Dragon 1/700
USS San Diego CL-53

Premium Edition
Reviewed by Timothy Dike
The San Diego was a member of the Atlanta class light cruisers, often referred to as Anti-Aircraft Cruisers (CLAA). The early ships of this class were built with eight 5" 38 cal twin turrets, (the two waist turrets were eliminated in favor of 40 mm on later ships). These small cruisers (6,000 tons) were ideal for acting as Carrier escorts or Destroyer leaders, though they were known at times to go up against surface ships. The first four ships of this class had a round style bridge, while later ships had an open style square bridge.

The USS San Diego (CL-53) was commissioned just after the US entry into World War II, and active throughout the Pacific theater.

After shakedown training in Chesapeake Bay, San Diego sailed via the Panama Canal to the west coast, arriving at her namesake city on 16 May 1942. Escorting Saratoga (CV-3) at best speed, San Diego barely missed the Battle of Midway. On 15 June, she began escort duty for Hornet (CV-8) in operations in the South Pacific. Early in August, she supported the first American offensive of the war, the invasion of the Solomons at Guadalcanal. With powerful air and naval forces, the Japanese fiercely contested the American thrust and inflicted heavy damage; San Diego witnessed the sinking of Wasp (CV-7) on 15 September and of Hornet on 26 October.

San Diego gave antiaircraft protection for Enterprise (CV-6) as part of the decisive three day Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, 12 to 15 November 1942. After several months of service in the dangerous waters surrounding the Solomon Islands, San Diego sailed via Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, to Auckland New Zealand, for replenishment.

She was decommissioned and placed in the Pacific Reserve Fleet on 4 November 1946, berthed at Bremerton, Washington. She was redesignated CLAA-53 on 18 March 1949. Ten years later, she was struck from the Naval Vessel Register, on 1 March 1959.

San Diego received 15 battle stars for service in World War II.

This is one of my favorite ships and I am glad to see it available again. For many years the only kit available was the old Matchbox USS San Diego. It was not a bad kit for it's day, but was somewhat crude in the details. When Skywave released a brand new USS Atlanta and San Diego, their version was then state of the art. Later Dragon acquired these molds and upgraded the kit by adding a complete lower hull and an all new sprue with square bridge and other late war specific parts for their USS Oakland kit. That kit has been out of production for quite some time and has been one of the most requested 1/700 kits in the ship modeling community. Rather than just putting that older kit back on the market. Dragon upgraded it to help bring it up to today's standards and released it as a new Premium Edition Kit. Just what is a "Premium Edition" kit?

Dragon writes:

Premium Edition kits strike an optimum balance between technology and value for the money, often with the reuse and revival of existing Dragon Models. New technology is added to create new molds and more accurate parts, and these elements are combined to produce a greatly improved kit. Premium Edition kits are complete in every sense and offer modellers a chance to extend their families of model vehicles.

So let's see what we get in this new kit. The first thing that jumps out at me, is the stunning box art! This has got to be one of the best renderings of any kit that I have seen. I wish I could make out the artists name, as I would sure like to congratulate him.
The main sprue consists of the upper hull and superstructure parts. The hull is molded with an open bow and a separate bow deck insert. There is an insert along the waterline that is molded along the torpedo bulge. This extends too far aft and should stop by the end of the aft superstructure. The torpedo bulge itself protrudes too far from the sides of the hull when assembled. This turns out to be an easy fix, as you can sand this insert before attaching it to the hull.  Click images
to enlarge
The superstructure parts are nicely detailed and have a fair amount of surface detailing. There are nicely molded anchor chains on the forward deck. Many of the gun tubs have diamond plate tread molded on the floors. The masts are fairly thin and look pretty good.
This sprue also includes many other parts. These are the parts to build the USS Atlanta and Juneau. They include the stepped round bridge face and the middle deck with all the boat cradles. This kit has all the parts needed to build any of the first four San Diego class cruisers mentioned above and also including the USS San Juan.

At first glance this appears to be the same as the parts included in the old Skywave kit. But upon closer examination you can see that it has been cleaned up and that the 5" gun mounting locations have been modified to accept the new Dragon Weapons.

A full lower hull and mounting hardware are included on the second sprue. A nameplate is included with the USS Atlanta. Barely noticeable on this sprue are some rather tiny parts that have been added to the mold. The smallest is the base for the SG Radar set, a first in 1/700 scale.
 Wow, I didn't think you could mold a part that small. The SG antenna is provided in photo etch shown below.
Sprue B (x 2) 
The tried and true old E-6 weapons sprue is still included for some basic parts such as davits and boats. But Dragon has recently produced some very fine weapons for their Essex Class Carriers in 1/700 scale and have provided us with several of those as shown below. As nice as these sprues were 10 years ago, they are certainly not up to the standards that Dragon has set for new kits. So rather than just put the same old kit out, we have some new additions to it with the following state of the art parts sprues.
Sprue L (x 2)
Two Essex class sprues are included with the best 5" 38 cal gun mounts in this scale. I am thrilled that Dragon has provided these as the four dual 5" 38 cal gun mounts on this sprue are a testament to how detail can be preserved with slide molding technology. 
The sights on the gun houses rival that that we see in resin kits. You get some extra Essex Class island parts for your parts box, but I'm certainly not complaining! 
Sprue K (x 4)
This is the main weapons sprue and there are four of them in the kit. It includes the many anti-aircraft guns and various fittings used on the ship. Various radar's and other detail items are also included if you chose to use the plastic versions. 5" 38 cal guns are included here too, but you will want to use those on the L sprue above. The 40 mm guns are not bad but the gun barrels are a little thick. The 20 mm are also a little thick, but I really like the way they are molded. The front shield is offset from the pedestal and the separate gun can be mounted at any angle just like the real ones. 
You also get Mk-51 directors, searchlights and even some pelorus mounts. All are as fine as injections molding permits in this scale. Not to be overlooked are the nice life rafts that have some nice netting molded on.
Having all these extra weapons is a real plus for the ship modeler. Not only do you have extra parts to upgrade your other existing ship kits, but now you also have all the parts needed to update this kit to most any version, early war or late war, of the four Atlanta Class cruisers.
A photoetch fret is included that will allow you to replace some of the molded on details. Three new radar's are included, first an SG antenna that is used with the plastic part mentioned above. An SA and SC radar antenna will allow you to model the San Diego at any time during her career and are much nicer than the plastic ones supplied in the kit. 
New 1.1" gun mounts are provided with relief etched details and will give you that really thin scale width appearance. These are constructed as one piece gun mounts with separate barrels. These are designed to be folded into shape and photo etch novices will appreciate not having to glue a lot of parts into place. New depth charge racks are included as well. The railings have a realistic drooped chain effect that will really enhance your kit.
The decals by Cartograf include the ship names for the first four ships with hull numbers. Two US Flags and four ensigns are also include. These are nicely registered and pretty sharp. 
The instructions are an eight page booklet showing the assembly in a step by step process that is easy to follow. Very thorough and well illustrated. The last page shows the ship in the three camo patterns she wore during her career. I am pleased to see that the mistakes made in the old Skywave San Diego have been corrected here. Dragon has gone the extra mile to ensure that this kit is more accurate than previous ones. There is one mistake that was not corrected. That is the use of part number A-3 instead of A-2. None of the first four ships used the bridge front without the step.
This kit is a welcome upgrade to the 1/700 line of ships. The upgraded tooling and new parts make it an even better value. The retail price should be under $25.00 US. Definitely a great value when you consider all the extra state of the art parts that have been included. I can hardly wait to see the other Premium Edition kits.