by David J. Salvin
1/700 USS America LHA6 (Orange Hobby)
The latest in a long line of interesting kits from my favorite patron is the USS America by Orange Hobby. While I am quick to criticize a kit for perceived flaws, I am (rightfully) quick to praise manufacturers when they get it all right. Well, THIS is the kit. They got it all correct. Not only is the kit a spot on match for the real thing, it’s easy and fun to build. They actually made the kit so that a modeler can get good results without scratch building or augmenting. Provided the modeler has the requisite skill and experience, there should be no cursing, swearing or sweating.
The kit consists largely of a large block of resin for the hull, but the superstructure is beautifully modeled and not attached to the hull, so it can be built in stages as the builder sees fit. Overall fit and finish is perfect. The option to have the doors open or closed is there.
A great example of Orange Hobby’s working WITH the modeler (rather than against them) are the decals. The kit comes with TWO kinds of decals. The traditional water wet and stick type for the hull numbers etc., but also a single large sheet of dry rub decals for all the deck markings. All the builder has to do is lay the dry rub transfer sheet onto the deck (after gloss coating it well) and rub with his fingernail well over each and every decal. VIOLA! All the deck lines are straight, all the landing markings exactly where they need to be. No more trying to get a tiny thin line of wet-noodle decals straight over the entire length of the deck! I cannot tell you how nice a change this is. My only criticism of the decals is that they do not include ANY decals for the nicely done F-35's that come with the kit. They also do not include the Ospreys or other helos one would find on a ship like this.
As good as the decals are, the kits really shines in the PE department. The kit comes with FULL pe with all railings pre cut and set to bend at just the right spot. No more measuring and trying to bend railings to match the piece they match. Not just railings, but radar arrays, landing gear for aircraft, and multiple frets more for all the multiple layers of catwalks that run along the side of the ship. Best of all, the PE for the inner catwalks that support the outer ones are actually thicker so they can be bent right and will hold the weight of the outer catwalks.
Full PE is provided for the large white wrecker crane, including multiple interlocking cables, ladders, railing and the bar which make up the body of the crane. A small kit in its own right.
Instructions are very well done in pictograph style. NEARLY all parts are numbered correctly. (some of the PE is mis-numbered on the fret or in the instructions.)
This kit provides just layer upon layer of detail to attract the eye and really make this kit capable of being a “museum quality” rendition of the ship. I have scarcely seen its equal.
So... after all that some (very small) quibbles. First, the life raft cases. Each and every one of these is composed of a PE part which must be folded into a 3d shape and then two separate resin life raft cases must be attached. While this is not just a bit tedious, it actually works against the modeler as it is virtually impossible to get them all exactly identical, which, in the end, can (slightly) detract from the overall look of the finished ship. Pre-molded parts on these probably would have been just as good, without the tedium and would allow for a more flawless finish.
Next, as mentioned, no decals for aircraft.
No option to open the flood deck of the ship or to detail that portion out.
No option to open the hanger doors for detailing therein and thus no real option for having the elevators in the lowered position.
No helos or VF-22’s
No other deck equipment other than large white crane
David J. Salvin