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US Navy Blimp

Glencoe 1/330 US Navy Blimp Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review October 2007 Manufacturer Glencoe
Subject US Navy Blimp Scale 1/330
Kit Number 5504 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple build Cons  
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $11-12

First Look

US Navy Blimp
US Navy Blimp
US Navy Blimp
US Navy Blimp
US Navy Blimp

The K-class non-rigid airship was a class of blimps built by the Goodyear Aircraft Company of Akron, Ohio for the U.S. Navy. These blimps were powered by two radial air-cooled engines mounted on outriggers on the side of the control car that hung under the envelope. Before and during WWII, 135 K-class blimps were built, configured for patrol and anti-submarine warfare operations and were the backbone in the Navy’s anti-submarine efforts in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean areas.

The K-class blimp was a product of the austere times of the American depression. In 1937, the K-2 was ordered from Goodyear as part of a contract that also bought the L-1. The L-class was Goodyear’s standard advertising and passenger blimp. The K-2 was the production prototype for future K-class airship purchases. K-2 flew for the first time at Akron, Ohio on December 6, 1938 and was delivered to the U.S. Navy at NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey on December 16th. The envelope capacity of the K-2 was 404,000 cubic feet and was the largest for any USN blimp up until that time. K-2 was flown extensively as a prototype, and continued to operate testing new equipment, techniques, and performing whatever tasks were needed, including combat patrols in WWII.

The K-ships were used for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) duties in the Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea (the kit gives the markings for a Blimp operating in the Mediterranean). All equipment was carried in a 40 ft. long control car. The installed communications and instrumentation equipment allowed night flying. The blimps were equipped with the ASG-type radar, that had a detection range of 90 miles, sonobouys, and magnetic anomaly detection (or magnetic airborne detection MAD equipment). The K-ships carried four MK-47 depth-bombs, two in a bomb bay and two externally, and were equipped with a 50 cal. Browning machine-gun in the forward part of the control car. An aircrew of 10 normally operated the K-ships, consisting of a command pilot, two co-pilots, a navigator/pilot, airship rigger, an ordinanceman, two mechanics and two radiomen.

The ability of the K-ships to hover and operate at low altitudes and slow speeds resulted in detection of numerous enemy submarines as well as assisting in search and rescue missions. The K-ships had an endurance capability of over 23 hours, which was an important factor in the employment of ASW tactics.

The mooring system (included in this kit) for the K-ship was a triangular 42 ft. high mooring mast that was capable of being towed by a tractor (also included in the kit). For advance bases, where moving the mooring mast was not needed, a stick mast was used. A large ground crew was needed to land the blimps and moor them to the mast. This kit includes 6 ground crew figures.

Glencoe is a model company based in Northboro, Massachusetts. They acquire some of the most desirable model molds from the past, from companies that went long out of business. I have seen old Aurora and Pyro molds re-issued by Glencoe for a few kits that they have acquired. Glencoe usually refurbishes these old molds, adds better decals to their kitting of them etc. I am not sure what the original source of this blimp mold was however. It looks like the parent company, of the mold, had their name in raised letters on the clear base piece in the kit, but Glencoe ground this off at their factory.

The kit comes in a long tray and lid type box. The box art shows a K-class blimp flying over the ocean with an aircraft carrier and 2 other ships in the background.

Inside the box I discovered that the bottom tray has a void that is almost 1/3rd the length of the box. The packaging of this kit could have been that much shorter.

The box contains a cello bag that holds all the medium gray parts. There is a tree of clear parts that is not cello bagged, the decal sheet and the instructions.

The instructions consist of a single sheet that is folded in half into 4 pages.

Page one of the instructions begins with a black and white repeat of the box art, followed by the history of the K-type blimps. Under this is a listing of hobby paint colors that are suggested for decorating the model. These are called out in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. Under this is some CAUTIONS, in 9 languages and some international assembly symbol translations in 7 languages.

Pages 2 and 3 give 4 assembly drawings. There is listings of what to paint certain parts given here also and the decal placement is shown.

There is just one scheme offered. It is for an overall silver ship with star and bar U.S. insignias above and below the bag and U.S. Navy (in black letters) on each side of it. It carries a rare nose art of “Minnie the Miner” that goes on the side of the control car and this is mentioned as a blimp that served in the Mediterranean, but we are not told the squadron it served with.

Page 4 has some black and white copies of box arts of other kits that Glencoe markets, along with printed lists of others. Their line is quite extensive.

I purchased my kit, many years ago, at my local hobby shop. The kit can be found at several hobby shops on line and one guy is auctioning off one on eBay currently.

The biggest medium gray parts in the kit are the two haves of the helium bag.

The first medium gray parts tree holds: the control room halves, horizontal tail fins, props, engines, 6 ground crew members molded onto a base, a single figure with his arms raised, wheels for the mooring tower, a tractor (15 parts)

The second medium gray parts tree holds the mooring tower parts.(6 parts)

The clear parts tree holds a base for the model and windows for the control car. (3 parts)

There is a flat stainless steel bar, that is bent letter “L” in the kit. It is to be inserted through the tower and into the clear base and into the nose of the blimp to suspend it horizontally from the tower and take the blimps weight. Good move Glencoe.

This kit, with the blimp, tower, ground crew, base and little tractor is an instant diorama.

The decal, markings already described above, completes the kits contents along with the instructions. The decal is printed by Scale-Master and it also has an America flag on it that you are to attach to a cable at the rear of the helium bag. You will have to come up with your own string for that.

This is a model of an important aircraft used in WWII and should have a place on a modeler’s shelf of airships from that era. Highly recommended.