My Review and Build of Trumpeter's 1/350 scale Kit #4543,
PLAN, FFG-570 Huangshan & FFG-530 Xuzhao Guided Missile Frigates

Last Updated: Props, Rudders, Helos, Stabilizers and Completed! - January 28, 2013 <-- Click HERE for latest

Introduction and What's in the Box - January 14, 2013

The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is undergoing a massive buildup and modernization program. Over the last ten years, they have literally caught up on 25 or more years worth of technology where they were lagging over 30 years behind the West. One of the major components of this program (in addition to the Aircraft Carrier Program, their Guided-missile Destroyer Program, and numerous other progams, are advances with their Type 054A Guided-missile Frigate Program.

Over the last 6-7 years the PLAN has built 16 of these very modern and very capable multi-mission guided-missile frigates. They will serve as able escorts for the PLAN's high value vessels, like thier CV-16, Liaoning Aircraft Carrier. So, I determined to build two of them as a part of my PLAN Carrier strike group to go along with my 1/350 scale CV-16 Liaoning aircraft carrier and to go with my 1/350 scale DDG-171, Haikou Guided Missile destroyer.

All of these are models manufactured by Trumpeter, who has the largest selection of 1/350 scale modern war vessels on the market, and who generally, with their most modern kits, produce very detailed and solid models, complete with Photo Etch parts.

This Trumpter model is one of their newest, and it comes in a beautifully illustrated box, that itself is well built and very protective. Inside, the hull comes in one piece. No water line version out of the box. Since I am building the full hull versions of these vessels, it was not an issue with me. The full hull is very well molded without any excess flash. There are a total of nine sprues with 340 parts, including two photo etch sprues with all the handrails, safety netting, and numerous sensors. The plastic parts are exceptionally well molded with a lot of detail to add to the deck houses and various on-deck sensors and equipment.

The plastic parts are, as stated, very well molded, down to some of the most intricate parts, so building the model as is, out of the box with its PE parts will be extremely satisfying. The parts are molded in light gray, clear and black (for the helicopters) and gold for the photo etched parts. I intend to use my standard PLAN paint scheme of Testor's Model Master Light Gray for all major vertical surfaces of the ship, Tamiya's Acrylic Hull Red for the below water line hull, Model Master Flat Black for various sensors, marking on the ship, etc., Floquile Weathered Black for the funnels and the windows, Testor's Flat Gray for the horizontal surfaces including the landing pad, Model Master Flat White for the hangar enterior walls and the radomes and life rafts. Other colors (such as Ensignia Orange for the life buoys), as required. Here are the parts out of the box. These first are the boxes themseleves, and then one of those boxes with everything out of it and the instruction cover page.

Then here are close ups of all of the various sprues. What you essentially have are three sprues with all of the deck houses, two sprues with most of the small sensors and other deck parts, another individual sprue with more details, two sprues of PE parts (I only show one here, the other is in the same package on the reverse side). The hull and the large deck sections come as individual parts. There are also four sprues for the four different types of helos included. You can choose which one you want. There is a Russian export KA-28 ASW, Recon and SAR helo, and one each of the various Z-9 helos, the initial Z-9 which is an ASW and SAR helo, the Z-9C which is an upgraded Z-9 with better instrumentation and electronics for better ASW misisons and weapons, and then the WZ-9D which was upgraded to enable the helo to also do surface attack as well. I intend to build the Z-9C with the ASW fit out included in the model.

The photo etch parts are nice, essentially with enough PE parts to not require any after-market PE parts at all. The decals are also very good, with enough to build any one of ten of these PLAN FFGs. I intend to build FFG-570 and FFG-530. In addition, as is the case with all the newer Trumpter models, there is a very well done, full color layout and paint scheme for the whole model, including the helos.

Finally, here are the various pages of the instructions. The trumpeter instructions are laid out very well, and done in a very organized and intuitive fashion. The booklet is 14 pages long, with twelve pages of detailed instructions for building the ship.

So, that's the out of the box review. I am looking forward to building these two vessels and will proceed forward building them both at the same time. I'll be back in a few days with the initial installment of the build.

The Build: Painting, Fore-deck complete, main deck house started - January 17, 2013

Once I started the model(s) I intially always go through and paint all of the major pieces on the spures according to my General Naval Vessel Color Scheme. I created that "scheme" or standard for each of the various navies I am building these Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) for. In this case, the Chinese Navy (PLAN).

So, I painted the upper section of the hulls and the vertical surfaces of the various deck houses and structures, then I painted the lower portion of the hull. Then I painted the decks themselves, including the flight deck and hanger deck, and then painted as many of the various instruments, weapons systems, sensors, etc. that I knew upon 1st examination. I do most of this, except for the large individual pieces, while they are still on the sprues, but I do take the time to cut the parts loose until there are the minimum number of attach points necessary to keep them on the sprues (in most cases just leaving one). This reduces the touch up painting later. So, here are the results of doing that for both models:

Once this painting was completed (and it is not every single piece, just all of the major ones and a lot of the obvious ones) was time to start putting the vessels together. In this case I started with the forward deck, which contains the main gun (100 mm DP gun) and the VLS missile system, as well as a lot of the detail for the anchor chains, ASW rocket launchers, tie downs, and various sensors and equipment. Trumpeter does a good job of providing individual pieces for all of these as opposed to having them simply molded into the deck. Makes for a much more detailed look.

I made the guns able to turn on their mounts. Here is some of that work building both forward decks and their gun mounts and VLS missile cells.

At this point I was ready to glue the forward main deck and the rest of the main deck onto the hull. These parts fir together very nicely. One critical point in that fit...and really in all fits, is to ensure that any left over plastic "nubs" from cutting the parts away from the sprue are trimmed, shaved, and sanded off. Even the smallest protrusion can make a fit look bad. A good pair of dikes, very sharp and very precise, is critical in this regard, but even with the best cutters I find small amounts still being left where the parts come together because so many of them are molded at angles. So, I go back with each piece and use my Xacto knife and sand paper wherever neccessary to get rid of any excess. It really makes a difference in the fit.

Even then, you find with some pieces and some manufacturers, that rubber bands and clamps have to be used and then some putty or filler, to make the surface come together as smooth as possible. My point is, in this case, these parts really fit together very well.

Then is was time to begin building the main deck house and getting it to a point where it was recognizable as such and built up to a point where at least the second level decks were all in place from just aft of the main gun, clear back to the helo hangar deck. On these Type 054A frigates for the PLAN, these vessels are all built with uninterrupted, clean lines all along this area, from the hull up to those secondary decks and back to the helo landing pad. This means a much smaller radar return, particularly with the sides angled as they are. These are really very good and capanble multi-purpose frigates.

Next will be the completion of the main deck house and placing it on the hull. Also, the start of the construction (if not their completion) of the main masts and funnels for both vessels.

The Build: Main deck houses, with helo hangars, added to hull(s) - January 18, 2013

Well, I had several hours of free time last night and so I worked at getting the main deck houses complete for both vessels, including the helo hangars, and adding them to the hulls. I was pretty satified with the results. They are both really looking like the Type 054A frigates that they are now.

Lots and lots of detail to add now. Will start with the railing around all of various deck levels, and then add the CIWS, the sensors, and build and install the masts. We'll see how much of that I get done in the next installment.

The Build: Railings, Smoke Stack, CIWS, and details - January 22, 2013

Well, I had a long weekend with the MLK holiday so I decided to spend quite a bit of time on these two PLAN Frigates. I started with the railing.

The railing that comes on the PE sprues with the model is good, and fit to the model very well (though you do have to bend it to the appropriate angles. But it is also very light guage, and very frail. One has to exercise great care with it. Especially with the vertical ladder railings built into the railing at various places. These are so you can bend down the ladder railings at the appropriate places and then put the ladders in. In fact, these were so frail and so easy to bend and break that I decided to not fight with them and just use some of Tom's Model Works vertical ladders and stairways that I had purchased in 1/350 scale. These PE parts are very well formed and more sturdy and this turned out to be good.

The railing on the bow that fare into the bow bulwarks on the Type 054A was also very light and difficult to work with. You go from three rails, down to a single rail where it fares into the bulwarks. I was able to get this to work and it looks very good, but be forwarned, you will have to be patient and use an extremely light touch when cutting these off the sprues and then when placing them. In edned up putting all the railings on, inluding the Smoke Stack railing which was faily difficult to bend to the right shape for the stacks, but none the less doable.

Once the railing was on, I decided to attack the smoke stack. I had added the railing to the platform for the smooke stack (before gluing it on and before painting it black, though the picture above shows it assembled on the stack), but now had to add the smoke stacks themselves, the mast on the forward portion of the smoke stack and the various instrumentation, domes and antennae. This section of the Type 054A is very distinctive, with good angles all around, and painted black.

Then there were a myriad of details to add to the decks that I wanted to complete by Monday evening, January 21, 2013. These included the CIWS, which were failty significant assemblies in their own right. 18 parts per weappon when including all of the PE parts. And I was dealing with four of them, two for each vessel. Working with the shroud over the gun was fun. They are very tiny and have to be bent over four times to completely cover the gun, and then fitted over the gun and glued in place. Clearly, thsese part shave to be painted and dried before putting them together in this fashion, and then glues with tiny amounts of the aprropriate glue to attach them. As shown in the pictures, the parts are very small. Anyhow, the Type 730 CIWS turned out very well and are located amidships on each vessel on either side of the deck below on which the smoke stack is built.

In addition, there were the decoy/chaff launchers and a number fo sensors I wanted to get on the vessel, and to do the build up of the main mast in prepraration for putting the main radar on the ships.

Once these were complete the model was where I wanted it for this session. Here is how the pair of Type 054As, FFG-570 and FFG-530 are looking at this point.

Coming right along. Next will come all of the anti-shipping missiles, the ships launches and life rafts, more antennae and the main radar. Once that is complete, the final session will add the helo, helo deck safety netting, rigging, rudders, props and shafts, anchors, and the final touchup.

The Build: Cannister Missile Launchers, Main Mast and Main Radars - January 25, 2013

The Type 054A Firgates are armed with 8 long range anti-shipping missiles located in cannistes amidships. These are similar to US HArpoon anti-shipping missiles with similar range. The eight missiles are made up of two assemblies of four missiles each in two separate racks (ie. 2x4=8). I put these together and then added them to the vessels.

Once these were completed, I tackeld the main mast and main radars. These radars (Type 382 Radar (Sea Eagle) which is a derivitive of the Fregat-MAE-5 (Top Plate) 3D radar) are the same type radars seen on many PLAN vessels (Destroyers, and the carrier) and are also the same type radar seen on many Russian major combatants. With the kit you have both the plastic parts and the Photo Etch parts for building these. I chose the Photo etch parts because they are much more detailed. Howerver, as before, in this kit the Photo Etch parts are very frail and easily bent. one must exercise extreme caution and patience to handle them delicately. I completed the build of these, along with the other sensors and mast atop the main mast, but was not as satified with the outcome as I would like. At some point I may purchase a PE kit from Tom's Model Works, Gold Medal Models, or Whie Ensign to find a little more sturdy set and replace these. As it it, they are not terrible and will certainly suffice...and are still better than the solid plastic pieces that simple have raised portions for the detailed metal mesh making up the radar itself.

After a few more small sensors were added and after some touch up, the model is looking more and more like the very capable multi-purpose frigates they represent.

I hope to finish the models over the weekend. This will involve detailing the helo pad (with Photo Etch center spot, Photo Etch safety netting and decals), building the Z-9C ASW helo and placing it on the helo landing pad, completing the propos, shats, and rudders, and then placing the final decals and building the stands. See you then.

The Build: Props, Rudders, Helos, Stabilizers and Models Completed! - January 27, 2013

The final work on these two models included building the props, rudders and shafts, building the Z-9C ASW helicopters for each vessel, placing all of the remaining decals, and then placing the stabilizer fins on the hull...then completing the touch up painting. Here's how that ended up:

With that, it was just a matter of placing the models on their stands and taking pictures of the overall completed models. Here they are:

They really look good and will be excellent additions to my overall PLAN Carrier strike groups which now contains the carrier itself, CV-16, Liaoning, the principle area air defence escort, the Type 052C Haikou, DDG-171, and these two Type 054A Frigates, the Xuzhao FFG-530, and the Huangshan FFG-570.

A potent group. I will add one more detroyer, the Type 052B, Gunagzhou DDG-168, and the nuclear attack submarine, Changzhang5 SSN-405 to complete the CSG.

Here's the current schedule now as I completed these over two weeks early.

Props, Rudders, Helos, Stabilizers and Completed!

SCHEDULE for Future Activities - January 28, 2013

  1. By Feb 15, 2013: Complete Mini Hobby, CG-53 USS Mobile Bay.
  2. By Apr 01, 2013: Complete entire PLAN Carrier Group (DDG-168, Gunagzhou & SSN-450, Changzhang5).
  3. By May 15, 2013: Complete Entire US Carrier Strike GroupGroup (DDG-88, Preble, LCS-1, USS Freedom & SSN-775, Texas).
  4. By Jun 01, 2013: Start the UK Carrier Group Centered on Airfix's HMS Illustrious.
  5. By Jul 15, 2013: Start the JMSDF Carrier Group Centered on Fujimi's JMSDF Hyuga.
  6. By Aug 01, 2013: Start the French Carrier group centered on Heller's Charles de Gaulle.
  7. By Oct 15, 2013: Start the US ARG centered on the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) and USS Sommerset (LPD-25).
  8. By Dec 31, 2013: CompleteUK and JMSDF Carrier Strike Groups.
The completion of the PLAN Carrier group, centered on the already completed Trumpeter's 1/350 scale PLA Navy's Aircraft Carrier CV-16, Liaoning, (in addition ot the other escorts already completed) will incluide Mini Hobby's's PLAN Guangzhou, DDG-168; the PLAN Ningbo, DDG-139; and the PLAN ChangZhang5, SSN-405 by Hobby Boss. If a 1/350 scale model of the PLAN Type 071 LPD, Yuzhao Class, is added, I will add one of those, propbably LPD-999, Jinggangshan.

The completion of the US Carrier Strike group, centered on the completed Tamyia's 1/350 scale USS Enterprise, CVN-65, (in addition ot the other escorts already completed) will include Dragon Model's, USS Preble, DDG-88, Trumpeter's USS Freedom, LCS-1 and Hobby Boss's USS Texas, SSN-775. (All of which I already own). When a 1/350 scale USS Enterprise, CVN-80 (or any Gerald R. Ford Class) comes out from Trumpeter, Airfix, Tamiya, Dragon, or whomever else, I will add it to this group along with another AEGIS Cruiser. Whatever Ford Class coms out, I will build her as the USS Enterprise, CVN-80.

The UK Group will indlude the Airfix 1/350 scale HMS Illustrious (which I already own), two Airfix 1/350 scale Daring Class DDGs (which I own and should arrive in January 2013), two Trumpeter 1/350 scale Type 23 HMS Duke class Frigates (which I already own), and the Hobby Boss 1/350 scale HMS Astute SSN and Airfix 1/350 scale HMS Tragalgar SSN, both of which which I already own. One day, when a 1/350 scale HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier and a 1/350 HMS Ocean LPD come out, I will add both to this group.

The French CSG will be centered on Heller's 1/400 scale Charles De Gualle (which I already own). I have purchased 1/400 scale Heller French De Grasse, D612 DDG, which is an ASW DDG, the French Duquesne, D603 DDG which is an anti-air multi-purpose DDG, and the French Aconit F713 FFG and Gueprattet F714 FFGs, both of which are Lafayette class frigates. These five vessels will round out my French CSG. As soon as a French Robin class nuclear sub, like the French Perale S606 SSN comes out, I will add that to the group. Also as soon as the Forbin D620, Horizon class anti-air DDG is available, I will purchase it and add it to the group as well.

The Japanese JMSDF group will be centered on Fujimi's very finely detailed, 1/350 scale Hyuga, DDH-181, which I own. It will be escorted by Trumpeter's 1/350 scale DDG-177, Atago, an AEGIS class DDG (which I have purchased), Trumpeters's 1/350 scale DDG-114 Susunami (A Tachanami Class DDG which I own), and by the 1/350 scale SS-503 Hakuryu (which I own), one of Japans new, very modern and capable AIP Diesel Electric submarines. As soo as a DDG-115 Akizuki in 1/350 scale becomes available, I will add it to this group.

The completion of the US ARG will include Tamiya's 1/350 scale, USS Iowa, BB-62 (which I have already completed), Trumpeter's 1/350 scale USS Iwo Jima LHD-7, Gallery's 1/350 scale USS Sommerset, LPD-25, Dragon's 1/350 scale USS The Sullivans DDG-68, Trumpeter's USS Independence, LCS-2, and my already completed, Dragon Model's USS Boise, SSN-764.

Then, finally it will be a complete Russian CSG (centered on Trumpeter's Kuznetsov which is available but I have not purchased yet) the Russian Slava Class cruiser, Varyag by Trumperter (which I own), two Trumpeter 1/350 scale Udalaoy DDGs (which I own), Hobby Boss's Akula II class SSN (which I own), and the Russian Alfa Class SSN, which I have already completed.

Recently I purchased Heller's 1/400 scale Foch, the Clemceau Class carrier that was sold to the Brazilians in 2000 and in 2002 was refitted and bacame the Brazilian CV, Sao Paulo, using steam catapaults. I will build the model as the Sao Paulo and thus start a Brazilian group, though the Type 22 DDGs and the FFGs the Brazilians use are not available at present.

Then, again, once the models are available, I'd like to build an Italian Group centered on the Cavour and their Horizon DDGs, a Spanish Group centered on the Juan Carlos and their F-100 AEGIS FFGs, and ultimatly an Australian Group centered on the new Canberra Class LPD and the Hobart class AEGIS DDGs. If they ever build the models, an Indian group centered on either the Vikramaditya or their new ADS Carrier the Vikrant and their Kolkata class DDGs and Shivlak class FFGs would also be nice.

You can see all of these actual carriers, read their histories and specifictions at my site:


...and most of their surface escorts at:


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