by: Mark R. Smith [ ]
In this inbox style review, we take a closer look at Dragon Models Limited next Essex class carrier release, the U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) Essex-class Aircraft Carrier, Korean War, in 1/700 scale plastic injection mold.
Dragonís U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard (CV-31). is modeled after the U.S. Navyís 27,100-ton Essex-class aircraft carrier, commissioned in 1944. This kit is vastly different to any previously released Essex-class carriers, as it also includes fighters for the Korean War era, including new toolings of the F9F-2 and AD attack jet aircraft, as well as the veteran F4U-F Corsair. Also included in the airwing is an HO3S Dragonfly helicopter.
There are many other features of this new kit, such as either a full hull or waterline version can be built, modelers choice of flight decks, ie. an accurately shaped and patterned opaque deck, or a very cool transparent flight deck to show off the interior hangar deck details and airwing. The flight deck and deck-edge elevators can be raised or lowered, a newly tooled, slide molded bridge superstructure, optional photo-etch enhancements, and a new Cartograf decal make for a very accurate as well as a fine looking subject. Also included in the deal are a very sweet little tug boat, and Moto-Tug towing tractors. We'll discuss these kit features more in the coming paragraphs.
USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31, later CVA-31), 1944-1992
USS Bon Homme Richard, a 27,100-ton Essex class aircraft carrier, was built at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York. Commissioned in November 1944, she went to the Pacific in March 1945 and in June joined the fast carriers in the combat zone and took part in the final raids on Japan.
With the end of hostilities in mid-August, Bon Homme Richard continued operations off Japan until September, when she returned to the United States. "Magic Carpet" personnel transportation service occupied her into 1946. She was thereafter generally inactive until decommissioning at Seattle, Washington, in January 1947.
The outbreak of the Korean War in late June 1950 called Bon Homme Richard back to active duty. She recommissioned in January 1951 and deployed to the Western Pacific that May, launching her planes against enemy targets in Korea until the deployment ended late in the year. A second combat tour followed in May-December 1952, during which she was redesignated CVA-31. The carrier decommissioned in May 1953 to undergo a major conversion to equip her to operate high-performance jet aircraft.
The Box, and what's inside. . .
When I first received this kit, I immediately thought to myself, "an awfully big box for a 1/700 scale model kit, even for a carrier"...measuring in at 20"x7"x3", the kit demonstrates an immediate heft. Cracking open the seal, the reason for the large box size was obvious...there wasn't room for one more sprue (or even a decal sheet!) in the box, and at 530 parts, this has got to be one of the most comprehensive carrier kits in 1/700 scale in todays ship kit market! (plastic, injection mold)
Inside the medium weight, sturdy, seperate lidded style box, we find twelve seperate sealed plastic bags, each one holding a different sprue or sprue combinations, and one instruction sheet. At initial examination, all parts look clean, with good detail, very crisp molding, and typical Dragon quality. We will look a bit closer at these parts now, to see if our initial exam holds true!
Bonne Homme Richards' hull parts will begin the discussion, with six major parts (five actually, one is an option) to the the construction in this DML kit: the upper (or main) and lower hull, forecastle, hangar deck, and the optional clear or opaque flight deck. The modeler will also have the choice of either a full hull, or waterline build, so these decisions will have to be made early on, and will impact the further construction thereof.
Sprue Y is the kits lower hull, if the decision has been made to build her as a full hulled ship. Molded very clean and nicely, with center-line keel and bilge keels molded as well. Screw shaft swells, along with all support pin marks for the prop shaft supports, have been molded in, for easy placement.
Sprue Z is the ships upper or main hull section, and in this case, is a very nice piece of workmanship. Designed very sturdily, with main support braces molded in (there is no waterline baseplate provided, so this is a nice built-in feature), as well as a wide variety of other details that have been cast on this piece...ventilator grills, piping strakes, bilge ports, and the most prominent (and impressive) is the assorted open hangar door-ways (oh, thank you DML!) BUT, she's not perfect mates...starboard side forward, there is a small support sponson molded in to the hull, which was to support the outside edge of the hangar catapult...Bon Homme Richard did not receive one, so in essence, would be a total innacuracy if left on the hull. In all reality, it's just a tiny nub of plastic, which can be easily removed and sanded smooth. Dry fit of the upper and lower hull was perfect, although the seam will have to be smoothed if building a full hull.
Moving on to the next key elements in this kits hull construction, Sprue A, which holds both the hangar deck, and seperate forcastle. First, the hangar deck...mates, I must say, that this piece has been molded with an impressive amount of detail, including deck pattern, stern fittings, and a very cool solid island base, starboard side...all of this fine detail will make the modelers deck decision a bit more difficult, for sure! The forecastle has been nicely done as well, with the standard assortment of chocks (closed), forward Bofors gun bases, anchor chain plates and (sigh) molded anchor chains.
Finally, the crucial decision has to be made, with the flight decks...Sprue(s) B hold both the opaque flight deck, and the optional clear flight deck, and quite honestly, the decision to use either will be tough (heck, buy another kit and build 'em both!). First, the standard opaque flight deck, holds an extreme amount of detail, quite intricate, and also, accurate. Deck planking appears to be true, along with tie-down strips (complete with individual tie down positions) and two flight deck catapults that represent the final arrangement adopted for the class.
On the other hand, though, we have the clear flight deck...although this part is cast smooth and crystal clear, this option will give the modeler an opportunity to make a super detailed build and showcase the hangar deck operations below...decisions, decisions!
The next two larger sprues in the kit, Sprues C and D, hold most of the smaller kit parts for both hull construction, and the flight deck.including galleries (some with molded in carley floats...fantastic detail!), flat elevators, gun mounts, cranes, and most importantly, all of the optional rolling hangar doors (in various sizes). The propulsion system components such as screws, shafts, and supports are here, as is the rudder. All parts are molded clean, crisp, with a great deal of attention paid to the minute details.
The next group of sprues that we will talk about will be the Island sprues, which consist of sprues E, G, L, and M, respectively. Sprue L is the diamond that shines in this grouping, as it is a slide molded Essex class sprue, that holds the main super-structure, the stack, stern bulk-head, and the four 5/38 gun tubs.
All of these parts host extremely fine details, especially the gun tubs, in which a quick comparison to the "old mold" tubs that are still included (but in a different area, sprue K, more on this in a bit!) will demonstrate exactly what I'm expressing here...Sprues E and M hold the balance of the Island decks and platforms, which, I must mention, also have terrific underside details (support beams), as well as the stack cap, and tripod mast. Sprue G contains the balance of the ships galleries (and as earlier, with those very cool strapped in carley floats molded on the undersides!) as well as the 40mm gun tubs. There are some parts on these four sprues that will not be used for this build, as they were also designed for the other Essex class vessels.
The two K Sprues are the old familiar generic armament sprues in many DML kits, containing most of the vessels armaments, including the 5in./38 mounts mentioned earlier in regards to the L sprue. These sprues also contain a multitude of the builds smaller fittings, including the ships boats, signal lamps, assorted radar, directors, and more carley floats. Again, there will be some leftover parts on these two sprues for the parts box when the build is completed.
The next grouping of small sprues, M, N, and P, were originally produced for DML's USS Hancock, but most of these parts can be used on the Bon Homme too...only a few parts are used from Sprue M, mostly assorted small gun mounts and bases. The twin N Sprues contain the parts to construct two tug boats (sweet bonus!), with seperate upper deck, deck house/bridge, bits, and masts...these little tugs are molded very nice and clear, can be finished either as Navy or civilian, and will make a very nice complement to a waterline dio if desired (although the bottom half of the tug's hulls will need to be sanded flat). Twin Sprue P's hold all necessary parts for the vessels twin Oerlikon guns, complete with sheilds...note though, these guns would have only been installed on the 1951 Korean tour, and on the 1952 tour, none of these guns were present on the galleries.
Photo-etch Upgrades and Enhancements
Not one, but two brass photo-etch upgrade frets are included with this kit (ala "Premium Edition" style), although one is a very small one, albeit very important, for the Korean war radar fit. The other, more larger fret, is the same in all five of DML's Essex class kits, and provides more accurate, as well as better looking, alternative replacements for some of the molded plastic, original kit parts. Flight deck antennae, various radars, a complete set of elevator support angle braces, are included, as well as 30 1/700 scale crew-members, in various duty positions. All etchings are very clean and clear, and will make a fantastic accuracy upgrade, as well as an overall look enhancement of the final build. Keep in mind, though, it is the modelers choice to use these parts or not, as the kit does include all necessary molded plastic parts.
Cartograf, and Instructions. . .
The decal sheet provided is a wonderful set of accurate markings, printed by Cartograf, Italy, and includes markings for the airwing, as well. Colors are vibrant, with clear registration of all markings.
The enclosed instruction sheet is done in typical DML style, a one page, folded in three, making a six paged booklet, drawn clear, with good construction sequence, with PE replacements labeled along the way. The Bon Homme's Korean War era paint scheme is provided in Model master, Gunze Aqueous Hobby, and Gunze Mr. Color paint numbers, for both the vessel and the complete airwing.
The Airwing. . .
I saved the best for last, mates, as this airwing has got to be one of the finest looking sets of 1/700 craft on the market.
Dragon has included a total of twelve aircraft (although rumors are that seperate aircraft sets are on the horizon!), two each of six different types of craft. Four of these six have one each of a folded wing craft and an extended wing craft, for a distinct variation...included are two F9F-8 Cougars, with extended wings, (although these swept wing versions were not used in the Korean War), two Grumman F9F-2 Panthers, one with extended wings, and one without, two F2H Banshees, again, one with, one without folded wings, two Dragonfly choppers (very cool!), two F4U Corsairs, and two AD Skyraiders, both with one folded wing style, and one without.
Molded in crystal clear styrene, for the sole reason of having a sweet, clear canopy on the finished subject, carry an enormous amount of detail for such tiny injections...panel lines and elevators are clearly and cleanly done, as well as quite accurate in all aspects. Very tiny and quite delicate looking, seperate landing gear and props(where applicable) are provided as well, for each of the craft.
But look, what's that?....why, that doesn't look like part of an airwing...hey, that looks like a boat...and tow machines...why it is! Also included, in clear plastic again, is a number of new molds for the Bon Homme, such as enclosed bridges (YES!!), highly detailed ships boats, assorted radars, and some very nice scale tow motors...well done, DML!
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American & British Aircraft Carrier Development 1919-1941, 1999, by Thomas Hone, Norman Friedman & Mark Mandeles
The Essex Aircraft Carriers, 1996, by Andrew Faltum
Essex-Class Carriers, 1988, by Alan Raven;