Shanghi/Dragon 1/350 Scale Ohio Class Submarine SSBN-726
by Kelly Jamison
Every modeler looks for it. Our eyes are on a constant search for it. Intrepid investigators keep vigilance on the newspaper. We listen to the radio and watch the TV for it. What are we looking for? Sale! Clearance! Store Closing! Discount! Final Day Sale! Each of those words conjures up thoughts of getting that one kit that has eluded you, not because of availability but because of cost.
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My adventure began at a local hobby store that had put an ad in the paper. "1/3rd OFF ANY PLASTIC MODEL KIT IN THE STORE!" the advertisement announced. I threw down the paper and grabbed the car keys, practicing my excuses to the traffic cop for my impending speeding ticket. I quickly found myself at the hobby store, ticket free. Using my superior rationale, I figured I could spend that much more for NOT getting a ticket. It seemed logical at the time. I quickly found a great bargain. The 1/350th Scale U.S.S. OHIO Submarine by Shanghai/ Dragon. Normally priced at $23.00, The small yellow clearance price tag had an amazing $7.47 on it. I have been wanting to build something different lately and this fit the bill perfect. I picked up a few more models I do not want to mention here for fear that my spouse might read this review, and off I went to the checkout line. When I got the kit home, I opened it to find that it was grossly overboxed. The box measured a long 21 1/4" X 8 1/4" X 2 1/2". The length of the unassembled hull measured only 18-3/4". At first, I was disappointed until I noticed that the box is a perfect container for repacking the model for that inevitable move. Keep the box!
The Ohio, by the way, is the name ship of an 18-boat class of ballistic missile submarines. When she was commissioned in 1981, the Ohio was the largest submarine afloat, weighing in at 16,600 tons while surfaced and measuring 560 feet in length. The Ohio carries 24 missiles which each may carry 14 multiple re-entry vehicle (MIRV) warheads, giving the submarines a frightening striking power.
The kit is molded in a dark gray. It has 158 pieces on four different trees. That sounds like a lot until you realize that most of those pieces are for the stand, two SH-60 helicopters, periscopes and missile launch tube covers. The hull is split down the horizontal axis and the spine comes in one long piece. It caps the top hull. The deck is perforated with the ports for the missile launch tube covers. Now here is a neat trick in saving mold cost. Two of the trees are identical in components. By combining the components from both trees, you will get all the parts you need to make the stand, two helicopters, missiles and all the hatch covers. I started the kit by first deciding the configurations of the missile launch tube covers, periscope position, torpedo launch covers and assorted other hatches. Periscopes up and all hatches and covers open, showing the business end of this boomer.
The instructions are written in five different languages. They are printed on white paper with black and blue ink to show emphasis areas. The diagrams are drawn in an exploded 60 degree angle view. They are simple numbered lines corresponding to the part number, pointing to where the part should go. Blue highlight areas tell you to use glue or not and if it is an optional part and very little verbiage.
The Upper Hull
The injection ports are very thick. Using a razor saw is the best bet on detaching the hull halves from the sprue tree. Now here is a neat trick. Do not glue the two hull halves together yet. Take the top half and start working on the tower and missile silo hatches. If you glue the two pieces together you have a round tube that rolls all over the desk. Setting the newly formed hull off to the side to dry, I moved to the conning tower and dive planes.
The Conning Tower
The instruction sheet indicates that the conning tower should be the first step. It looks like a straight forward design. Two halves glued together. You have your choice of periscopes down and stowed or periscopes up, brisling on the top cap of the tower. Each dive plane sticks into small holes on the sides of the tower. The left dive plane has a shaft protruding from it, with the end of the shaft being a half shaft. It fits into a small trench in the bottom of the right dive plane. The shaft that ran through the conning tower has a small tab on it that has to be placed squarely on the opposing dive plane. Putty is needed to clean up the underside of the dive plane on the right side of the conning tower. When both of these are glued together they can be placed at any angle you want. As I dry fitted the parts I came to the conclusion I did not like this bit of engineering. It is easy to twist the thin shaft that runs through the tower and the planes are no longer at the correct angle to each other. There are five different periscopes/communication antennas and a fresh air snorkel on the top of the tower. I would wait for the final assembly of the kit before putting these items on. Using my always trusty AMBROID PRO WELD liquid glue, I assembled the conning tower in very short time. I will put the tower on after sanding and polishing of the hull.
The Upper Deck
I used Testors Model Master ACRYL Aircraft Interior Black on the underside of the upper deck, hatch doors, hinges and the launch tubes on the hull. It is a chrome black that I found out is great for scale use and washes up with ease. Getting good coverage inside all the launch tubes was very difficult so you must go slowly in this area. I painted the launch tube covers Testors Model Master ACRYL gloss white. The small tips of the missiles that sit inside the launch tubes were painted bright red. The instructions now imply to glue the bright red missile nose cones to the inside of the launch tubes. I placed the upper deck to the hull but it did not fit correctly up front. The deck is supposed to be raised off the hull about 1/16"of an inch but it is misalign in the front. A small shim on each side and the deck was all that was needed to raise the upper deck to its proper level. A smooth coat of putty was needed to blend the upper deck to the hull. Now for the tedious task of gluing all those hatches on to the upper deck. They are cleverly hinged to open and shut but they do not fit very well in the closed position. Twenty-four hatches, twenty four covers. Small staple shaped retainers are glued into the upper deck. The hatch covers are sandwiched over the tube covers trapping the top of the staple and using it as a hinge point. Alignment of these staples is critical to set the height of the hatch covers and their position to the upper deck.
The Lower Hull
Gluing the lower hull to the upper hull is a straight forward affair. A bit of liquid glue in the alignment lugs on the inside of the hull. I held the two halves in one hand letting the seam open just a bit. Place the liquid glue down the seam and let the capillary action take over and draw the glue into the seam. After a few seconds, pinch the two pieces together and watch the glue soften plastic squeeze out of the seams, looking very much like a weld mark. One hour later, I ran a bead of putty down the sides. I let it dry overnight and wet sanded using coarse, medium then fine sandpaper. After the seam was smooth, I rescribed the panel lines. I used a drafting template, a teardrop shaped file and a tungsten tip scribe to accomplish the re-scribing. A soft rub down from an old cotton shirt took any rough edges from the panel lines and polished the seam area. Now is the time for the conning tower to be glued to the upper hull. It fits nicely into two small pin holes in the top of the hull. Now you need to finish the upper and lower rudders. The rudder is a three piece unit that consist of a large upper rudder and two halves of the lower rudder. The upper rudder has a shaft that is placed through a vertical hole in the tail of the hull, then the two lower rudder pieces sandwich the end of the shaft locking it in place. I tried to get the large rudder piece with the shaft to fit through the vertical hole for a few minutes then just cut it off and glued the top rudder to the hull then sandwiched the lower rudder halves on the remainder of the shaft and glued it in the lower part of the vertical hole. A quick alignment of the top and bottom units is all that is needed to finish the rudder.
After experimenting with different types of red, I settled with Badger Precise Design Model Flex 16-07 Signal Red for the bottom and my trusty Model Master ACRYL Aircraft Interior Black for the top. Following pictures I found on the web, I painted the sub red then gave it a clear coat of Future Floor Polish right out of the bottle. This will help protect the paint for the masking tape used when painting the black upper surface. I used low adhesive drafting tape to mask the black from the red and airbrushed the black in progressively thicker coats. You are trying to reproduce the acoustic coating and the anti-skid paint on the top so don't worry too much if it is not as smooth as glass when you airbrush it on. Another coat of Future Floor Polish sealed the paint. Then I let it dry overnight.
The decals are straight forward and their placement corresponds with the instructions and photo references. The hardest decals are the white reference lines that the helicopters use to land on the upper deck. The decals lay down just right with a little SolvaSet Decal Solvent. The periscope decals are a bit tricky. Take your time with those and trim off all the carrier film before putting them into water. I had to constantly check with my magnifying glass that I didn't have the decals reversed or upside down. They are very small and fragile. You only get one shot at them so go slowly. The waterline numbers were difficult to deal with and had to be handled with great care as to not damage them or place them upside down. Once in place they add a lot to the scale of the model. The conning tower numbers can be mixed or matched for any of the Ohio Class submarines. A small reference chart comes with the instructions telling you what each of the Ohio Class Submarines call numbers are. One more clear coat of Future Floor Polish and a coat of Model Masters ACRYL Clear Flat is all that is needed to complete the painting of the main body.
Bits and Pieces
I turned my attention to the propeller. A small piece of curved blades that were just too thick. I thinned them down, tapering the edges to better represent the blades. The prop got a quick coat of Testors Brass enamel paint and a clear coat of, you guessed it, Future Floor Polish. It glued into the back of the hull on a simple shaft.
The SH-60 Seahawk Helicopters are very small but again add scale to this kit. The fuselage halves glue together with no problem. A few swipes with the sanding stick and the fuselages are ready. The blades need a quick clean up and they are ready for installation. A small dab of superglue is all that was needed to glue them to the top of the fuselages. The tail rotor shafts stuck out too far and needed to be trimmed back about 1/16". They also got the superglue treatment and were fixed to the tail of the tiny fuselages. I used a light gray to paint the main body of the helicopters and a dark gray to paint the radome and anti-glare panels up in front of the forward wind screen. The landing gear legs are very small and difficult to work on. I ended dabbing some superglue on the desk and lightly dipping the end of the gear strut in the glue. I then moved quickly to glue it to the small lug coming out of the side of the fuselages. I painted the little wheels black along with the main rotor blades and the tail rotor. I used a dark green to simulate the tinted wind screens of the cockpit. This completed the helicopters. Treat them like little separate models and you will be pleased with the results.
I moved on to the missiles. They can be displayed coming out of the launch tubes or on the base with the helicopters. The main bodies are made up of one piece with a small piece glued to the bottom to represent the thrust nozzle. These pieces are not perfectly round and you might want to use some stock rod and just sand the tip to match the nose cone of the original. I used silver with black detail on mine.
I had a piece of oak lying around the garage area. I cleaned it up and stained it Royal Red Oak. I placed two brass rods through it and drilled two holes in the bottom of the submarine. After taking careful measurements matching the lug holes in the lower hull I placed the hull onto the new base I had made. Then I razor sawed off the nameplate from the plastic stand. Cleaned it up and painted it black with white and red lettering. A bit of rubber glue to hold it onto the front of the new stand and you get a much better looking display than if you used the one that came with the kit.
Like any great athlete, cross-training is very important. You develop skills that you normally would not use. This departure from my normal 1/48 scale WW II aircraft was welcome. It also taught me a little more respect for our ship building brethren. I get upset over building eight under-wing rocket launchers, not to mention twenty-four hatch covers and I don't even want to mention 1/350th scale helicopters. I really do appreciate a good ship model that much more. The kit is a quick build and because of the nature of the subject there is not much aftermarket items to add. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to do something different once and awhile. I enjoyed the kit very much and am looking for a German U-Boat to try next. Any good suggestions?
1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00
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