by: Dade W. Bell [ ]
"This MSW inbox style review takes a closer look at Pit-Road's 1/ 350 scale, IJN Escort vessel, Ukuru Type B."
The American submarine force was strangling mainland Imperial Japan by wreaking havoc on the Japanese merchant marine. The IJN belatedly realized that escort duties were very important to the nation's survival, so a crash course in escort building was started up.
The Ukuru class was designed around an improved version of the Mikura Class hull and was constructed from pre-fabricated sections. Many IJN sailors were at first dubious of these ships that were produced in about 30,000 man hours, but the Ukuru class turned out to be sturdy ships and very dependable. They were considered a "lucky class" and many went on to serve as patrol ships in the Maritime Safety Agency and Meteorological Office after the war.
1 x single 120mm semi-turret
1 x double 120mm open mount
5 x triple 25mm
1 x single 25mm
The box top is the usual beautiful Pit-Road artwork depicting the Ukuru fending off an attack from two B-25s. The back of the box shows the ship stats and acts as a painting guide. The title bar at the top right is to be cut out and used as the "label" for the included stand.
Sprue A: Hull Halves
Pit-Road's usual high quality plastic works wonderfully in showing the delicate raised horizontal weld lines on the hull. The vertical weld lines that belie the ship's modular construction are also depicted. There is also good stuff under the waterline including the pinched keel area and forward detail.
Sprue B: Deck and Stand Parts
The deck water re-direction pattern is well done, as is the depth charge area. Anchor chains are molded on. While there are some details molded on to the deck, this is generally a non-issue since most of the deck is the same gray as the rest of the ship. The parts that appear in the linoleum areas shouldn't be hard to mask.
A simple cradle stand is included-- the "label" for the stand is the title bar cut from the back of the box, so be careful unpacking if you want to use this stand.
Sprue C: Superstructure/ Bridge, AA gun platforms, Masts, Keels, Screws
The superstructure/ bridge area (parts 28 and 29) looks very nice with sharp lines and details. The bridge windows are molded solid. There are slight sink marks found in the sides. There is also some sinking to be found in the funnel sides (parts 37 and 38), and aft structure (parts 42 and 43).
The doors are sharp enough that many builders will be pleased with them and will 0not have to replace them with PE.
The platforms look very good, albeit with some slight sinking in parts 3 and 4. However, this sinking will likely be covered by the guns, so the builder will be spared the headache of puttying an area with lots of surface texture.
The masts are straight and the bilge keels sharp.
Sprue D: Weapons, Boats, Depth Charges, Boat Derricks, Directors
Pit-Road always shines in the "fiddly stuff" and this kit holds to that standard. The 25mm guns (single, double, triple) are some of the best plastic renderings out there and enough are given to fit out the Ukuru or any of her sisters. The 120mm double mounts are sharp with straight barrels.
The boats are nice, but suffer from knockout marks. The launches don't suffer from this as much as the rowboats- a shame considering the wood planking that the marks mess up.
The depth charges are well cast with a minimum of clean up required. There are also rack mounted charges for those other escort options.
The boat derricks have the correct compound curve and are set up in a very logical fashion. Instead of the usual way of mounting the boats to overscale plastic pulleys coming from the derricks, these derricks have small pins at the "bumper" area of their curve that insert into the bottom of the boats. In this way, the builder has a clean area to work with for the "hanging" of the boats, either with rigging material or PE pulleys.
The main drawback to this sprue is the semi-turret (part 47) to house the forward 120mm gun. The breech area of the gun is molded into the back of the turret and is simplified down to what amounts to a plastic block and a cylinder. Strangely, I've seen Pit-Road make more detailed semi-turrets with separate breeches in 1/700, so seeing this oversimplification in 1/350 is a mystery.
Three brass barrels are included for the 120mm guns. There are two 45 calibre length barrels for the double mount and one 40 calibre barrel for the semi-turret (most easily recognized for its flared barrel tip). These are welcome upgrades to the already nice plastic pieces, specifically because the brass barrels have hollow tips and sharp lines.
The decals look good and are in register.
The instructions are printed on a single sheet laid out in a four page format. The first page includes a history in both Japanese and English along with a parts breakdown in Japanese.
The second and third pages are laid out in a vertical spread format with excellent illustrations, clearly labeled. There are a couple of notes in Japanese, but nothing that will cause much confusion, especially on a ship this simple.
The last page depicts final assembly as well as the names and fates of the Ukuru and her sisters. The amount of survivors listed at war's end is testament to the Ukuru class' luck.
Unfortunately, there are no rigging diagrams, so the box top will have to be consulted if there are no other references available to the builder. Even so, the box top won't solve all rigging problems as the top of the foremast isn't visible.
Pit-Road has produced a very nice plastic rendition of one of the unsung participants of the IJN's war effort. The parts breakdown is logical and well-made. There are a few issues such as the multiple sink marks and lack of rigging diagrams, but these are made up for in items such as the brass barrels and boat mounting. Besides, how many other recent 1/350 releases cost less than $40?
A dedicated photo etch set is upcoming from Pit-Road and I will review it upon its arrival.