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Iwo Jima

Gallery Models 1/350 USS Iwo Jima LHD 7 Kit First Look

by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2011 Manufacturer Gallery Models
Subject USS Iwo Jima LHD 7 Scale 1/350
Kit Number 64002 Primary Media Styrene / Photo-Etch
Pros First kit of this subject in this scale; very nice detailing throughout Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $259.95

First Look

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The USS Iwo Jima is the seventh member of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ships designed to serve as the tactical hub at sea for Marine Corps operations ashore. Designated as LHD 7 (Landing Helicopter Dock), the Wasp-class replaces the Tarawa-class LHA series and is distinguishable by the absence of sponsons on the bow and a full-width flight deck instead. The Wasp-class is over 20 feet longer than the Tarawa-class to better accommodate the LCAC in its well deck.

Combining the functionality of multiple specialty ships of the past, the LHD can embark three Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) or three Landing Craft Utility (LCU) as well as combinations with other smaller amphibious craft all in its spacious well deck. The LHD can lower itself in the water to flood the well deck and allow amphibious craft to embark or dock inside the well deck through a ramp-covered opening in the stern, then raise itself back up to put the well deck several feet above sea level.

The flight deck can accommodate a wide range of US Marine Corps aircraft as well as Navy rotary wing aircraft including the famous AV-8B Harrier, MV-22 Osprey, CH-53 Sea Stallion, CH-47 Sea Knight, UH-1N Twin Huey, and the AH-1W Cobra. Like any aircraft carrier, the LHD as a large hangar below the flight deck and elevators to move aircraft between the flight deck and the hangar deck.

In addition to its aircraft and amphibious craft capabilities, the LHD can embark with up to 2,200 Marines in addition to the Navy officers and enlisted personnel that crew the LHD itself. The LHD also houses a 600 bed hospital. The ships that accompany the LHD at sea provide the supplies from food to fuel and armaments needed to address a wide range of contingency operations. To put the USS Iwo Jima into perspective, the LHD 7 is 844 feet long, 110 feet wide, and displaces over 40,000 tons. The previous USS Iwo Jima, the LPH 2, was 592 feet long, 84 feet wide, and displaced over 18,000 tons and was the first ship to be designed from the keel up as an amphibious assault ship. The LHD 7 continues that tradition with more capabilities than its predecessor.

I remember seeing the test build-up of the Gallery Models' 1/350 USS Wap at the iHobbyExpo show two years ago and was impressed with the detail of the model. At 1/350 scale, it is roughly the same size as Trumpeter's Essex-class aircraft carriers, but the modern Iwo Jima has a much cleaner exterior than its distant cousins. Looking a the model, it appeared to be a simple build as it shouldn't have much there, right? Wrong! The USS Wasp features a load of details topside as well as below decks.

Well Gallery Models has returned a year later with the USS Iwo Jima LHD 7 and we were honored with the chance to get the first look at it before its formal release next month. Once again, this kit is a joint venture between Gallery Models (MRC), Trumpeter, and Revell/Germany and once again you'll see this same kit in their respective manufacturers' boxes.

Is tihs the same kit as the USS Wasp with new decals? Definitely not. The folks at MRC are quite proud of the tooling updates that were performed to reflect not only the differences between the LHD 1 and LHD 7, but to also capture more of the topside antenna details of a contemporary amphib where the USS Wasp kit reflected more of how the ship was initially fitted after commissioning. Naturally many of the parts are common between the two ships, but Gallery Models did ensure that the unique details of the Iwo Jima were captured in this kit.

Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on 29 parts trees plus 24 trees of clear styrene parts and three frets of photo-etched parts. According to the specs, there are 1400 parts in this kit. This is roughly 450 more parts than the original USS Wasp.

If you've built Trumpeter kits, you know that they can get details into places that are difficult to see after assembly, but you know they are there. To some extent, the same is true with this release. For example, construction starts with the well deck and there is some nice detailing in here that will really pop with the right combination of painting and weathering. When this well deck is completed, the only real way to see any of this is through the open ramp at rear of the hull with a flashlight. Above the well deck is the hangar deck which can also house whatever vehicles are embarked for that cruise. The kit even has the ramp to move vehicles down to the well deck for embarkation. You can see into the hangar spaces through the elevator portals on either side of the ship.

The flight deck is next and the catwalks that run either side of the flight deck that also serve as stowage for emergency rafts, antennas, and defense positions.

Next comes the superstructure which looks simple, but you can see in the instructions just how much detail goes into building up this assembly. The kit provides a nice array of radars, CIWS mounts, SATCOM antennas, and even a Link 16 antenna. This release captures the subtle differences of the LHD 7 complete with the correct phased array volume search radar that wasn't even fitted to the LHD 6. Good job Gallery Models for getting these details right!

The kit provides three frets of photo-etched parts, two for the ships railings that round out assembly of the basic ship, plas a third for the radars, antennas, and other details.

Next comes the aircraft, flight deck vehicles, landing craft, and a sampling of combat vehicles. These all include:

Flight Deck Vehicles

  • 2 x Tilly cranes
  • 2 x large fork lifts
  • 2 x small fork lifts
  • 10 x deck vehicles including tow, fire, and service types
  • 2 x service trailers

Combat Vehicles

  • 2 x M1A1 Abrams
  • 2 x M60A3
  • 2 x AAV-7
  • 2 x M1097 Humvee Shelter Carriers
  • 2 x M1114 Humvees
  • 2 x M198 towed artillery
  • 2 x LAV-25
  • 2 x MTVR trucks

Landing Craft

  • 2 x LCAC
  • 2 x LCU

Aircraft

  • 2 x AH-1W Cobra
  • 2 x AV-8B Harrier II
  • 4 x CH-46E Sea Knight
  • 4 x MV-22B Osprey
  • 4 x CH-53E Sea Stallion
  • 2 x SH-60 Seahawk

Note that last entry is a little odd since you normally don't embark the Seahawk on the LHD though they can operate safely should the need arise. This was the same air wing and vehicle compliment as the USS Wasp. What's still missing is the UH-1N Twin Huey. I'm sure these will turn up in the aftermarket eventually.

What's nice about these aircraft is that they're molded in clear (hence all of the clear parts) which means you can paint them overall and call it a day, or you can mask the windows and paint the airframes black and then the appropriate grey to create the illusion of interiors. In the case of the helicopters, the rotor blades are provided in both flight-ready and folded positions.

This kit comes with three sheets of decals. One large sheet contains most of the deck, hull and superstructure markings though one of the smaller sheets has the colorful awards that have been bestowed on the Iwo Jima and her crew. The other sheet contains markings for the various aircraft and landing craft. These aren't shown in this review as this kit is a pre-release sample that had some notes written on the sheets.

The USS Wasp built up into a magnificent model and I have no doubt that this USS Iwo Jima kit will also build up nicely. With the wealth of photo-etched parts in this box, you won't need any aftermarket parts unless you want some of Eduard's 1/350 color-printed flight deck crew figures. Given the large number of parts, photo-etched details and lots of small styrene details, I do recommend this kit to more experienced modelers, but if you do like the subject, you might want to stash one away even if you don't think your skills are ready for such a project. I'm not sure how long this kit will remain on the market and it wouldn't hurt to have one in your collection to save yourself money later trying to acquire one from the eBay crowd.

AMS modelers will have some fun with this project as there are still open spaces under the flight deck where you can stash all sorts of support gear for fiber optics and other lighting options to really bring this beauty to life.

In any case, this kit is one of the nicest ships that Trumpeter has ever done and it should prove popular in its releases under the Gallery Models, Revell/Germany, and Trumpeter brands.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!

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