My Review and Build of Hobby Boss 1/350 scale Kit #83509,
Astute Class SSN, HMS Ambush S120

Last updated: Adding decals and completing the vessel - April 11, 2013 <-- Click to go directly there

Introduction and What's in the Box - April 9, 2013

Overview - Hobby Boss 1/350 Scale Submarines:
Hobby Bosss builds excellent 1/350 scale submarines of all types. They fit together very well, by nature they do not have many parts, they usually include nice, small sets of photo etched parts, and they build-out into very nice looking and accurate representation of the boats they are meant to depict. To my knowledge they make the only 1/350 scale injected modled plastic kit of the new Royal NAvy Astute class of nuclear attack submarines.

Introduction - The Astute Class Nuclear Attack Submarines:
The Royal Navy introduced a plan to replace their current class of trafalgar nuclear attack submarines with what they called at that time the "Batch 2 Trafalgar class." This would ultimatel become the Astutue Class. The order for the research was given in June 1991. In July 1994 risk reduction studies were authorised in parallel with the formal bid phase of the project. On 17 March 1997, the Ministry of Defence announced that it would place a £2 billion order for three submarines and that they would be called the Astute class. On 26 March 1997 the contract was signed with GEC-Marconi for the first three boats: Astute, Ambush and Artful. These names were last given to Amphion-class submarines that entered service towards the end of World War I.

The overall plan called for a total of seven boats to replace the five Swiftsure-class submarines (Sovereign, Superb, Sceptre, Spartan, and Splendid) and the two oldest Trafalgar-class boats (Trafalgar and Turbulent). The Swiftsure class entered service between 1973 and 1977. By August 2006 BAE Systems negotiated the contract to build the remaining four Astute-class submarines (hulls four to seven).The fourth boat was ordered on 21 May 2007, to be called Audacious, and the names of the other hulls were agreed as Agamemnon, Anson, and Ajax. But on 15 September 2011 it was announced that hull 5 would now be named Anson instead.

The class was designed to set new standards for the Royal Navy in terms of weapons load, communication facilities and stealth. The boats were contracted to be constructed by BAE Systems Submarine Solutions at Barrow-in-Furness Seven boats in total are now funded to be constructed. The first of class, Astute, was launched in 2007 and commissioned in 2010, just as the last of the Swiftsure class was decommissioned. The second Astute boat, the Ambush, was launched on 6 January 2011,and commissioned on 1 March 2013. This model is being constructed to represent HMS Ambush,S120, the second in class.

These vessels are extremely modern and capable nbuclear attack submarines, second only, and probably on par with the Virginia and Sea Wolf classes of the United States Navy in terms of their sensors and weapons. The each displace 7,4000 tons submerged, significantly more than the vessels they are replacing. They have new, larger, and more efficient reactors that do not have to be updated through their service life. The carry thirty-eight weapons each which can consist of either the latest Spearfish heavy torpedoes built by the United kingdom, and US designed and built Tomahawk Block IV cruiise missiles, both the land attack variety and the new Tactical Tomahawks which can also target surface vessels.

Each is fitted with a pump jet propulsor for propulsion which are significantly quieter and more efficient that a standard propeller. (US Virginia Class submarines use this same technology.) Like all Royal Navy nuclear attack submarines, their sails are significantly strengthened to allow for surfacing through polar ice caps, and their fore planes are located on the forward portion of the hull of the boat. On that hull, more than 39,000 acoustic tiles mask the vessel's sonar signature, giving the Astute class a better stealth quality than any other submarine previously operated by the Royal Navy.

Finally, . the Astute Combat Management System is an evolved version of the Submarine Command System used on the Trafalhgar class of British submarine. The system receives data from the boat's sensors and displays real time imagery on all command consoles. The submarines also have Atlas Hydrographic DESO 25 high-precision echosounders, two CM010 non-hull-penetrating optronic masts—in place of conventional periscopes—which carry thermal imaging and low-light TV and colour CCD TV sensors. Finally, the vessels are equipped with the advanced Thales Underwater Systems Sonar 2076, an integrated passive/active search and attack sonar suite with bow, intercept, flank and towed arrays. The Royal NAvy believes that this BAE designed and built Sonar 2076 systems represents a "step change" over previous UK sonars and is theas advanced, if not more so, than any other sonar system in the world today.

What's in the Box:
The Hobby Boss kit comes in a small box, that is well built, and contains a very nice image of the boat on its cover, as well as a layout of the boat and its history on the side panels. The hull is made up of two pieces, and upper pieces that contains all of the sail except where the sensors are attached, and a lower section. The horizontal planes at the aft of the boat are built into the hull. The two pieces dry fit extremely well together with very little seam.

There is a single srpue of plastic pieces which include the foreplanes, the diving planes, the top portion of the sail which comes in two optional pieces, one to show all masts retracted, and another to allow as many of the masts to be deployed as desitred, as well as the locations for the watch crews, for and aft. The plastic sprue also contains the three piece propuslor assembly and all of the masts and sensors for the boat, as well as some deck mounted fixtures.

There is alos a photo etch sprue that contains numerous small pieces, most of which fit to the hull as various covers, hatches, and sensors. There is also the option to use the PE propellor in place of the plastic one in the proposulor assembly. The plastic one is done very well, with very good details and very little flash. It provides much better 3-d relief and is the one I will use.

Teh decal sheet contains numerous markings on the hull, from those on the side facing sonar apetures, to depth markings and various other markings. There are quitre a few of them and will add to the realism of the overall model.

The instructions are very intuitive and straight forward as you would expect with a model with less than fifty parts. The color shecme is very well done and porvided in glossy full color. Here are the pictures of all of this:

The Build - Initial hull construction and painting - April 09, 2013

I started this model by simply putting together the hull halves and claming them for a while to form a very secure, and almost seamless fit. i then added the vertical control surfaces aft, along with the dive planes, and then the foreplanes forward. I then painted all of the parts for the propulsor and the top of the sail in preparation for their attachement. At that point I was ready to spray paint the entire model in flat black, which I did. Here's how all of that turned out:

Then it was time to mask off the side facing sonar appetures and paint them. I mixed one part flat black with two parts Red. This produced a very deep, dark red that sets off these sonars as they were built. I then masked off the upper portion of the hull for the weather deck/non-skid surface along the top of the hull for crew members to walk as the vessel is surfaced and operating or in port. I intend to paint this with a very dark gray, probably engine gray or maybe even a shade darker.

And that was as far as I got. Next session I hope to finish off the hull, and paint and all of the masts to the vessel, along with the PE parts.

The Build - Add hull details, add sail masts & periscopes, prepare for decals - April 10, 2013

Okay, we left things off with the hull masked for the non-slip surface to be painted on the upper portion of the hull, for and aft of the sail. I did that, choosing a dark, engine gray color. It reflects the type of surface that must be in place along the walk ways/surfaces for the crew while at sea and on deck while surfaced.

Then it was time to add the top of the sail which I had already painted and prepared which would show the masts and sensors all raised, along with the lookout stations which the Astute class has for and aft. Then I carefully painted each seperate mast and sensor and then very carefully added them. I use my angled pick when doing this and place a drop of glue on the very tip to add it to the location where the mast/sensor is attached to the sail. In this case, the receiving holes for each of the masts and sensors...and their are a total of nine of them...are very well done and when adding them to the small amounts of glue I placed in each hole, they fit very well and made a very good bond.

Then it was time to put the structures on the aft portion of the ship, just fore of the propulsor cover and extending onto it and anchored to it and to small mounts on either side of it, for the very thin tubes which I believe must represent some form of towed array dispenser. The kit provides photo etch structural mounts and styrine tubes/shafts for this. I had some nice, similarly shaped and delicate styrine parts which I was able to cut to fit which I believe looked better for the mounts. Anyhow, these are very small, delicate pieces requiring tiny amounts of glue, and very small amounts of paint to get right and not have glob up (either the glur or the paint) to spoil their look.

Once this was completed, attached, and was time for some touch up paint work and preparation for the applications of the decals. Here's how she looks now, prepared for that.

Looking very nice. The Astute class vessels have a very distinctive look. Similar in some respects to some of the newer and very capable AIP diesel electric boats in shape (which operate so well in the littorals and at choke points), but, of course nuclear powered with those quiet propulsor units.

Next session should get her completed with the application of all markings, final touch up, and the dull coat final coatings.

The Build - Adding the decals and completing the vessel - April 11, 2013

Now it was time to add the decals...and this submarine has quite a few of them, more than most other modern nuclear attack submarines. Lots of various markings along the hull and on the main deck. MAny of them very small having to be very carefully apploied...using a lot of small tweazers, small, fine brushes, and even small picks to apply and move them around.

I am sure that each and every one of them has a very specific purpose. It adds to the distinctiveness of this British boat. It's shape is distinctive, and its markings are distinctive. Most are below the water line, but there are numerous small markings above it too. It took quite a few hours to cut them all out and then put them on in some logical sequence where your work did not intefere with or potetniall move or damage markings already set. Even after drying well, decals are finnicky and could easily come off before the decal set is applied, and then the final coats of dull coat are appiled.

...and as always, just a few close ups for some more detail:

She looks very good...alone and in company with my recently finished HMS Daring, D32, one of the new Type 45 destroyers. Both are very modern and very capable warships...among the best in the world. They, along with the Type 23 Duke Class frigates I intend to build will be extremely capable escorts of Roiyal NAvy Aircraft Carriers, like the Illustrious I will build soon, and then ultimately the Queen Elizabeth or Prince of Wales when those new larhge carrier models are available in 1/350 scale.

SCHEDULE for Future Activities - April 11, 2013

  1. By Apr 15, 2013: Complete HMS Ambush S120, Astute Class SSN.
  2. By Jun 15, 2013: Complete HMS Illustrious CVL and HMS Kent F78.
  3. By Aug 15, 2013: Start the JMSDF Carrier Group Centered on Fujimi's JMSDF Hyuga.
  4. By Oct 15, 2013: Start the French Carrier group centered on Heller's Charles de Gaulle.
  5. By Dec 15, 2013, Start the US ARG centered on the USS Iwo Jima and USS Sommerset.

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 to the other escorts already completed) included Mini Hobby's's PLAN Guangzhou, DDG-168. If a 1/350 scale model of the PLAN Type 071 LPD, Yuzhao Class, is ever released, I will add two of those, propbably LPD-998 Yuzhao and LPD-999, Jinggangshan, add the PLAN- DDG-139, Ningbo, and perhaps the PLAN DDG-115, Shenyang, and build a PLAN ARG.

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) included Trumpeter's, USS Freedom, LCS-1, Dragon's USS Preble, DDG-88 and Hobby Boss's USS Texas, SSN-775. When a 1/350 scale USS Enterprise, CVN-80 (or any Gerald R. Ford Class) is released from Trumpeter, 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 also already have and have started building), 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.

The French CSG will be centered on Heller's 1/400 scale Charles De Gualle (which I already own). I have purchased the 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 is released in 1/350 or 1/400 scale, I will add that to the group. Also as soon as the Forbin D620, Horizon class anti-air DDG is released in 1/350 or 1/400 scale, I will purchase two of them and replace the De Grrasse and Duquesne with them, and then save those tow for when a Misteral Class LPD is released so I can create a French ARG with those vessels.

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 and the JMSDF, DDG-178, Ahigara (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 is released, 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, Bronoc Models 1/350 Scale USS New York, LPD-21, Cyber Hobbies USS Independence, LCS-2, Acadamy's 1/350 scale USS Rueben James, FFG-57, and andother Flight IIA US AEGIS class detroyer based on Trumpeter's 1/350 scale USS Lassen, DDG-82...all of these models which I already own.

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 Udaloy 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 became 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. I have however purchased a set of 1/400 scale A-4 Skyhawks and S-3 Trackers to build a suitable airwing for the Sao Paulo.

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.

Years worth of work!

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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