Gallery Models is a “brand” concept developed by MRC. Their motto is “Only Spectacular Kits” and their first release (early 2010), the 1/350 scale USS WASP (LHD-1) (at nearly 1000 parts), sets the benchmark for this scale for accuracy and detail. The attention to accuracy and detail, from the design of each part through the making of the molds, is unparalleled. That kit and their 2nd release, the 1/350 scale USS IWO JIMA (LHD-7) (at over 1400 parts), represent the ultimate challenge to even the most experienced modellers.
Now, Gallery Models has released separately packaged kits featuring the U.S. MARINES Aircraft (Item # 64003), U.S. MARINES Armor Accessories (Item # 64004) and the USN LCAC Hovercraft (Item # 64005) from these two spectacular, Wasp-Class, Amphibious Assault Ship kits.
The box of U.S. MARINES Aircraft (Item # 64003) contains parts for the following aircraft, molded in clear plastic:
Also included in the package is a single sheet of instructions for assembly of all aircraft and a single, highly detailed decal sheet including markings for different expeditionary forces. A quick search of the internet will help you decide the 'era' for your build (the MV-22 Osprey of VMM-263 1st went "operational" on the Wasp in late 2006, so that narrows it down a little).
U.S. MARINES Armor Accessories (Item # 64004) is packaged in a well designed blister-pack which nicely protects the small parts on the sprues from movement or damage during transport. This pack contains parts for the following vehicles, molded in gray:
The instructions for these vehicles are printed on the front side of the cardboard, under the blister, so be careful removing the plastic from the cardboard. The painting recommendations are on the back of the cardboard and there are no decals (they'd be way too small to be useful anyway – at least for me).
The USN LCAC Hovercraft (Item # 64005) is also packaged in a blister-pack and contains parts for two complete Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) assault hovercraft, molded in gray. The instructions for these LCACs are also printed on the front side of the cardboard and the painting recommendations are on the back. There is also a highly detailed decal sheet in the pack.
The photos on the MRC Gallery Models web site show two Landing Craft, Utility (LCU) landing craft alongside the LCACs. The LCUs are included with the USS Wasp and the USS Iwo Jima kits, but these LCUs are not included in kit # 64005.
MRC/Gallery Models' 1/350th scale kits are of the finest quality and the detail and clarity is second to none. Each wheeled, tracked, or air vehicle kit is made up of between three (M198, 155mm Howitzer) and 15 (MV-22 Osprey) parts. There are 22 parts to each of the LCACs. As mentioned above, the aircraft are molded 'clear,' but the fine detail on finely recessed panel, window, and door lines is still there. The detail is remarkable and clear (see the shovel on the back of the LAV-25 – this LAV is only about 0.7 inches long!). Loads of patience are required here and you need to be holding onto the part as you clip it from the sprue or you'll likely never see it again.
These kits go together fast and with no trouble at all (except for holding onto the parts to assemble them). There was no need for putty and only a bottle of Thin Instant Cement was needed. Just touch the cement brush to the fuselage halves & let the cement run along where halves joined up (except along the canopies). If you can keep the glue off your fingers and not damage the surfaces, any finishing style you prefer should work great.
With the aircraft being transparent, the modeller has options on how they may want to finish them. I used transparent green paint inside the windows/canopies before assembling the aircraft, then painted around the windows on the outside (but I usually, inadvertently, do most things the hard way). The AV-8B Harriers have really small wing gear that's kind of tricky to line up but, if it's any consolation, they also have a separate canopy, so there's no need to mask it.
The color guides recommend the appropriate colors for all vehicles – your choice on how to apply them. It's pretty easy to spray the LCACs in sub-assemblies, but it's way easier to just use a brush on the wheeled/tracked vehicles and aircraft.
The decals are excellent, although really small! The decals are of fine quality and sit right down with a small dab of setting solution. There are enough decals for several more aircraft, more than come with the kit, so there is a little margin for error.
After assembly, I brushed on a very dilute coat of Light Ghost Gray. The paint settled darker into the fine, recessed panel lines and simply looks great.
After painting, a quick swipe with weathering powders brings out all the fine detail, right down to that 1/350th scale shovel on the back of the LAV! It really is something to behold.
Absolutely Great! I highly recommend all 3 of these MRC/Gallery Models 1/350th scale kits. These are super-challenging to build but even modellers of lesser experience will find great satisfaction with these kits. The simplicity, combined with the detail and clarity, is almost unbelievable for this size kit and many kudos go out to MRC. Well done!
In hindsight, it might have been a bonus for MRC/Gallery to do just a little more with the decals. The deck stripes for the LCACs are of one length, long enough for the length of the deck but the cross stripes need to be cut to length. Also, it would have also been nice to have decals for the windows of the trucks and the LCACs (you already are dealing with the tiny labels for the aircraft, windows wouldn't have been that much more of an issue). The markings for the aircraft are a little larger than scale but if they were to actual scale, they would have been maddening to apply. They do dry out quickly as well, so you need to be fast getting them from the paper to the part. (That was just a thought but maybe it's a wash; there's really nothing wrong with what is provided, these are superior sets!).
Talk about value for the price – if you're building the Wasp or the Iwo Jima, you can supplement the air group that comes with those kits by purchasing these kits separately. You almost can't afford not to. Those assault ships have nicely detailed hangar, flight, and well decks that are begging to be stuffed with aircraft and equipment.
My thanks go out to MRC Academy for providing these 3 kits for review and to IPMS/USA for giving me the opportunity to review them all.