Gallery Models 1/350 USS Wasp LHD 1 Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|USS Wasp LHD 1
|Styrene / Photo-Etch
|First kit of this subject in this scale; very nice detailing throughout
The USS Wasp is the first-in-class for a series of amphibious assault ships designed to serve as the tactical hub at sea for Marine Corps operations ashore. 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 Wasp into perspective, the LHD 1 is 844 feet long, 106 feet wide, and displaces over 40,000 tons. The previous USS Wasp, the CV 9 Essex-class aircraft carrier, was 872 feet long, 147 feet wide, and displaced over 36,000 tons. Aside from the narrower flight deck, the modern Wasp is very similar in dimensions and weight to its World War Two predecessor.
I remember seeing the test build-up of the USS Wasp at the iHobbyExpo show last year 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 Wasp 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!
Earlier this year, I was a bit surprised to see three different companies all announce their own releases of a 1/350 USS Wasp. In this market, I couldn't imagine three different toolings of this same kit coming out at roughly the same time. We've seen kit wars between two or three companies over armor kits in the past, but with a big-ticket item like this kit, the more likely answer was that these three companies got together to collaborate on this kit. The companies in question are MRC (using the brand name 'Gallery Models'), Revell/Germany, and Trumpeter. Of the three companies, only Trumpeter can produce a kit of this size in styrene and sure enough, when this kit arrived for review, this kit is indeed a product of Trumpeter.
Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on sixteen parts trees plus 17 trees of clear styrene parts and three frets of photo-etched parts. According to the specs, there are 950 parts in this kit. This is far more detailed than what I saw at iHobbyExpo. Where is all of this detail?
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. As with any warship subject, check your references to see what changes have been made to the ship in terms of antennas and such as these will change over time.
The kit provides two frets of photo-etched parts for the ships railings that round out assembly of the basic ship. Next comes the aircraft, flight deck vehicles, landing craft, and a sampling of combat vehicles. These all include:
Flight Deck Vehicles
- 1 x Tilly crane
- 2 x large fork lifts
- 2 x small fork lifts
- 8 x deck vehicles including tow, fire, and service types
- 2 x service trailers
- 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
- 2 x LCAC
- 2 x LCU
- 2 x AH-1W Cobra
- 2 x AV-8B Harrier II
- 4 x CH-46 Sea Knight
- 4 x MV-22 Osprey
- 4 x CH-53E Sea Stallion
- 2 x SH-60K 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. What is really unusual is that the SH-60K is a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force unique aircraft, so you should set these two birds aside for another project. What's 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 four 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 Wasp and her crew. The other two sheets contain markings for the various aircraft and landing craft.
From what I've seen so far, this kit builds up into a beautiful model without any real problems. 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!