Panda Models 1/350th DDG 51 USS Arleigh Burke
Review by Steve Jantscher
I was really looking forward to an inexpensive 1/350th scale modern US missile destroyer. With the excellent Trumpeter1/200th scale Sovremenny, and the beautiful 1/350th scale Hornet and Essex class carriers, I had my hopes up. What I found when I opened the box was a cheap kit, in all its ramifications. This kit does present one with a nice excuse to sit down with a child and build an easy kit for him or her to play with in the tub, or to push along the grass.
Let me start at the beginning. Those other (excellent) kits I mentioned before are the product of the Trumpeter line of kits. I have been led to believe that the Panda line of kits is by the same company, but represent a softening of the "adherence to fidelity of detail" that Trumpeter strives to maintain. The Panda line of kits are in the middle to low end of accuracy (and price). I still held out hope that this kit could be finessed with a little extra photoetch aftermarket detail, and resin bits. I'm afraid to have to report that such an easy modification won't be in the pipes.
The package contains five separately bagged sprues of parts. The hull (spruless), and the four sections shown below. It is a credit to the US Navy that in designing their Aegis class of Guided Missile Destroyers, they made them without the usual deck clutter that earlier ships of the same size were subject to. This makes for a simpler major parts layout, with the superstructure being made up of six to eight major parts. The rest of the parts include the individual missile director radars, guns, Harpoon missile racks, and the assorted small antennas and main mast parts. This will build up in a little over an hour of work with a smeary tube of glue and a youngster stuck to your side.
I imagine that the kit will look like an Arleigh Burke destroyer from some feet away, perhaps as a bb gun target. Dad and son enjoying a post model building moment of bonding. A little drill hole will allow the fuse of your favorite firecracker to protrude from the belly of the beast, allowing for easy ignition when the BB entertainment starts to wane.
Actually, I'm making fun of this kit because it's delivery falls short of it's promise. There is fine detail on the superstructure, hatches, fire hoses and air grates. The little parts are nicely molded, if just a bit "soft". The kit does supply a stainless steel fret of photoetch railings and helicopter nets, so it seems that the kit makers are trying. The PE set though, does not offer anything more than that, and isn't as fine as that offered by aftermarket suppliers. However the hull is festooned with a collection of "pimples" in such a pattern as to make me think they were put on the model on purpose. Interestingly they are not shown on the photograph of the kit on the side of the box. All 244 will have to be shaved off the hull, and sanded flat. How one is to deal with the (I must assume) is a vastly oversized set of side strakes I don't know. They are engineered more as side supports than as scale representations of the real thing. One just can't simply remove them as they are hollowed out on the inside. A gap would develop on the side of the ship's hull after removal. Nor is the option of a waterline hull provided (something constant with Trumpeter ship kits of late). Not that it's impossible to cut one yourself, it's just that the lack of the option in the box indicated a design mind set of a scale toy, rather than a scale model as most Roll Models patrons understand the term. The ship's props look more like some I've seen on outboard motors, (but with five blades instead of the three I see most of the time up here in Minnesota). There is none of that advanced swirl design that characterizes modern ship propellers.
The decals at first glance look to be peel off stickers. The clear carrier film was so thick and shiny that I had to actually try to peel the things off the backing paper, and fail, to convince myself that these were indeed water slide decals. They look to be very thick, and feel like plastic. I'd wait for some Blue Water Navy or Gold Medal Models decals for this kit if I were you.
As I near the end of my first look at the kit, I'm curious to see if some aftermarket photoetch maker jumps at the opportunity to design a set to go with this kit. Fix the hull (remove the "pimples"), waterline it, cut out and replace some of the ladders (molded ala Tamiya), add radar director PE detail, and this could be turned into a decent DDG 51. Out of the box as it is, it makes a better beginner's ship kit than something to start with on a super modeling project. I'll buy one when the aftermarket guys start coming out with detail sets. When that happens, this will be a bargin ship kit adventure! Heave to, and sprice up!
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