Could they be any smaller?

     I have been wargaming with miniatures since 1986.  Modern naval wargames have always been one of my favorite genres and I will confess that I have always been kind of a snob when it comes to scale of choice.  Size matters, right?  I have been a religious follower of the 1/2400 cult.  1/3000?  That’s old world thinking.  I can remember looking at the CinC miniatures catalog and wondering, “who in their right mind games with 1/4800 scale ships?”  Although I must say the ability to buy a reasonable 10-12 ship task force for less than the price of one GHQ ship was appealing.  But at the time I was focused on modern engagements and CinC doesn’t offer moderns in that smaller range.

  Then a couple of years ago I first heard about Figurehead Miniatures and their range of 1/6000 ships.  1/6000!?  I hadn’t actually seen any of them yet but I couldn’t help thinking it would be like a flea circus, impossibly small ships with indiscernible details.  How could you possibly have a meaningful game?  Then about a year ago I saw another blog, with pictures of these worthy vessels.  Then I couldn’t believe how much detail you could actually put on a ship that small.  But enough of my words here are some pictures.

This is the Slava class CG…

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… and a Udalloy class DDG…

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… and this is a Bunker Hill class CG…

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…and an Arleigh Burke class DDG…

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     I could go on and on but I think you get the point.  These are really well done and just to calibrate your eyes, each of those hash-marks is 1/4 inch.  Yes, these ships are less than two inches in length.  Now I just have to get some really small brushes from Micro-Mark and I’ll be all set to paint these up.

     So far the only fleets available that I’ve seen are US, Soviet/Russian, UK, and “Latin America” a.k.a. Argentina.  This is the only manufacturer I’m aware of that carries all the combatants for the Falklands/Malvinas conflict.  That in itself makes this an attractive scale to consider.  And if that’s not your bag, baby – they have ships from the Russo-Japanese war through present day.

Of course the PRC is not the only China…

  Keeping the focus on the Pacific I have decided to revive a long dormant kitbashing project and in the process feature some models of the other Chinese navy.  The Republic of China (ROC) Navy has a long standing tradition of buying U.S. surplus warships so in 2005 when the first pair of Kidd class DDGs were commissioned into the ROC Navy, as the Kee Lung class, I resolved to have my own as well.  There are no quality castings of the Kidd class in 1/2400 scale.  Superior Models makes one I know but I think most of their models are poorly scaled.  The only remaining option is to kitbash one, or in this case four of them.

  With any kitbash project I started with a Google image search to determine what are the major features that differentiate the Kidd class from her sisters in the Spruance class.  Before I continue I should mention that my basic philosophy of modeling in this scale is that close enough is good enough.  What I mean is I consider myself primarily a wargamer and I want a representational model on the table I don’t feel the need for hyper detailing and I’m not bothered if minor details are not technically correct.  From three feet away does it look like a Kidd class DDG? If so, great let’s play!  So the end result is there will be technical differences between the Kidd and Spruance classes that aren’t accounted for in my conversion.  Here is a picture of one of the Kidd DDGs in ROC service which I used as my baseline for the conversion.

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  So the major differences between the two classes are; of course the Mk26 twin launcher instead of the ASROC launcher forward and BPMDS/Sea Sparrow launcher aft, the associated fire control radars on the superstructure, the small housing on top of the bridge supporting the forward fire control radar, and the larger housing aft of the main mast supporting the aft fire control radar.  Any other differences don’t matter at this scale in my opinion.

  Armed with the baseline of changes that need to be incorporated the next step is to identify the proper hull for conversion.  There are a couple of candidates here.  The first option is to use the excellent Spruance model offered by GHQ.

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  It is a beautiful model with plenty of detail.  In fact, the model in the picture is not what you get when you order one.  Most of the aerials in the photo are super details added by the modeler.  The challenges in using this model as the base hull are the cost, at $9.95 a piece it isn’t cheap, and the fact that it is the VLS version which just means more work removing the VLS system to make room for the Mk26 launcher.

  The next option, really two options, are from CinC models.  They produce two versions of the Spruance class, one is the VLS version shown here.

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  The other is the basic configuration shown here.

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    While CinC miniatures are not as detailed as those offered by GHQ the casts are every bit as clean and crisp which makes them excellent candidates for kitbashing projects.  The CinC ships retail at $7 a piece, almost 30% less than GHQ. The other factor influencing my decision at the time was the fact that I happened to have a surplus of CinC Spruance models on hand.  

  In 2006 I started the conversion with four CinC models that had seen better wargaming days and were a little banged up.  The picture below is where the project was left the last time I worked on it in 2006.  The small housing above the bridge for the forward fire control radar and the large housing aft for that fire control radar were constructed using Evergreen Plactic stock and Squadron modeling putty.  Then I got stuck trying to figure out how to make the fire control radars.  I spent hours hand carving two radars out of Evergreen plastic stock for two of the ships.  Result was less than stellar and I shelved the project.  The two radars can almost bee seen on the two closest ships.

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  I think I have a solution for that problem but more on that later.  The next step is to remove the existing launchers from the decks fore and aft.

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  Here’s where I add that I should have stripped the paint off the models before I began the conversion back in 2006.  The next step is to add a thin piece of plastic stock for the missile magazine doors.  I elected to use one larger piece which would be cut down to shape in subsequent steps because it just seemed easier to work with a larger piece until it was securely attached to the hull.  And for those of you with model building experience you already know what happened to me.  The CA glue I used adhered to the paint but not the hull so half of the pieces came off, in whole or in part, during the following steps making it much more work in the final analysis.

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  In the next photo I have drilled the hole for the Mk26 launcher pedestal and started trimming the magazine doors down to a more appropriate size.

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  The next step is to glue the pedestals for the twin launcher in place.  I used oversized pieces to account for variances in the depths of the hole that were drilled earlier. 

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  Here is the final step for today.  The pedestals have been trimmed.  I special ordered extra twin launchers from CinC – they come from their model of the cruiser Virginia – and glued them in place.  You can see that the 5in guns have been damaged in the process which will have to be repaired.  Unfortunately, the original owner of these particular ships cut out the supporting flash of the original cast to make it look more realistic.  Realistsic? Yes. Sturdy enough for table top gaming? No.

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  So what comes next?  Well as I mentioned I need to find a source for the fire control radars and I think I have.  Here is an excellent GHQ model of USS California CGN-35.  On the forward super structure there are three examples of the radars I’m looking for.  It seems like a terrible waste but I think I’ll have to special order o few of these superstructure pieces and them cut them off.  Three of these will give me one more than I need for this project.  Maybe I can use the leftover bits to start my own metal casting projects…

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  While I wait for those parts to arrive I will share a sneak peak at the next ROC Navy projects.  I have a couple of excess Knox class and Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates which will undergo conversion for ROC service.  Initial research indicates the major difference will be the addition of box launchers for indigenous ROC anti-ship missiles.

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  More to come…