Completed: USS Mertz – 1/700th Scale Skywave Kit
Posted by Don Murphy on September 9, 2014, 14:35:49
A guy at the local model club came in one night to the monthly meeting and announced that he was giving up plastic model building to concentrate on train building. He therefore was giving away kits and had two huge boxfuls. Being one of only a handful of ship builders, I easily picked up the two kits he had. One of the kits was the Skywave "Dry Dock" kit which includes one Fletcher Class destroyer in the kit. I got home, opened the kit and inside were no less than four kits worth of parts! Dang! Not really helping me thin my stash out, is it?! Well they build rather quickly as you can imagine, but after Fletcher number two, burnout sets in. What to do? Well, I did the third one as a World War Two "what-if." Well, not actually a "what-if" but we'll get to that later. For the last one, I decided to do a real "what-if." A Cold War Fletcher. |
The Skywave Fletcher kits come with virtually every weapon known to man, let alone every weapon a Fletcher ever carried. Post-war, the Cold War Fletcher's carried pretty standard weapons. The last commissioned one was USS Mertz who lasted until 1977. So my what-if centers around President Carter getting re-elected and keeping the old Fletcher Class destroyers around. The funny thing is that the Fletchers were already in the fleet in large numbers so there were a ton of spare parts around. The ships could be used as weapon test beds (which is what they occassionally did) prior to flooding the fleet with new technology. Aft, we'll remove the tried and tested (but obscelete) depth charge racks and all guns. We'll replace the rear-most gun with a "new" (for the day) MK-45 five inch gun and aft of that, two SLCM Tomahawk launchers (four missiles per launcher).
Behind the gun mount, we'll place a MK-29 Sea Sparrow launcher with no reload capability (just like the rest of the Navy). Behind that we have some comms gear that the US Navy was testing in the mid-1970's including the familiar WSC-3 satelite communication antenna. Mid-ships, we'll remove the two AA gun installations. The US Navy removed the two quintuple torpedo tube banks in the 1950's and replaced them with twin three inch rapid fire guns and their associated fire control equipment. We're going to put quadruple Harpoon launcher tubes, Phalynx close in weapon system 20mm guns and and ASROC launcher in the area. The large air-surface search radar is the old SPS type that was mounted on the gun cruisers in the late 1960's. Although obscelete by 1970's standards, it would be sufficient for a Cold War Fletcher.
A lot of the weapons like Sea Sparrow, Tomahawk and Harpoon are fire-and-forget weapons. So a Fletcher operating alongside a capable ship like a Spruance Destroyer could launch it's weapons and have the other, more capable ship, control them. This was done a lot in the Cold War US Navy and was the key reason for the NTPU upgrades of the 1980's. Forward we have another of the new MK-45 rapid fire five inch guns and behind it in the old five inch gun location, we have another MK-29 Sea Sparrow launcher. Behind the Sea Sparrows, the Hedgehog launchers were removed and in their place are two MK-32 triple anti-submarine torpedo tubes. The ships are actually quite clean and organized when you remove the ton of World War Two weaponry (20mm and 40mm guns plus their associated fire control equipment.
The long whale boats have also been removed and two RIBs put in their place. President Carter's rationale was "work smarter not harder." Why build a fleet of ships just for the sake of building them? Carter's goal was heavy destroyers and no cruisers. So the Ticonderoga Class of cruisers (which are essentially stretched Spruance Class destroyers) would have made up the bulk of the fleet defense. The obscelete destroyer fleet would have been decommissioned. What Reagan did instead was carry forward Carter's building schedule but also keep the ships they were replacing. While this left the US Navy with way more ships than it could have had during normal means, it also put a strain on the supply chain as Storekeepers struggled to stock spares for 1940's and 1950's era shipping. The 1950's/1960's era cruisers were parts intensive/cramped and crowded for suitable modification.
Like most Skywaves, this kit has few parts and builds quickly. In 700th scale the guns are grossly overscale and improved with after market. There is no dedicated after market photo etch set for these ships but the generic GMM USN WW2 Destroyers And Cruisers set can be used. I therefore used my scraps from that set to do up the ship. Honestly, not much is needed other than the obligatory ladders, stairs, hatches and rails. In Second World War configuration, you'll obviously want the MK-37 radar gear and the depth charge racks. Skywave's molding is really accurate and even in this small scale you appreciate the workmanship that Skywave have achieved. I forgot to include the ruler in the photo but the ship is little shorter than a dollar bill. For my colors I used the Tamiya rattle car US Navy World War Two Haze Grey as the ships pretty much retained their post-war colors.