U.S.S. Boxer - LHD-4
The USS Boxer, LHD-4, is the fourth of the Wasp class amphibious assault ship line. She entered service in 1995 and spent several years deployed to the Western Pacific. After 9/11, the Boxer has deployed to the Persian Gulf several times and recently served as the flagship of Combined Task Force 151, fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia. She participated in the activities surrounding the rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips of the container ship Maersk Alabama. After Capt. Phillips was rescued he was taken to the Boxer for medical treatment and rest.
In February 2013, HobbyBoss released a very precise rendition of the USS Boxer in a 1/700th scale kit. I would like to thank MMD/Squadron for providing this kit to IPMS USA for review.
In the Box
Even the box itself is daunting. It is a large, heavy duty corrugated cardboard box packed so well that you cannot feel anything rattle inside when you shake it. The colorful artwork on the box cover depicts the USS Boxer as part of a task force surrounded by air cover. Upon opening the box, it is difficult not to be overwhelmed. Inside the box are over 600 parts on over 30 sprues and three frets of photo-etched detail parts. Both of those numbers sound very large for a 1/700 scale kit but several of these parts are duplicates and most of the sprues contain parts for the aircraft, trucks and armor and landing craft.
The hull is divided into an upper and lower section divided at the waterline. Both the upper hull and the flight deck are single molded pieces and are very nicely detailed. Included are: US Marine Assault Vehicles; M1A1 (x2), M60A3 (x2), AAV-7 (x2), M1097 (x2), MVTR (x2), LAV-25 (x2), M198 (x2), M1114 (x2); LCAC Hovercraft (x2) and LCU Landing Craft (x2); Aircraft: AV-8B Harrier (x2), MV-22 Osprey (x4) and Helicopters - CH-46E (x4), CH-53E (x4), AH-1W Cobra (x2) and SH-60F (x2) and various deck cranes, forklifts and support vehicles. There is more than enough equipment and aircraft to fill the flight deck for a stunning display.
The brass frets of photo-etched parts are packaged with a film covering both sides with cardboard sheet for protection, and include gangways that run along the sides of the ship, electronically scanned array radar antenna, supporting structure, surveillance radar antennas and safety netting for the fore and aft ends of the flight deck.
Also included in the box is a 12 page instruction booklet, a two-page full-color painting and decal placement guide, three decal sheets, and a two-page full-color advertisement for other HobbyBoss products.
This build is going to take some time but even though the parts are small & plentiful, the construction is fairly straightforward. I decided up front to build a waterline display to go along with HobbyBoss’s 1/700 scale Soviet Baku that I had just completed. Probably the trickiest part of this build was hanging on to each part as I detached them from the sprue. You should try to plan ahead so you only lose parts that you have duplicates of (humor - ha). There are even 9 parts to each Osprey. In many cases, the detailed parts are so small that there is more plastic in the injection points between the parts than there is in the parts themselves. The level of detail on these parts, at this scale, is really something to behold. This is a good time to invest, if you have not already, in a nice set of sprue cutters. I have what I thought was an expensive, nice set of cutters but as you can tell in the photos of the small vehicles, separating the part from the sprue left a nasty mark.
The only problem I had with this kit was the size of the tie down dimples on the flight deck and elevators. As close as I can measure these dimples are about 0.044 inches in diameter. This translates to holes in the deck about 2½ feet in diameter at this scale. The molded detailing on the rest of the ship is second to none, right down to the watertight doors, hinges, ladders and the stop blocks along the sides of the flight deck. The molding technology that produces these parts must really be something to watch.
The photoetched gangways are very nicely done and show the supporting structure underneath. Assembly is a little tricky because the gangways come in several parts - parts that need to be bent and then glued together. Working with material this size requires you to pull out every trick in the book from your experience. I used a ball of modeling clay to hold the parts at the right angles as I glued them together. I used cyanoacrylate accelerator to speed the gluing process.
The antenna are a slightly different story. While these parts are very well done, many of the pieces that need to be bent are narrower than the 1/10 inch marks on my scale. One note here, the precision of the injection molded antenna parts is so fine that you can easily use the plastic antennae pieces instead of the photo etched pieces and still have a very nice display model.
It is easy to plan the construction of the ship to coincide with painting. Most of the upward facing horizontal surfaces and the vertical surfaces can be painted prior to assembly on the superstructure.
The decals are of excellent quality and separate cleanly and quickly from the paper. You have to pay particular attention however, since there are many small details on some of the deck lines, such as the markings for distance from the forward end of the flight deck. Those numbers are hard to see and can easily be cut through when you cut the decals apart. These decals, particularly the danger zone rings around the deck guns and missile launchers, don’t wad themselves up as easily as you would think and are very tough for their size. Once dry, an application of setting solution makes them permanent.
After painting and decals, a quick swipe with weathering powders brings out all the fine detail, right down to that 1/700th scale ladders and water-tight doors. It really is something to see. A coat of semi-gloss or dull-cote over everything then completes and seals the deal.
Wow! HobbyBoss’s molding processes and technologies are very impressive. The 1/700th scale, USS Boxer is an excellent example. This is an extremely challenging kit to build and I recommend this kit for modelers of moderate or better experience due to the photo-etched parts and small size of most plastic detail parts. Less experienced modelers can build it without the photo-etch and still be very pleased with the results.
Thanks again to HobbyBoss and MMD/Squadron for providing this great kit for review and thanks also to IPMS USA for giving me the chance to review it.