The Black Cat Models Improved AA Fit is the next version in their series of Cannon Class Destroyer Escort kits. Steve Backer already covered the Early Fit version with torpedo tubes. In his review (Cannon Early Fit Review), “The Master” did was
he does best, provide a detailed historical background. In this case it was the design evolution of the U.S. Navy destroyer escort. His reviews set a benchmark that I strive to achieve, so I will not attempt to go into detail here, just read his review if you
want the background story. I will add that as the war progressed, a number of ships had their torpedo tubes removed and replaced with four single 40mm Bofors guns. This was done because the torpedo tubes were not really being used and there was a
need for an improved anti-aircraft armament. Two additional 20mm Oerlikons were fitted enclosed in a large splinter shield at the stern between the aft 3-inch gun and the depth-charge roll off racks.
The destroyer escort depicted in the kit’s box art, USS Gandy (DE 764), was built at the Tampa Shipbuilding Company yards and launched on December 12, 1943 and commissioned on February 7. 1944. Following her shakedown cruise, she was part
of the escort for Convoy CU-21. The convoy of fast tankers departed New York on April 15, 1944, bound for Northern Ireland. On the second day out,
U-550 torpedoed and sank SS Pan-Pennsylvania. Gandy attempted to ram the U-boat when she
surfaced after a depth charge attack by one of the other destroyer escorts.
Gandy missed U-550’s conning tower, hitting her about 30 feet from the stern and silencing the submarine’s machine guns with gunfire. The crew abandoned the U-boat and
she sank after an internal explosion.
Gandy suffered damage from the collision, with nearly four feet of her bow strake gone and buckled plates. She completed her escort of Convoy CU-21 and participated in escorting nine additional convoys to
Northern Ireland and Liverpool. After repairs in the New York Naval Yard, she sailed for the Pacific on June 8, 1945 and served the rest of the war there.
Gandy was decommissioned from the U.S. Navy on June 17, 1946 and placed on reserve until
January 10, 1951, when she was transferred to the Italian Navy. There she served as
Altair (F 591) until 1971, when she was sunk as a target.
Just like how Steve sets the bar for review writing, Black Cat Models is setting a high bar when it comes to model ship kits. Their series of Cannon Class and Edsall Class kits are so well designed that they take advantage of a common hull for all kits,
with the variations done with different resin, 3D printed and photo-etch parts that will fit on the common hull. As with all
Black Cat Models kits, the box comes with resin and 3D printed parts, turned brass and photo-etch parts and a decal sheet.

My kit is one of the waterline versions offered. The waterline hull is done by a short pour of resin in the mold for the full hull version. My pour is a little uneven, with more resin at the bow tapering lower aft, but that’s OK as I can display the model with a
little of the bow coming out of the sea.
The hull is beautifully done with roughly the forward half of the lower superstructure cast into it. The amount of detail is great, with electrical cables, junction boxes, doors with dog detail, and ventilator openings on the superstructure. Supports are
present under the integral Oerlikon tubs and blast shield under the forward 01 level. The splinter shields around the forward 3-inch/50 gun positions and the 20mm Oerlikon 01 level wing positions and aft round gun tubs are thin with interior support
bracing. The forecastle deck anchor openings are deep enough to feed in the end of some anchor chain. The deck main and 01 level decks have locator holes and recessed openings to fit the remaining aft section of the lower superstructure, funnel and aft
3-inch gun tub, as well as the numerous smaller parts, such as the windlass, lockers, hatches and bitts. Some excess resin will need to be removed at the stern part of the main deck around the bollard and two shields forward of the smoke generator
positions. At the stern you can see dimples to attach the 3D printed propeller guards that were fitted on
Edsall class ships and some early Cannons just out of the yard. Building an improved AA Cannon will require a little filler and sanding to smooth these
out.

The forward 01 level deck and bridge are designed to fit snugly into the top of the forward superstructure. The bottom of the bridge has 3 pegs that will fit through the corresponding openings in the 01 level deck (which need to have the resin film
removed) and into the openings in the top of the forward superstructure. The 01 level deck has support bracing along the interior of the bulkhead and climbing rungs. The bridge piece is something that is extraordinary with the level of detail provided. The
exterior has portholes with actual eyebrow detail, junction boxes, piping, watertight doors and climbing rungs. It is the open navigation bridge that blows me away. The bulkheads have voice pipes, navigation equipment, climbing rungs and supports. There
are steps leading up to raised lattice navigation position. The bridge part is different from the one in the early fit kit as it has the raised gun director position that was added to the upgraded Cannons.
The aft superstructure part is again very different from that of the early fit Cannon. The improved AA kit part has the tubs for the four single 40mm Bofors and one twin 40mm Bofors with internal support bracing, the raised pillar for the Mk. 51 gun
director and openings for the ready ammo boxes. The details on the bulkheads include watertight doors, vent piping and ventilator openings. The funnel also does not disappoint, with reinforcing bands on the exterior and exhaust pipes, reinforcing strakes
and an equipment locker inside the nicely done cap.

The aft 3-inch/50 position with splinter shields is a separate part with internal bulkhead strakes and locater holes for ready ammunition lockers and the gun. The remaining resin parts are the port and starboard bulkheads at the deck break. There are a lot of
3D printed parts which are all a sight to behold. The 3D parts are printed in gray resin, which will accept both enamel and acrylic paints. They are printed ultra-smooth and not require the fine sanding need with parts printed in other media. The parts come
on flat beds with raised ends to protect the parts, and have very thin attachment points to facilitate removal.
You get your choice of 20mm Oerlikon tubs for the pair fitted on either side of the funnel. Both are detailed with the interior support bracing for the splinter shields. The difference is that one pair are circular with the ammo lockers fitted externally and
the other pair has a squared off side with the ammo lockers inside the bulkhead. You will need to reference photos on Navsource.org or other sources to see which style was fitted on the ship you wish to build. The aft 20mm gun splinter shield is a
separate piece with the same amount of detail.

All of the armament is done in 3D printed parts and they are simply stunning. The 3-inch guns and the Bofors are comprised of separate gun and mount parts, while the Oerlikons are one piece. The Bofors have intricate sighting rings have integral safety
railing as part of the piece, eliminating the need to attach photo-etch railings. The Oerlikons have ammunition canisters on a solid pedestal mount and the shields already in place, again eliminating the need for photo-etch parts. The triple torpedo tubs and
hedgehog are also extremely detailed as are the depth charge racks and throwers.
The rest of the 3D printed parts range from the 26-foot launch, anchors, floater net baskets with the floater nets inside, various styles of lockers, bitts and chocks, gun directors, mast details, flag bags, life rafts, smoke generators, cable reels and
many, many more that are too numerous to list.

The kit comes with four brass photo-etch frets and turned brass parts. The largest fret has most of the railings needed which are premeasured for its location. Other parts include the grid platforms for the forward two 3-inch gun positions, the radar
grid to fit inside the 3D printed frame (this is a stroke of genius in my humble opinion) and several relief-etched ventilator grills to fit into the openings on the superstructure. Other parts include hand wheels for the cast on watertight doors, inclined and
vertical ladders, raft storage supports and mast and yardarm details. The next largest fret has some more railing, the 20mm gun tub supports, short vertical ladders and the circular ammunition clip rails for the internal bulkhead of the twin Bofors
splinter shield. The third fret is small with just two parts of railing. The last photo-etch fret is a guide to help correctly place the stern 20mm splinter shield. The brass is made to fit through the bollard and two shields forward of the smoke generator
positions that are cast into the deck to then line up the position of the splinter shield. Providing this guide just underscores how much thought went into the design of this kit. The kit comes with two bags of turned brass parts. They include the mast,
parts for the yardarms, ensign staff and the propeller shafts. Since this is a waterline kit, I will not need the latter but they are provided in any case.
The decal sheet has seven sets of white numbers from 0 to 9, so you can properly number the ship that you wish to model. The instruction guide is a 24-page booklet with each step of the assembly detailed with 3D CAD renders in color. The cover has a
brief general history of the ship class in both English and French. Pages 2 through 8 have a breakdown of the resin, 3D printed and turned brass parts and decals with corresponding identification numbers and a small image of the photo-etch fret. The 3D
printed parts that come on a bed are shown with an overhead view with the parts numbered as well as images of the individual parts also with identification numbers. The different part numbers are color-coded by the media used to help differentiate the
part numbers that may overlap. Pages 9 through 22 contain the 3D renders depicting the assembly steps with images of the various sections of the model from different perspectives. The renders are very well done and clearly show how the different
sub-assemblies go together and were everything goes on the model. Pages 16 and 17 are dedicated to assembling the intricate main mast with measurements to exactly place certain parts on the turned brass mat. Page 23 has two views of the completed
model. The final page has color plan and profile drawings with Measure 32/3d camouflage scheme worn by several of the Cannons at a time during the war. The color references are for standard United States Navy colors.
While admittedly the Black Cat Models Improved AA Fit Cannon kit is not perfect (there really is no perfect kit in my opinion), this one comes pretty darn close. Black Cat Models has certainly hit it out of the park with this kit and I dare say the
quality and engineering of this kit is what other kits should be measured against. The number of small 3D printed parts will provide for a detailed but challenging build and I would recommend it to modelers with some experience. Steve compared the
Original Fit
Cannon kit to a bottle of Dom Perignon, well I compare this kit to a bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild wine. My thanks to Ben Druel for providing this review sample.

Felix Bustelo
New York
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