1/700 HMS Illustrious

Reviewed September 2016
by Martin J Quinn
HMS Illustrious was the lead ship of a new class of carriers laid down for the Royal Navy before the Second World War.   Laid down April of 1937, she was launched two years later and placed into commission in May of 1940. 
She won her greatest fame for the Raid on Taranto in November 1940, in which her aircraft sunk one and damaged two other Italian battleships, altering the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean. 
Heavily damaged by German bombers in January 1941, she eventually made her way to the United States, via the Suez Canal and South Africa, where she was repaired at the Norfolk Navy Yard between May and December, 1942. 
Further damaged by a collision with her sister Formidable on the return trip to the UK, she spent more time in the yards before heading off to the Indian Ocean to participate in the occupation of Madagascar. 

After an early 1943 refit that lengthened her flight deck and beefed up her AA fit, Illustrious had an active wartime career, supporting operations in the Norwegian Sea, the landings at Salerno, and a return to the Indian Ocean, where, for a time, she operated with the American carrier USS Saratoga

Operating in the Pacific in 1945, Illustrious had her center screw removed while docked in Australia, and had the associated shaft locked into place, due to earlier damage which was causing vibrations.  These alterations reduced her maximum speed to 24 knots.    Severely damaged by a near miss Kamikaze strike on April, 6, 1945, Illustrious returned back to the UK for permanent repairs for the damage to her hull and plating.   She was undergoing these repairs when the war ended in August. 

For further information on the Illustrious, including her post-war career, please visit her Wikipedia page, where much of this history was culled from:

Additional information can also be found at the excellent Armored Carriers in World War II website, which is here:

The Aoshima Illustrious

Aoshima lists this as kit 702.  It was formerly released at kit 112, way back in the day (I believe the original release was in the 1970’s as part of the original waterline consortium). 

Inside the box you’ll find a hull, flight deck and waterline plate, a single sprue of ship specific parts and a sprue containing four different types of aircraft.   While I know Illustrious underwent some changes during her World War II service, including having her round downs raised and then her aft flight deck lengthened, I’m not knowledgeable enough to fully determine what year the kit is supposed to represent, though it appears to be somewhere between 1940 and before she was crippled by German bombs.

The hull is approximately 12 ¼ inches long at the waterline, which scales out pretty close to scale.   At 1 ¾ inches wide, she’s a little wide in the beam (not something you are supposed to say to a lady). 
The details on the hull are definitely retro - they are soft and undefined.  The anchors are raised lines and all the pronounced openings in the hull are rendered as if they have doors which are closed.   The quarterdeck is molded as a separate piece, again giving the appearance that the openings are blocked off.   There are also life rafts molded into the hull, and over scale supports under the platforms. 
The flight deck features raised lines to represent the catapult, and over scale arrestor wires and crash barriers.   The sprinter shields on the starboard side look to be only knee high in scale, if that.   Matching the flight deck up to the plans in the AOTS: Victorious, the shapes are generally close, but some of the cut outs along the edges appear to have the wrong shapes.
As mentioned, there is only a single sprue in the kit, containing everything else to build the ship.  The sprue contains AA guns, the island parts, cranes, radio masts, searchlights, boats and main mast. 
Overall the parts are soft and over scale.   The AA guns, especially the 4.5 inch guns, are crude.   The island is a multipart affair, but the details are lacking.   The cranes are solid and thick.   The searchlights appear over scale and the boats are average, at best.
There are four types of aircraft on the sprue:  Spitfire/Seafires, Wildcat/Marlets, Corsairs and Swordfish.   The Spitfire/Seafires are not good – the wings look stubby and under scale.   The Swordfish are crude, with lots of flash.  The Corsairs are the best of the bunch.   The Wildcats are a bit stubby, and also suffer from flash. 
There are two small decals sheets included.  One has the Red Ensign.  The other included roundels for the aircraft. 
The instructions are actually pretty good, spread over six pages, including a page and a half of camouflage profiles with color callouts that refer to actual RN colors, covering almost her whole World War II service. 
They say everything that is old is new again.  However, with new releases of the Illustrious class on the horizon as of this writing – including one rumored to be from Aoshima – I am a bit puzzled as to why Aoshima is still selling this old one.   It is certainly showing its age and not up to current standards.
I’d only recommend this kit for someone starting out or rejoining the hobby, who wants to get their feet wet with some simple builds before graduating to more complex and challenging kits.  It may also be a good palette for "brushing up" on your camouflage painting prowess.  For those who do want a challenge, there are after-market items available to dress up your Illustrious, from 3D printed AA guns to photo-etch parts to replace the cranes and antennas. 
More experienced builders may want to wait for the aforementioned new releases.   This is Aoshima’s 1/700 HMS Illustrious, kit number 702.   The model lists for $22.95 and is available from many of our fine sponsors.    This is an in-box review, your mileage may vary once you commence construction.   Thanks to Aoshima for the review sample.
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