After World War One a new type of warship began to evolve, the aircraft carrier. Developed by the Royal Navy during the war, Britain had a significant lead in knowledge of the development and operations of the new vessel. The three greatest remaining naval powers, all jumped into developing and testing this new fangled ship borne naval aviation, as Great Britain, the United States and Japan all developed newer carriers. The USN and IJN developed their carriers along remarkably similar lines in that they maximized aircraft quantity and striking force on their carriers and developed naval aviation as a new branch under the navy. Britain on the other hand squandered her early lead with some poor decisions. The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) became part of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and became the red headed stepchild of that organization. The FAA was strictly an after-thought and received very little recognition or support. Equally as catastrophic were the design qualifications for British naval aircraft. It was not recognized that they would have to go up against land aircraft so British naval aircraft designs were markedly inferior to those of the USN and IJN. However, what developed in all three of the major navies by the late 1930s was the big deck carrier, whose punch was carried by her air wing.
A look at the other major powers shows that little was done to further their naval aviation. France at least developed one carrier from an unfinished battleship. The Bearn was a start but seemed to end right there as the Marine National did not develop further designs. Unlike France, Italy didnít even develop a design until World War Two, when the Regia Marina belatedly saw the value of naval aviation Ė through the operations of the Royal Navy against them. At first Germany was totally excluded from naval aviation. The country could not afford to develop carries, even if they had wanted them. Finally, when the Kriegsmarine did develop a carrier, an air wing was still not forth coming because aircraft production still fell under the Luftwaffe, which set a very low priority to the development of naval aircraft. Russia was in even worse shape than Germany after World War One. Imperial Russia was gone and with the Russian Civil War many of the surviving warships were sabotaged or destroyed. When the Bolsheviks finally won, there wasnít much of a navy left, there was precious little industrial infrastructure left and funds were nonexistent. The Red Army received the lionís share of Soviet military funding, as the Soviet Union lacked the infrastructure and requisite funds to build large warships. The submarine and destroyer forces were built up as counters to a conventional navy as the Soviet equivalent to the "Ecole Jeune".
By the late 1930s the Soviet Union, through a series of harsh industrialization programs, finally did have the infrastructure, funds and will to create a new major warship navy. The will came from Joseph Stalin who wanted the glamour of battleships and battlecruisers for the new Soviet Navy. Very little thought was given to a carrier design for the new Soviet Navy. Several battleships and battlecruisers had already been laid down when Germany invaded in June 1941. These were for the most part damaged or destroyed on the slips and none were completed. After the war the Soviet Union had to undertake a huge industrial rebirth to repair and restore the countryís infrastructure from the devastation inflicted upon it during the war. By the 1950s Stalin was ready to again start construction of major warships for the Soviet Navy. Again battleships were ordered, although now missiles augmented their gunpower. The new major naval program died with Stalin in 1953, as the eventual successor, Nikolai Krushchev wanted smaller more technologically advanced warships for the new Soviet Navy. The Cold War had set in and the official doctrine of the Soviet State held that the aircraft carrier was a tool of imperialist powers. This certainly was not surprising as the Soviet Union had zero experience in building or operating carriers and they were clearly seen as the greatest strengths of the USN and RN.
However, once the carrier was branded as an imperialist tool, that sort of painted the Red Navy into a corner. How could the Soviet Navy develop ship borne naval aviation when the State had condemned the aircraft carrier? The answer came through the small Leningrad and Moskva helicopter carriers of the 1960s. Designed specifically for anti-submarine operations with helicopters only, it got the Sovietsí feet wet, so to speak, in operating numbers of aircraft off of a warship. Next came an expansion in capability with the Kiev Class. Still called a large anti-submarine ship, this class went further towards the big deck carrier for the Soviets. In addition to helicopters, it added fixed wing aircraft, in the form of YAK jump jets, to their capacity. However, this design was still part cruiser and very limited in the types of missions that it could undertake, because of the limitations of the aircraft. Finally, the Russian Navy developed a true big deck carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov. Although equipped with a ski jump beck at the bow, the Admiral Kuznetsov, also has an angled deck, elevators and other assets found in a true multi-mission capable aircraft carrier. Most of all, the greatest indication of the mission capability came from the diversity of airframes that can operate from Admiral Kuznetsov. The Kamanov helicopters and Yakolev Forger jump jets operated off the Kiev Class may have been limited designs, but clearly the excellent big Sukhoi Flanker, SU-27, and MiG-29 multi mission fighter have great versatility and multi-mission capabilities.
It took a long time for the Russian Navy to develop and build a true big deck carrier as symbolized by the Admiral Kuznetsov, but Trumpeter was lightning quick in developing a 1:350 scale model of the ship. The timing of the release of the Trumpeter Admiral Kuznetsov could have been handled better. It was released one month after Trumpeterís release of the USS Nimtz, and the Trumpeter Nimitz has over shadowed the Trumpeter Admiral Kuznetsov. However, make no mistake about it, the Trumpeter Admiral Kuznetsov is a very large kit, almost as big as the Trumpeter Nimitz. It is capable of being built into a very impressive reproduction of the first true Russian aircraft carrier but like the Nimitz, contains some parts and features in injected plastic, that are best duplicated by photo-etch. Just as the Kuznetsov kit has been over shadowed by the Nimitz kit, it seems as if Kuznetsov photo-etch has been on the back burner for first Nimitz photo-etch and now Lexington photo-etch. However, the drought is over as Loren Perry of Gold Medal Models has brought relief for the parched throats of want-to-be Admiral Kuznetsov modelers. The good Doctor Perry has the prescription that we need with the new GMM brass photo-etch set for the Trumpeter kit.
Sensor Arrays & Helicopter Parts
The GMM set of parts comes on one very large fret. As always Loren has been very liberal, using the word with the best possible connotations, in supplying the modeler with superb brass super-detail parts with a high mix of relief etching. As usual the fret contains a delightful mix of parts. Some are outright replacements for parts found in the kit, some are extra detail to add to existing plastic parts and some are extra detail to add where there is no plastic part in the kit. The sensor arrays for the Admiral Kuznetsov get a complete make over. Most of these finely done parts are replacements for thick, solid plastic parts found in the kit. Starting with the large Top Plate main radar, almost every system is replaced through this fret. The two plastic pieces of the Top Plate are replaced with six far more detailed brass pieces. The paired Strut Pairs are the next most prominent and each of these plastic arrays is replaced by five brass parts of far greater accuracy. Even smaller but still very noticeable are the detailed replacements for the Cross Sword radars and relief-etched replacements for the Palm Frond radars. There are supplementary parts for the CADS (close-in air defense) system radar used in conjunction with the part supplied plastic parts that greatly refine and detail that essential system. Likewise GMM provides many feed horns and additional supplemental parts for the large planed array Sky Watch system. With each array there is very little comparison between the kit supplied plastic part and the GMM supplied brass replacement part. Rather the parts are in marked contrast, as the Gold Medal Models brass parts are universally much finer and prototypical in appearance than the plastic parts in the box. This is not because Trumpeter was lazy in developing the kit. It is simply that injected plastic parts, as a process, can never match the fidelity of finely done brass parts, for delicate equipment such as radar arrays. Furthermore Gold Medal Models brass parts go far beyond being just "finely done" brass parts.
This fret also contains brass replacement parts for six of the Kamanov helicopters. There are a total of 12 rotor linkages, six sets of rotors with blades extended and six sets of rotors with blades in the stored position. Since each helicopter requires two linkages and two sets of rotors, either extended or stored, three helicopters can be modeled ready for flight with rotors extended and three more parked with rotors folded. As far as any other parts for the helicopters or any parts for the fixed wing aircraft, there are no other aircraft parts on the fret.
There are so many other very detailed parts to supplement the kit, that it is difficult to recount them all. Two of the most spectacular involve the shipís crest. This comes in two styles, old style and a somewhat simpler new style that modifies the arrangement of wings, star and anchor found on each crest. With Trumpeter, you get a solid plastic mast, which doesnít come close to replicating the fine open latticework of the actual mast and yards on the Admiral Kuznetsov. Brass photo-etch is the only adequate way to duplicate this feature and GMM does it to perfection. You may think about wind shield wipers on your automobile on a rainy day but warships need them even more, as wind driven spray can obscure vision through a shipís window even when its not raining. The crew of your Admiral Kuznetsov will be ready for anything the Barents Sea can throw at them because Gold Medal Models provides a vast array of individual wind shield wipers with blades for the kit. The large circular Cake Stand antenna at the forward edge of the island is really layered over with extra GMM brass frosting. There are a lot of extra parts for this prominent piece in the form of railing, feeder horn, DF loops and assorted antennae. Cable reels, assorted shaped and sized antennae, anemometers, boat detail, and catwalks are all found in profusion on this fret.
As wonderful as all of this replacement and supplemental detail is, there is another area in which Gold Metal Models provides replacement brass parts for existing plastic parts, that probably will create the greatest single difference in visual impact in your Kuznetsov. It is a simple safety precaution to rig safety netting to the sides of the flight deck. This is true with the Admiral Kuznetsov just as it is with the USS Nimitz. Gold Medal Models provides a full replacement set of brass safety netting. Through the delicacy, openness and airiness of the GMM safety nets, they actually look like delicate nets, rather than the solid slabs of plastic provided in the kit. There such a great impact on two counts: (1) the safety nets are very prevalent, there is a lot of it, (2) there is no comparison between the open brass nets from GMM and the solid slabs of plastic on the kit. In most cases, you will have to remove the safety nets from the plastic deck pieces but it is well worth the effort, as the final difference in appearance will be tremendous. A slightly different variation is found in the safety netting found on the elevators and GMM also provides replacements for these patterns.
If you have ever examined the railing used in modern Russian warship designs, you will have probably have noticed certain design differences that mark the railing as characteristically Russian. First is the number chains or bars. Russian railing is normally at least four or five "bars" compared to the three or two "bars" found in other navies. This is probably a factor of providing greater safety against the extremely harsh weather conditions found along the northern coast of Russia. Even in Russian Pacific, the access and area of operation is the northern Pacific, which can be very rough no matter what time of year. The only Russian warships that could routinely expect to operate in good weather would be those stationed in the Black Sea. A second characteristic of Russian railing is the inverted triangular shape of the end of the rail or wherever the rail crosses a deck fitting. I have never noticed this design feature with any other country and yet it is almost universal on Russian designs.
Gold Medal Models has clearly closely studied the uniquely Russian design of the railings to the Admiral Kuznetsov, as all of the design features appear on the GMM railing. Now you may consider it odd to praise railing but Russian railing is so very unique that its duplication in brass form demands to be praised. GMM has even duplicated some of the open chocks that appear at deck edge, on the railing supplied in this set. Another superb GMM feature is the inclusion of a template to locate points to drill for attachment of the stanchions of railing. You donít have to guess, Loren leads you through it all of the way.
The instructions to the Gold Medal Models 1:350 scale Admiral Kuznetsov are in typical GMM format. Most modelers are probably well aware of the GMM format by now, but for those that are not, it is a combination of text and drawings found in modules on a single, large back printed sheet. Get some good reading glasses because the text can be really small. However, the drawings and text always convey a good sense of the manner in which the parts connect to each other and to the ship. Through the well done multiple pictures with explanatory text it will be a rare event for the average modeler not to be able to follow GMM instructions.
For the Admiral Kuznetsov the assembly modules include on the front side instructions on: Top Plate Radar; Strut Pair Radar; Cross Sword Radar; Palm Frond Radar; CADS-1 Radar; Cake Stand Antenna; Mast-Yardarms; Cable Reels; Direction Finder (DF) Antennas; Additional Antennas; Sky Watch Radar; Helicopter details; Anemometers; Boat details and Island Antenna catwalks. The reverse side contains assembly modules on: Elevator details; Sponson railings; Side and Stern Railings; Island details; Aft Flight Deck Nets; Flight Deck Safety rails & nets; Starboard side final details and Flight Deck Final details.
Probably the best way to weigh and evaluate the detail and value added to your build of the Trumpeter Admiral Kuznetsov, with the addition of this set of brass photo-etch from Gold Metal Models, is by simply comparing the kit plastic part with the GMM brass part and contrasting the extraordinarily fine detail of GMM brass with the inherent limitations of injected plastic. Wherever you look, whatever piece you examine, the differences between the two are dramatic and all heavily in favor of Gold Medal Models. Of course in the final analysis, it is the modelerís decision whether to expend additional funds for brass photo-etch detail for a kit. However, since the Trumpeter Admiral Kuznetsov is such a large and comparatively expensive plastic kit, it is difficult for me to envision any modeler who would pass on this Gold Medal Model beauty.
If you want any further proof of the high value of the parts in this Gold Medal Model set, please look at the last photograph posted above. Call it the "Sunshine Test". Hold up a part of GMM Kuznetsov brass safety net alongside the same piece of safety net from the kit. What do you see? With the GMM part you see the friendly blue sky shining through the extraordinarily fine net pattern of the GMM part. With the kit provided net you may see a dull lighter smudge fitfully trying to make it through the opaque plastic of the solid net. This test could be repeated time and time again with any number of comparable parts between the GMM brass parts and the kit provided parts and the results would always be the same. What do you choose for the detail on your Admiral Kuznetsov?