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Michael Smith
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USS Bon Homme Richard (CV/CVA-31) 1/700 Double Build

March 15, 2021 · in Ships · · 23 · 4.9K

This is a "double build" of the same subject - the class aircraft carrier (CV-CVA-31) as it appeared in 1945 off Japan and 23 years later in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam. (Build log is at ).

My last two builds were the first modernized Essex, the Oriskany, which was completed to SCB-27A in 1950, and Essex herself, the second -27A ship but was she appeared in 1968 with the SCB-125 refit which added an angled flight deck and hurricane bow.

I became interested in building one of the last of the modernized Essexes, one of the SCB-27C ships which received their SCB-125 modifications in the same yard period. They had more powerful steam catapults, which meant they were able to continue in the attack carrier role until the end of their service life in the early 1970s. I was interested in learning how the ships differed from their older -27A sisters, which by that point were serving as antisubmarine carriers.

I was initially going to simply update a kit I already had in my stash, the CV-31 as it appeared in 1951-1952 off Korea. But almost everything in the kit would be unused in such a radical kitbash, so I decided instead to turn the project into a double build, backdating the Dragon kit to 1945.

Model Monkey printed a 1945 island for me, and I backdated the ship's appearance to 1945. Mostly this required changing the AA fit, but the kit comes with so many extra spares that it actually had the gun tubs and 20mm singles I needed. I built new gallery deck catwalk and added the missing gallery deck structure that the catwalks were attached to. I used the Tom's Essex class PE set for the details.

For the 1968 version, I instead pulled an old Essex I had in the stash for at least 25 years. I wouldn't need many of the parts, and the basic hull and flight deck would be a good starting point. The Floating Drydock had a set of the plans as of late 1968, so I chose 1968 for my Vietnam-era model.

After adding the hull blisters I razed the Hasegawa kit down to the main (hangar) deck and tacked the kit on top of a set of frame markings, since I would have no landmarks to work from. I created a sort of sliding marker to transfer frame points to the model, and worked from there.

After studying photos of the -27C modernization, I realized that the shipyard actually cut off the bow down to the waterline and back into the forecastle, so I did likewise, cutting the bow back to frame 5, and then adding the forecastle, main, and second decks going forward. Forward of frame point 1 - the hurricane bow - I added profiles of each frame to give me a rough hurricane bow shape that I could sand and fine tune later.

I have kitbashed two Hasegawa kits previously, and my standard practice is to lay a completely new flight deck of .020 sheet plastic and detail that. I did the same here, building the angled deck up and then covering it with the new flight deck, topped with a Model Monkey island. I used the late CV-34, which required a lot of modifications to represent CV-31 in 1968, but seemed the closest match at the time.

One of the features I wanted to show in both kits was the forward elevator in the lowered position. The Dragon kit already had the correct shape and some detail, so it was a matter of adding detail and building the exposed gallery deck. The ship got a lengthened forward elevator in her 1955 refit, then a few years later the forward end of the elevator was extended even further, so this would be an opportunity to completely scratchbuild an elevator well. Unfortunately I eventually discovered that during Vietnam the elevator well was painted black again, so the detail doesn't show as well.

CV-31 is in late war Measure 12, Ocean Gray over Navy Blue with a blue-stained flight deck - all Testors Model Master acrylics. Aircraft are from Shapeways in Glossy Sea Blue. CVA-31 is in Haze Gray (Testors MM Dark Gull Gray) with Testors Gunship Gray FS 36118 walkways and flight deck in Tamiya German Grey. Aircraft and yellow gear are from Shapeways, with Tilly's crane and aircraft tow bars from the GMM Supercarrier photoetch set. The Dragon Princeton CVS-37 kit contributed a Tracker that I kitbashed into a Tracer. Decals came from a Starfighter Supercarrier set and old GMM WW II carrier flight deck decals.

Reader reactions:
27  Awesome

24 additional images. Click to enlarge.

23 responses

  1. Both ships are impressive - I could spend a lot of time admiring the details on each of these ships!

  2. I assemble model kits... you sir, are a model builder. Magnificent work even if it were 1/350. To achieve this level of detailing and weathering in 1/700 while doing major modification/bashing is just amazing. Hat's off and a 'like' (should have a 'love'!)

  3. Beautiful! Great to see such a nicely done angled deck Essex, and very cool to see it built along side an older version. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Michael,
    Following your building of BHR brings back fond memories. I went aboard BHR at Hunters Point, SF in 1957 as part of MARDET. WestPac cruise in 57. Bremerton during 1958 for refitting.
    Great job modeling BHR

    • Frank,
      It's an honor to read your post - I am so glad to hear that someone who knew the real ship enjoyed it. I do have a technical question for you, though - did crew pronounce the name "Ri-shard" or "Richard"? I have always assumed the former, but realized I really don't know, and you're the first person I've spoken with that I am sure would know the answer!

  5. Great builds! I't would be great if some one kitted an angled Essex.

  6. This is such excellent job on this double build, Michael!
    All those scratch buildings and improvisations were simply amazing.

  7. Great job! The Essex carriers are some of my favorite ships and despite their importance, their are very few models of angled deck Essex carriers out their. I have the 1/350 Gallery/Merit Intrepid in the stash and after seeing this, I might just start it soon!

    Modelling companies, take note: We want an angled deck Essex class carrier in 1/700 as well!

  8. Oh dear, that IS a radical change if anything. One would never believe that it is the same ship plus a few add-ons. Very skilled modelling.

  9. Oh my goodness! This is a most amazing and skillful display of first class model making! I am deeply impressed, looking at the pictures is a real pleasure, congratulations on these wonderful results!

  10. Beautiful work. The passion and precision that you put into these is impressive.

  11. These are fantastic, Michael. What did you construct the bases from?

  12. On that note Michael, I really like your build jigs & pallets. That looks a great idea of how to keep things organized on the bench.

  13. Wow, spectacular builds! What a cool way to show the changes made over the years!

  14. 🙂 ... Greetings ... 🙂 :
    Quality and well researched work Michael.

  15. Impressive. It is an excellent job. I like everything, including the dry dock used.

  16. A really cool concept done excellently done.

  17. hello there, could you help me get a copy of the blueprints your used. I m a 3d artist and i would love to build this ship. thank you in advance.

  18. Great models, I served in OC Division as an e3 ( Air Traffic Control) on her last cruise. She was old but could still go over 30 knots, we went through a typhoon and were making speed when an engine room casualty occurred. After this incident they announced the ship would be put in layup in Bremerton WA.

    I applied for Air Traffic Control "A" school and finished in a tower at Imperial Beach CA.

    My time on the Ship was pretty amazing, cyclic ops for 12 hours a day of lunching A4 Skyhawks, F8 Crusaders, CODs and Helicopters off Yankee station. Underway replenishments and watches filled up the 12 hours off.

    Shell Back initiation, port calls and Miss America USO show were highlights!

    Thanks for the great models they really brought back memories!

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