I am a big fan of amphibs- I like the possibilities of different deck layouts
and the chance to add vehicles and armor to show off a real working ship.
We are spoiled for choice in 1/700 recently, with several new amphibs from JAG, the Essex from Revell-Germany, the Tarawa and clones from DML and others. It is especially rich now as regards the Newport class, with both Modelwerks and JAG having 1/700 kits on the market. I've built both versions so while this review will focus primarily on the JAG kit (there is a review on SteelNavy of the Modelwerks kit), I'll highlight a few of the differences.
As with the other JAG kits I have built, the hull is dead flat and cleanly cast. I filled one tiny air bubble only because I am anal retentive; you could otherwise pull the hull out of the tube and start building. Most parts are cast on sprues, with a few cast on a flat piece of resin. The latter parts are made free by sanding off the resin "base" while the former are gently cut off the sprue similar to the way you free parts in an injection molded kit.
The instructions are also consistent with other JAG offerings, giving you a parts map and line drawing of the ship on one side, and an exploded, two-view (Port & Starboard) assembly drawing on the other. A nice PE sheet comes with the kit, and includes enough railings for a finished ship. Special "slanted" railings are included for the bow extension arms. PE radar parts and parts to construct the landing craft davits and cradles complete the set. The PE is brass, which I prefer to stainless steel, as it is easier to cut and fold.
Assembly is very straightforward. You should watch carefully the placement of the life raft storage bins and the landing craft, as they need to both fit into a small space on the port side. I suggest dry fitting the landing craft and then deciding about the bins, as they are very hard to even see behind the boats.
Watch the gun tub walls as well, as they are very thin, and look great, but like properly curved, thin members of the opposite sex, they can be dangerous. Before I get too far into that analogy, the point is that the walls are thin and subject to breakage. To get around that, plus to simplify painting the deck, I sliced the tub walls off, painted them and the deck separately, and then reinstalled them.
The helicopters and 'yellow gear' are all from WEM, with the exception of the one deck forklift that comes with the kit. The LTVPs are from JAG, but are not supplied with this kit. They are however included in JAG's Raleigh kit.
Who should buy this kit?
With a low parts count, simple paint scheme and straightforward instructions, the JAG kit is suitable for a beginning resin project. The only caveat would be that some experience with PE would be helpful if this was indeed your first resin project.
JAG v. Modelwerks
There are a few things that differ between the JAG kit and the Modelwerks kit. Modelwerks comes with separate extension arms at the bow, vehicle ramp, a separate bow door and two extra
pontoons, so if you are building a diorama, that may matter. The JAG kit has both the arms, and the bow doors molded as part of the hull, so if you are not building a diorama that means fewer parts to clean and fewer seams to look after.
The JAG kit comes with railings, Modelwerks does not. The Modelwerks does not include PE, instead using laser-cut Strathmore board (cardboard). While an argument can be made that neither material is in-scale, I prefer the PE as thinner and more familiar. That said, the "blades in motion" effect that Modelwerks gets with the Strathmore is pretty cool.
Casting quality was similar in both kits, with the JAG hull being a bit smoother and flatter on the bottom. The JAG kit includes decals for the helicopter deck markings, while Modelwerks gives you a self-adhesive mask. You can apply the "negative" mask and spray paint the markings in white, or apply the "positive" mask as the lines themselves. It is a bit hard to explain, but if you have ever used a pre-cut canopy mask when building model aircraft you know what this means.
JAG gives you four landing craft, Modelwerks two landing craft and three ship's boats. Modelwerks gives you the bollards as separate parts, while JAG casts them on the ship. Modelwerks' version is good because you can paint them separate and glue them sharp and clean on the deck, while JAG's makes for a simpler and faster build. Modelwerks luckily supplied lots of extras, which was good, as many, many of the tiny parts were eaten by the Carpet Monster under my work area.