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HobbyBoss USS Alaska

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/350 scale plastic model ship kit
RELATED TOPICS: SHIPS
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USS Alaska (CB-1) was the lead ship in a class of six cruisers of which just one other, USS Guam (CB-2), was completed.

Authorized under the Fleet Expansion Act of 1940, but not commissioned until June 1944, this class was rapidly superseded by aircraft carriers as the primary ships of World War II after Guadalcanal. Armored against 10-inch shells, but with 1930s-era torpedo defenses, Alaska found its niche as a fast anti-aircraft escort, firing up to 25,000 rounds of 20mm, 40mm, and 127mm ammunition per minute from a fast, stable platform.

The model is accurate, right down to the shallow quarterdeck extension that required aircraft catapults be placed amidships.

The kit has more than 1,100 parts (1,068 are used), with 292 excellent photo-etched (PE) parts on four frets, as well as 16 gray styrene sprues and eight other parts, including a one-piece hull and two-part main deck. Decals provide flags, ship numbers, and markings for two SC-1 seaplanes that are molded in clear plastic.

The 40-page instructions are generally excellent (with but few exceptions). A color sheet shows the 1944 Measure 32/1D camouflage of 5-L light gray, 5-O ocean gray, dull black, and 20-B weather deck blue.

Step 1 requires hole-drilling of the fore and aft deck sections for parts placement, followed by fine keel placement, four prop shafts, and a single large rudder in Steps 2 and 3. Steps 4 and 5 were the first “trap,” not apparent until Step 60 (railing placement). The 35 chocks are just a bit too wide at the base, forcing the railings out of true at the end of the build. Each should be shaved 50% to match the hull-edge width and allow the long railing sections to run true. If not for the review deadline, I would have cut them all off, sanded them down, and reset them so the railings would be inboard of the chocks.

The instructions continue logically through Step 21, which builds vents with PE, assembles 34 of the 20mm mounts, and bends 16 curved floater-net baskets for the main deck.

Step 22 begins building the forward superstructure. You will find it much easier to place two ladders (PE-C18 ) with railings within the well under the flag bags (from Step 26). I did deviate at Step 27 by not placing the 5-inch case netting parts PE-C51; they extended so far out that I knew I would hook them at some point (they were added at the end).

The following steps take a long time to create the SK radar as well as the Mk.12/22 for the Mk.37 anti-aircraft directors. The mount (E18) for the SK screen was vague and seemed undersize, but it worked out. Step 29 creates the Mk.8 radar for the Mk.38 main-battery directors; feeding the dipoles through the tiny holes proved extremely challenging, and it is one area that needs a larger diagram. Step 33 begins the 60-part stack, including internal fins, piping, ladders, and PE fore and aft platforms. The PE is well rendered, and all parts fit perfectly with a bit of patience.

Step 37 begins the aft superstructure, which continues through Step 48. The crane cradle’s PE grid work in Step 39 is a nice detail section. Steps 49-52 challenge you to build the catapults and cranes with only minimal plastic. A word of caution about the PE crane sections: my hammerhead tips required extensive bending to ice-skate the shape to fit.

Steps 55-57 present the three main-armament 12-inch/50 triple turrets and 18 more float baskets to bend to attach to the tops. The six twin 5-inch/38s have well-formed single-molding gun houses and can be built to elevate the barrels.

The final steps add the main-deck railings mentioned earlier, as well as two clear plastic SC-1 Curtiss Seahawks. The only out-of-scale moldings in the kit (oversize props and tail fins a scale 27 feet, 4 inches wide), they also are missing cradles for the floats to mount on the catapults or even park on the deck. I made micro cradles out of PE scrap, unable to balance the edge of the float in any other way.

Overall, this is an excellent kit for winter in Wisconsin, with perfect alignments, light seams, and abundant PE to model a unique ship some called a white elephant — but one admired by many carrier crews for its defense of the fleet. All that PE requires an experienced builder. I spent 300 hours on it —roughly $.50/hour of entertainment — but finishing it in the 30-day review period means I owe some makeup time to keep my bride happy.


Note: A version of this review appeared in the May 2018 issue.

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