Buildup review of the 1/700 JAG kit
I gotta get this out right at the beginning—the modern Albany class of three ships has to represent the ugliest ships I have seen.  Your amphibs can look mean, your missile cruisers can look shark-like and your carriers can look overwhelming, but the “tall ladies” of this class just look ugly. 

That said, there is someone out there for everyone (no “take my wife… please” jokes) and for those of us with an interest in Cold War ship, the Albany class represents a very important stop along the transition path from guns to missiles in modern navies.  The JAG kit upholds the usual high standards in terms of quality and value-for-money, and is an important ship without any other kit available, at least in regular production.  Just don’t call her a beauty.


kits are easy on the modeler, and the Albany is no exception.  The hull and superstructure casting is without a single air bubble, sits perfectly flat and has no flash or other cleanup work needed.  The ship’s fittings are resin, cast in strips, and do require a little cleanup.  A few parts are cast as part of a thin sheet of resin and are easily freed with some sanding.  A decal sheet with numbers for the whole class, helo deck safety markings and flags is included, as well as a small photoetch (PE) fret with ship specific parts.  JAG also includes some ladders and railings in PE, though for full effect you will need to purchase additional railings from one of the aftermarket companies (I used Gold Medal Models’ railings, figures and ladders to supplement what was included in the kit).

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Another sign of the attention JAG showers on these kits is the inclusion of upgraded ship’s boats.  JAG has learned a few things about casting resin along the way, and includes now a new fret of better quality small boats.  The older ones are also in the tube, and can still serve the modeler’s spares box well. 

I built this ship in subassemblies, specifically including each of the Talos missle launchers, the mast, the aft “mack” tower and the various radars and weapons on each side of the ship.  The instruction sheet suggests how some parts need to be built before others can be added, and is worth a few moments of study before you start in on the kit.

Pay particular attention to the aft radar tower.  It is made up of a PE piece, with two resin platforms tucked inside.  I added railings and a ladder.  After folding the PE piece, you will need to adjust the PE and/or the resin platforms to make everything fit properly.  Assemble and paint this subassembly, then attach it once the deck is painted. click to enlarge
The mast also needs to be built separately, not only because it is quite delicate but also because it is painted black while the rest of the area around it should be deck gray.  The yard arms on the mast and on the front of the bridge are very thin resin.  If you are going to add rigging as I did, you should reinforce the yards with some brass rod on the underside.  One could also scratch build yards from some stronger material, otherwise the rigging tension can deform the yards’ shape.

There a couple of antennas and platforms not included in the kit that are easy to add; one behind the forward SPW-2 radar, one atop the bridge and one on the aft mack.  JAG’s instructions include a two-view drawing of the ship and can be used to locate and place the antennas.

I colored the bridge windows in with a 0.05 permanent marker.  I find I have better control of a marker in such small spaces than a brush.  If you press down just a bit on the marker tip, the ink will squeeze out and nestle into the corners of the bridge window frames.

The SPS-43 radar atop the rear mack is made up for three photoetch pieces, and is very delicate and involves several bends.  I found it easier to paint the three PE pieces first, then assemble them, and then touch up the paint where needed.  If you assemble them first, you may have trouble getting paint coverage “inside” the radar and the brass shining through will not look good.

Painting is easy: your basic gray for the hull and superstructure, deck gray (darker) for the horizontal surfaces and black for the upper works and masts.

I enjoyed the build, in large part because JAG kits include user-friendly instructions, parts maps and have a well-developed sense of fit and finish (could I say a modeling version of “shock and awe"?).  Other resin kits have fun aspects, but you sometimes have to wade through less fun sanding and filling and trying to make sense of where things go.  I guess maybe there is someone out there who ENJOYS sanding resin parts, but it ain't me. 


This is not a kit for the beginner.  While the casting is good and the instructions clear, the modeler needs to be comfortable working with photoetched parts and with the process of freeing delicate resin pieces from their sprue/sheet.  The need to break construction down into subassemblies may also be hard on less-experienced modelers more used to instructions that lead you step-by-step through construction.

That said, this is an important ship for any Cold Warrior’s collection, and one not readily available elsewhere in this scale.  For the ship modeler with some resin and PE experience, the JAG Albany is a challenging kit that builds into a fine replica of a “tall lady.”
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