box art

Reviewed by Timothy Dike

At the outbreak of World War Two the United States found itself woefully short of Carriers. With the tremendous potential of Air power being demonstrated  to the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, more carriers were needed immediately. Since only so many ships could be built, it was decided to convert merchant ships to "Baby Flattops". This was first tried in 1941 with the USS Long Island based on the C-3 Transport hull design. More were built as part of the Bogue class. With only a limited number of these hulls available, a new design was needed. It was decided to convert four T3-S2-A1 type oilers that the US Navy had taken over from the Maritime Commission. The first of these was originally built as the ESSO Trenton on March 13, 1939. Renamed  USS Sangamon and designated AO-28, she actually operated in that role before the conversion took place carrying fuel to Pearl Harbor and other western bases. 

The T3 based Carriers were larger and more powerful than the earlier the Escort carriers and could operate 30 aircraft. Their more efficent design made them better for flight operations than than their C-3 cousins, and thus they saw more actual combat.  The Sangamon was commissioned as ACV-26 (Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier) in August 1942 and one month later sailed with Task Force 34 in support of Operation Torch. Upon her return, she was immediately transferred to the Pacific arriving in Efate, New Hebrides in January 1943. There she operated with Carrier Division 22 with two of her sisters USS Suwanee CVE-27 and Chenango CVE-28 in the Solomon Isle area for the next eight months. She was redesignated CVE-26 on July 15, 1943, returning stateside for a much needed overhaul. When she returned her anti-aircraft protection was upgraded with additional 20 mm guns along side the flight deck and the aft twin 40 mm guns replaced with quad 40 mm guns. Sangamon operated all over the South Pacific and sailed as part of Taffey 1 during the Battle of Samar, where two carriers of Taffey 3 were sunk. The Sangamon was damaged by two Kamikaze attacks and a torpedo from the Japanese submarine I-56, yet she remained on station. Sangamon earned 8 battle stars during World War II. Her three air groups were each awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. More of her history can be read on the DANFS website.

A new name in the Ship Modeling world is AKI, they had previously cast kits for other manufactures. This first offering by them is simply stunning and quite innovative. On first glance one will notice that there seems to be only a few parts in the box. But that is because the majority of the parts are cast in place. This kit represents an as built Sangamon up until her first refit in 1943. Additional guns will have to be added to produce a late war version.
click to enlarge
The hull is cast with an open hanger deck and extremely fine detailing. Even the bracing on the hanger decks is finely cast in place. The bottom of the hull is hollowed out so that the overall thickness is kept to a minimum. The hull plating is well done and one can still make out the T-3 Oiler heritage of the ship. The flight deck is awesome with some really fine deck detailing. I tried to give the deck a light wash to highlight these details for the scan on the right but they are still hard to make out. 
click images
to enlarge
My sample had two small defects, a section of the bow shield was broken and there was a bit of excess resin on the underside of the aft gun tub. The latter will be an easy fix with some light sanding. The former will take a bit of work due to its thin section.
The flight deck has tie down strips, and arresting gear cast in. The walkways have a fine perforated grate texture that is incredible. The underside of the flight deck include intricate bracing details.
The main parts sprue includes the superstructure and elevator parts along with some gun platforms and the ships boats. The main bridge is virtually cast entirely in one piece, with mast, supports, and even a boat davit cast on. The mast has the search lights and even radar assemblies included. A brass rod was even inserted into the mold prior to casting to give the radar a strong mount. 
I prefer to use photo etch for the mast, but this is as close to an open mast as you can get with a resin casting. Both Gold Medal Models and Tom's Modelworks provide a nice photo etch set replacement for the mast.
A separate splinter shield is provided for the bridge assembly that include visible bracing. Two 5" 51 cal guns are also included.
Another amazing item in this kit is the one piece 20 mm gun mounts. These are the best I have ever seen in resin, they even beat most photo etch versions. My only complaints is that there are no extras provided in case of breakage. Most resin companies have a few extra items that are prone to breakage.

The twin 40 mm gun mounts are quite fine as well. The base's are pretty nice, but the gun barrels are so fine that I am almost afraid to handle them. 

I would love to see these weapons offered separately as a light weapons set.

The instructions are provided in booklet form with a parts list and various subassembly views. The text is in Japanese but the illustrations are easy to follow.
Camouflage design sheets are provided for the late war scheme, but keep in mind that this scheme is for the more heavily armed late war version. A decal sheet is included with deck numbers, hull numbers and flight deck stripes.
 Photos of the Manufacturer's built up.
. Links:
Conclusions: This is the best Escort Carrier currently on the market. The casting breaks new ground and the amount of detail has to be seen to be believed. This is a resin kit that builds like a plastic kit. I would recommend it for anyone who has a built a few kits, even if they have never tried a resin kit. Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review sample. You can find the USS Sangamon item # AKI002 listed for 8,500 Yen or about $80.69 USD at the current exchange rate. This is a good price for this size of ship.