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AFV Club LST-491-class Landing Ship, Tank

An accurate and detailed 1/350 scale model kit right out of the box
The modified LST-491 class primarily featured a ramp from the upper deck to the lower tank deck, increasing the speed of disembarkation for motorized equipment compared to the previous elevator equipped LST-1 group. Referred to as “Large Slow Targets,” 982 LST-491-class ships were built with 37 sunk during World War II. Interestingly, US Navy regulations had to be revised to allow commanding officers to beach their ships onto shorelines without risking court-martial.

This 1/350 scale model from AFV is the second type issued with decal and building options for 6 of the later series of LST, featuring three options for bridge and landing craft installations. The dimensions of the kit measure perfectly to scale and the dimpled oil-can look of the hull is accurate and hopefully can be the new standard for smaller naval vessels in the future. Another option is available which would have the bow doors in the closed position. Slight modifications would allow a waterline version to be built, however, they are not offered in the well-designed 20-page instruction booklet, which includes color options for the six LSTs possible.

Construction begins with the interior vehicle deck painted deck blue and the sidewalls painted flat white. You must decide to have the doors open or closed early on and determines if you trim Part C21. Part D2 should be used only if you plan to build an older version because it is the lowered elevator. I held off mounting the fragile open doors, propeller, and stern anchor until the end of the build. 

Step 7 starts the upper deck construct and shows drill points for different landing craft configurations. In Step 8, you add gun tubs and assemble the 20mm cannons. You will need 10 of these, not the eight called for in the instructions; you’ll add the last two in Step 18.  

I ran into my first real challenge in Step 9. The angle for the ramp from the upper to the lower deck is an unknown, which caused a problem in Step 13 when gluing the upper deck to the lower hull. Plus, the ramp is too wide for the opening, so you’ll need to shave it to allow the decks to sit flush. Because I first glued the ramp under the opening and popped off in Step 13, I had to reset it by working through the open doors on the front. A difficult operation to say the least.

In between, steps 10 through 12 guide you through assembling your choice of three upper pilot houses, landing craft, and boat-deck gun-tubs. Perfect fits! As luck would have it, I had waited to add the pilot house at Step 13, which allowed me to make the changes to the ramp without worrying about damaging it. You make the 40mm AA weapons and gun tubs on the deck and stern during steps 14 and 15. The U.S. Army pattern 40mm singles turned out nicely and well detailed.

In Step 16, you’ll build the LCVP and davit assembly. Without firm anchor points, the operation proved to be much like herding cats: attempting to assemble and adjust one part moved three others. Finally assembled with port and starboard bow davit/LCVP combos in place, I found the parts E6 were far too short to reach the deck. A careful look at the Step 16-17 instructions revealed a requirement of eight parts (E6), but only four are on the sprue. My best guess is that the two bow davits should have utilized four unlisted parts (D16) as the secondary support. So, while creating the six different davits caused a bit of frustration, they did not prove to be an insurmountable issue. Step 18 wraps up construction and adds the two, four, or six LCVPs as well as two aft 20mm cannons.

To paint, I used Model Master Metalizer steel as an under layer at the bow, salted it, and overpainted with iron oxide (it is a “sandscraper” after all). Horizontal surfaces were hand painted Model Master weather deck blue softened with PanPastel neutral gray-dark while vertical surfaces were painted Model Master navy blue. The bow gun tubs are USN light gray, and the props and 40mm ammo trays were painted gold, muted to bronze with a wash of medium green. 

Overall, this is a great kit with plenty of historical options as well since AFV Club vehicle sets are available for both the WWII-era and the Korean War. Add to that the photo-etched metal set available from AFV Club and it can be as detailed as you wish but builds as-is into a very interesting and accurate subject.

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