Building a 1/50 scale model of the ARA General Belgrano
By Jim Baumann
The seven ship Brooklyn class of US Navy cruisers were intended to match the IJN Mogami class. The USS Phoenix (CL-46) was launched in March 1938. On December 7 1941 she was lying at Pearl Harbour during the Japanese airborne attacks, but fortunately escaped damage and casualties. During the Pacific Campaign she was in the thick of the action in most theatres, including the sinking of the IJN Battleship Fuso. Her services earned her nine battlestars. In 1946 she was placed in reserve but kept in operable condition..

In 1951 The Argentine navy acquired the USS Phoenix and renamed the the ’17 Octubre’. . She joined what was at the time the most powerful navy in South America..

In September 1955, after the fall of the Peron Government she was renamed the General Belgrano and was the pride of the Argentinian Navy , celebrating30 years of service in 1981.

The outbreak of the Falklands War in early 1982 found the General Belgrano taking up her duties and on 2 May she was patrolling south of the Falklands Islands when she was torpedoed by the RN submarine HMS Conqueror, sinking exactly one hour later with the loss of 323 crew.

A well-balanced and more detailed account of the events of the sinking can be studied on this page.

The model of the ARA General Belgrano
The club CAMNE ( Club Argentino de Modelismo Naval y Escala) was founded in 1996. After a visit to the National naval Museum at Tigre, Buenos Aires studying the 1:100 scale model exhibited there, Juan Carlos Lagos felt that a better quality larger scale model would be more appropriate given the real ships position in Argentine Naval History.  click images
to enlarge
He contacted fellow members of CAMNE and the decision for a large scale co-operative group build of the General Belgrano was taken, a scale of 1/50 being settled upon and Juan Carlos being team coordinator.

The Hull was constructed of 10mm thick Plywood frames sitting on a keel of 40mm x 40mm to give the necessary longitudinal strength, and the planked with 4mm thick marine plywood strips This was accomplished by three people working on each side simultaneously to maintain alignment.

Each strake was shaped individually and fastened with Bronze nails. The planking of this 3.7metre( 146 in) long hull took 4 months. The hull was then coated in epoxy with glass cloth on the outside face before being faired with filler.

The deck was laid with individual 3 x 2mm planks, fastened with CA. Great care was taken to ensure even spacing and margin planking.
Whilst the structural aspects were nearing completion the 6 in guns and their mountings ships boats, anchors, funnels etc were being constructed by various members of the team.
The model was intended for static display in the Museum, however given the scale of the model and the visual impact she would have on the water the urge to see her sail proved irresistible!

The four bladed propellers of 75mm diameter( 2.9 in) were made in the UK by the ‘Propshop’. These are driven by 4 automotive air-conditioning electric motors via rubber belts without reduction gearing. Power is supplied by four 12 volt 7amp batteries wired in parallel—giving a running time of 1 hour.

A major consideration to making the model successful on the water was the question of ballasting so as to reach the correct waterline.. The all-up weight of the model in sailing trim was over 90 kg( 180 lbs) with 40 kg(80 lbs) being lead ballast-which has to be added once the hull is afloat, the task of carrying and launching the model fully ballasted being infeasible. The ballast consists of individually cast and shaped lead ingots.

After successful launch and sea trials, attended by Captain Bonzo( who was the commander of the General Belgrano at the time of her sinking-and was the last man to leave the ship) the long haul of completing the model started.

The main superstructure was built using various gauges of plastic sheeting. The handrails have 120 stanchions, all of which were individually lathe turned and solder-connected with 0.7mm wire.

Radars were drawn using CAD and photoetched in bronze sheet, small gun barrels cast in white metal, studlink was handmade, the anchor was cast in bronze uing a wood mould,, the 60 life rafts were cast in resin.

The masts were turned of wood, and feature operating radar.

The entire model was scratch built laboriously, the only commercial items being used were the Propellers, portholes and ladders.

The ship was airbrushed in Argentinian Navy ‘Horizon Grey’

The model took ten people 10 000 hours to build over a period of two and half years.

On 2 May 2007, the 25 year anniversary of her sinking the Belgrano sailed once again at the Centenario Park., accompanied by the Navy Band.

The Navy also supplied a truck with which to transport the model. She sailed for eighty minutes, followed by the Ceremony and laying of wreaths for those killed in action at the Cenotaph.

The model was formally loaned to the National Navy Museum at Tigres on 17 May -which is also national Navy day.
Thereafter the model and her creators were invited to a TV studio for interviews and a 15-minute broadcast of the model sailing.

At inception the model was intended for museum display, however the loan status permits CAMNE to sail the model three times a year at various shows.

The principal team members of the construction team were:

Juan Carlos Lago,Aldo Pellerano, Ricardo Franzese, Alejandro Diloreto, Gabriel Garcia, Hector Nadeo, Diego Bevilaqua, Juan Astengo, Manuel Romero .

Chris Jackson Of Marine Modelling International magazine –who supplied the propellers- wrote a multipart article in the abovementioned magazine which is featured over 4 issues.

I would like to extend thanks to Juan Carlos Lagos and CAMNE for giving us the opportunity to web-debut the model here at

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Jim Baumann