For years your 1:350 scale USS Enterprise CVN-65 has had to cruise under self-imposed limitations. She has been shackled by the constraints of fossil-fueled escorts. Now its time to break the chains and put the peddle to the metal for there is an escort for the Big E that matches her operationally unlimited range, USS Long Beach CGN-9. Commanders/Iron Shipwright has produced a one piece, full hull model of Long Beach in 1:350 scale.

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Originally, the design was to have been a frigate displacing under 8,000 tons but the USN had a nuclear power plant suitable for ships 9,000 tons and larger, so the design was greatly expanded in order to use the nuclear plant. In the history of the United States Navy only the Alaska Class Large Cruisers were longer than the Long Beach. Other cruiser classes have had a greater displacement than the 17,350 tons (full load) of the Long Beach but none of them carried their mass with the elegance of the long thin hull given to this design.

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Long Beach and CVN-65 share a number of ties. Each was the first of her type, the first nuclear powered surface escort and the first nuclear powered carrier. These were the only two ships designed to receive the SPS-32/33 billboard radar, which created a close family resemblance between the island of the Big E and the unique seven story blockhouse of the Long Beach. Since the radar needed a large surface area, both ships were designed with large squared superstructures to accommodate the radar.

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During the service life of the Long Beach, she appeared in at least four configurations. As commissioned in 1961 and throughout 1962, Long Beach did not have her SPS-32/33 fitted. Also, she did not have the two 5-Inch/38 gun mounts amidships. President Kennedy has been credited with insisting that a least this minimal gun armament be added to this large and expensive design. Since she did not have the 5-Inch guns, she also did not have the gun director towers with their Mk 56 directors. Her armament consisted of two twin Mk 10 Terrier SAM mounts forward, one twin Mk 12 Talos SAM mount aft, a ASROC ASW mount amidships and two three-tube Mk 32 ASW mounts, one on each side of the forward superstructure.

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By April 1963 Long Beach received the SPS-32/33 billboard radar, the two 5-Inch/38 gun mounts and the two Mk 56 gun directors on their towers located just forward of the gun mounts. For the next 16 years of her life, she cruised with this configuration. By 1979 for her mid-life refit, it was decided to change her capabilities with a change of weapons fit.

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The Talos SAM system was past its prime so it was landed and with the space and weight saved, two quad Harpoon SSM mounts were added aft. However, she still had her SPS-32/33 billboard array. Since the aft Talos target illuminators were no longer needed, they were landed and two Phalanx CIWS mounts added at their positions.

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By 1980 the billboard array was removed and Long Beach received SPS-48 and 49 radars. Her masts were changed and she received a lattice main mast in lieu of her original pylon and pole configuration. She subsequently received two quad deep strike Tomahawk mounts in boxy rectangular "Coffin" mounts. 

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The 1:350 scale USS Long Beach CGN-9 by Commanders/Iron Shipwright is a large model, measuring close to two feet in length. For such a large model, it is very easy to assemble. Other than the blockhouse, the long superstructure is part of the hull casting. Again, other than the blockhouse, it is simply a matter of attaching the various weapons mounts, illuminators, sensors, masts and other extraneous fittings. The Long Beach kit is mostly resin but also comes with a number of white metal fittings as well as three brass photo-etched detail frets.

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The model shown in these photographs is only partially assembled as a few of the resin parts, such as the main mast pylon, had not been cast and a few of the white metal parts such as gun barrels and the upper part of the two decker boat storage/davit assembly and masts had not yet been produced, when I did this partial assembly. The brass photo-etch was likewise unavailable at that time. In a telephone conversation with Ted Paris of Commanders last Tuesday (October 7), Ted mentioned that the Long Beach photo-etch had just arrived that day from the etchers and that later that night he would be finishing spinning the balance of the white metal parts. Even none of the brass parts are present and a few of the resin and white metal parts were not yet received, this partial build gives you a good idea of how the Commanders/Iron Shipwright Long Beach will look at completion. It still is a work in progress, as the additional fittings and brass need to be added, a boot top needs to be applied with an overall clean up/touch up waiting for the attachment of the rest of the parts. 

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Although the large size of this model is the first thing that strikes you, the most significant item of this modelís design is its flexibility and options. Commanders/Iron Shipwright has given you all of the parts to build the Long Beach in any configuration in her career. I chose to build her in her configuration from 1963 to 1979, with the big Talos mount with illuminators and SPS-32/33 billboard array on the four sides of the blockhouse. Although I really liked the lattice main mast added at her mid life refit, my decision as to which fit to build was simplified by the fact that the brass photo-etched lattice mast was not available when I started construction. If you acquire this kit, you wonít have it this easy. Since the parts for all the different configurations are now available, your biggest decision, other than whether to buy the kit, will be which configuration of Long Beach that you wish to model. That decision really turns on your personal taste and which fittings that you like best. 

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The USS Long Beach goes on sale today, October 10, 2003. However, unless you are in the Chicago, Illinois area this weekend (October 10 through 12), you wonít be able to reach Ted until Monday. Both Ted and Jon Warneke, who made the pattern, will be at the Nautical Research Guild convention in Chicago, this weekend. Ted said that they would have a number of the Long Beach kits available at the convention. If you are in the area, you will be able to look at their Long Beach in the flesh, so to speak and see how you like it. To paraphrase a slogan from a commercial from a hamburger chain, with the Commanders/Iron Shipwright USS Long Beach, you can build it your way.

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