Academy 1/350
USS Ruben James FFG-57 Special Edition

Reviewed by Sean Hert

This Special Edition USS Reuben James FFG-57 kit from Academy is the same kit as released by Academy as the Oliver Hazard Perry, with the addtion of a fret of photoetch, new decals, new instructions and painting directions. FFG-57 is a long-hull variant, and will utilize the previously included, but unused parts on Sprue "B" for this conversion. Also, the included SH-60 Seahawks are the appropriate helo for this frigate. Also, since this kit includes photoetched railings, Sprue "E" (plastic railings) has been omitted.

The Oliver Hazard Perry class originated in the Patrol Frigate program of the 1960's and 70's. Envisoned as the "low" end of the High-Low technology concept; numerous inexpensive escort types to offset fewer, more technologically advanced and more expensive types. The Perry's were primarily focused on self-defense and for independent operations, leaving the defense of the CVBG to the expensive, specialized classes. Over 50 of the OHP class were built for the United States Navy, commissioned throughout the 1980's. The served through the end of the Cold War, and many continue to serve in 7 different navies. 3 nations have licence-built ships; Australia, Turkey, and Taiwan. The license-built hulls have some differences in armament, beam, etc, depending upon the needs of the building/operating nation.

The Perry class frigates were built in "flights"; a short hull and a long hull variant. The OHP's as built can operate 2 SH-2 LAMPS (Seasprite) helocopters. To increase the capabilities of the Perry class to the LAMPS III, fin stabilizers and an 8' angled transom extention was required to the flight deck to allow for the RAST, or Recovery, Assistance, Securing and Traversing, system the larger SH-60 LAMPS III helos required.

Sometimes referred to as a "Fig", the Oliver Hazard Perry class of guided missile frigates are named for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, victor of the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie.


Academy has produced the OHP with a two-part, virtually blemish free hull, crisply molded with no signs of warpage. The hull halves fit together very well, and the anchor well and bow hawse hole are nicely formed, as is the foredeck bracing. Each half is also formed with strakes and raised belts to simulate the Masker noise suppression system; these are a bit overscale, and the Masker system belts should continue to just shy of the centerline. These stop at the bilge keels.

The lower portion of the hull features a well formed sonar dome, but lacks the circular doors for the auxiliary propulsion pods- which is a very minor thing. The rudder is mounted centerline, instead of offset- which is not minor, but not difficult to fix.

The waterline option of this kit will require cutting the hull, but hull is pre-notched to facilitate this. There is a waterline plate on sprue B to complete this option.


Sprue B contains the deck pieces, the bilge keels, the MK 13 missile launcher, Mk 32 Torpedo launchers and some curious plastic railings. The waterline option baseplate is present as well. There is a missile which I believe is supposed to be a RIM-66 Standard SM-1MR missile; if so, the fins didn't quite make it. Perry's single screw and shaft are also on this sprue, and have a good shape with minimal flash.

The main deck is molded in such a way that there is a nice sweep up toward the bow. The sprues' attachement points are offset so the deck keeps this shape- well done Academy!

Acadamy has chosen to include plastic railings in this kit. This sprue has all the railing for the main deck. These railings are about as good as plastic railings can be- thick and oversized. It's an odd choice in today's market, but I don't believe Academy has ever added photoetch to a kit. To avoid a toy-like appearance, I'd leave the plastic rails off- however, they should prove useful as an aid in shaping any aftermarket PE railing.

The extended transom fantail and flight deck piece are also present, which allows this kit to be built as a Long Hull variant.


Sprue C is primarily comprised of the overhead for the main superstructure, and detail parts for same. There are parts for the bridge, the helo hanger and doors, RHIB, and the distinctive SPS-49 radar and mast.

The SPS-49 radar has an unfortunate ejection pin mark in the center, and will be difficult to correct. This part, and the supporting mast, just cries out for photoetch! The AN/SLQ-32 EW antennas look good, and the RHIB is acceptable. Some of the the box-like structures on this level seem a bit rounded off.


Sprue D has the parts needed for the superstructure and mainmast. The sides have nice detail molded on; the watertight doors and hatches are particularly nice, with a 3D shape that is quite convincing. The sides are molded with a slope to match the lines of the deck. The stubby stack for the Perry's twin gas turbines is crisply molded.

The ship's OTO-Melara 76mm gun is also on this sprue, as well as many ladders, life raft cannisters and other details; cranes, etc.

The multiple parts of the lattice for the mainmast are here. Part of the lattice for the mast was broken on my sprue; anyone familiar with Academy kits will know the styrene they use is somewhat brittle compared to some other companies.


2 SH-60B Seahawks are included on this sprue. One can be built with extended blades, while the other can be built using the folded blades and tail option, in a ready to stow/preflight condition. There a MK46 torpedos and a MAD detector for external stores. The rotor blades appear a bit too large for scale, but I really liked the sonobuoy ejection racks along the sides of the helos.


Academy has a nice, two post stand with nameplate.


The included photoetch is by newcomer Pontos Model. This pe fret includes replacements for the much-maligned plastic railings, which have been left out of this kit. Also included are safety netting for the helo deck, some ladders, and a pe replacement for the SPS-49 radar. The lattice masts, however, are not replaced.

There is also a turned-brass barrel upgrade for the OTO-Melara 76mm gun.


The new decals for Reuben James include a long hull helo deck decal, eight name options and a full set of hi-viz hull numbers, in addition to the "57" needed for Reuben James.

  • USS Klakring FFG 42
  • USS Rentz FFG 46
  • USS Nicholas FFG 47
  • USS Gary FFG 51
  • USS Hawes FFG 53
  • USS Ford FFG 54
  • USS Elrod FFG 55
  • USS Kauffman FFG 59

There are also some warning circles, and markings for the SH-60's.


The instructions consist of a single sheet with multiple folds; a single page of info and 7 pages of instructions. This is no text; the instructions rely on soley on graphics and pictograms- which should not be an issue for most modelers. As always, read throught the directions, and each step, before constructiom.

There is an additional color sheet called the "detail parts manual. This folded dark-grey sheet has decal placement and more importantly, a photoetch placement guide. This manual also snap shots of an actual model with the etch being applied, as well as steps to assemble the SPS-49 radar. These snapshots are small, but should be helpful.


It is nice to see that Academy continues to upgrade their kits after initial release, like this Special Edition with photoetch, or the Special Edition Graf Spee with wooden decks. This kit retails for around $55.00, and while it is limited availablity, they are common enough at this time.

Thanks to MRC for this review sample. MRC is the US importer for Academy model kits.