Bronco Models LCS-4 USS Coronado, 1/350 scale kit
The LCS program of the US Navy was implemented as a replacement for the Oliver Hazard Perry class of frigates and designed to provide multi-mission capable vessels that could operate in shallow coastal water areas and be able to address multiple types of threats, including mine clearing, anti-submarine warfare, insurgency and smuggling interdiction and close shore support of land based operations. Mission modules, literally removable compartments, can be specifically designed for the various roles and installed in compartments in the mission bay of the ship, being replaced by different modules as the operational requirements change.
To increase flexibility, the US Navy has authorized two different ship designs. The Freedom class uses a semi-planing monohull design while the Independence class uses a unique trimaran hull design. The Freedom class hull design features a significantly larger hanger area, easier access for handling direct amphibious operations and the ability to handle a broader array of offensive and defensive weapons. The Independence class vessels have a much larger flight deck and are a more suitable platform for supporting helicopter operations, while the trimaran hull design provides better stability. Both are capable of reaching speeds of 40 knots, and feature an angular, radar deflecting structural design using aluminum alloy to save weight.
The USS Coronado, LCS-4, is the second vessel of the Independence class littoral combat ships. With a length of 127m (418 feet), beam of 31.6m (104 feet) and draft of 3.9m (13 feet), displacement of 2176 tons light, 2784 tons full load, and a crew of 40, plus up to 35 additional mission crew, the ships are designed to be small, light and efficient. Armament consists of a Mk.110 57mm cannon, 4 .50cal mounts, evolved SeaRAM 11 cell missile launcher, plus various armaments carried in the mission modules. She can carry one MH-53 Seadragon (the Freedom class can't carry the MH-53) or two MH-60R/S helicopters, as well as MQ-8 Firescout UAV. The LCS series of ships are projected to play a very prominent role in the future of US Naval operations, with plans to develop an export version underway as well.
There is a lot of controvesy related to this series of ships, with many issues already developing over the propulsion system, armament capability, stability of the ships and the aluminum structure, the ability of the ship to handle the weight of the MH-53 and significant cost overruns.
Bronco Models has released a new, 1/350 scale kit of the LCS-4 Coronado, with the kit hitting the shelves literally months after she was launched and before she has even been commissioned. The kit comes in a large, top opening box with artwork showing the Coronado as she would appear in action, with the MH-53 towing Mk 105 anti-submarine sonar array and the MQ-8 operating to the side.
Inside the box the contents are carefully packaged with the sprues in individual bags to protect the finedly detailed parts. The parts are all well molded and I did not see flash, sink marks or any molding errors.
The sprues are arranged in alphabetical sequence.
"A" sprue has the trimaran sides, rear hull and superstructure parts, with the trimaran keel sections molded separately.
"B" sprue has the bridge structure with window openings featuring wiper blades, ISR structure, Mk 137 launcher, Mk. 110 cannon, rigid inflatable boat and hangar parts, with some interior detail for the hangars, which can be posed open or closed.
"C" sprues (2) have the propulsion system with the thrusters hollowed out, as well as the life raft launchers.
"D" sprue has the MQ-8 Firescout molded in two halves.
"E" sprue has clear parts for the bridge windows.
"F" and "G" sprues, clear parts, holding one MH-60R/S and one MH-53, respectively.
"F" and "G" sprues, styrene. The "F" sprue has the body detail parts for the MH-53, with rotors, engines, wheel bays and other attatchments. "G" sprue has rotor blades, wheels and details for the MH-60.
"H" sprue is the Mk 105 sonar array.
Part "M" is the upper hull structure. This is a large, slide molded part with detail all around. The flight deck features dimples replicating the tie down points.
"N" sprue has the center hull in two halves featuring molded detail that is distinct for each side, as well as a cut out along the keel for the mine detection array to be displayed in deployed mode, or retracted in the hull.
Photo etch fret "P" which has optinal parts for the helicopter rotors, both folded and deployed, as well as safety screens for the flight deck and railings, ladders, stands for the .50 cal MG and small detail parts for the helicopters and Mk 105 sonar array.
A decal sheet includes hull markings, flight deck markings that are one piece but run around many of the other decals, markings for all helicraft and two flags, one slack and the other stretched in the breeze.
A plastic stand base is also included for display.
The instructions are booklet style, in color. A paint guide is included with colors called out by name and manufacturer number for Mr Hobby, Hobby Color, Humbrol and Model Master. Assembly instructions are in typical line drawing, with sub assemblies pointed out in drop boxes. Optional assembly instructions are clearly indicated, including directions to cut the hull for a waterline display. Full color painting instructions are also included, with each of the helicopters receiving a neutral gray finish and the ship being painted in gray, with a darker gray flight deck and black hull bottom. I have read some debate online about whether the ship is actually painted or if the skin is exposed.
The kit is very well designed and assembly appears to be fairly straightforward, with the superstructure parts being assembled first, then hull details added, then the superstructure added and your options of which helicopter craft to display being assembled. I liked the option of etch rotor blades for better scale appearance. I also liked the option of the MH-53 being included, although I have not yet been able to verify if these will still actually operate from the Independence class ships. However, there is only one MH-60, while the actual ship would carry two. Aside from the single inflatable launch, there are no other amphibious type options, although that role for the ship may not be specifically decided yet. The hangar deck can be shown open, so there is also much opportunity for adding details to the kit, if you so desire. There are some tiny plastic lights that line the bay and will be a challenge to put in place. I can't yet comment on just how well all of this will go together, but the kit contents do look very promising. It is not for a beginner because of the inclusion of the etch parts.
I cannot comment on the exact dimensional accuracy of the ship, or the angles of her profile, but the kit does look like the USS Coronado. For those who think this may look familiar, Bronco and Cyber-Hobby teamed up to release the LCS-2, Independence, earlier.
This is a nice looking kit of a ship that will hold a significant place in the future of naval operations. The MSRP is $49.95 US, but in shopping around online I found it for less, in some cases even with shipping included. My thanks to Bronco and ModelShpwrights for this review sample.
Sources of information included Wikipedia, www.defenseindustrydaily.com, navy.mil and www.defenseprocurementnews.com.