The Balao class was the follow-up to the Gato class fleet submarines. While their hulls were similar to those of the Gatos, the Balaos were an improvement as they
were built with thicker, higher yield strength steel in the pressure hull skins and frames. This increased their test depth to 400 feet (120 meters) from the 300 feet (90
meters) of the
Gato class. The Balao class was also designed to have a smaller conning tower fairwater and reduced periscope shears. As the war progressed,
variations is mast arrangements and gun layouts reached a point that at any given time no two
Balao submarines looked exactly alike. Photos show that every Balao
boat was somewhat different in detail, some just a little and some very different. These differences include the periscope/radar mast configuration, the length of the
cigarette deck aft, the presence and position of cylindrical watertight ammo and spare barrel lockers and the shape of the venturi and the recess behind it.
Model
Monkey
has released a 3D printed fairwater that is specific to the one on USS Lionfish as she appeared in 1945. The fairwater on Lionfish had a longer cigarette
deck then other
Balao class subs. This fairwater also has a different periscope/radar mast configuration that some other boats in the class.

The fairwater is printed in a matte translucent plastic and comes as one piece. The printing is very well done, with great detail, but some cleanup is needed to smooth
out the striations that are a by-product of the printing process which are a little more prominent on the periscopes and masts. The fairwater matches up nicely with the
photo of
Lionfish that is used as the banner for this review. My photos show the fairwater sitting on the hull of an old resin Tom’s Modelworks Balao hull. If you
plan on using this with one of the AFV Club
Gato kits, please note that the Balao fairwater is much smaller than the Gato fairwater. Because of this, the back end of
the footprint of the larger
Gato fairwater on the kit’s deck will be visible. The modeler will have to scribe the deck to extend the wood planking in order to blend the
exposed section of the blank footprint. According to
Steve Larsen, the proprietor of Model Monkey, this fairwater can be used, perhaps with some modification, to
model some other
Balao class boats that had a reasonably similar fairwater and the same mast configuration. These boats include:
SS-289 Capelin        SS-290 Cisco
SS-292 Devilfish        SS-293 Dragonet
SS-294 Escolar        SS-295 Hackleback
SS-299 Manta        SS-301 Roncador
SS-302 Sabalo        SS-304 Seahorse
SS-306 Tang        SS-307 Tilefish
SS-309 Aspro        SS-310 Batfish
SS-324 Blenny        SS-329 Chub
SS-332 Bullhead        SS-337 Carbonero
SS-341 Chivo        SS-342 Chopper
SS-394 Razorback
        
The Lionfish fairwater is a welcome addition to the growing Model Monkey catalog and will save the modeler the trouble of having to scratch-build one if you wish
to model a
Balao class submarine that had a similar fairwater. My thanks to Steve Larsen at Model Monkey for providing the review sample.
Felix Bustelo
__________________________________________________