Clemencau (R98) by Derek Derks
Brand: Heller
Scale: 1/400
Modeler: Derek Derks - Museum Quality Custom Airctaft Profile Prints



As a retired marine officer I have seen many warships in my career. The ones that always made the most impression on me was and still is the aircraft carrier. The fifties and the sixties were the hey days for this type of warship. Many countries were financially able to keep one or two afloat. To name a few, Canada, Australia, Brazil, The Netherlands all relying on the British  Light Fleet Carrier design. The mighty United States Navy possessed the Super Carrier. Away from this all, especially in design,  was the Marine Nationale France. In their design was the angled deck incorporated from the start of construction.  When completed,  to my personal opinion, they were the most beautifully lined carriers afloat in their class.

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History up to March, 2006

The carrier Clemencau, pennant number R 98 was laid down on the 15th of September 1955,  at the Brest Naval Dockyard. Commissioned on the 22nd of November,  1961. Displacement at full load was 32780 tons. Full complement of the carrier air group was around 40+ aircraft. Crew complement with complete air group,  around 1570 enlisted men and 120 officers. Through the years,  the carrier received several updates and served the Republic proudly, But dark clouds were gathering. Clemencau was decommissioned on the first of October,  1997. On December 31, 2005,  the Clemencau, under tow,  left the French port of Toulon,  to be dismantled in Alang, India. Greenpeace protested the the “dump” of this 27000 tons warship, full of asbestos, PCBs, lead, mercury and many other toxic waste. It demanded that France should deal with its own toxic waste. The ship was denied access through the Suez Canal,  until the 15th of January 2006. Even the Supreme Court of India  got involved. On February 15, the Clemencau,  already in the vicinity of its final destination was ordered by President Jaques Chirac to return to French waters.  The story continues. The Dusquene, guided missile destroyer, pennant number D 603, was laid down in the Brest Naval Yard, 1 February 1965,  and commissioned on the 1st  of April 1970.  Actually,  this rather large destroyer is still serving the French navy. It is planned for decommissioning in the year 2007. 6910 tons full load, complement 355 (23 officers). Speed 34 knots. It was seen regularly in the vicinity of the capital ships to give air cover with the surface to air missile system (SAM)  ECAN Ruelle Masurca twin launcher. Range 55 km or 30 nautical miles. The warhead contained 98 kg of high explosives. Forty-eight could be carried in the missile magazine.

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The Heller Kits

Both kits are value for money. Although the parts from this kit were not drawn by the computer, fitting is overall good. The box contained 24 aircraft, Crusaders, Alize, Super Etendard. I added two Alouettes and two Lynx helicopters. I used the tow tractors from the carrier Charles de Gaulle. Only item missing at this moment is the deck crane. The instruction booklets are very clear in construction and the colors. I will concentrate on the construction of the carrier. The destroyer was out of the box with hardly any problems to construct.

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The Construction

I decided that the carrier should have the front center and starboard elevator in the lowered position. Giving access to part of the below deck hangar.  So the contours of the front elevator were removed from the top deck.  In the forward hull,  I constructed the beams,  on which the elevator could go up and down on a heavy chain. I saw this system on board HMS Ark Royal;  but do not know if this was in operation on this particular carrier. The new elevator from Evergreen was placed in the lowered position, giving access to the forward hangar deck.The starboard elevator was lowered on a massive cable system from fishing wire. In the hull,  I constructed the large hangar deck,  including two aircraft. The sides were stowed with spare parts and fire fighting equipment.
There was a deck constructed at the very lower end. This deck handles the ropes and cables when the carrier is docking along side the jetty. Boulders and neatly stowed ropes and cables were put to place before the closure of the top deck. The two catapult rails, I made a more defined indention.  By the front catapult,  the blast deflector was raised in the up position. The decals were not usable,  so the full deck,  with all the different lines air brushed.  This takes al lot of effort,  but this pays itself back when completed.

The top deck was placed in position and this part of the construction was put aside. Attention was now on the superstructure called the “Island”.  The print from the windows on navigation and admiral´s bridge were very poor. From Evergreen,  I constructed two new rows of windows. Also,  the communication center on top of the island,  had to receive new windows. The large radar scanners were drilled out,  so that it looked more like the real scanner. The island was placed in position. It did not fit very well. Because of the bad fit,  I placed a large block of tightly fitted plastic in the open underside of the island construction, with still part of it outside the construction. This was placed on the deck, next the island was pushed over the block of plastic. Like a rock,  this settled onto the deck.  With micro weld , I welded a peace of evergreen rod around the bottom of the island and the problem was solved. Next the island was completed with the different types of radars, and the L´Arsenal photo etch railing. The many communication  scanners were constructed from plastruct  0.3mm. These small things turn the model into a real warship. The connecting points for the rubber oil hose were put in place. They needed to be connected to the ships crane. I created the harmonica system, with real lines. In reality this system is very flexible. When the ships are pushed away from each other it gives. If the correct distance restored,  then the system automatically reels it in.

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The Aircraft

Alize  Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW)
Folded wings, pylons and stores, wheels on the landing gear photo etch propellers from the spare box, navigation lights, tow bars, flaps separated and lowered.

Super Etendard Light attack aircraft
Ordnance in the form of excocet anti shipping missile and slick bombs, two with refuelling pods, folded wings flaps lowered, wheels on the landing gear, navigation light

Crusader  Fighter
Same alterations as Etendard

Alouette / Lynx  Search and rescue  (SAR)/ anti submarine warfare
Rotor blades folded from one each, doors from lynx in open position, armed with torpedos

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Diorama Setting

Even before starting with construction,  I took both hulls and decided on the measurements for the diorama setting material. Because there is no modern underway replenishment vessel available (Durance Class ),  I decided that the carrier would transfer fuel to the guided missile destroyer. This is called Underway Replenishment (UNREP).  The fuel capacity from the carrier is large enough to transfer large quantities to the some of the ships in the escorting screen.  After completion , I would stabilize the two ships,  in full hull,  in the wooden base plate.  I used Styrofoam to fill up the empty places. Finally, from molding powder with water,  I created the sea scenery. Having mentioned this,  it is certainly not the easiest way to make water.  I had experience with it and knew it could be heavy. But with full hulls , this was the only option,  at least for me.

The Conclusion

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Both completed ships were positioned within the base plate. The oil transfer system was installed. Next the mixture of powder and water was gently pored in. I did this in three sessions. It shrinks and needs time to settle. The third and final layer brought it up to the desired height and gave me the chance to create the bow waves and pressure waves in the diorama.. When dry,  the sea was painted in the Mediterranean colors.

The air group was positioned on the deck. The forward area contains parked aircraft,  both elevators are busy with bringing one helicopter and one Alize to the hangar deck. One of the  Alizes,  is taking off from the outer port catapult,  and a strike package of two Etendards is making their way to the catapult. Two always means three. If one aircraft has a malfunction, the third aircraft can be launched in it´s place.

My Personal Conclusion

For a reasonable price,  I got a complete task group. The detail on both models is adequate. The diorama is in demand and I take it with me regularly to modeling exhibitions in the Netherlands and Belgium. It was a pleasure to build it and much to my surprise,  I still admire it a lot. The whole project kept me busy for more than nine months.    My wish for the future, a fast fleet tanker from the “Durance” Class. 1/400 from Heller.

Additional Information:

  • Wikipedia free internet encyclopedia
  • Air Power Special Publication “Carrier Aviation by David Donald and Daniel J. March ISBN 1-880588-43-9
  • Carrier Air Operations since 1945 by paul Beaver ISBN 0.85368-598-3 (Warbirds Illustrated NO. 19)
  • Website Ministry of Defense Republic of France


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  Photos and text © 2009 by Derek Derks

March 30, 2009