JAG 1/700 USS Austin LPD-4

Reviewed by Jeff Hughes
The United States Navy Austin Class LPD differs from the LSD in that it is intended to carry larger numbers of troops in lieu of vehicles and cargo. The class has a wet-well deck at the stern from which it can launch craft to carry troops, vehicles and cargo ashore.  There is a helicopter pad that has two landing spaces.  The ships are capable of accommodating up to 6 CH-46 and, according to the websites of some of the ships, 2 Av-8B Harriers can also operate from the ship if needed.  LPD 4 does not have the small telescoping hanger that is fitted to the rest of the class.  The hanger is only capable of storing one utility helicopter.  The LPD relies on an accompanying LHD (Wasp Class) or LHA (Tarawa Class) for helicopters.
LPD 7 to LPD 13 are fitted for flagship duty and have one additional superstructure deck.  LPD 11 was redesignated AGF 11 in 1980 and acts as the flagship for the 3rd Fleet.

LPD 4-6, New York Naval Shipyard
LPD 7 and LPD 8, Ingalls Shipbuilding
LPD 9, 10, 12-15, Lockheed Shipbuilding
Power plant: Two boilers, two steam turbines, two shafts, 24,000 shaft horsepower
Length: 570 feet (171 meters)
Beam: 84 feet (25.2 meters)
Displacement: Approximately 17,000 tons (17,272.82 metric tons) full load
Speed: 21 knots (24.2 mph, 38.7 kph)
Marine Detachment: 930 LPD 4-6, 14-15 ( 840 LPD 7-13)

Ship's Company: 420 (24 officers, 396 enlisted)

The kit comes in the distinctive JAG tube, and is well packed against breakage.  Mine was so well packed I can't get all the parts back into the tube.  The kit is molded in a light gray and mine has no pinholes except on the bottom of the hull.  The kit is waterline and depicts the class as they where when launched (1965 to 1971). The extra superstructure deck (for the flagship version of this class) is provided to allow for building any of the class.  Upon dry fitting the superstructure decks to the hull NO fit problems presented themselves.  The deck and superstructure are loaded with details and they match pictures of the class from my reference material. Click images
to enlarge
 For those wishing to depict the ship in a diorama the stern is hollowed out somewhat but would need some work (there is no interior detail).  There is very little clean up to be done on the hull.
The superstructure decks, stacks, stern gate, telescoping hanger and the forklift are molded separately with very little clean up required.  The rest of the small parts are molded in the familiar resin wafer form and will require minimal cleanup.  Upon inspection of the smaller parts a great deal of detail is present.  Two small pieces of styrene rod are provided, one for the mast and the other for the forward NTDS antenna.  A small piece of 0.040-styrene strip is also provided to manufacture a walkway extension around the helicopter pads.  The life raft racks could have used a little more detail as well as the telescoping hanger door.
The radar and railings on the PE fret are not as fine as some of the other PE manufactures are able to make.  There is not enough railing to do the
entire ship you will need to purchase 1/700 scale deck railing from another source if you wish to add this to your model.  It does have the main tripod mast, various mast platforms and boat cradles that will greatly enhance the look of the model. As seen in photos the tripod mast appears to be much 'finer' than standard surface warships and could only be duplicated with brass. 
Now if PE could be made three-dimensional we would have something. For many of you the thought of using flat PE to depict a cylinder will be a problem, but at least the PE provides a template to make your own using small diameter brass rods.  There is a small and very fixable problem with the SPS-10 radar.  As it is laid out on the fret the base leg was omitted. This can easily be corrected with a small section of the PE or stretch sprue.
The decals also allow the building of any of the class with all the names and hull numbers.  Helicopter markings are included, as are flags and
various sizes of "E" awards to spruce up the model.
The instructions are wonderful for a resin kit and without a doubt can hold their own with many of the injection molded kits.  What I like most is that they have also included a description of each and every part, including the PE fret.  Bravo JAG!  The assembly notes are detailed enough for a modeler with some experience to follow easily.  I would not recommend this kit for anyone new to modeling.  One note I must make is that the radar arrangement on LPD 4-6, 14 & 15 is different than the other ships.  The SPS-40 sits on a platform below the apex of the tripod mast.  The kit directions have the SPS 40 installed at the apex of the tripod, correct , according to my reference sources for LPD 7-13.  I have not been able to determine if this difference existed from day one or was an upgrade done at some time during their service life.  This difference is not mentioned in the assembly instructions and none of my reference material mentions the "why's and when's" of this change.  As always, find a picture of the ship you are going to model and use it as a guide.
For those wishing to build a 1990's Austin Class LPD you will need to remove the 3" guns, add CIWS on the bow and on the starboard side of the superstructure.  The starboard CIWS sits on a platform that will need to be constructed.  Be careful as some of the class still had two sets of twin 3" guns installed as late as 1993.  The first two sets of guns where removed in the 1977-78 time frame.  The Mk 56 gun directors where removed during the late 1980's, once again reinforcing the need to find a picture of the ship during the time frame you want to model her in and follow it.

The kit scales out just about 6 feet too long and less than 1 foot too short on the width.  Not too shabby for resin and better than some injection molded kits out there. 
Over all this is a wonderful kit of a subject and time frame ignored until recently.  JAG should be commented for making such a kit.  For those who want to build a Gator Navy or for those looking for a change from W.W.II Battleships, purchase this kit you will not be disappointed.

This kit retails for about $67.00

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