First Look at Blue Water Navy’s 1/350th U.S.S. Lexington (CV-2)

By Martin Quinn

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I have always loved to read.  As a child, I would spend many an afternoon in the small local branch of the town library, devouring history books.   Several books left an indelible mark on me.  Among them was “Queen of the Flat-tops”, the book that introduced me to the story of the fabled “Lady Lex”, the first carrier to carry the name Lexington.

Laid down as one the Constellation-class battle cruisers, Lexington and her sister Saratoga were converted to aircraft carriers as part of the Washington Naval Treaty in 1921.   Large and fast, the two carriers became the test bed and proving ground for US Naval Aviation in the 20’s the 30’s.

On December 5, 1941, Lexington departed Pearl Harbor, carrying planes to reinforce the garrison on Midway Island.  Two days later, the Lady Lex was still at sea when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor.   She joined up with Enterprise to search for the enemy task force, which they fortunately did not find.     Joining with “Sister Sara”, the Lexington was part of the abortive attempt to relieve Wake Island in late December.

After spending time on patrols protecting Oahu, in February the Lexington was en route to raid the Japanese base at Rabaul when her Task Group was attacked by Japanese planes.   During the attack – in which seventeen attackers were shot down – Lt Butch O’Hare won the Medal of Honor for splashing five planes himself.

In March, she teamed with the carrier Yorktown to raid Lae and Salamaua, then returned to Hawaii, where her 8 inch guns were removed and replaced with 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns.

By May, Lex and Yorktown were back together, operating to blunt Japanese attempts to move on Port Moresby and Australia.  On May 7th, Lexington’s planes found and sunk the Japanese light carrier Shoho, prompting the famous “Scratch one flat top” radio call.    However, bigger game was afoot. The Japanese fleet carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku – veterans of the Pearl Harbor raid - were still out there waiting to be found and looking for the American task force.

On May 8th, the two sides found each other.  While Shokaku was heavily damaged by American planes and Zuikaku had her air group chewed up, the Japanese were able to penetrate the American CAP and anti-aircraft fire around 11 in the morning, scoring hits on both US carriers.

During the attack, Lexington was struck by two torpedoes and three bombs.    The gallant Lady Lex shook off the blows and was able to steam at 25 knots and recover her air group while her damage control teams beat back the fires.     It looked like the Lexington was going to survive until she was rocked by a massive explosion early in the afternoon.    The bomb damage had caused gas vapor leaks below decks.  The vapors reached a generator that not been shut off, igniting the fumes and dooming the ship.

Ablaze and wracked by explosions, Lexington was abandoned at 5 o’clock in the afternoon.   Drifting towards the Japanese and refusing to sink, she was finally dispatched by torpedoes from the destroyer Phelps, sinking at around 8pm on May 8th.


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Martin's 1/700 Saratoga next to his 1/350 Lexington hull

About a year ago, BWN announced plans to do the Lady Lex in 1/350 scale.   Once details of the pre-production sale were announced, I decided to pounce – you only live once!   In August, I saw the master pattern of CV-2 at the Nationals, which only whet my appetite for the release of the model.      Finally, on Christmas Eve my BWN Lexington arrived…who says there is no Santa Claus!

My first impression upon opening the box was the sheer size of the two piece hull.  It’s billed as the longest resin ship ever made…who am I to argue?  The kit measures out at just under 30 ½ inches long and just over 3 ½ inches wide at the waterline (slightly wider at the flight deck).    The real ship was 888.5 feet long and 105.75 feet wide.     The kit scales out perfectly to the numbers provided in Friedman’s “US Aircraft Carriers Illustrated Design History”.

The upper and lower halves of the hull are each wrapped separately in bubble wrap, as is the funnel.   Other bags in the box contained:  pieces for the island, 1.1 gun tubs and other assorted pieces.   Three other bags came with aircraft – 1 full of TBD’s, 1 full of SBD’s and 1 with F4F’s.   Another bag had anti-aircraft guns, propellers, life rafts and other white metal pieces.  Finally on the bottom of the box were 3 photo-etch sheets in a heavy plastic bag.

Blue Water’s web site says that you’ll have two options when building the kit:  As she was when sunk at Coral Sea or earlier in the war when she still had her four 8” gun turrets.  My model did not come with the gun turrets, so I e-mailed Mike Bishop.  He told me that he had decided to do the Coral Sea version only.

The hull is nicely done.   Checking it against Robert Stern’s “The Lexington Class Carriers” and Steve Wiper’s “Lexington Class Carriers” pictorial, the ship “looks right”.

Unlike the Fujimi version, which has a blunt nose, the BWN has a more “clipper” look to her bow, reflecting her battle cruiser heritage.

While chatting with Mike Bishop at the IPMS Nationals, he indicated he has plans to do a post-refit Saratoga.  At first I thought he’d be able to use this hull as the basis for that kit, but after her 1942 refit, Sara had a large blister added to her starboard side and a smaller one added to her port side, so I’m not sure.  But I digress…

The flight deck detail is excellent, the deck planking is very subtlety done.   I was also impressed with the detail inside the openings on the sides of the hull, which I believe were originally for boat storage.

Going back to the “damn, this thing is big” theme, the funnel is a very large piece of resin and very nicely done.  Also well done are the resin parts for the island.   A piece of brass rod is included for the tripod mast that sat above the island.

As mentioned, there is white metal aplenty with the kit.  One bag holds the 5” guns, life rafts, propeller shafts and other small pieces, all of which look relatively flash free.   There is a bag for each of the planes, Devastators, Dauntlesses and Wildcats.  These have some flash on them and will need a little clean up, but overall are nice.

The photo-etch is quite extensive, and very, very nice.    Included in the PE are dive brakes for the SBD’s.  I personally like the heavier brass that BWN uses, mostly because I’m a hack who mangles more delicate frets.

There are no instructions or decals included with the kit.   Instead, Mike included a note which says he wanted to get the finished model out, so the instructions and decals (which are currently at the printers) will follow shortly.


This kit is a winner.   It’s impressive in size but doesn’t look like an extremely complicated model.    Your basic 1/350th scale resin battleship will probably be a much more difficult build, in my opinion.


Only 1/350th scale kit of the Lexington available at this time, typical crisp BWN detailing.


The price tag.   Unless you took advantage of the pre-sale, this kit could cost you upwards of $1,000.

I am a firm believer in the phrase “You get what you pay for”.    While the price tag is steep, this is an excellent model of a long ignored subject, and is highly recommended.

(Click on the image for a larger photo)

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Additional Lexington Related Materials:

Photo Feature: Lexington, Yorktown and the Battle of Coral Sea

Book Review: Warship Pictorials #11 - Lexington Class Carriers

Trumpeter  1/350 scale USS Lexington kit review

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