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SSN 21 Seawolf

Trumpeter 1/144 USS Seawolf SSN 21

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2005 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject USS Seawolf SSN 21 Scale 1/144
Kit Number 5904 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Very nice detailing Cons Hull halves length - see narrative
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $32.95


For the background of the subject or a look at the kit out of the box, check out the in-box review.


So how difficult can a large, 45-part kit be? I would have thought that Trumpeter's quality control might have caught such an error - the hull halves are different lengths! When you dry-fit the two halves, one half is a fraction of an inch too long on both ends. You could remove the locator pins and get one end matched up, but that would leave some significant work on the other end.

What I elected to do was leave the mismatch as-is and assemble the hull. This is where I met another challenge. This one isn't a kit problem as much as simple physics. When you're assembling two halves of such a large size, you need more than two hands. I dry-fit the hull together using rubber bands to keep alignment and locator pins in place. Even so, parts of the hull needed to be man-handled to stay in place.

SSN 21 SeawolfSSN 21 SeawolfSSN 21 SeawolfSSN 21 Seawolf

I used Tamiya thin cement to assemble the hull as it is flexible after drying (no seam failures as with cyano) and I only glued a few inches of the seam at a time. This took a while to accomplish, but by moving rubber bands around and applying hand pressure as needed on challenging areas, I had one solid hull when completed. Next came the bow and stern fairings - these halves went together without difficulty.

Now comes the decision point - what to do about the mismatched hull half lengths? I had two real choices. 1) Apply some Evergreen styrene strips to match up the lengths on both ends, or 2) Install the fairings and fill the resulting gaps. When I dry-fit the bow and stern fairings, the gaps weren't really bad, so I opted for option two and cemented the fairings into place. I used gap-filling cyano to deal with the gaps. When all was dry, I took the huge assembly to the sink and wet-sanded the seams and filler to get a smooth hull.

The remainder of the kit does go together without any problems. I used Tamiya thick liquid cement to apply the dive planes, rudders and propulsion system, but not before painting.

Painting and Finishing

SSN 21 Seawolf

I used Tamiya Flat Red with a touch of Tamiya Red-Brown to create the Hull Red color and sprayed this color as my base coat. Actually, two coats. When this had dried, I masked the lower hull at the waterline and painted the upper hull Tamiya Dark Gray. These colors still look a little light after drying, but the next step fixes this - I applied several coats of Future to the hull and everything darkened up nicely.

I applied the decals according to the instructions, but I couldn't bring myself to use the periscope decals. Maybe the real submarine does have white periscopes and black stripes along the top of each structure, but that seems counter-intuitive to the camouflage spots. The yellow mast was the last straw and I opted to paint the masts and periscopes Testors Light Ghost Gray and applied Tamiya NATO Black spots. The periscope decals are likely correct for the submarine during testing.

SSN 21 Seawolf

The decals also provide the name of the ship in black, so I painted the stand Tamiya Flat Aluminum and applied the name decals. It was then I noticed that the word 'Submarine' was missing an R, so I did some wet editing and removed the words "Attack Submaine' off the name plates.


Despite the hull length adventure, this kit builds up into an impressive scale model and I am pleased with the final result. Construction and finishing took roughly 8-9 hours to complete (over several days). I think you'll enjoy this project as well!

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!