Dragon 1/350 USS Independence CVL-22

Reviewed by Timothy Dike History by Tracy White
The CVL "Light" Fleet carriers of the Second World War are an interesting story in adaptability and dedicated service. Built off of Cleveland-class cruisers, the "nine sisters" of the Independence class amassed 81 battle stars between them and saw service in battles from late 1943 until the end of the war, with three re-activated during the Korean War crisis, two serving in the French Navy, and one serving with the Spanish Navy until 1989. USS Princeton was the only US Fleet carrier lost during the war after 1942, and two presidents served on CVLs, Gerald Ford on Monterey and George Bush, Senior on San Jacinto.

CVL-22 herself took part in the first fast-carrier raids, with Essex and Yorktown, spreading destruction amongst Japanese forces based on Marcus Island. A month later she was part of the fleet that supported the Marine landing and was torpedoed during a defensive counterattack. She was able to steam under her own power back to Mare Island for repairs, but did not return to service until July of the next year. That fall she served as one of the first night-fighter carriers, providing protection during the Palaus operation, as well as both day and night time operations around the Philippines, Okinawa, and Formosa. In October Independence's air group provided scouting and air cover for the aircraft that sunk the massive battleship Musashi.

She rounded out the year with operations in the South China Sea and retired to Pearl Harbor for repairs, returning in time for operations during the invasion of Okinawa, staying to cover them from the end of March until mid June, at which point she moved north and attacked the Japanese home islands until the end of the war. Following Japan's surrender, Independence shifted to "Magic Carpet" operations, making at least three trips between the former war zone and the US Mainland. USS Independence CVL-22 met her demise after surviving, heavily damaged, two nuclear bomb tests during Operation Crossroads, when her radioactive hulk was sunk by gunfire off of the Californian coast.

This kit has a unique feature amongst ship models; a "3-in-1" configuration allowing modelers to build her in the configuration of her shakedown cruise in the Atlantic in early 1943, the Marcus Island Raids in raids in fall, and the Tarawa Invasion in November during which she was torpedoed.

See the preview for some of the CAD images and test buildup of the kit. A few of the CAD parts were done by me so my opinions may be a bit biased. 
An exciting addition to this kit is this sprue of deck tractors. There are two on the sprue and they include separate tires, and a hood and grill open on the sides so you can see the engine. There are two styles of tow bars to haul your aircraft around the deck. The tires are so detailed you can almost count the lug nuts on the wheels. The tires even have realistic tread. These are little models in themselves with incredible detail.  Click images
to enlarge
A couple of jeeps are included as well. They too have separate wheels and hood. These Jeeps feature nice seat detailing and even some underside drive train detailing. 
This sprue includes the main deck and hanger deck. The hanger deck walls feature interior bracing detailing and plenty of external details. The openings have separate roll-up doors in plastic and optional photo etched ones. Also on this sprue are the propeller and rudder assemblies. The latter are made in two pieces so that you can accurately pivot the rudder at the hinged joint. 
Gun tubs for the 20 mm and 40 mm anti aircraft guns are included on this sprue. Note the thin splinter shields around the gun tubs, very nice for plastic. Slides are used to give the radar mount 3 sided detail without visible seams. Slides also give the air intakes exceptional detailing. 
The funnels are nicely molded in two main parts. When I test fitted these parts the first thing I noticed was the absence of a prominent seam. There is an exceptional amount of detailing on these parts. Even the interior portion of the funnel trunking is well detailed with nice rivet detailing. The elevators have very nice deck planking with accurate tie down strips. The elevator can be positioned at any point thanks to the elevator details. There is also some really nice girder work on for the main mast that is molded as fine as you can get away with in plastic. So nice that there is no need to replace these with photo etch.
The bow and stern details are included here with this sprue. Gun tubs for the forward 40 mm and aft 5" 38 gun are included. The walls include nice open doorways and plenty of detailing. Slides in the mold are again used to achieve extra detail on a single part without extra seams. 
The island details are included on this sprue with impressive detailing. The rest of the mast girder work is included with that same thin girder work. Slides in the mold allow the main mast part to be molded as a single part. Equally impressive is the crane assembly with the open girder work comparable to photo etch parts. This is a vast improvement from the solid unappealing ones that are typically included. 
This sprue features those roll-up hanger doors to close off the hanger. The funnel caps and handrails are molded with nice detail and as single pieces. Also included are lots of small details such as cable reels and fire hoses. 
This sprue includes the rafts and float net baskets. Bits and closed chocks are molded finely. The anchors are very well done and include realistic separate stocks, really nice. The paravanes came out pretty good too. There are two of them included.
There are two of these sprues with these wood decked whale boats and 5" 38 cal open mounts. The whaleboat is the same one included in the Gearing kit and includes a separate rudder. Another nice item is this 5" 38 cal open mount. It includes separate yoke and breach assemblies and even a fuse setter. Detail is on par with even the best resin after market versions. 
This sprue includes the aft 40 mm gun tub platform from the rebuild after the shakedown cruise. It includes the lower fairing and one of the war cruiser specific structures complete with molded on 
The larger 5" 38 gun platform is molded on this sprue along with some of the 20 mm platforms.
Once again Dragon used slide molding to allow maximum detailing to be included on each part. These Mk-51's are included with separate base and sight details and are the nicest available in plastic. 
SPRUE A&B F6F Hellcat x3 ea.
There are three sprues of the Hellcat with fixed wings and three with folded wings. They are molded in clear plastic so that you can mask over the canopy and paint the rest of the aircraft. Underwing rockets and a nightfighter radar pod are also included. 
SPRUE C SBD Dauntless Diver Bomber X6
Six Dauntless dive bombers are included for your early version of the Independence. This aircraft features very nice recessed panel lines highlighting the details. An open canopy and separate cowling and even open and closed canopy options. An added bonus is the 500 lb. bomb and sling for the ultimate in realism. 
SPRUE D&E TBF Avenger x3 ea.
TBF Avengers are molded with fixed and folded wing options. These two feature nice panel lines and separate cowling. Open and closed canopy options and as an added bonus a torpedo bay with open and closed door options. And if that is not enough, how about a scale torpedo to mount in the bay! A nice touch. 
Five sprues of these 40 mm twin mounts are included. These are the same ones produced for the Tokyo Bar Buchanan and 1945 Benson. Each sprue builds two complete gun mounts. 

This is the 40 mm Quad mount that first appeared in the Gearing kit. Two complete mounts can be built from this sprue. It include separate twin barrel assemblies with nice flared out ends that even have simulated hollow ends and nice recoil springs. The base includes lots of detail with shell extraction chutes and detailed yoke and even some underside detailing. 
Three 20 mm twin sprues are included with these highly detailed guns. These feature separate shields, base, gun, ammo cans, and can be trained at any angle the real ones could. You don't have to use all the fine parts, but they are there if you want to. 
Sprue X
The upper hull is nicely shaped and closely follows the lines of the Cleveland class with the distinctive torpedo blisters that were added for protection and stability. Dragon has taken extra care to eliminate sink marks and other molding defects. The hawsepipes on the bow are well done and you will notice the hull closely matches the plans. 
Sprue Y
A single piece flight deck is included with very fine planing and tie down strips. This part is slide molded to allow for the bulkhead detailing to be molded seam free. The catapult and arrester gear details are molded onto the deck. While the detail is very nice on this deck, the biggest plus is the fact that it is a single part and the modeler has no big seams to fill. 
Sprue W
The lower hull is nicely molded with the lines of a Cleveland class CL with the add on torpedo blister
A larger version of the stand that was designed for the Buchanan is included. Decorative posts are provided to hold your ship. These are a nice touch and you might note that there are extra hole locations in the bottom for future ships.
Three brass photo etch frets are included in this kit. The first one features the add on details for the 20 mm and 40 mm gun mounts. Seats, sight, and hand wheels galore. Optional 20 mm gun shields are included if the modeler doesn't want to use the plastic ones. 
The second fret includes the railings, radar, and mast parts. Anchor chain, ladder stock, and a nice safety net are included.
The third fret includes the roll-up doors and the other hatches and doors if the modeler doesn't like the plastic ones. It's nice to have a choice!
Flight deck markings are provided with some options. Yellow and white deck stripes and elevator markings are well registered. These are typical of the sharp work that Cartograph is known for. Flight deck numbers are included but may not be needed depending on what time frame you chose to model. An abundance of aircraft roundels of different types are included so you can accurately depict your airwing at almost any time in their career. 
A vinyl sheet is provided with US  flags and a sampling of signal flags. These are also well registered and sharp.
These instructions are ten pages with lot of subassembly views. These are a little more extensive than those supplied in the past and the extra views are a welcome addition. Note CVL-22 was in Measure 14 (Ocean Gray) on her shakedown and Measure 21 (Navy Blue) after that when she was operating in the Pacific. 
Eighteen lifelike figures are included in a variety of poses. These guys should give you the option to add some action to your ships. I wish that more were included as they are extremely detailed. Each figure is in a different pose and if you look closely have the appropriate uniforms of that era. 

This new carriers is by far the best one in this scale on the market. As with the other Dragon Smart kits, this one features a wealth of smart options and is engineered for maximum detail. I love the option to build her in her Shakedown cruise with the 5" 38 guns. The addition of hanger deck interior detailing is a real plus too. 

But what is most amazing is the price, DRA1024 1/350 U.S.S. Independence CVL-22 ~ Smart Kit has a pre order price of $139.50 right now at Dragon USA. A great price for the hours of modeling enjoyment included in this kit.