U-Boat Aces – Limited Edition
Characterized as the longest naval battle in history by British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, The Battle of the Atlantic was conducted from the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 through the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. Crucial to the survival of Great Britain was the island nation’s ability to receive military and general material aid from North America via the sea lanes of the Atlantic Ocean. To disrupt and ultimately destroy this sea bridge, the German navy engaged in a ruthless and relentless campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare against merchant and military shipping carrying aid to the British Isles. Two of the most effective and prominent German unterseeboot (U-Boat) designs of the period were the Type VIIC and Type IXC boats, both providing extremely lethal and efficient fighting platforms for many of Nazi Germany’s celebrated “U-Boat Aces.”
In The Box
Perhaps a new record in the modeling industry, Hasegawa provides 6 kits (although the box lid claims 4) into a box measuring a meager 9-1/2” x 5” x 1.” Contents include a pair each of Type VIIC and Type IXC boats in waterline configuration and a pair of merchant “victim” ship bow and stern hull sets in sinking attitude. A fret of nicely executed photoetch detail is tossed in to provide fine handrail and net cutter detail. A small decal sheet contains markings for the boats of 6 Nazi aces – 3 representing each U-Boat type. Instructions are printed in black and white on a single sheet, and are sufficiently comprehensive to assemble and paint all 3 subject types.
Having recently watched a TV documentary on submarines, with a segment showcasing U-Boat Aces, I thought it would be fun to do a “buddy build” with my son Camden, on the cusp of turning 9 during the build period. After all, how challenging could a couple dozen of parts to make 3 ships per builder? That in mind, Camden chose the larger Type IXC boats, leaving Dad with the earlier VIIC’s. Unbeknownst to the adult supervision, the lad chose the boats requiring PE on the conning tower. More on that later.
Not much to the build for the basic structures for all 3 ship types, with only a handful of parts required for each. The tiny part size of the U-Boat conning towers were a bit difficult to handle without snapping of the loop antennae on the top sills. Also, careful attention was needed to dry-fit the towers to the VIIC decks, as the right side of the tower base left a small gap between it and the main deck, further pronounced by the aft locating pin on the aft end of the conning tower structure. I realized this a bit late in the build – only after conning tower and deck had been fully painted.
The PE railings for the Type VIIC and IXC seemed to fit well with very little adjusting required. Camden took another step in his skills development when he, under duress, actually shaped and installed the Type IXC’s conning tower railings, since that type had no molded-on railing option for the conning tower. Discretion being the better part of valor, we chose to leave the molded railings on the IXC’s hulls.
Although U-Boat detail was fairly extensive and crisp for such small models, merchant “victim” detail was a bit more Spartan, but adequate for the “context-providing” role. Like the U-Boats, each merchantman consisted of only a handful of parts, and assembled easily.
Once subassemblies were complete, they were primed with Walmart’s generic gray primer, then airbrushed with an assortment of acrylics for the basic hull colors. Type VIIC’s received Tamiya XF-66 Light Grey, IXC’s XF-20 Medium Gray, and merchantmen Italeri Acrylic Neutral Gray (FS 36270). U-Boat decks were painted Vallejo Model Air NATO black, and merchantmen decks were painted Italeri Acrylic Wood and Gunship Gray. Waterlines of the U-Boats and one merchantman were painted Tamiya NATO Brown, and the other Model Master Acryl British Crimson. Painting some of the finer details on the Type IXC U-Boat decks was quite challenging for the younger modeler, and thus some were just painted over with NATO Black for the sake of expediency and “cleanliness” of finish.
Future was applied to the conning towers to facilitate decal adhesion. Applying the extremely tiny decals between tiny surface features was a bit tricky. Carrier film border had to be completely removed at top and bottom of decals just to get them to fit the contours of the conning tower exteriors. Once settled, they were sealed with an additional layer of future.
Oil washes were then applied to sub hull sides and decks of all ships to provide some “pop” to the finely molded surface detail. Oils were also used to add some rust streaking to one of the merchantmen.
Being of the waterline variety, the models need context in which to be properly displayed. We chose a simple technique that even an 8-year old can master – simulating water using Liquitex acylic gel artist medium and model display boxes available at many hobby shops and “big box” hobby retailers. The Liquitex technique is outlined at ModelWarships.com Forum (http://www.shipmodels.info/mws_forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=37641) .
Despite the seemingly simplicity inferred by low part count, this kit (or set of kits), poses a small host of challenges, including handling of small parts, some fit issues, tiny PE forming and affixing, and some fine detail painting. Although these features don’t detract from the model, they do validate the website recommendation for ages 14 and older.
All things considered, Hasegawa has turned out a fun set of nicely-detailed U-Boats in ship modeling’s “braille scale.” I heartily recommend U-Boat Aces – Limited Edition to intermediate and advanced skill-level modelers looking to capture the essence of the Battle of the Atlantic or to other modelers wanting to dip their proverbial toes into the waters of ship modeling.
Thanks to Hobbico for the review sample and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity to provide the review.