Trumpeter USS Essex (CV-9)

1:350th Scale injected Plastic Kit
Reviewed by: John Sheridan

Essex Class CV:

The Essex Class of Aircraft Carriers was the follow-on to the successful Yorktown Class Carriers built in the mid 1930's. This new design was in response to the Navy's request for a Carrier that could handle more and heavier types of aircraft that were on the drawing boards. This class was divided into the two types: Long Hull and Short Hull variations.  The Short Hulled ships were numbers CV9-CV13, CV16-18, CV21, and CV31. The Long Hull Ships were CV14-CV15, CV19-CV20, and CV32-CV47

Most of the Long hulled ships improvements were internal to the ship such as redesigned Gasoline tanks and relocating the CIC under the Armored Deck. The most visible feature of the long hulled ships was that they had a slightly shorter flight deck and a clipper-like bow. This allow the ship to carry 2 40mm mounts on the bow then a single mount for increased AA protection.  26 Ships of this class were ordered by the Navy between 1940 and 1943 with 24 completed and commissioned (CV35 and CV46 cancelled).

The Essex class ships served during WWII in the Pacific Theater of Operations. After the war, most of the early hulls were placed into mothballs and carefully preserved.  All of the ships were re-activated for service during the Korean War with the exception of USS Franklin (CV13) and USS Bunker Hill (CV17). Various ships were modified under various programs to extend their service lives and to accommodate new technologies such as Jet Aircraft.  A few ships in the class did not undergo modifications and ended up being converted to ASW or Assault Ships in the late 1950s. The Last Essex Class Carrier to see service was the USS Lexington ( CV16) which was retired in 1991.

Recommended Reading


The Kit.

The Trumpeter Essex Class Aircraft Carrier kit is supposed to represent the lead ship of the class, USS Essex as she was commissioned in 1943. The trouble with this is that USS Essex did not have catapults installed on the flight deck till April 1944. USS Yorktown which was commissioned several months later, did have the exact configuration that this kit has. With this kit you should be able to model any of the short-hull Essex Carriers from 1943 till Mid 1944 without any modification to this kit.

Short-Hulled Essex Ships

CV9 USS Essex CV16 USS Lexington
CV10 USS Yorktown CV17 USS Bunker Hill
CV11 USS Intrepid CV18 USS Wasp
CV12 USS Hornet CV21 USS Boxer
CV13 USS Franklin CV31 USS Bon Homme Richard

The kit comes packaged in a sturdy Cardboard Box.  The box is so sturdy that my 3yr old daughter walked across the box without making a dent in it! Inside the box, you will find the ship placed in 3 compartments: 1 for the hull, 1 for the Superstructure parts, and 1 for the aircraft. Heavy cardboard walls divide the compartments and ensure the kit will not be damaged.

A Tree

B Tree

C Tree

D Tree

E Tree

F Tree
G Tree (2ea)

There are 6 trees (Labeled A through F) for the Superstructure, Island, and and various Bulkheads, Catwalks, and Platforms. There are 2 sets of "G" trees that contain the Guns., Rafts, Cranes, and various small detail parts All of these parts are molded in gray plastic. The molding for this kit is very crisp with no flash, sinkholes, warpage, or defects to be found. For a kit of this size, you would almost expect a defect-or-two, especially with such large pieces but the only problem I could see was the injection pin marks on the bottom of the lower full hull. These can be easily sanded smooth with some 300 grit sandpaper.

The Hull is packaged separately from the rest of the kit. The hull is divided into 2 pieces; upper and lower hull. The upper hull is molded in one piece so there is no seam to worry about filling and sanding. For the lower hull, the kit gives you an option for full-hull or waterline. Both parts of the lower hull are molded in a maroon-red color. The props, shafts, and rudder are molded in Gray plastic and can be found on the "G" trees. A Black colored base is included for those who wish to use it if you choose to display the full-hull version.

The kit does have a complete hanger deck interior for those of you who model the interior. All of the openings to the hanger deck are molded in the closed position so you will have to carve-away the openings should you choose to display the hanger deck.  The interior of the hanger deck is nicely done with lots of detail included on the bulkheads. Most of the doors and openings appear to be in the correct location. The roller doors include the cover at the top of each door and enhances the detail of the inside of each door; nice touch Trumpeter! The rest of the bulkheads attach to the hull at specific points so it would be difficult to mess up exactly where they are supposed to attach. I would still recommend a dry fit first just to make sure everything fits properly.

The Flight Deck is nicely molded and comes in 3 pieces. The detail on deck is beautifully done with fine lines representing the planks and expansion joints. The flight deck matches the plans contained in the "Anatomy of a Ship: The Aircraft Carrier Intrepid" by John Roberts.  The Bomb and Torpedo, and Ammunition  lifts are exactly where they should be located both fore and aft of the Island. There are no arresting wires engraved on the deck. You can easily locate where they should be because they are marked by blank spots on the edges of the deck. The forward part of the flight deck has a single hydraulic catapult located on the starboard side. This was common to most of the early ships of the Essex Class. Later in the war, most of the ships received a second catapult on the port side during refit. Hopefully, Trumpeter will include the port catapult when they release the Long Hull Essex kit and make the parts interchangeable. (Trumpeter, are you listening ?!!?? Hint..Hint..). The fore and aft aircraft elevators are molded separately from the deck so you can choose to model them in either the up or down position. If you mold the elevator in the down position, you will need to cut a hole in the Hanger Deck so the elevator is flush to the deck. Fortunately for us, Trumpeter did outline the elevator location on the hanger deck in order to simplify this task. Why they didn't just leave the hole open is a mystery to me, but it is a minor task to open it yourself with a sharp knife. 

The flight deck pieces are keyed so that you cannot accidentally reverse the forward and aft pieces. Unfortunately, the interlocks caused the parts not to fit very well together and made the flight deck deck bow on the ends. I would recommend removing the interlocks and flush-fit the parts together. Another interesting note is where they chose to split the decking. Instead of going for a major expansion joint, they opted to split the deck at 2 minor joints. This will not cause a seam problem in the finished model since they did split it at a spot where you would expect to find a seam anyways. Why they chose this point is sort of a mystery to me but at least they got it right.

The Gun Galleries located around the edge of the flight deck are molded separately. This will make it much easier to install photo-etch aftermarket parts to enhance the detail. A small defect is that the Quad 40mm gun tubs surrounding the deck edge do not have any bracing underneath them. This bracing is very noticeable in pictures of the gun tubs. Also, none of the 20mm and 40mm guns included with the kit come splinter shields. I'm sure the aftermarket photo-etch kits will correct both of these deficiencies which are minor to begin with. The single open and closed 5" guns are nicely rendered. The only thing wrong I could find wrong with them is that the lower twin 5" mount does not have a cupola for the mount captain. This cupola protected him from the blast of the superfiring 5" turret above him. This is only a minor omission and I'm sure it will be corrected with aftermarket parts.

The Island is well done and correctly represents a 1943 Essex Class Carrier.  During their 1944 refits, the forward most 40mm gun was deleted and more flag space was added to the Bridge Level.  The radars included with the kit are SK, SC-2 radars, and YE homing beacon. This was the common layout for this class of ship in 1943. As the war progressed, the radars changed drastically so you may want to have plenty of photos handy should you choose to model a later war Essex.

Dauntless SBD-3

TBM/TBF Avenger

F6F Hellcat


The model comes with 3 different types of aircraft. Included with the kit are 6ea Grumman F6F Hellcats, 6ea Dauntless SBD-3s Dive Bombers, and 6ea Grumman TBF/TBM Torpedo Bombers for a total of 18 aircraft. USS Yorktown carried in 1943 36 F6F's, 36 SBD's, and 18 TBF's for a total of 90 aircraft. Trumpeter sells extra aircraft in packages of 6 in each set. To display USS Yorktown with her full airgroup in 1943, you will need 5 more boxes of F6F's, 5 more boxes of SBD's, and 2 more Boxes of TBM/TBFs. to make the 90 total aircraft required. That's a lot of aircraft! Trumpeter also sells SB2C's Helldivers (6ea in a box) as a separate item should you wish to model a later Essex Class Carrier. I hope Trumpeter considers adding more aircraft to their line of kits including F6F-Ns Night Fighter Hellcats, F4U Corsairs, and F8F Bearcats. (Drool...Drool)

A 20 page assembly instructions is included with the kit. The instructions are simple diagrams showing the locations of where each part is supposed to go. There is very little text to go by but since the instructions are very clear, it is not really required. Also included is a fold-out full color painting guide of USS Essex in her 1943 MS21 paint scheme. Also shown is painting diagrams for different types of aircraft. The odd thing about the aircraft diagrams is they depict a SB2C Helldiver (not included in the kit) and a SBD painted in the ASW Atlantic scheme. As far as I can tell, no Essex Class CV ever carried operational aircraft painted in the Atlantic Gray & White Scheme. The kit does include Decals for both the ship and the aircraft included with the kit. If you wish to model any ship other than USS Essex, you will need to buy aftermarket decals since only the number "9" is included with the kit.

Final Notes.

Trumpeter has created an excellent rendition of a mid-war Essex Class Carrier in 1:350th scale. Although the model has a few minor faults and/or omissions in the kit (what kit is 100% flawless?) the good news is that none of the flaws are major and all of them are quite fixable with just a little amount of effort.  Instead of going for a "generic" Essex, Trumpeter took the smart route and picked a specific ship in a specific time frame and replicated it as close as possible.  For those who want to model a 1943 USS Yorktown you will find a perfect model without having to replace or rework any parts from the model (except for the flight deck number). Those of you who wish to take their model to a much higher level of detail than is provided in this or to make a late war Essex Class CV, you will need to purchase after-market parts. I'm sure the aftermarket parts are already in the pipeline to allow you to model ANY Essex Class CV at any time during WWII.  I think Trumpeter should be congratulated for bringing us modelers a much desired and excellent shipmodel in 1:350th scale.

Now Trumpeter, bring us the long-hulled Essex Class CV's !

The Trumpeter Essex is available from Chris Decker at Trident Hobbies, along with everything else that the naval modeler might need.

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