Judging from the comments seen on this website, most of us grew up during the
Cold War. It is likely that the first ships that caught our attention were some
of the warriors of that period. I know that my first ship model was an Aurora
Bainbridge, assembled with about a
quart of Testors tube glue outside in the driveway. An Aurora Enterprise,
with the pre-painted deck and beehive island, was not far behind.
So it is with some sense of Cold War nostalgia that I built the JAG 1/700 Long Beach. I think that the guys at JAG may have enjoyed creating this kit in the same spirit that I enjoyed building it. The casting is flawless, with one chunk oíresin dominating the build. The hull is accurate and the bottom absolutely flat. The superstructure, absent the chunky bridge itself, is cast as one piece. The detail is there: you can pick up with a light: wash hatches, fire fighting gear and life rings cast onto the superstructure. In fact, simply gluing the bridge piece onto the hull casting gives you the actual shape of the ship.
The rest of the building of this kit, however, provides many pleasant hours of work. The parts fit, the instructions are clear and the flash is manageable. Having recently started on a frustrating build of a Brand X kit, it was very nice to work here with one that, well, works.
The JAG kit is cast in light gray resin. I had no air bubbles. The detail parts are molded mostly on a sprue, like plastic kits, with other pieces such as the life raft bundles and radar mounts cast onto a flat piece of resin that needs to be sanded off. The parts may have had some mold release chemical on them so a good washing in dish soap is needed. The included photo etch is what JAG calls "ship-specific". You get the boat davits, some platforms, helicopter safety nets and mast pieces. If you wish to add ladders and railings these must be bought separately. A small decal sheet is included with warning lines for the helicopter flight deck area, flags and hull numbers for the whole class (a bit of a joke on my part since the "class" consisted of only one ship). The instructions are standard JAG with a full parts map, brief history and several exploded views showing the parts locations. The instructions have been re-done since the out-of-the-box review elsewhere on this site and are much improved.
SOME BUILDING TIPS
The main mast piece is a rod cast onto a sprue, very hard to separate and keep round, so consider replacing it with a piece of brass or plastic rod. The island should be assembled and painted separately, and glued on to the hull at the last. Once you get the mast installed (and rigged if you wish), it can be hard to work on the boat davits and other parts below the island if it is installed earlier in the build. For a fully realistic version, look elsewhere on the web (or at the library) for color photos of the deck. At different times the ship had a combination of deck surfaces, including some real wood on each side of the deck near the island. Getting the blend of colors helps keep the ship from becoming a solid color gray blob.
The decals responded well to "Mr. Mark Softener", which is of course a really stupid name for a modeling product. The decals are of the type where the whole sheet is one giant decal, so you will need to carefully cut each item from the main sheet. The missiles look cool on the rails if they are exactly parallel to one another and goofy when I did not line them up properly. Take care when placing them and check your work from the front, side and above. I suggest white glue, or the gel type, thicker super glue, both of which give you time to adjust the parts before the glue dries.
The bridge windows inset nicely, making it easy to black them out. You could paint them black and them bring out the gray frames with dry brushing or, as I did, use a tiny oil-based marker (mine is 0.05mm) from a well-stocked stationary store to color them in. The ink takes awhile (like hours) to dry, and will smear if you touch it, so perhaps do this step right before turning in for the night. My pen ink did not run with a heavy overcoat of Gunza Topcoat (why isn't it called "Mr. Topcoat"?), but try the marker on a piece of scrap with our choice of dull overcoat, as some may run.
A FEW THINGS TO WATCH FOR
The lines for the flight deck warning decals are etched into the deck. Youíll likely need to fill them. This casting decision is odd, in that JAG supplies the decals youíll need. My thought would be most modelers will use the decals (I did) and donít need the etched lines. The others who prefer to mask and paint lines also do not need the etched lines.
A second point regards the shipís boats. This 1960s Long Beach carries eight small boats. JAG gives you eight but four are generic boats that look a lot like something from Skywave IJN sets. Two are decent motor launches and two are open long boats right from Skywave's USN detail set. The latter exposes a pet peeve of mine: if a resin manufacturer is going to clone a Skywave part, at least fill in the (scale) gigantic mounting holes for us before you cast. Both boats have those scale-sized three feet deep holes of the clunky Skywave mounting pins on davits. Some may want to replace the boats; I mostly did.
WHO SHOULD BUY?
This is a fun kit to build, with a reasonable parts count and high quality casting, meaning you devote less time to ingesting carcinogenic resin dust and more time modeling. The kit builds up well just as it arrives, and can be the stage for as much extra detailing as you wish, including adding ladders and railings. Research materials are easily available; check out the web sites listed below for some free photos.
For someone with a little resin experience, this is a rewarding kit. In that only a little photo etch is needed (absent the ladders and rails), 1/350 modelers who hesitate to work in 1/700 would also likely find this a good project.
With a 1/720 scale Enterprise available from Revell and the rumor that JAG may be cooking up a Bainbridge in their lab, this Long Beach can be the start to an awesome diorama of the 1964 Operation Sea Orbit.
LONG BEACH ON THE WEB
Loren Perry's large scale version, the ultimate standard for models of this ship (scroll down the
For general photos of the Long Beach... http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ship/cgn-9.htm
More photos... http://www.usslongbeach-assoc.org/
Lots of photos-- a Long Beach Fan Site http://www.geocities.com/Pentagon/3235/
More photos, mostly later versions... http://184.108.40.206/military/systems/ship/cgn-9-gallery.htm
More photos, again, mostly later versions... http://www.warships1.com/UScgn09_LBeach_pics.htm