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Merit International USS John F. Kennedy

Commissioned in 1968, USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), originally conceived as a nuclear-powered ship, became the last conventionally powered carrier in the U.S. Navy. A variant of the Kitty Hawk-class, it was 17' shorter.

In its 40-year career, Kennedy’s combat operations included Lebanon, Libya, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the Iraq War. Based on the instructions, Merit’s 1/350 scale kit replicates the ship during its final cruise in 2004, with RAM defense launchers and the deleted port forward catapult-cable catcher horn as well as the aircraft. Extra parts allow the ship to be built to reflect anytime between 1997 and 2007.

The large kit includes 35 plastic sprues and several single items: hull, flight deck, and bridge structures. Cleanly molded, the parts show little flash and minimal ejector-pin marks, although some, such as those under the edge of the flight deck, will be visible. Clear plastic supplies 21 aircraft and the bridge windows.

I skipped steps 1-5, the hangar deck, until after the hull was built and painted. I primed the hull with Tamiya flat black for pre-shading, taped the boot stripe, applied antifouling red to the lower hull, then re-masked to paint the upper hull with Tamiya haze gray.

In Step 7, I had to remove the locator pins and sand the thick side walls of the close-in weapon system units (Z50) to properly fit the supports (Z40).

Defer Step 9 until flight-deck installation in Step 13. Part G22 requires trimming 1mm for a flush fit against the upper part of the stern opening. Steps 10-12 can be completed without issue.

Before attaching the flight deck, I painted it flat black, highlighted the 1,875 tie-downs with graphite, and added more than 40 decals over a layer of Pledge FloorCare Multi-Surface Finish. I split the single elevator double-line markings so the elevators can be posed up or down. I also removed much of the carrier film from the large 67 at the bow to minimize silvering. The firm decals responded to Solvaset decal solvent.

The hull is stamped USS Kitty Hawk while the deck says USS JFK, and the class distinctions cause problems. The locator ridge under the JFK stern was 1.75mm off, misaligning the elevators and bow. So, I removed the ridge and aligned the bow, leaving the extra at the stern. I needed to rework the flight-deck supports at the stern, but this alleviates issues with the elevator alignment.

Steps 14-16 were fine, but I skipped past the bridge structure (steps 17-22) except for Step 18a’s subassembly, which I needed in Step 39.

I added the hull sponsons without problems, until Step 29. Part E10 is too long to fit into sponson K2. Simply carve the half-moon shape carefully and it will drop into place nicely.

Skip steps 41-44 to keep the flight deck flat. Step 44 creates the antennas for the deck edge; with care, they will all be moveable.

I skipped forward to steps 51-55 to mount the antenna and life-raft racks while the locator pins and indents were easily visible. You will need to shave the molded vertical frames on the deck edges to better fit the racks.

Moving backward in the instructions, I built the island. It was pretty straightforward, but the mast option in Step 20 is unclear. Also in Step 20, the subassembly does not fit the molded locator on part F16. I removed the ridge and shaved down the wall on Part E16. Finally, Part J31 sub-assembly in Step 19 is too wide.

Part PE 18C was too short to fill the gap for the waist-catapult bridle catcher, but spare netting is provided. The aircraft crane is molded raised but can be lowered, with some modification, for flight ops.

Final assembly in steps 56-58 includes a nice PE and plastic mast. The instructions are vague: two parts J64 create the support between J9 and J10.

The aircraft — and you get a bunch — are a mixed bag. The kit provides five F-14Bs, five F/A-18Cs, five EA-6Bs, two S-3s, two E-2s, and two SH-60s.
The Vikings and Hawkeyes can be posed with wings folded, and the Tomcats have optional parts to show the swing wings extended or stowed. These three types have separate canopies, making painting a breeze. Optional parts allow the Seahawks’ main rotors to be folded. All fit pretty well.

On the other hand, the wings on the Hornets and Prowlers are molded in flight position only, the canopies are integral with the bodies, and filling was needed to blend the airframes.

The decals are a quandary. Insignia, tail markings, aircraft numbers, and even stencils are included for all types. But the same numbers are provided for all but the Prowlers, so you’ll need to modify them or hit the aftermarket for an accurate air wing.
Overall, Merit’s Kennedy is nicely detailed. But it requires work to produce an accurate model. The PE is nice, but no railings are provided. The biggest hurdle was the vague instructions; a good part of the 137 hours building the model were spent deciphering the cryptic part-placement diagrams. Given the fit problems, I recommend the kit to experienced builders.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the April 2016 issue.
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