JAG Collective
1/700 USS California CGN-36

California Class Nuclear powered Guided Missile Cruiser
Reviewed by Timothy Dike
The USS California was the lead ship of a new class of guided missile cruiser. They were intended to be the prototypes for mass produced nuclear powered escorts. Only two were built, before the original design was modified into what later became the Virginia class cruiser. These 10,00 ton ships were originally fitted with the Tartar missile launchers, these were later modified to carry Standard SM-2MR missiles. Harpoon launchers and 2 Phalanx CIWS were also added. JAG has cast this ship in her original configuration as she was in the 70's and early 80's.
The ship comes nicely packed in the distinctive "JAG" tube for extra protection. Of course all you Engineering majors know that the round shape is structurally stronger than a rectangle! Inside the hull was secured with a foam insert to prevent it from moving around inside the container. The extra parts and photo etch are tucked neatly inside with the instructions rolled up and inserted inside.
The hull is nicely cast in one piece with the superstructure molded on. The casting is superb, and my sample lays perfectly flat without adjusting needed. The detailing is crisp and I found no evidence of any casting flaws. This ship class reminds me of a modern day St. Louis class with it's compact superstructure and long elegant lines. 
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Having the superstructure already in place is a plus and should reduce your building time. There is quite a bit of piping, vents, and other detail cast onto the superstructure, and the deck includes cap stands, chocks, and other details cast on. 
The missile launchers, gun turrets, and mast platforms are cast on a paper thin sheet of resin. The 5' 54 cal rapid firing gun turrets have that characteristic streamlined look. Care should be used to remove the mast platforms from this sheet as they are pretty thin. Other miscellaneous parts are nicely cast on two separate runners with a minimum of flash. Also included are some plastic pieces to make some of the mast parts.
The kit includes a photo etch fret with the SPS-55 and SPS-40 radar assemblies, as well as the platforms and helo netting. Boat davit supports, antenna platforms and that distinct NTDS antenna on the bow are all included. If I was to find any fault in this kit, it would be the lack of hand rails for the hull. As some of you might know the larger the photo etch fret, the larger the price. so it was decided to leave out the longer rails on this ship to keep the cost affordable to most modelers. Tom's Modelworks, Gold Medal Models, and Flagship all have railing sets that will work on this kit.
The decal sheet has numbers for both ships in the class, South Carolina being the other one,  and helo deck markings. The warning circles around the gun and missile mounts are there as well on a crisply printed sheet. 
Master Modeler Michael Taylor writes this about this kit:

One piece hull and superstructures, resin SPG radars, weapons, and ships boats. Photo etched SPS  radars, boat davits etc. Another excellent offering from JAG. Flash is thin to transparency on the  smaller cast pieces. Other pieces are cast on a thin wafer. I built this kit in 2 hours-then painted it. Comprehensive decals for weapons areas and helicopter deck. Add some photo etched rails if you  like and that's it. 

The instructions consist of the front and back of a "B" size sheet (11" x 17"), showing an exploded view on one side with a parts list and specifications and history on the other. There is also a plan and elevation of the ship showing the markings of the California.

Conclusions: Excellent casting and a great subject, this kit will be a joy to build. This kit could be a pretty easy build, not including the paint job, it could be completed in an evening. While not for the beginner, anyone with a little resin experience could easily tackle this subject. I usually stick to WW2 subjects, but this is a ship that I can't wait to build.

Thanks to Gene Largado and Tom Gardner of JAG for the review sample

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