Tag Archives: Military

Tanks and fighter planes, dioramas of World War II battles, dreadnoughts and battleships — LEGO builders have an obvious fascination with the arms and armor of the military-industrial complex. Find all these LEGO weapons of mass destruction right here on The Brothers Brick.

Sydag’s ultimate Grumman prop fighter

During WW2, the Grumman Corporation was the main builder of fighter aircraft for the United States Navy. At the start of the war, they built the classic F4F Wildcat. This was only the second US Navy fighter with then novel features such as a fully enclosed cockpit and a retractable undercarriage, but it was outperformed by the Japanese Navy’s A6M Zero. To counter this threat, the Wildcat was followed by the larger and more powerful F6F Hellcat.

F8F-2 Navy Reserve in Hangar

Sydag has now built the ultimate Grumman prop fighter: the F8F Bearcat. For this Grumman fitted the Hellcat’s R2800 Double Wasp engine to a much lighter and smaller airframe. The result was a bit of a hot rod, with far superior performance. The aircraft also incorporated a bubble canopy, greatly improving the pilot’s view to the rear. Bearcats entered service too late to see combat in WW2 and, with the advent of jet aircraft, they were transferred to the US Navy Reserve, where they received the orange fuselage stripe visible on Sydag’s model. The aircraft were retired from US service in the fifties, but their performance made them an attractive choice for air racing and Rare Bear, a much-modified Bearcat, still holds several world records for propeller-powered aircraft. I obviously like the aircraft, but I like how it is presented even more, with part of a hangar as the backdrop and surrounded by maintenance equipment and aircraft parts, including a spare engine. The classic hot rod (the kind with wheels) is the proverbial cherry on top.

¡No pasaran! Commemorating the Spanish Civil War in LEGO

Despite my stated fascination with Stalingrad, it does occasionally feel unfortunate that I find myself building what amounts to Stalin’s war machine. I took a break over the weekend to build some military models with slightly less moral ambiguity, inspired by the Republican forces who fought a losing battle against Fascism in the Spanish Civil War.

¡No pasaran!

In 1936, Fascist elements within the Spanish military launched a coup d’etat against the democratically elected Second Spanish Republic. Supported by Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, Generalissimo Franco’s “Nationalist” forces quickly gained the upper hand, and Spain soon became a field experiment for the weapons and tactics that would be used shortly afterward in World War II. For example, the German and Italian air forces destroyed the town of Guernica, an atrocity memorialized in the famous painting by Pablo Picasso. Everyday people from across the world flocked to join the Republican cause, including thousands of American and British volunteers, who formed part of the “International Brigades.” George Orwell fought alongside Republican forces (which inspired Homage to Catalonia), and Ernest Hemingway was embedded with Republican troops as a journalist (which inspired For Whom the Bell Tolls).

The base of support for the Second Spanish Republic’s secular, egalitarian platform rested among socialists and trade union members, including many communists (back before communism as an ideology was the exclusive province of authoritarian regimes). As a result, only Stalin’s USSR rushed to the aid of the Republicans, sending arms and armor such as the Soviet BT-5 tank and BA-6 armored car that I’ve built here from LEGO.

Soviet BA-6 Armored Car (1)

My BT-5 is based on my own BT-7, as I mentioned yesterday, but the BA-6 proved a bit of a challenge. The angular hood and rear hull both required some half-stud offset and SNOT (Studs Not on Top) construction, including the two middle axles, built onto the chassis with jumper plates. The turret turns, the gun elevates, and both side doors open.

Its plight ignored by all but Mexico and the Soviet Union, the Second Spanish Republic fell to Franco and his Fascist forces in 1939, on the eve of World War II. Franco remained ostensibly neutral during the war, and then became a key NATO ally during the Cold War. He ruled as an authoritarian dictator until his death in 1975. An estimated half a million people died during the Spanish Civil War, and mass executions continued long after the end of the civil war.

As I wrote in my post yesterday about Stalingrad, using LEGO to recreate historical people, places, and even equipment connects me to history in a tangible and meaningful way. My hope is that I’ve piqued your interest as well.

There is no land beyond the Volga!

The Battle of Stalingrad continue to fascinate me. Stalingrad became a symbolic battle of the wills between two totalitarian dictators that manifested itself in devastating real-world consequences for over a million men and women who died on the front lines. For me, building LEGO models inspired by such a brutal battle isn’t about cool things that go “Boom!” Using LEGO to build vehicles, minifigs, and dioramas of historical events puts me in touch with aspects of history that I wouldn’t normally explore — I’m reading Antony Beevor’s excellent Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 alongside my building process.

Back on the 71st anniversary of the end of the battle in February, I posted a small diorama titled Victory in Stalingrad, but didn’t post any of the actual vehicles or minifigs, since I was building toward a much larger diorama for BrickCon this October. I finally managed to take some pictures yesterday.

Soviet KV-1s Heavy Tank (1)

Not much has changed since February on my KV-1s Heavy Tank (“KV-1s” is the model of the tank, a faster and lighter variant with a lower turret), but I’ve removed the extra plate between the turret and the hull and added some ammunition crates on the rear deck.

Soviet KV-1s Heavy Tank (2) Soviet KV-1s Heavy Tank (3)

The KV-2 Heavy Artillery Tank was based on the KV-1 chassis, so a LEGO KV-2 to follow my KV-1 was inevitable. The monstrous turret enabled me to build quite a bit more functionality into the KV-2, including a fully elevating gun, as well as hatches on the top and rear that both open.

Soviet KV-2 Heavy Artillery Tank (1)

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Watch out, this Scorpion can fly

Sci-Fi fighter planes are a common Lego creation, and it’s always nice to find one that’s a little different than the norm. That’s why this creation by Alexander (Malydilnar) caught my eye. Alexander has shirked flat, featureless sleekness of so many aircraft for an awesomely utilitarian look. This plane is packed with functional looking details and surface texture, while the various compound angles draw the eye around the MOC.

Scorpion

Beaufort bomber from down under

It’s not very often that I come across an aircraft that I know very little about, but
Nikos Andronikos (dodgeyhack) has managed to befuddle me, by building a Australian Beaufort bomber. I know the Beaufort as a British WW2 aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force. What I did not know, however, is that Beauforts also served with the Royal Australian Air Force and were actually license-built down under in significant numbers.

RAAF Beaufort

Beaufort break down

So, the subject of the model is interesting in my book. Beyond that, the model is very nicely done. I like how the wings are angled back, to give their leading edges the proper angle. The camouflage works, which is no mean feat using dark green, and it has goodies such as a retractable undercarriage and an opening weapons bay. To add the proverbial cherry on top of his cake, Nikos has also made a render of the model that shows how some of the major bits go together.

Flying the unfriendly skies

From his Flickr stream, it’s clear that builder arwen qiea is a Cold War military vehicle buff. It’s an impressive portfolio of (mostly Soviet) tanks, missile carriers and navy vessels from the 50s and 60s. But his gigantic airplanes kind of steal the limelight! Here’s his latest one, a model of the Soviet TU-135, an experimental supersonic bomber from that era.

From that angle, the TU-135 seems almost as sleek as a modern Russian fighter jet. But from a higher vantage point you can see why it was nicknamed the “flying wing”.

So that’s a pretty big plane, right? Nope. THIS is a big plane…

…say hello to the Russian Antonov AN-22, probably the largest turboprop ever built. And the big builds don’t stop there. His version of the Lockheed C5a Galaxy (a heavy transport used by the USAF) is so big it literally eats other LEGO models for breakfast!

And here it is, digesting its meal of tanks and other armaments:

Good planes come in small packages

I think there are definite advantages to building aircraft models on a larger scale, certainly when it comes to details of the shape. However, It’s always a joy to see what Peter Dornbach (dornbi) can do with LEGO on a smaller scale.

Lockheed P-38J Lightning (2)

Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" (2)
Both his P-38J Lightning and his Mitsubishi A6M2 are instantly recognisable and most of the important bits are there. The latter even has folding wingtips.

I feel the need...the need for speed

“How’s it feel to be on the front page of every newspaper in the English-speaking world, even though the other side denies the incident?” Top Gun is so cheesy, it’s like mature cheddar wrapped in a slice of Emmental with some Parmesan sprinkled on top. Yet, when I first saw the movie as a teenager, I loved it. Not for the actors and certainly not for the scenes of sweaty fighter pilots playing volleyball, mind you, but because of the true star of the movie: the wonderful Grumman F-14 Tomcat. I have been a Tomcat fan ever since and have had at least one LEGO model of a Tomcat for at least 20 years.

I have been thinking about building a larger scale aircraft for about two years now. Seeing the excellent 1/18 F-16 by Everblack a few weeks ago, in combination with my ongoing movie vehicle project prompted me to finally have a go. If I was going to bite the bullet, it would have to be a Tomcat and it would have to be the one from Top Gun, cheesy or not.

Top Gun F-14A Tomcat (1)

The process was relatively painless. Building an aircraft at a different scale was interesting. Some of the solutions that I’m used to didn’t really work, so I had to be a bit more inventive. However, the larger scale does have advantages. I had a lot more room to work with, which meant I could incorporate a lot of techniques that I normally don’t have room for. It is 108 studs long, excluding the nose probe, and with the wings in their most forward position has a wingspan of 110 studs. This isn’t small by any means, but it’s also not quite so large that I had to worry too much about structural issues.

I know that there are some readers out there who are of the opinion that I do blog rather many of my own models and, admittedly, I have blogged a fair few. I build a lot more than the ones I blog though and, be honest, do you think the other guys wouldn’t have blogged this if I weren’t one of the contributors?