The Dragon 1/350 scale USS Independence CVL-22 kit was released in late 2010 to great fanfare and it has generally received very good reviews. Yes there have been complaints that the kit is over-
engineered and that the assembly instructions are poorly done and confusing, all of which make it a difficult or challenging build, depending on your perspective. The kit is very detailed, comes with some
photo-etch and is otherwise excellent, so I guess the saying “No Pain, No Gain” could apply here. Out of the box it can be made into quite a nice model, yet there is a cadre of modelers out there (and you
know who you are) that will ask the question “how can I make this kit better?”  Well the new detail set from
L’Arsenal might be the answer you are looking for.

The
L’Arsenal detail set is a mix of resin and photo-etch parts. The resin parts (with associated photo-etch) are substitutes for the corresponding plastic parts while the photo-etch offers both
replacements for some plastic parts as well as additional details. Please note that the upgrade set provides parts to model the kit in a wartime configuration, with quad 40mm Bofors fitted at the bow and
stern. The resin parts may look familiar as they are also available as separate upgrade sets from
L’Arsenal. The items you need for this class of ships are bundled in this package saying you time and in
the end money. Purchasing the individual resin sets alone would cost more than the price of this detail set.
The resin parts included in this set are:

Twin 40mm Bofors (10x)
Quad 40mm Bofors (2x)
Mk. 51 gun directors (10x)
Balsa rafts (24x)
24” searchlights (6x)
Pedestals for 20mm Oerlikons (10x)
26ft whaleboats (2x)
Floater net basket inserts (14x)
Twin bitts (8x)
The quality of the casting is excellent, which is what we have come to expect from L’Arsenal. A little bit of clean-up is required for some of the parts, particularly the resin film inside the balsa rafts,
but it is minimal at best. Please note that while the photo of the 20mm pedestals shows only 9, there are indeed 10 in the package. One had broken off the runner and was still in the bag, which I did not
notice when I took the photo. A resin folding tool/form to bend the photo-etch floater net baskets is provided as well.

As good as the resin parts are, the photo-etch is really the highlight of this set and it is beautifully done with very nice relief etching. A large brass fret contains nearly all of the items in this medium.
Parts used in conjunction with the resin parts, such as floater net baskets, mesh inserts for the balsa rafts, arms for the Mk. 51 directors and parts to complete the 20mm and 40mm guns and
whaleboats are provided. In addition there are photo-etch parts to replace the kit’s plastic versions, such as the deck crane, funnel supports, lattice frameworks and platforms for the island’s tower
structure and the catwalks with supports. Finer and more detailed versions of the SK-1, SC-1 and SC-4 radars are provided, with the latter on its own little fret. Railings and inclined and vertical ladders
are also included. Lastly, 40mm ammo racks to detail the twin and quad gun tubs are squeezed in among the other bits in the larger fret.

The instruction sheets are printed on 5 pages and very well illustrated. The first two pages are used to identify the resin and photo-etch parts. The detailed assembly diagrams are printed on pages 3 and
4 and they are overall well done. A photograph of an assembled mast structure keyed to the corresponding photo-etch parts is very helpful. I wish that the radar assembly diagrams were a little clearer
as assembly is a bit complex. Perhaps some side views or even photos of the completed radars would be beneficial. This is a minor quibble as there are reference photos available in books or the Internet
to provide some help. The last page has assembly steps that correspond to the
Dragon kit’s instructions.
Overall this is an excellent detail set that will certainly enhance an already well detailed kit. If you wish to take your CVL kit to the next level then you cannot go wrong with this set. It is likely that more
experienced modelers would be tackling the
Dragon USS Independence since it is a more difficult kit to build, but in any event I must say that I would recommend the L’Arsenal set to more experienced
modelers mainly due to the complexity of the radars.
FelixBustelo
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