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Moebius Models 1/72 scale USS 'Skipjack'

Kit:1400 // Scale:1/72 // Price:$119.99
Moebius Models
Tongue-and-groove join of hull parts; clean molding for such huge parts; clear parts for deadlights; full-color painting guide; extra markings
Sail detail parts clunky; poor fit on front-to-rear hull sections; confusing instruction diagrams; hull parts broken from sprue, damaged
Injection-molded, 58 parts (4 photoetched metal), decals

The Skipjack-class submarines’ design was optimal in their natural environment — underwater — and set the pattern for attack submarines for decades. Highly maneuverable, they could reverse direction in only the length of the hull. It would be years before anti-submarine technology caught up with such boats.

Moebius Models has released this important subject in 1/72 scale — which means it’s huge! Despite the large box, one doesn’t really appreciate the model’s size until the hull is assembled. 

The hull is molded in four well-formed sections that showed slight damage where they had broken off the sprues before I could cut them loose. I was a bit surprised to see such wide panel lines on a modern kit, but they really do not detract from the finished model.

The fold-out instruction sheet has large assembly diagrams and features a full-color painting and markings guide. The large decal sheet provides for all six of the Skipjack-class subs. I chose SSN 589, USS Scorpion, which sank mysteriously in the Atlantic with the loss of all 99 aboard. While the wreck has been located and dived on, we may never know the actual cause of the disaster.

I started with the stern planes. These required filling in the underside seams. Next up was the hull assembly. The upper and lower hull halves join with unusual tongue-and-groove edges. These really align the long join, and I was surprised how little filler was needed to erase the seams.

The forward and rear sections join with a large flange, but the fit is nowhere near as good. I found that a large sanding block helped sand all the hull seams smooth without creating any flat spots.

I had originally intended to leave the sail off until final assembly, but handling the large smooth hull for painting was difficult. Attaching the sail gave me something to hold onto. The sail fit together well, needing only a little seam work at the rear and top. Make sure you install the rear deadlight before gluing the sail halves together; it can’t be added later.  I left off the rudder, sailplanes, prop, and sail details until the main hull was painted.

I was a bit disappointed by the lack of detail on the various masts. They looked basic and a tad clunky, especially the SS-2 radar mast; the latter could really use a photoetched-metal replacement. The assembly diagram for the masts is a little confusing, too. Checking their positions on the painting diagram helps a lot. Four photoetched-metal discs are provided for the main seawater gratings.

Painting a model this size would be difficult with an airbrush; I used Tamiya spray cans. I painted the lower hull dull red, then masked so I could spray NATO black on the upper half. Finally, I masked the waterline and areas above it. I painted the upper sonar dome German dark gray, and the lower dome dull red lightened with a bit of white.

I applied the decals over a coat of Future. Thank goodness Moebius provides three of each! I damaged one of the hull draft markings on its first application. I did the main ballast tank vents on the deck with Bare-Metal Foil.

After painting other details, I added them to the hull with no problems. Moebius recommends that you glue the control surfaces in position if you are building the model for static display. They will hang at odd angles if you don’t, as the kit was designed to be convertible to a radio-controlled model. (An RC conversion kit is already available.)

I used pressure-sensitive adhesive to install the windows. My aft whip antenna was damaged in the box, so I replaced it with a piece of brass wire. While I was at it, I replaced the forward whip antenna with plastic rod. 

Despite the kit only having 54 parts, this submarine took me 23 hours to build — mostly for preparing and painting the hull. The model matches the dimensions I found on Wikipedia.

Any modeler with basic modeling skills should be able to assemble this kit, but it is a challenge to paint. An even bigger challenge may be finding a place to display this 3½'-long beast! Am I getting smaller or are models getting bigger? 

Note: A version of this review appeared in the April 2013 FineScale Modeler.


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