USS Casimir Pulaski (SSBN-633)

The Story Of A Cold War Warrior

The Pulaski In Miniature

Wow!  Your very own Pulaski!  In the privacy of your own home!  Is it possible?  Well...to a certain extent.  This page will deal with the various models available and how to make them into a good representation of (one of) the most powerful warship ever built.  If you are a model builder and would like more fun, visit the Model Forum page.

Available Model Kits

Unfortunately, there are slim pickings out there.  Why?  Who knows?  From a model building perspective, submarine models offer very few challenges to the serious or semi-serious model builder and are perfect "first kits" for beginners.  How hard is it to screw it up?  On modern submarines there are no gun mounts, no extensive camo schemes, etc.  However, the major (and minor) manufacturers have all but neglected old CP and her sisters.  Here's what's out there:

1/700th Scale:  These kits are about six inches in length and almost always waterline, meaning the kit sits flat as if the rest of it was underwater.  Detail is extremely minimal due to the small scale - and the fact that 66% of the real submarine is under water.  Nevertheless, there are two kits which are not in production (but often available on eBay, etc) and one resin kit. 

1.   The first kit is by a Japanese manufacturer named Skywave and the kit name is called "Scramble."  The kit contains two (value for money, eh!) Polaris missile submarines, decals for the entire run of 41 boats, 2 Soviet TU-95 "Bear" bombers, 4 Japanese F-4E Phantom II jets and two Japanese P-2 Neptune submarine hunting planes.  Each submarine consists of a whopping five parts: sail top, upper hull, bottom hull plate, missile hatch, Polaris missile.  As you can imagine, you have the option of building the boat with one missile hatch open and the missile in the tube.  Not too cheesy considering the scale.  There are a few scribed-on details like the safety track, hatches and a handful of mast openings.  The boat is too small to really go out of your way with detail.  The length of this kit actually scales out to 1/790th scale for Casimir Pulaski, which was of the longer Lafayette Class than the George Washington Class which the kit was meant to represent (381.5" versus 425" for Pulaski).  But the biggest difference is in the forward round-down of the hull casing; the casing on this George Washington Class kit does not extend smoothly forward, as for CP (and her sisters), but stops abruptly at the leading edge of the sail, where it blends into the hull with a small hump.  Interestingly, the width (beam) of this kit scales out to 1/792nd scale; in proportion for Casimir Pulaski but 12% too narrow for the George Washington Class it was meant to represent. 

2.  Next on the list is another multi-kit box offered by Dragon/DML.  The kit is called "USS Benjamin Franklin Versus Victor III."  The kit contains one boomer and a Soviet Victor III class SSN, plus some Soviet Helix sub hunting helicopters.  The kit, again, is sparse, but is better detailed than the Skywave offering.  The kit accurately duplicates the longer Benjamin Franklin sail plus the "bustle" at the rear of the Starboard side of the missile turtleback. 

3.  Finally, we have a resin kit produced by Ralph Ratcliffe.  This is a Lafayette Class submarine kit and it is full hull.  Being a resin kit, the price is going to be slightly more than for a conventional plastic kit.  However, the detail will be proportionately greater.  Here's some views of the kit:

In this view, you can see the very accurate definition of the missile deck and how it mounts to the vessel.  Note the casing fairs totally smoothly into the hull forward.

Also notice that the forward "shark fin" sonar array has been molded on; a detail left off of most kits.  The kit comes with miniature Polaris and Poseidon missiles.

My thanks to Tom Dougherty for supplying these photos of his Ralph Ratcliffe kit.  1/700th scale kits represent easy builds and is a popular scale for ship models as they require minimal storage/display space.  However, the tradeoff is limited detail.  All three of these kits are no longer in production but can occasionally be found on eBay, in model stores and in some online model shops like www.Greatmodels.com or www.PacificFront.com

1/350th Scale:  These kits are considerably larger and have better detail.  Unfortunately, there are no plastic kits in this scale, only resin.  Resin kits require considerably more preparation than a plastic kit but nothing that is out of your league if you are a model builder.  You will need to sand the excess resin off which will require you to wear a respirator mask as breathing in resin dust is to be avoided at all costs.  Next, you'll need to soak your parts in dishwashing liquid ("relax Madge, you're soaking in it...") to remove the release agent.  Failure to follow this step will result in your paint not sticking to the kit.  The plus side is that at this scale, resin kits will offer the finest detail of any available kits. 

1.  The only kit available is the "USS Simon Bolivar SSBN-641" kit by Yankee Modelworks (formerly Blue Water Navy).  This kit is slightly more expensive than a plastic kit but is 3000% more accurate.  Any of the Submarine Squadron SIXTEEN boats can be modelled using this base kit.  For a good peek at the kit, go to Yankee's website at:  http://www.yankeemodelworks.com/ssbn641.htm and see for yourself.  Or, alternatively, here's some shots of Tom Dougherty's kit being built:

In this next view, note the very accurate depiction of the towed sonar array tube and housing; another aspect of this class of vessel that is rarely captured on models of these boats.

And last but not least, here's a very impressive shot of the bow and sail area.  Note all of the hatch openings and mast openings in the sail.

STOP PRESSES!! - Yankee Modelworks is releasing a USS Daniel Boone (SSBN-629) which is even closer to Pulaski than the Simon Bolivar.  Stay tuned for details and photos.

1/200th to 1/250th Scale:  Larger still, these kits offer more size, but again, the selection and quality is limited:

1.  The smaller kit in this scale is the "Cutaway Polaris Missile Submarine" kit by Revell.  This kit was released in the 1960's and as submarines were highly classified at the time, there was limited information about the internal workings, so needless to say, this kit has intense "artistic license" when it comes to detail.  Here are some shots of my Revell kit.  Here's a nice overall view of the kit with no nose cone attached at this point.  The nose cone, by the way, is squashed horizontally for some unknown reason, making it a bit too narrow.  And again, note this kit does not have the proper fairing of the hull casing forward of the sail for Casimir Pulaski, being patterned after the earlier George Washington Class SSBNs.

In this shot, I have added a photoetched brass screw (propellor) and a brass tube which is the fairing for the towed sonar array.  The kit comes with a four bladed screw.  Due to security at the time, the multi-bladed screw was not allowed to be portrayed.

Here's a closeup of some of the detail to be found in this kit.  The kit is not an overly complex build and using some good reference material (LIKE THIS WEBSITE!!) you can make the kit into a more believable replica of an SSBN.

Here, you can see the shaft that I've added which leads from the Control Room to the bridge.  This passageway is a long way up and many a time I braved that ladder while water came pouring down from the open hatch above!

The missile compartment is very spartan with detail but can be modified to resemble an accurate missile compartment.  The kit comes with two Polaris A-3 SLBM's.

Here's the reactor compartment area.  The shelf on top is where the BRA radio buoy will go.

And last, but not least, here she is on her display stand, almost finished.  This kit came in two variants: the one shown here, with cutouts in the Starboard hull side and an earlier version with a solid Starboard hull which could snap on and off to reveal the interior, which was identical.


2.  The last - and largest - Polaris SSBN kit is actually now back in production by Revell-Germany, under the name USS Andrew Jackson (and perhaps others).  It is nominally 1/200th scale and is a re-release of an old (but relatively good) Renwal mold.  It again depicts a George Washington Class SSBN but it's shape - particularly that of it's nose cone - is more accurate than the older Revell kit above.  However, it's interior details reflect almost identical inaccuracies (again, the product of it's era).  There were two variants:  the first with a solid Starboard hull side, hinged to swing down to reveal the interior and another with a fixed Starboard side made of clear plastic.  Because it is in production, factory-fresh examples of this kit sell for half or even a third of the price of the above, out of production plastic kits (for example, on eBay).  Plus, it's the largest scale kit of all; providing maximum room for detailing, etc.  So if you want to build a large scale Casimir Pulaski, this one is a very good value and easily obtained.

Painting

Despite official publications, books, etc, the bottom line is that the captain and the captain alone, had jurisdiction when it came to painting.  Some captains required undercoats, and others couldn't care less.  No sense arguing about it; that's just the way it was.  Pulaski's lower hull was painted in bright red anti-fouling paint when she was built by Electric Boat.  This coating was never changed or completely removed.  Numerous sand blastings and pressure cleanings reduced this color to a brownish color with bits of oxidation (green) mixed in.  This color was left as was.  This is the best approximation of that color:

For the hull, the glossy black had faded to a very flat black.  Testor's ModelMaster Aircraft Interior Black or Tamiya Flat Black would be good hull colors for Pulaski coming back from patrol.  The hull was painted during refit but remember, not the WHOLE sub.  Only the parts that needed it.  This produces a patchwork effect, best represented by the following shot:

Notice how the boat appears grey in some places.  Nope...all black.  Notice also the green primer.  The best color match would be Testor's Modelmaster Oxy Green or Testor's Modelmaster RAF Interior Green.  The white sections (the vertical beam) are just plain gloss white.  The anti-skid area, as you can see by the photo, is almost non-recognizable.  For the missile hatch area consider the multiple colors in this shot:

You have the crew wearing light blue shirts, dark (Navy blue) trousers and then the blue belonging to the missile cap and the inside of the missile hatch.  Note the stainless steel safety cable and locking ring around the hatch.  Note the inside of the missile hatch deck is white.