Dragon 1/700 USS Antietam CV-36

Reviewed by Timothy Dike
USS Antietam (CV-36) was an Essex class aircraft carrier commissioned in the closing months of WWII on January 28 1945, too late to see any combat.  The USS Antietam was stationed in the Far East for three years until 1949, its air wing providing support for Allied occupation forces in China, Manchuria and Korea. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, USS Antietam was reactivated, thus participating in the only operational deployment of her career. The carrier was stationed off the coast of Korea, its aircraft supporting UN forces with a variety of missions against North Korean targets.

She returned home in April and rejoined the Pacific Reserve Fleet briefly. She was reactivated later that summer and, in August, transited the Panama Canal to join the Atlantic Fleet. In September, the warship entered the New York Naval Shipyard for major alterations. In October, she was redesigned an attack aircraft carrier, CVA-36. In December Antietam emerged from the yard as America's first angled-deck aircraft carrier. The conversion primitive with braces holding up the overhanging section. The angled deck allowed the carrier to simultaneously launch and land aircraft safely. If the aircraft missed a landing wire, it could hit the throttle and go around to try again. Antietam became the pattern for a whole new generation of Essex class carrier upgrades that extended their useful life and allowed them to operate the larger heavier new Jet aircraft. Later the braces under the overhang were faired over. As newer larger carriers entered service Antietam was redesigned CVS-36 and operated in an ASW role. She ended her career as a training carrier until relieved by the USS Lexington. 

Antietam (CV-36) earned two battle stars for service in the Korean conflict. 

This latest carrier from Dragon represents yet another evolution in the Essex class design. This one represents the first angled deck Essex in 1/700 plastic. There are actually two versions you can build from this kit. A 1953 version with open bracing under the angle deck or a 1956 version with a faired over underside. Parts fro two different mast and radar fits are included.
The hull is one piece with a separate hanger deck and lower hull.. There is some really nice porthole detail with eyebrows (rain gutters) above them and plenty of piping, vent, and other detail. The many openings to the hanger deck are all left open with separate roll up doors that can be shown open or closed. Click images
to enlarge
Probably the most exciting item on this kit, is this detailed hanger deck. It included some interior details and nice deck plate details. 
The flight deck is all new with the angled portion built on. It features nice wood deck planking and nice detailing. If you are building the original test version, a sprue of simple angle braces is used. A smooth faired over panel is also provided for the final version. It is nice to have a choice of which version you are going to model here.
You even get a clear flight deck that will allow you to show off that detailed hanger deck. The deck is smooth without surface detail so you can clearly see into the hanger. A clear sprue like the one included with the gray one is also included.
This sprue also labled B is new to this ship. It included some of the island specific details such as the new funnel and some mast parts. 
This sprue is identical to the one in the Essex kit. It contains some of the walls that form the hanger deck as well as the separate roll up doors. Various platforms and other details are very sharp. You might also notice that there are carly floats molded on the underside of many of these platforms. One other thing that I noticed was the absence of those dreaded Aztec stairs. Finally a kit that you don't have to try to scrape them off the platforms.
This sprue is similar to the one in the Essex kit except it has been extended on the bottom side to include the four platforms and sponsons shown below. The other items on the sprue include the walls and doors seen on the above sprue. It also included the boat cranes and deck edge elevators as well as the folding deck antenna masts. There are two different deck edge elevators; one with molded on underside detail and one without. The latter is designed for use with the included photo etch fret shown below. Again the modeler is presented with a choice in how they wish to build their ship.
These sprues include many of the gun platforms and bridge platforms. Notice that in most cases the underside bracing is present. There are also several extra platforms that are not used on this kit. Stay tuned for details on future releases. Dragon has more in store for us in the future. Also notice the open grills in the top of the funnel cap, nice!
This sprue contains many platforms used on the Antietam.
The sprue includes some of the enclosed bridge parts molded in clear. This should allow you to mask the glass area off and paint the parts. When your done you can peel away the mask and have a clear window.
A stand is included to mount your ship on if you chose the full hull option. 
SPRUE K (x 2)
This is the weapons spure and there are two 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. 5" 38 cal guns are included in both open and closed types. 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.
The island is another really nice part in this kit. The main sprue pictured below is from a very complex multi-slide mold that allows for detail to be molded on almost all sides. On a conventional mold, there are two halves and the parts need to be able to slide out of the mold. This prevents some surface detail from being included as it would be scraped off as the part was ejected out of the mold. The mold used here has what are called slides that pull from different directions. This allows detail to be cast on the sides and then before the part is ejected those parts of the mold slide out of the way preserving the detail. These types of molds are expensive and require quite an engineering effort to design.  This goes to show that Dragon is committed to offering the most accurate kits to modelers and is willing to invest in the Research and Development to bring it about.
The bridge has all kinds of detail on it from extensive conduit piping, to the watertight doors and molded on ladders. The four dual 5" 38 cal gun mounts on this sprue are a testament to how detail can be preserved with this type of molding technology. The sights on the gun houses rival that that we see in resin kits.
This sprue contains some of the quad 40 mm gun tubs that mount under the flightdeck.
SPRUE P (x 2)
This is a second weapons sprue that adds an important weapon to the kit. Specifically 20 mm twin mounts. Dragon has created a brand new fret to add this weapon that was added later in the war. Additional 40 mm quad mounts and gun directors are also added.
Two photoetch frets are included that will allow you to replace some of the molded on details. The lower frame of the deck edge elevator and open radio antenna. You also get radar's and other platforms. There is also a variety of deck personnel in various poses that will lend action to your deck.

The second fret includes the later radar for the Korean War era.

The decals by Cartograf include the aircraft insignia that were used during the war and include the red outlined insignia used briefly by some squadrons. The deck striping and lines are well done. They are all nicely registered and much improved from the typical kit supplied decals.
The aircraft are all new and based on the typical 1950's airwing. Included are newly tooled Grumman F9F-2 Panther and Douglas AD-6 Skyraider aircraft. Sikorsky H-5 Dragonfly helicopter, Grumman F9F-8 Panther, McDonnell F-2H Banshee jet aircraft all molded in clear plastic.
AD-6 Skyraider with wing tanks, One with wings extended and one folded. Includes separate landing gear and propellers.
H-5 Dragonfly helicopter. Two included with separate propeller blades and landing gear.
McDonnell F-2H Banshee. One with extended wings, one with separate wings for folding. Includes separate landing gear.
F4U Corsair. One with extended wings, one with separate wings for folding. Includes separate landing gear.
F9F2 Panther.  One with extended wings, one with separate wings for folding. Includes separate landing gear.
F9F8 Panther.  Includes separate landing gear. Two motor tugs are also on this fret. The Panther is a little out of place on this carrier. But it is possible that some did do some test landing of the new angled deck configuration of this carrier.
F7U-3M Cutlass. This aircraft is all new for Dragon. Two are included with separate verticle tail and landing gear.
The instructions are an eight page booklet showing the assembly in a step by step process that is easy to follow. It looks like first pages that show the weapons call for too many 20 mm guns. You will have to do a little research depending on what year you are building your CV to represent. 
Here's another nice touch, a bonus tug boat to help you dock this carrier. It will help give you an idea of this ships immense size when displayed alongside the carrier. This tug is not just an extra thrown in, it is an all new mold produced with the slide molding technology that is fast making Dragon famous.
This kit is the first angled deck Essex class carrier ever offered in 1/700 plastic. It has been a long time coming, but the results are well worth the wait. It is extremely well designed and packed with options. The modeler has many choices when building this kit. Full hull or waterline, Open hanger doors or closed, clear deck or opaque, and your choice of original or modified angle deck versions.

Dragon USA lists this kit with an MSRP of $34.95 US. More than a fair price when you consider the extras. It even improves on their previous release the Essex. I am extremely pleased to see Dragon expanding their Essex line to include Korean era, and can hardly wait to see what's next.