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1/72 Scale Sea-going Vessels

(from 1930s to 2020s)

So far I have collected a fair number of 1/72 scale model kits of sea-going vessels. In 2016, I finally finished building one. I expect the progress on this page will be slow, but someday I hope to display on this site 1/72 scale models of a World War Two Royal Navy Flower Class Corvette, a WWII Kriegsmarine U-boot, and a WWII US Navy Gato Class submarine. Other possible subjects include a WWII Kriegsmarine Schnellboot and a WWII US Navy PT Boat.

Royal Navy Vosper MTB
(World War Two)

Royal Navy Vosper MTB (Google)

Airfix 1/72 Vosper MTB 

This Airfix kit dates from 1972, and by now the molds are pretty worn out. The first copy of the Vosper kit I bought (too long ago to remember when) was an MPC rebox, and it had a lot of sinkholes in the moldings (areas of the kit parts that are too thick and cause the injected styrene plastic to shrink while cooling, creating actual cavities in the part surface). When I got serious about building this model, I bought an older, actual Airfix issue of the Vosper, which did not have sinkholes.

As I started building the kit, I had fun scratchbuilding replacement parts, for the areas of the kit that were too poorly rendered or incompletely detailed to suit me. I had drawings of the twin 20mm gun and the 2" rocket flare launchers from a book about the Fairmile D class of large MTBs, but other than that, I had limited reference material (two books concerning Vosper MTBs plus some Google photos), so in the end, there was a fair amount of guesswork, but this was meant to be a fun build, not a museum-quality masterpiece, so I was fine with not being obsessive about it.

Then, four-fifths of the way through my build, while surfing the internet for additional info, I came across a 20-plus-page web record of a build by a modeler with the screen name "longshanks8" who WAS obsessive about building his Airfix Vosper. He must have had excellent references, including scale drawings that you can see in the background of some of his images, and he did a magnificent job of superdetailing the old but worthy Airfix kit. Naturally, once presented with this source of research info, I felt compelled to try a little harder. In particular, I detailed the smoke generator and torpedo tubes based on his information. Thanks for posting your beautiful build story, longshanks8.

In the last picture above, you can see the "traction" set up I created to pull the rigging taut while I applied the Superglue. I had the alligator clips with the fishing weights attached left over from my biplane rigging days. I taped loops of thick brass wire to the arm of the adjustable lamp to act as pulleys from which to hang the weights. Once I had superglued the invisible thread nylon strands to the deck, I fed the loose end of the thread up through the appropriate anchor point on the mast, then up through the pulleys, then down to where the weights would hang, well clear to the right of the model. The weighted lines were pulled taut, and I ensured that the mast was vertical, not bent by the pull of the weighted lines, by carefully moving the whole boat around, under the first pulley. Once all was just right, I applied the Superglue to the top anchor points on the mast. After letting the Superglue set, I trimmed the excess line above the mast. It took about four rounds of this traction approach to rig the various areas of the boat.

The Technicolor grid behind the bridge is the signal flag locker. The anchor rope on the bow is a coil of aluminum wire. The ventilator funnels all over the deck took a LOT of filing, filling, sanding and cleaning up to look acceptable. The clear windscreen is .010 thick Evergreen clear sheet, with brass wire framing, with quite a few attempts at cutting each of the three pieces.

All paint on the Vosper was Testors Model Master; I selected stock paint colors that would provide the scale-effect shades I wanted for the model. However, all paint on the two Airfix crew figures was Humbrol; I still get a lot better results hand painting with Humbrol than Model Master. You can tell I am inordinately proud of my stalwart crew figures by the excessive number of images of them, but I know that I am not very good at figure painting: the farther away you get, the better they look. Flat finish was Testors Clear Flat Lacquer.

Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images:

Kriegsmarine Catapult
(World War Two)

Arado Ar 196 on catapult on turret C on DKM Scharnhorst in 1940. (Profile Publications)

The earliest models that I assembled where I really cared about trying to build a kit as authentically detailed as I could were several Airfix 1/600 scale warship models. And the first Airfix ship models I built were of World War II British and German warships. My interest in these subjects was triggered by my purchase in about 1971 of a paperback from the Ballantine Books "History of the Violent Century" series entitled Hitler's High Seas Fleet.

While I had zero admiration for Nazi politics and the World War they caused, for some reason I did find the warship designs of the Deutsches Kriegsmarine elegant. Hitler's High Seas Fleet related the short, exciting life of the German Navy in World War II, and it was illustrated with line drawings of many of the warships German naval architects developed in the 1920s and 1930s. As I learned the histories of these ships, in 1972 I started buying and building Airfix and Aurora kits of German and British vessels. One really nice feature of Airfix kits was that they usually included a couple of tiny, 1/600 scale seaplanes to mount on catapults on the warships. I loved this extra attention to detail, and I would carefully paint and decal these 3/4" wingspan seaplanes.


Revell 1/570 scale DKM Scharnhorst (1944) converted to DKM Gneisenau (1939)

Above is an image of DKM Gneisenau (ca 1939) that I very mildly converted from a Revell 1/570 scale DKM Scharnhorst (ca 1944), with two Airfix 1/600 scale Heinkel He 114 seaplanes mounted on the catapults. I believe I built this model in 1978 or so, not too long before the advent of photo-etched details for plastic model ship kits. Below is a detail of the He 114 on the 280mm Cesar turret. I was so proud of these ship models, forty years ago.

Detail of Airfix 1/600 scale He 114 seaplane mounted on catapult on Cesar turret on Revell 1/570 scale DKM Gneisenau

Aft 280mm turret of DKM Scharnhorst with catapult. (Google)

Eventually, I started building 1/72 scale versions of these ship-based WWII seaplanes: an Arado Ar-196 (Heller), a Vought OS2U Kingfisher (Lindberg), a Supermarine Walrus (Matchbox), a vacu-form Heinkel He 114 (Airmodel), a Curtis SOC Seagull (Hasegawa), and a Fairey Swordfish with floats (FROG). As I shifted away from 1/600 warships (in the late 1970s) to pursue exclusively 1/72 scale airplanes, tanks, missiles and so forth, I wished I could build 1/72 catapults for my seaplanes, but at that time no such kits of catapults existed.

In the 1990s, Hasegawa produced a plastic model of a Japanese catapult for several of their Imperial Japanese Navy seaplane kits, and I built and painted the catapult, but wasn't interested enough in Japanese seaplanes to build one to mount on the catapult, so it has languished on the Shelf of Forgotten Models for the last 15 years or so.

The DKM Gneisenau triple 280mm gun turret, installed by the German military as a coastal gun in Norway in 1944 (Google)

Finally, in 2018, I was able to purchase a new Modelcollect 1/72 scale kit of a 280mm calibre triple gun turret of the Kriegsmarine battlecruiser DKM Gneisenau. The kit was intended to model the historically factual re-use of the turret as a coastal battery in Norway in 1944 (see the image above of the Big Green Gun), but I believed I could build the turret back-dated to its appearance on the deck of the battlecruiser DKM Scharnhorst in 1940. I thought I could scratch-build a catapult mounted on the roof of the turret, and then build a Sword 1/72 kit of an Arado Ar 196 and mount it on the catapult.

Click on the thumbnails below to see the start of this adventure:

In the images above, the dark grey plastic is the Modelcollect kit of the 280mm turret, and the white or brass portions are the scratch-built parts. As per the coastal gun installation, the Modelcollect turret lacked the ear-like housings of the original range-finders of the turret, when it was mounted on the DKM Gneisenau, so I had to build them: you can see an image (blue background) above of the extrusions I built out of Evergreen styrene plastic, to achieve the desired cross section for the range-finder housings, as well as for the deck details.

Below are images of the completed model. The Arado Ar 196 seaplane is by Sword. As a typical limited run kit it was a bit of a challenge. Lack of any mounting slots and tabs at the struts between the pontoons and aircraft meant that I had to build a jig to attempt to align the pontoons with each other and with the fuselage. In the end, it turned out that my jig was not very successful, and the left pontoon is noticeably lower than the right, in relation to the rest of the aircraft. I have cleverly concealed this by not showing any pictures of the aircraft, head on. I think the radio aerial is nicely thin and to scale, but I think the x-bracing wires between the pontoons and the fuselage are too coarse in diameter. Better luck next time...

All paint was Testors Model Master with Testors Clear Flat Lacquer. I have found that the Testors Model Master paint is exceptionally great for airbrushing. I lightened all of the Luftwaffe colors on the Arado with flat white for scale effect. On the turret, to make airbrushing the yellow easier, I masked the grey painted areas and airbrushed bright aluminum as an undercoat for the yellow.

Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images:

U.S. Navy LCAC
(1980s to 2020s)

US Navy LCAC (LandingCraftAirCushion) (Google)

The U.S. Navy operates 91 LCAC (LandingCraftAirCushion) amphibious cargo carriers. The LCAC was developed starting in 1970 with three, different-sized proposed vehicles, designed by James L. Schuler and his team at the USN Naval Sea Systems Command. Following extensive testing of the middle-sized design (named "Jeff" after one of Schuler's three sons), in 1982 the U. S. Navy ordered the first six LCAC vehicles. By 1993, the run of USN LCACs was completed, plus eight units built for the Japanese Naval Self-Defense Force, delivered in 2004.

The LCAC uses four MTU Vericor TF-40B gas turbine engines (3,995 shaft horse power each) to power four lift fans that inflate the rubber air cushion and blow lift air out from under the rubber skirt. Twenty percent of the air thrust is diverted to the bow thrusters (the dark grey, elbow-shaped nozzles on top, just ahead of midships) to enable the crew to counteract crabbing of the LCAC due to wind and wave. A Service Life Extension Program will upgrade the engines to ETF-40B turbines at 4,745 s.h.p. per engine.

The engines also power the four-bladed propellers that provide forward thrust, achieving up to 50 knots of speed in calm ocean conditions, even at a full normal load of 169 tons (67 tons of payload). The LCAC can operate over water, swamp, ice, or land, making nearly 80% of the world's shorelines accessible.

With fully inflated rubber skirt, the LCAC is 91 feet 9.5 inches long, 47 feet 10 inches wide, 25 feet 10 inches high (34 feet 5.5 inches with navigation lights mast upright), and has a maximum range at full load of 300 nautical miles at 35 knots speed. (Squadron Signal Publications)    

Trumpeter 1/72 LCAC

Years ago, I saw a scratchbuilt 1/35 scale model of an LCAC at an IPMS national contest; it was huge and magnificent. I thought "I'd love to build a kit of that, but no one will ever manufacture such an unusual subject." How glad I am that I was mistaken: In about 2012, I bought this Trumpeter 1/72 scale kit of the U.S. Navy  LCAC as soon as I spotted it in a now-closed hobby shop (Chesterfield Hobbies) in Richmond, Virginia.

I started work on it almost immediately, but a search of the web for reference books revealed there was only one, very lightweight kid's book about the LCAC available. I searched the web again for pictures of the LCAC, and found many full-view shots, but very few closeup images that would help me add texture to this rather bland, under-detailed, unfinished-looking kit. 

My internet research did provide enough information to allow me to draft in AutoCAD the black and white line art I needed to order some custom photo-etched brass for the screens at the giant, hoop-like shrouds around the propellers. While I was drafting and ordering this custom photo-etch brass,  I decided replace all of the the kit's unduly coarse photo-etch screening with new PE, as well.


The framework part of the propeller shroud from the kit next to the custom made photo-etch screens for the Trumpeter 1/72 USN LCAC.

To amortize the expense of the custom photo-etch, I ordered a dozen or so sets of the brass PE, selling the extras on eBay. But the lack of really useful, comprehensive detail images of the LCAC ultimately caused me to set the kit aside on the Shelf of Forgotten Models. I was unwilling to finish it without better information to add detail to the model.

Finally, in 2016, Squadron Signal released an "In Action" booklet on the LCAC. I promptly ordered the book and dusted off the kit in anticipation. The "In Action" book was very helpful (a Squadron Signal LCAC "Walk Around" booklet would have been even more helpful) and I quickly spotted images in the booklet that helped me finish out some of the bare areas on the kit. Studying the pictures in the booklet made me aware of the relatively wide variety of subtly different versions of the real LCACs that were in service. From these photos I selected one particular vessel, LCAC-69, that most closely resembled what the kit gave me to work with, and postulated a very similar sister-craft, LCAC-68.

This was the largest, most multi-colored model I have built in a long time. Planning out the paint colors to use and the sequence of masking from color to color was challenging and fun. Attaching the one-piece, flexible vinyl skirt to the hull was particularly challenging. I never could get it perfectly straight and level in some spots. 

All paint was Humbrol except for Tamiya acrylic at the white parts; small decals were from the kit; large alpha-numerics were Press-Type from Woodland Scenics; flat finish was Testors Clear Flat Lacquer. 

Click on the thumbnails below to see larger images:

That must have been something REALLY important to deliver, on the deck of this LCAC.

Scale 1/72

Email: AtomicCannon(at)embarqmail(dot)com