The last of the US Navy’s Tomcat fighters — the plane of Top Gun fame — made its final flight more than a decade ago. However, Tomcats continue to soldier on in other militaries, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force. Given its strained relation with the US, it may seem strange for Iran to have some of these iconic jets, but it is due to a quirk of history. Prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution, Mohammad Reza Shah ruled Iran. His rule became increasingly autocratic over time, but he was pro-Western and eager to modernize his country and its military. Iran was also a useful buffer between the Soviet Union and the other oil-rich states surrounding the Persian Gulf, so the US was willing to sell the Shah 80 Tomcats, as well as hundreds of long-range AIM-54 Phoenix air-to-air missiles. My latest LEGO model represents one of these Persian Tomcats.
After the 1979 revolution, relations between the US and Iran soured. Subsequently, the US suspended weapons and spare parts deliveries. The serviceability of the Iranian Tomcat fleet dwindled, but their Tomcats had some successes in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Details are murky, but according to Iranian F-14 Tomcat Units in Combat by Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop, the Iranian planes shot down dozens of Iraqi fighter aircraft. Forty years later, thanks to illicit parts acquisitions and reverse-engineering, some survivors are still flying, and I finally built one. Continue reading →
Almost two weeks ago, the first example of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to be based in the Netherlands arrived at Leeuwarden Air Base. It marks the beginning of the end for the forty-year career of the F-16 with the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The F-16 is officially named the Fighting Falcon, but commonly known as the Viper. I’ve been thinking about building a larger scale version of the Viper for years. A reason why I didn’t was that the 1/18 scale model by Everblack basically was just too good.
However, the arrival of the Viper’s eventual replacement and the 40th anniversary finally made me decide to bite the proverbial bullet. I picked the same scale, 1/22, as most of my cars and my Top Gun Tomcat. The F-16 was a lighter and cheaper alternative to the F-15 Eagle and, as such, it’s a fairly small aircraft. The large scale does make the model quite a big beast, with a span of 56 studs and a length of more than 80 studs. However, it also allowed me to add more details and to more accurately represent the jet’s sleek shape. I couldn’t have done this on a smaller scale or without some of the new parts that LEGO has released in the last few years. Continue reading →
Anyone who’s seen The LEGO Movie knows LEGO is a highly sophisticated interlocking brick system. But it’s more than that, and sometimes we LEGO fans have a tendency to get caught up in what is and isn’t allowable when playing with our favorite plastic toys. Then along comes someone like Stijn van der Laan to shake up our expectations with a brilliant model like this that defies the normal bounds of what’s appropriate to do with LEGO. Stijn has transformed his excellent Peregrine drone model that we covered a few years ago by giving it a camouflage paint job.
Stijn actually recreated the design first using all red elements. Then he gave it a base coat of grey, and then carefully masked and airbrushed the modern camouflage design onto the model, as if it were a traditional cut-and-glue model kit. The result is fantastic, highlighting the striking design of the drone even more than Stijn’s original color scheme.
Now, you’re not likely to find me airbrushing my own LEGO creations anytime soon, but I admire the craft that goes into designing this, and it’s good to have our minds expanded a bit from time to time on just what is possible with this brick system we all use.
When was the last time you raised your eyes to the sky? There could be so much hidden above the clouds, for example, a community of brave aviators hopping between mountain peaks in their agile airplanes. A breathtaking collaboration project by amazingly talented German LEGO builders, Vaionaut, Ben Tritschler,Marcel V., Mark van der Maarel, Markus Rollbühler, Sylon-tw, and Willem (Steinchen), called Skytopia, is full of steam- and dieselpunk vibes, including huge propellers, flying boats and tons of wood and metal.
Sometimes a builder’s chosen name fits perfectly with what they like to build. My case in point, these three big Boeing 7-series passenger jets built by someone who goes by the name of…well, BigPlanes. On the far left we have a Lufthansa 737-500. Next to it in the center is a now bygone Pan Am 707-120. Finally, on the far right is my favorite, a Southwest Airlines 727-200. So far this builder has stayed true to his name but may have to change it to “Big-Planes-And-Also-Some-Other-Stuff” if he chooses to diversivy.
Here is a photo of the Pan-Am 707 with three minifigs to help appreciate just how big these big planes actually are.
History produced a lot of weird-looking aircraft during WWII, such as famously great P-38 Lightning. But LEGO builder Jon Hall has long been known for turning his skills to the weird-looking aircraft of WWII that history did not produce, designing his own batch of bizarre dogfighters instead. Looking like a cross between the Grumman F6F Hellcat and the Vought V-173 “Flying Pancake”, Jon’s crafted this crazy airplane with stubby wings and a flat nose, which he’s dubbed the P-65 Tomahawk.
As usual, Jon’s designs are clean and sleek, this time sporting a two-tone Navy color. Presumably, the short wings help with carrier storage. Two of the best details deal with airflow: first there’s the intake, which sports a Technic disk 5×5 behind the propeller, an old-school part that originally hails from the short-lived Robo Rider theme. The second detail I love is the exhaust on the sides of the fuselage, which are a series of ports made of the Nexo bot shoulders.
You are now free to walk about the cockpit in this massive 1:20 scale model of the classic Batwing. Designed by Eivind Loekken, the Batwing looks sleek and fast thanks to extensive use of angled plates, tiles, and slopes of varying degrees; you won’t find a single stud in sight. Equally impressive is the custom Batman Technic figure seated in the cockpit.
Since 2001, the F/A-18E Super Hornet has been a workhorse of the US Navy, finally replacing the last of the aging F-14 Tomcat fighters in 2006. Here’s Plane Bricks‘ LEGO version of the carrier-capable fighter jet — an excellent model which captures the aircraft’s shape with a nice combination of curves, slopes, and tile pieces. There’s an impressive array of armaments slung under the wings, and the model boasts a folding undercarriage, and fold-up wing tips (an essential space-saving feature on a carrier-based aircraft).
I particularly liked the angling of the tailfins and the shaping of the exhaust vents. You can get a closer look at them here, along with the added detail of the tailhook…
Lam Siu Wing is an artist and writer based in Hong Kong who has a keen interest in urban landscape, transport, and culture, which inspires him to always have a wandering eye during his travels. During one of his return trips on an A350 from Tel Aviv to Hong Kong in the summer of 2017, he had a sudden inspiration to build an aircraft made from LEGO. What resulted was a beautiful LEGO model of the Airbus A350 with a wingspan of more than 5 feet.
Siu Wing’s research started with a thought to upgrade the official LEGO Boeing 787 set 10177, but he quickly found that there wasn’t sufficient design information on the real airplane’s interiors. That’s when he decided to instead focus on the Airbus A350. Of course, living in Hong Kong would mean that Cathay Pacific airlines was the obvious choice of an airline carrier. So he began building from the inside out, and had a prototype completed within 2 months. Continue reading →
Lately I’ve been on a bit of a building spree. The Cold War collaboration for BrickFair Virginia, for which I have already built the SS-20 Saber and Gryphon GLCM transporter erector launchers, has given me lots of ideas and motivation. So far I have focussed on Cold War doomsday weapons that never saw use in anger. The actual armed conflicts that took place during the Cold War, although certainly brutal, fortunately were fought using conventional weapons. One of these was the Korean War.
In 1950, when Communist North Korea invaded South Korea, the US and a number of allies came to South Korea’s aid. At the time, the first jet aircraft were already in service. However, propeller-driven aircraft still had a role to play. Most US Navy aircraft carriers still had several squadrons of Vought F4U Corsairs on board.
This WW2 design may have seemed like an anachronism, but the veteran warbird could carry more weapons and spend more time overhead than faster jet fighters. They were the workhorse of US Naval aviation.
A good piece of Sky-fi art never gets old, and this alternate-WWII Tomahawk Kaiju Interceptor by Albert is a wonderful example. Making ample use of sand green slopes and tiles, this twin-tailed LEGO fighter is skillfully built with angled wings lined with forward-facing cannons and outrigger engines. One of the neatest details is the moveable inset rudders. It may not be the most aerodynamic design, but it sure looks cool, and after all, that’s what Sky-fi is all about.
WWI-era aircraft generally don’t receive as much attention from LEGO builders as their modern (or futuristic) descendents. Wesley makes a worthy attempt to redress the balance with this wonderful Fokker Eindecker, an early German fighter plane, one of the most advanced aircraft of its day. The model is nicely put-together, with some great angles in the undercarriage struts, a well-shaped fuselage, and good use of string which always adds a classic vintage aircraft feel. But it’s the photography which really sets this creation apart — the addition of a couple of simple background elements makes for an effective backdrop, and the low camera angle is a great choice. It’s nice to see Wesley yet again present a LEGO aircraft model in something different from the standard three-quarter view high-angle “flying” shot.