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U-552 Type VIIc Submersible by yvesvidal - Trumpeter - 1/48 - Plastic

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Folks,this model is the realization of a childhood dream. As long as I can remember, I have had a passion for submarines and more specifically for the German Type VIIc. A few years ago, Revell Germany proposed a very impressive model of the Type VIIc at the scale of 1/72 that was a nice match for their re-issue of the Matchbox Flower Class Corvette. 



A lot of negative things can be said about the Chinese quality and products, but in the domain of plastic scale models, they created a renewal, a revival of that discipline that no American or European companies have been able to even get close to. It started with their Bismarck and USS-Arizona in the scale of 1/200 and they have been relentlessly offering multiple models each time, bigger and bigger. The upcoming Titanic at 1/200 is another proof of their energy and commitment to this form of Hobbies. The models offered, the molding, packaging, artwork of the contents, quality of instructions and the size are absolutely unmatched by European or American manufacturers. Tamiya, being Japanese, remains in the leading group, but you pay for it.


Their 1/48 U-Boat U-552 kit is probably the biggest kit that can be found on the market today, at least it is in my small collection.  The following shows the box weighing 22 pounds resting against some of my pinball machines: 


That model is massive with a length of 1.440 meters, near 5 feet. The kit includes more than 1100 parts and is extremely well presented, packaged and molded as are the modern Trumpeter kits. All the parts are arranged into three large boxes with delicate parts carefully wrapped with bubble shields. The main hull and rear hull are located in their respective boxes, impervious to shocks and mishandling.


Three booklets come with the kit: Instructions for assembly (70 pages), instructions for colors (20 pages) and a flyer for painting and assembling the 50 some crew members. 


on the PE side, it is very limited and spartan: 


However, two PE solutions are available:

- Eduard with 3 sheets of PEs for the hull and conning tower 

- RCSubs with a fantastic offering (slightly more expensive than Eduard but ten times better and more protypical) of PEs, including the infamous Enigma machine in the scale of 1/48 - https://www.rcsubs.cz/index.php/photo-etched-sets/20-sets-for-u-boat-viic-1-48-trumpeter-06801



I have not made up my mind yet, but I am leaning very strongly towards RCSubz which allows to redo the entire deck and part of the hull, in brass. They are currently sold out but working hard to produce other PE kits.


The amounts of parts is overwhelming: 




I have not replicated the instructions here, as it can be easily found on the Internet. Instructions are very precise, clear and are leading you step by step, towards a successful completion of that large model. 


The hull is provided with a grey side and a clear side: 



A lot has been said about that kit and numerous people have built it on the WEB. The best realization (in my humble opinion), being a French modeler who turned that kit into a museum piece with a galore of extra details. His Build Log can be found here: http://www.laroyale-modelisme.net/t20510-u-552-trumpeter-echelle-1-48 (in French): 



Here is another shot from a different builder, showing a beat-up and heavily rusty Type VII (Revell kit): 


People have been complaining about the clear acetate used to mold the Port side of the submarine and the starboard of the conning tower (mishap!!) and wished that both parts were molded with polystyrene. The Trumpeter kit insists mostly on the inside of the U-Boat and it is clearly what the Chinese tried to do with this massive kit. The Trumpeter kit is an enlargement of the Revell kit and all mistakes of the original Revell kit regarding the hull, have been carried over to the Trumpeter model. 


Despite these limitations, that kit remains an absolute must have (for submarine enthusiasts) and offers incredible potential for kit bashing and a level of details rarely obtained in naval plastic kits.


I am not planning to start the building of this kit any time soon (other priorities to take care of) but still wanted to present it to you and perhaps get the motivation to tackle the biggest plastic model of my life.




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4 hours ago, Jim Rogers said:

sounds pirated and then enlarged...Just sayin’

I wouldn't be too hasty to make that judgment. I'm not as well-versed on the plastic kit world as I once was (many, many moons ago), but I know that it is not uncommon for injection molds to legitimately exchange hands between plastic kit companies and that Trumpeter has acquired molds in the past in that fashion. I'm not qualified to speculate any farther than that.

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1 hour ago, ccoyle said:

it is not uncommon for injection molds to legitimately exchange hands between plastic kit companies

I think what Jim was referring to in this case Chis, was not a case of using the same molds as the models are not in the same scale. He was presenting the possibility that Trumpeter copied the design, including the flaws, and enlarged it to 1/48th. 

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These days, when your government can take your photograph and use your image for whatever purpose they may deem necessary (facial recognition), all without your permission, we have problems much larger than model submarines. 

Having said that, I sure hope to see someone start a build log on this impressive plastic monstrosity. Huge project!


By the way, that RC sub site is quite impressive as well. 

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You may well have already found this thread on The Ship Model Forum, if not it provides a wealth of information and links that may help you.



And Trumpeter are a highly regarded company in the plastic modelling world so I personally doubt that they 'stole' this kit from Revell and upscaled it. 

There is a large amount of reboxing and rebranding with plastic model kits, Revell as an example do a large amount of it so it's likely that the plans were sold to Trumpeter and there was the traditional SNAFU in certain areas of the kit. A situation not unknown with wooden kits I'm learning. 😊 

I really wonder if some companies actually build any of their kits from a quality control standpoint before releasing them. Sometimes, it seems as if they didn't. Or didn't pay any attention to the builder who said.. " Umm, about this bit ??? "

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3 hours ago, johnothanswift said:

You may well have already found this thread on The Ship Model Forum, if not it provides a wealth of information and links that may help you.



And Trumpeter are a highly regarded company in the plastic modelling world so I personally doubt that they 'stole' this kit from Revell and upscaled it. 

There is a large amount of reboxing and rebranding with plastic model kits, Revell as an example do a large amount of it so it's likely that the plans were sold to Trumpeter and there was the traditional SNAFU in certain areas of the kit. A situation not unknown with wooden kits I'm learning. 😊 

I really wonder if some companies actually build any of their kits from a quality control standpoint before releasing them. Sometimes, it seems as if they didn't. Or didn't pay any attention to the builder who said.. " Umm, about this bit ??? "

If the truth was known, the Revell kit was probably molded for them by Trumpeter in the first place as Revell kits sure as heck are not made in Germany or the USA. Modelers would be surprised by how many manufactured kits are actually made by the same factory. I know of at least 4 or 5 companies who label kits as their own but are made by Trumpeter. That's just the way it is.

A friend of mine goes to China and has the factory make electronic RC aircraft components for him that he labels as his own and sells in the USA. These components are the same thing that's sold by other well known brands, made at the same factory assembly line. Happens all the time every day.

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Some very timid progress, due to limited time. I truly have too many passions and hobbies going on at the same time.


Two torpedoes out of the 12 provided in the kit. Most likely I will only assemble 8, which are more or less visible. Trumpeter provides 12 torpedoes, one for each front tube plus 4 under the floor and 1 for the rear tube and two under the floor of the rear compartment. The last torpedo can be displayed being loaded through the deck.


Now, for the colors: the most common color was black for the head and light gray for the body. However, the torpedoes on the U-552 were of the G7e type (53.3 cm diameter, 7.16 meters long, electric 100HP/75KW) and could have been painted silver with a brass/golden head. Difficult to really know. The torpedoes weighted close to one ton each and needed to be recharged every 4 to 5 days which was a dreadful exercise for the crew, when patrolling for weeks at a time. The G7e-T2 or G7e-T3 had a range of 5,000 meters and 7,500 meters respectively. The propellers are contra-rotating, to neutralize the asymmetrical torque, keep the torpedo straight and  optimize the flow of water.



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On 3/9/2019 at 2:40 AM, johnothanswift said:

I really wonder if some companies actually build any of their kits from a quality control standpoint before releasing them.

It would seem that Trumpeter is doing that with the new 1/200 Titanic they are reportedly releasing this year. People who have seen it say it will be the most accurate Titanic ever released. 


CDW is probably also right in that the plastic companies trade all kinds of stuff back and forth and Revell has been selling kits mad by others for years. Look at the Black Pearl that OC is building.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have started a little bit this large kit with the front torpedoes room (basically following the instructions more or less). The first step is to put together the roof of the front room. Ceiling is drilled with 3 mm bits for the White LEDs that will provide some light in this cramped compartment. The Trumpeter kit is short of a few details which I have added after studying some interior pictures and the movie Das Boot. The modifications are made with Evergreen pieces: 


The added pieces are the rails used to move and support the torpedoes holder. The whole roof will be painted with a very light gray.



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I just received the set of Photo Etched parts from RCSUBS.CZ as well as the 3D printed Pressure hull bulkhead for the front torpedoes. Everything is just perfect and the fitting is exceptional. This set, although expensive is a lot better than Eduard's and allows the demanding modeler to assemble a submarine that truly looks like a Type VIIc prototype. The set came in less than two weeks from Czech Republic. If you want to order it, send an e-mail to RCSUBS <rcsubs@seznam.cz> and address it to Oto. Customer service is perfect.


Front and rear decks: 



Main Deck and conning tower:



External Torpedoes doors, Hull details and the infamous Enigma machine, to be placed in the Radio compartment: 


The Front Bulkhead for the Pressure Hull. The fitting is incredible and the torpedo tubes just slide perfectly: 


The kit comes with a 25 pages assembly manual as well as the templates to cut and remove parts of the main hull: 




Lots of great stuff.....




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As indicated earlier, I am starting (slowly) the front torpedoes room. It is most likely the biggest module on this kit but it is very interesting and suggested by the instructions. The good part about this enormous kit, is that you can approach a module at a time....and this is exactly what I will be doing.


The roof has been airbrushed with Tamiya XF-24 to provide that light grayish color. The U-995 (only salvaged type VII in existence in Germany) has been repainted white internally, to offer more light to the public and reduce the claustrophobic syndrome. It is difficult to say exactly how these U-Boot were painted inside and most likely a light gray color was used as in most military equipment. The U-995 even has push rods on the engine, painted in blue...:rolleyes:


The ribs of the the pressure hull were covered with small planks of wood and varnished, to protect the head of the sailors and prevent injuries when touching the hull in very cold waters. I have painted these with raw umber acrylic to imitate the wood and coated them with high gloss varnish.


I have started working on the bed bunks and port wall. This torpedoes compartment was housing some 24 to 27 crew members. There was 12 beds and the non-resting members were working or eating. Work involved moving each torpedo and recharging it on a daily basis, an extremely strenuous and awful job, as each unit was weighting more than a ton.


The crew bunks were set with linen and cotton mattress. A small wooden storage allowed each crew member to keep some clothes and personal items.


As is common, various pin-ups were displayed on the wall to help with the extreme tension of the sailing campaign. The pictures are from original German magazine and were reduced to an approximate scale of 1/48. The main portrait is a picture of Maria Orsic, the great priestess of the Vril Secret Society. Others are young women of the Hitler youth displaying their assets.  I pushed the details to staining the beds a little bit, as the life inside a submersible reeked of sweat, blood and fear.



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On the Trumpeter kit, the way the pressure hull was treated is rather vague and imprecise. It is unfortunate that the kit did not provide a clear delineation between pressure/inner hull and outer hull. The original pressure hull on a Type VII submersible was composed of one circular section and seven cone shaped sections. The whole enchilada was made of steel and arc-welded. Thickness was about 10 mm. The steel used to make the inner hull was of the same quality than what was used for the battleships. Both ends of the pressure hull are terminated by outside-cambered steel plate of 35 mm thick.  The Trumpeter kit provides a flat bulkhead in the front that would collapse as soon as the submersible dives.


On the picture above, I have tried to create a delineation for the pressure hull by linking the bulkhead inner hull. The mini bulkhead (see picture below) has also been drilled with multiple holes allowing the flooding of the space between inner and outer hulls. I have also added some "kind" of separation to hold the spare torpedoes sitting under the floor. Who knows how this dark corner of a Type VII was made...? There are probably not too many sailors alive who could describe what it looks like.


Once the floor is painted, I will dirty it with oil and rust, before cradling the torpedoes.



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A few small progress on the torpedoes room roof. I have installed 4 white LEDs (connected in series giving close to 11 Volts): 


As is common, the white LEDs are too bright and the temperature of the LED does not mimic very well a bulb. I am painting these LEDs with Tamiya clear Yellow and will place a resistor to adjust the intensity later on: 


Since I will be using the Photo-Etched set from RCSUBZ, it will be possible to see through the deck easily. Therefore, it is essential to paint all the details outside of the pressure hull and make them look as realistic as possible.


I will try to disguise the wires and add some more tanks and plumbing on the visible parts. The above is painted using Tamiya Dark Grey XF-24.



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More work on the torpedo bulkhead and on the tubes: 


Unfortunately, all the details will not be visible once the module is in place. I think it needs some patina as it is way too clean.

For the torpedo floor, I am modifying the Trumpeter kit. The kit calls for a flat floor with two air tanks on the starboard side. I am replicating the ramp and raised floor that is visible on the port side. Plus, that new floor will be used later on for a surprise: 





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I love these subs, and often considered buying the one from Krick as it is the "sailing" one, but lacks a lot of detail. Your build, has got me thinking again. Especially with the added PE it will most certainly make a beautiful build.


I was wondering with regards to the lighting: Wouldn't  the cables run on the inside of the hull, especially during that period of shipbuilding. You could make it less hard on yourself with regards to not making them invisble if you let them run on the inside instead of on the outside ...

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The wires are supposed to be run on the outside. Trumpeter even provides some type of channels to arrange them. As you will see, the inside id full of details and there is no room for electrical wires. They won't be visible from the outside, especially with the intricate deck, and all paint in dark gray, underneath.



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Some progress on the big "Guns": 


Unfortunately, most of the intricate details will not be visible  once the module is placed in the hull. What we will see is quite limited: 


In the meantime, we can enjoy the details: 


You may wonder how to operate and launch torpedoes on a submarine. It is not an easy task and is quite similar to using the "John" on a U-Boot. The following is inspired from Wikipedia. Keep in mind that the torpedo is ejected with the help of a large piston, pushing it out: 

  1. Make sure outside door are closed and tight.
  2. Drain the tube if needed.
  3. Open the breech door in the torpedo room. Load the torpedo into the tube.
  4. Shut and lock the breech door.
  5. Turn on power to the torpedo. A minimum amount of time is required for torpedo warmup in the case of chemical propulsion.  It is faster for an electric engine.
  6. Flood the torpedo tube.  The tube must be vented during this process to allow for complete filling and eliminate air pockets which could escape to the surface or cause damage when firing.
  7. Open the equalizing valve to equalize pressure in the tube with ambient sea pressure.
  8. Open the muzzle door. The slide valve allows water from the ejection pump to enter the tube.
  9. When the launch command is given and all interlocks are satisfied, the water ram operates, thrusting a large volume of water into the tube at high pressure, which ejects the torpedo from the tube with considerable force. 
  10. The drain cycle is a reverse of the flood cycle. Water is returned to the ship's tanks and can be moved as necessary. The tube must be vented to completely drain the tube since it is usually by gravity.
  11. Open the breech door. The tube must be wiped dry to prevent a buildup of slime. This process is called "diving the tube" and tradition dictates that "ye who shoots, dives".
  12. Reload, Shut and lock the breech door.


Finally, here is an excerpt of the Type VIIc Maintenance Manual, depicting the intricacies of the Front Torpedoes tubes: 





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5 minutes ago, CDW said:

Actually loading the torpedo into the launch tube: was that a process aided by machine? A torpedo must be quite heavy I imagine. 

CDW, you will soon see what it takes to load a torpedo into the tube. Not for the faint of heart, for sure. G7e torpedoes used by the German weighted about 1 ton (2200 pounds) with close to 300 Kg of destructive charge in the head. 



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