USS Nimitz Operation Southern Watch (1997/98) by Matthias Pohl

Nearly three years ago I had the idea to build a complete carrier strike group (CSG) with the USS Nimitz as a center in 1/700th scale…what a project! If I had knew it before…

But – it had to be the Nimitz! Originally I aimed to show her like in “Final Countdown” configuration, the early version (because of the high-viz markings of the planes!). But the escort ships during that era were not all available as a model kit. During my research I found a very interesting period, the “Operation Southern Watch”, 1997/98. Here the Nimitz was convoyed by the USS Sacramento AOE-1, USS Olympia SSN-717, USS Ford FFG-54, USS Kinkaid DD-965, USS Benfold DDG-65, USS  Port Royal CG-73 and the USS Lake Champlain CG-54. All these ships are available as model kits in 1/700th scale!

Ok - the “little ships” were built rather quick. You can see them on my homepage , if you’re interested in. But the main theme here is the building of the USS Nimitz.

It was very clear for me that I don’t want to show again a scene with starting and landing jets as so many other modelers did. One can see it so often while surfing through the www. I found it much more interesting to show an UNREP and VETRAP scene (underway replenishment and vertical replenishment)! Because of the deck’s security there no starting and landing jets are allowed in that case. Above all there must be a plenty of work in the hangar deck – but most of the 1/700th scale aircraft carriers are very well built, with some nicely detail in the hangar bay, which can’t be seen clearly because the lack of light! So my USS Nimitz ought to have a lightened hangar deck!

The building:

In fact my Nimitz is a kit bash because TRUMPETER edited two versions of the carrier: the early version and the one from 2005. The 1998 version needed to be refitted with part of both kits; some parts must be used from the early kit, some of the late kit. I tried to get as much pictures as possible of that era of the Nimitz, but they are very rare. The main changes were:

1.) the backbord RIM starter on the bow had to be replaced by an CIWS unit, the platform had to be changed referring to pictures;
2.) the aft starbord Sea Sparrow launcher received another SPS-65 radar illuminator  unit  including platform;
3.) some additional SatCom domes;
4.) conversion of  the stern gallery, adding of a new platform for the CIWS and the AN/SLQ-32 system;
5.) conversion of the island’s bridge, diverse SatCom domes in addition.

At the start of the whole building the illumination of the hangar deck has to be considered. I used 24 very small SMDs, they were fixed in two rows at the ceiling of the hangar deck. I soldered them in parallel connection on two strings of wire, which I led under the diorama’s plate. Outside the diorama I use a 2x 1,5 Volt battery pack for electrical power supply. A single SMD is illuminating the green glassed bridge windows (colored with Tamiya X-25 transparent green).

0000000 USS-Nimitz-013 USS-Nimitz-018 USS-Nimitz-019 USS-Nimitz-020
USS-Nimitz-021 USS-Nimitz-048b USS-Nimitz-048c USS-Nimitz-050 USS-Nimitz-052
USS-Nimitz-055 USS-Nimitz-057 USS-Nimitz-059 USS-Nimitz-060 USS-Nimitz-061

The main eye catcher of the whole model are the airplanes and the maintenance crews in several little scenes. During the 1997/98 period the CVW-8 was embarked on the Nimitz. Sadly there exists no decal sheet for that air wing in 1/700th scale. All those marking were self-printed on a regular ink jet printer, completed with some Starfighter decals. So I drew the decals by myself in low-viz-style and a workable size and minimized them afterwards to the right size and shape.  

The squadrons are:

  • VF-211 Checkmates (F-14A Tomcat), with a stock of only 10 aircrafts
  • VFA-146 Blue Diamonds (F/A-18C Hornet)
  • VFA-147 Argonauts (F/A-18C Hornet)
  • VMFA-314 Black Knights (F/A-18C Hornet)
  • VAW-122 Steel Jaws (E-2C Hawkeye)
  • VS-33 Screw Birds(S-3B Viking)
  • VAQ-138 Jellow Jackets (EA-6B Prowler)
  • VQ-5 Det.B Sea Shadows (ES-3A Viking)
  • HS-8 Eight Ballers (HH/SH-60H/F Rescue Hawk/Sea Hawk)
  • VRC-30 Providers (C-2A Greyhound)
A total of ca. 60% of the complete air wing was built and placed on the flight deck and the hangar deck. To increase a little bit the dynamic of the scene I decided to open the cockpit of some jets and the loading ramp of a C-2A Greyhound. I drilled off the cockpit zone and added the seats, made of cyano-reinforced stripes of paper. This way I did it with the Greyhound hatch too. The new, now opened cockpits are made of vacu-formed PE foil. Flaps and Slats of some planes are cut off and re-installed, made of paper too.

In addition I used the deck tractor set by JAG, Sailors by EDUARD and the complete PE set for Nimitz class carriers made by GMM. Loading goods and boxes are made by BlackDog, partly self-crafted. The trolleys came from FLYHAWK.

USS-Nimitz-062 USS-Nimitz-063 USS-Nimitz-064 USS-Nimitz-065 USS-Nimitz-066
USS-Nimitz-067 USS-Nimitz-068 USS-Nimitz-069 USS-Nimitz-071 USS-Nimitz-073
USS-Nimitz-074 USS-Nimitz-075 USS-Nimitz-076 USS-Nimitz-077 USS-Nimitz-078
USS-Nimitz-081 USS-Nimitz-083 USS-Nimitz-084 USS-Nimitz-085 USS-Nimitz-090
USS-Nimitz-091 USS-Nimitz-092 USS-Nimitz-095 USS-Nimitz-096 USS-Nimitz-097
USS-Nimitz-098 USS-Nimitz-099 USS-Nimitz-102 USS-Nimitz-104 USS-Nimitz-105
USS-Nimitz-106 USS-Nimitz-107 USS-Nimitz-109 USS-Nimitz-110 USS-Nimitz-111
USS-Nimitz-113 USS-Nimitz-114 USS-Nimitz-118 USS-Nimitz-119 USS-Nimitz-120
USS-Nimitz-121 USS-Nimitz-122 USS-Nimitz-123 USS-Nimitz-124 USS-Nimitz-125
USS-Nimitz-126 USS-Nimitz-127 USS-Nimitz-128 USS-Nimitz-130 USS-Nimitz-132
The dimensions of the whole diorama are 5,90 x 2,95 ft. Each plate measures 0,98 x 1,96 ft. All ships are fixed on their bases of plywood, which were colored with gloss paint from the hardware store. I applied the waves by using acrylic gel and a foam roller.

It took more than 320 hours for completing the Nimitz, the Sacramento replenishing scene too (The Sacramento and the Kinkaid are both conversions!). The other ships were accomplished in ca. 60 hours each, except the Los Angeles class submarine. ;o)))))

USS-Nimitz-133 USS-Nimitz-134 USS-Nimitz-135 USS-Nimitz-136 USS-Nimitz-137
USS-Nimitz-138 USS-Nimitz-140 USS-Nimitz-141 USS-Nimitz-142 USS-Nimitz-143
USS-Nimitz-144 USS-Nimitz-155 USS-Nimitz-159 USS-Nimitz-160 USS-Nimitz-162
USS-Nimitz-163 USS-Nimitz-168 USS-Nimitz-170 USS-Nimitz-171 mini-IMG_1848
mini-P1110581 mini-P1110582 mini-P1110583 mini-P1110584 mini-P1110585

Needless to mention that the whole diorama only could be showed on model exhibitions and contests – in the show cases in my hobby room there is only enough place for a few of the models, normally the Nimitz and the Sacramento…

Hope you like it!

Matthias Pohl, Germany

More of Matthias Pohl 's work.
Updated 9/24/2015