In 1966, the Portsmouth ship-builders, Vosper Ltd., merged with the Southampton-based John I. Thornycroft to form Vosper Thornycroft, a publicly quoted engineering group, with an annual turnover of £250 million and currently employing 4000 staff. The company has a reputation for designing and building fast, innovative naval vessels and has one of the most advanced naval shipbuilding yards in Europe, with the capability of building in steel, aluminium or fibre-reinforced plastic. VT's reputation for ground-breaking technology has most recently seen the company develop the Sea Wraith stealth warship concept. Sea Wraith incorporates several advanced features which are set to become essential elements in the warships of the future where the major emphasis will be on stealth. A low profile and uncluttered exterior are designed to give a much reduced radar cross section, thus impeding radar detection and confusing an attacking missile control system. The ship can also produce a cloud of water fog to provide cover for infra-red hotspots. With a length of 138 metres, Sea Wraith's gas turbine and electric engines give her a top speed in excess of 28 knots. Armed with 1 x 127mm and 2 x 35mm gun mountings, surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missile systems, an artillery rocket weapon system and helicopter-launched torpedoes and depth charges, Sea Wraith has a variety of sensors including an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) system with 4 aircraft.
Vosper Thornycroft approached Marcle Models in autumn 1997 to commission a card model kit of the Sea Wraith to be used by the company to publicise and promote their product. In turn, we contacted the Polish firm, JSC Models, whose 1:400 and 1:250 model ship kits have proved so popular over the years. After discussions with VT, it was agreed that the waterline model would be to a scale of 1:400 and would be provided with a sea-base. Design commenced in mid-1998 by JSC with the active participation of the Design team at VT. The prototype models were available when I visited Poland in July and further refinements were made over the summer, resulting in the delivery of the finished kits to VT in time for the international naval exhibition "Euronaval" in Paris in October.
Part of the agreement between VT and JSC was that, after the delivery of the promotional kit to VT, JSC would be free to add the model to their range and make the Sea Wraith kit available to the general modelling public. As far as I am aware, the JSC kit is so far the only commercially available model kit of the Sea Wraith.
Construction begins with the hull, most of which is in one piece and includes both hull sides and deck. After bending the hull sides to shape, the two main frames are inserted and the afterdeck, which incorporates the stern, is located inside the hull. The basic shape of the hull has now been constructed and work now proceeds on the ram-shaped bow which must be placed in the forward part of the hull structure. This is built with its own frame and base; a special card part is also provided as a tool to ease one of the bow frames into position where fingers won't reach. Attention is now turned to the superstructure. The main superstructure sides, including part of the after tower, are glued onto the deck and the superstructure deck is added. The bridge, tower structures and funnels are added. A nice touch here is the after mast with navigation lights which is built so that it can be moved out of the tower for use and retracted for stealth mode. Construction then continues with the armaments. The gun turrets are each constructed from a single piece of card and the barrels cut according to supplied templates from styrene rod or similar. The turrets can be made to rotate. Due to the revolutionary design of the Sea Wraith, the ship's railings, such as they are, can accurately be built from card and located around the helicopter pad. They can also be made to fold down, as during a landing. The missile launchers and UAV launch rail complete the ship. A Lynx helicopter is also provided, as well as a UAV. Finally, the kit is supplied with a sea base to be cut out and mounted on a suitable piece of board on which the finished Sea Wraith may now be displayed. Unlike conventional ships, the Sea Wraith is noticeably angular, the result of her stealth capability. Indeed, the design of the ship lends itself ideally to modelling in card. The complete model takes about 25 hours to build and the original Vosper Thornycroft designs together with JSC's expertise in card modelling have produced an unusual and fascinating kit which gives an intriguing view of naval warfare in the future.