tracks were thin they were surprisingly sturdy. I dipped a track in hot water for a minute to soften the resin.  After removing it from the water, I quickly bent it in a tight spiral resembling the shape needed on the front track. It took several bends to get it just right but it worked like a dream. The track was still flexible enough to be glued at the front and bent to meet the gun through the box. The final step was to add the bracing to the gun barrel. The gun assembly was set aside for the final assembly.

Photo 5c.jpg (13905 bytes)THE PILLARS
Using the brass wire supplied with the kit, I affixed the grab bars to the pillar access doors. To insure a good bond, I drilled small holes to anchor the bars and super glued them into place. The photo etched pillar steps were folded and bent to shape. Make certain the steps are evenly spaced up the pillar. Also, it's important to make certain the first step is staggered as shown in the photo. The pillars were painted as described above with a chocolate brown wash to pop out the detail and give a slightly dirty appearance.

Photo 3c.jpg (7947 bytes)THE DOME
The metal dome on the CIWS houses the surface-scanning radar. The delicate photo etched parts attached to the dome made it difficult to handle. I drilled a hole in the base and inserted a piece of sprue to make handling a bit easier. I first added the PE base ring and followed up with the PE pressure handles. The steps are arranged like stairs traveling around the dome. They were bent to shape and applied using a piece of masking tape wrapped spirally from top to bottom. Take care to evenly space the steps identically on both sides. The dome was painted Testors Camouflage Gray and weathered as described above. This really helped bring out the base ring detail.


Photo 7c.jpg (9884 bytes)The base has most of the kit's cast metal parts. The access doors are adorned with cast metal pressure handles.  These handles tighten when they are turned to 90 degrees. All my photos indicate that most of the handles were turned the entire 90 degress, leaving them at different angles.  I duplicate this on my model and I feel it adds a little more visual interest. Once the metal parts are on the base, the electronics cabinet can be glued to the back of the model. The model depicted here has the electronics cabinet located on the back as on a Perry class frigate. This arrangement changes from class to class. For example, aircraft carriers have them on large mounts with the electronics cabinet located elsewhere for example.  The gun mount was added to the top of the base. I painted the entire base Haze Gray and weathered to match the other components. 

It was now time to put together the sub-assemblies. The pillars must be dead center on the gun mount just far enough apart to allow the gun housing box to fit between them. I test fitted the pillars and the gun box several times to
make sure I had good alignment. I then drew a couple of pencil lines to show me where the base of the pillars was to be attached to the gun mount. I glued one pillar in place and let it set well. I inserted the plug on the side of the box into the hole on the pillar and glued the other pillar in place. Once dry, the gun was poseable in any position. The Phalanx CIWS can rotate as high as 60 degrees if you wish to expose the ammunition tracks. I chose to only slightly elevate my model just to add a little interest. The marking on the CIWS vary greatly from none to eight or ten. I decided to leave the model free of decals. I sprayed the entire model with Testors Flat coat to eliminate all the shiny super glue marks. I later decided to add a base to my model along with the red warning stripe around the perimeter. It adds quite a bit to the overall appeal.

I wanted to make a line of unique kits produced by no one else. I'm very happy with the CIWS and think it's a good start.

For more information contact:

Flagship Models
2204 Summer Way Ln
Edmond, OK 73013

Phone/FAX: (405) 330-6525

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CIWS photo-etched brass
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