There are a lot of cool toys and playsets out there that every kid can only dream about owning but was there one from the ‘80s that stood above them all?
The USS Flagg was a 7 foot aircraft carrier for G.I Joe and made by Hasbro in 1985. It is based on a Nimitz class aircraft carrier and is considered the ultimate playset.
The 1980s were the golden age of toys with so many new brands and franchises released on our unsuspecting little minds. There were so many choices and options it could be overwhelming and parents hated it. Even staying within one franchise there were so many options that you could never own all of.
If you liked Transformers there were so many figures that weren’t cheap that collecting all of them was probably out of the question. Same for He-Man; between the characters and playsets there was a lot to get and this would take a lot of allowance, Christmas, and birthdays to try and get.
Now obviously if you grew up in the ‘80s you didn’t have an interest in just one of these things but a wide variety of toys. G.I Joe would always be at the top of the list and as a toy, it was probably the hardest to ever even try to accumulate. I’ll actually put it as impossible if you were the average kid. There were hundreds of figures and over 250 vehicles. You could dream about them all but then the bastards at Hasbro put out the crown jewel of all toys:
The USS Flagg.
What Was The USS Flagg?
This was it, the toy you could only dream of. It was a massive toy but actually more of a playset as it was so big you couldn’t move it around anywhere. Even though it was technically a boat it couldn’t float or be used in water like the G.I Joe Killer W.H.A.L.E hovercraft.
The USS Flagg measured in at a whopping 7ft 6 inches and is the largest toy playset ever made. In 1985 it sold for $109.99 which converted for today is around $254.17. And I knew better than to try and ask for it.
It’s named Flagg with two G’s as it is named after General Flagg who was on original G.I Joe character used in the comics and was actually killed in issue #19. General Flagg, in fiction, is credited with creating G.I Joe. The USS Flagg was available in 1985 and 1986 but was stopped being produced in 1987.
The USS Flagg came with one action figure (so generous…) Vice Admiral Keel-Haul. He was a character that was featured in the comics but was never seen on the cartoon show. Instead, they had Admiral Ledger who was captain of the USS Montana. It seems weird that there isn’t any continuity here where Hasbro was so careful in how they marketed their toys through the cartoon.
What Was The USS Flagg Based On?
OK ship nerds don’t lash out at me but the USS Flagg is not considered a super carrier and is often mistaken for a CV-66. This is because the number of the ship is 99 but the stickers for it are technically facing the wrong way. To identify the numbers on an aircraft carrier if you were standing on the deck facing forward the numbers should be facing towards you. The way the toy would have you put them on turned them around so you were seeing a 66.
So the USS Flagg is classified as a CVN-99 and the C stands for “aircraft carrier”, V indicates fixed wing, and the N means it’s nuclear powered. As of right now, we’re up to aircraft carrier #78 that is used by the U.S and it’s the CVN-78 USS Gerald R Ford.
Right now they have planed up to CVN-80 and It’ll be interesting to see what they would call it when they get up to the 99th made one. But that’s a long ways off I’d say.
This toy is massive but if it’s not built to scale. A G.I Joe figure is 1/18th scale which means to build a toy aircraft carrier in the right proportions the USS Flagg would have been 63 feet long and 13 feet wide.
Also, the carrier itself is 1/145th scale size to a real aircraft carrier.
Good luck ever even thinking about asking for that unless you were planning to live in it.
What Was The USS Flagg Made Up Of?
To start off with this was a legit playset and came with an electronic public address system which was a pretty cool idea. It also came with a two-piece utility vehicle that was part tractor and part fuel delivery system. The USS Flagg has radar, missile launchers, an “Admirals Launch”, and an elevator deck.
It also came with an arrestor cable. If you’ve ever seen
None of the toys like the G.I Joe Skystriker plane had the hook that would slow it down on landing but the USS Flagg came with one that could be fitted into the back of the Skystriker rear stabilizers.
The deck of the carrier is made up of some huge plastic pieces, some more than 2.5 feet wide and 3.5 feet long. They used some heavy duty deck plates that were made out of the same kind of plastic used to make playground equipment.
Since some of the pieces were so big it came with some massive stickers that had trouble staying glued to the toy. Some of the lane marker stickers were so long that they wouldn’t stay in place over time and reproduction replacement stickers could cost up to a hundred dollars.
The whole deck is so big that it’s help up by support beams to try and reduce the plastic use and from the back it looks more like scaffolding than anything else. It’s fair to think of the USS Flagg as a playset as opposed to a toy.
Putting The USS Flagg Together
It starts with 9 different trusses to help support the deck but these were known to be pretty fragile and could break easily. On top of this framework would be the 5 different deck plates. Small little clips would be crucial for keeping the deckplates attached securely to the trusses and they would hold up pretty well.
The tower was made of several light gray pieces that would snap together. These pieces were also filmisy and prone to breakage. The whole tower would then slide into the main deck plate. The tower is held in place with a couple of Y-shaped pins which tend to go missing easily.
Next there is a long flexible plastic strip that runs alongside the hull to make it look like it’s a contained unit. So that’s pretty much it but this whole thing is really not designed for mobility. If you want to move it you’d need a team of people or would have to take it apart and reassemble it in another location.
Hell, even if you wanted to transport the whole thing the box it came it was a massive 42 inches.
Was It Just A Toy For The Elite?
It’s funny to joke about how I’m going on 30 plus Christmases of not getting the USS Flagg but it was an interesting toy that may have isolated a lot of kids. I think you need to look at it as being a high-end choice for more fortunate kids. Because not only was there the steep price tag you need to look at it from the viewpoint of a playset.
To use the USS Flagg properly it means you would have to have a lot of the bigger and more expensive vehicles that it was designed for. There are certain areas and elevator parts designed for specific G.I Joe vehicles and the set implies that you either had all of these toys or would be getting them.
It’s an interesting perspective and you also had to consider that the toy didn’t move. This conveys the idea that you probably had a massive bedroom or playroom in order to set it up and use it properly.
This thing was basically a show case to display all the amazing toys you had.
Wrapping It Up
The USS Flagg is a whopper, not only in physical size but in significance. It’s crazy to think that a toy like this would have ever been dreamed up. The fact it got past the pitch process to a design stage and on to shelves is pretty remarkable and I have a theory about that.
This is 1985 and it’s arguably the best year for toys in a decade that was an entire golden era of toys. You remember how I mentioned how most kids had an interest in a variety of brands and franchises? I think this was an attempt by Hasbro to try and shine through a year of extremely epic toys.
Remember, this was right when the Transformers were just taking off and becoming an epic toy. G.I Joe itself is at the forefront and we’re right in the heart of the monumental Cabbage Patch Kids craze. And don’t forget that Star Wars is still going strong, Return of the Jedi was only a few years back so they were still hot.
There were so many amazing toys out there and to stand out you had to do something BIG. I think the USS Flagg was an attempt by Hasbro to be the best, and most epic, toy in a year, and decade, of absolutely epic toys.
And it definitely made an impact. The hype surrounding this thing put it into a toy mythology category. It was like Bigfoot, you knew about it but the odds are you had never seen one with your own eyes. No matter what you thought of it you were aware of it and it remains the pinnacle of giant toys and playsets today.
On the collector market even a crappy beat down old USS Flagg will still cost you hundreds. If you’re looking for a high end mint one good luck, even if you find someone willing to part with it it will run you thousands.
Either way, the USS Flagg remains an iconic part of a toy line that is, itself, already iconic. The odds are you won’t see a toy like that again anytime soon because they don’t build ‘em like that anymore.