The Sukhoi S-37/ Su-47, also known as the “Berkut” (“Беркут” or “Golden Eagle”), may look like something from Japanese anime or Ace Combat, but it was very much a real-world aircraft. A little less than twenty years ago, the Sukhoi design bureau (ОКБ Сухого) proposed this sinister-looking jet as the next-generation air superiority fighter for the Russian Air Force. It was a big black beast, with forward-swept wings for added agility and an internal weapons bay. Sukhoi also planned to add thrust-vectoring engines and an aft-looking radar. Although the design seemed promising, eventually things didn’t quite work out. The advanced features were never finished and only a single prototype ever flew.
In 2018 and 2019 I was part of a group of LEGO builders in Vietnam War and Cold War collaborations, for BrickFair Virginia. For the 2020 event, we’re planning another collaboration. We’ve themed it: “eXperimental Military”. It’s all about X-planes, prototypes and technology demonstrators. S-37 is my first contribution. To fit the styles of the other builders involved, I’ve once again adopted a slightly different aesthetic from my usual studded look. The model is almost completely studless. Rather than using plates and wedge plates for the wings, I built them using bricks mounted on their sides. Hinged sections at the leading and trailing edges hold slopes, to make them less blunt. Minifig scale is quite small and minifigs are a bit awkward. Nonetheless and despite the undercarriage bay underneath, the cockpit can house a minifig pilot, with the canopy closed. The real aircraft was not a success, but it sure makes for a badass looking LEGO model.
Imagine a world, an alternate reality wedged somewhere between the 1920s and 1950s. It’s a little gritter and not as optimistic as say Steampunk but everyone wears a cool uniform, the radio shows are campy and the password to get into all the best speakeasies is; Dieselpunk. That is the world this LEGO creation by Asgardian Studio lives in. The builder tells us it was fun to render the red color scheme with a black and white checkered pattern and a smattering of orange highlights. This massive model has a 75cm (29.52in) wingspan, rotating propellers, retractable landing gear, and a fully detailed interior. I love the twin-fuselage, tri-propeller design, but the bubble eyes and dragonfly wings make this one awesome Dieselpunk model! We will surely look to the skies for more great works by Asgardian Studio.
Maybe it’s because this retro shape was so commonly illustrated in children’s books but, when I was a child learning to draw, I’d put pencil (or crayon) to paper and all my airplanes turned out pretty much like this. Without even knowing its name, I seemed aware that this is what the quintessential airplane should look like. Luis Peña not only provides me its name — Douglas DC-3C — but a stunning 1:40 scale LEGO model, which is much harder to build than to draw. A trip to the National Aeronautical and Space Museum in Santiago, Chile inspired this model. He tells us that LAN Chile bought several of these craft in 1946 after they were originally used as cargo planes during World War II, then refurbished them for a second life as passenger planes.
This particular model measures 73 cm (28.74 in.) wide and 49 cm (19.29 in.) long. To Luis this represents an important part of Chilean aviation history and, in my childhood mind anyway, the most perfectly quintessential airplane shape. This is clearly not the first time we’ve been delighted by his work.
LEGO builder Jack Carleson is back with yet another model that shows why he goes by the screen name “Big Planes.” Following up on his incredible minifigure-scale Air Force One, Jack brings us a huge model of the Convair B-36D “Peacemaker” from the early cold war era.
Entering service in 1949 with a profile that fits right between the B-29 that preceded it and the B-52 that replaced it (which is still in service), the B-36 is nonetheless distinct with its six push-prop engines augmented with four jet engine nacelles. Jack’s model is massive with a wingspan of 6 feet. That’s all the more impressive when you look at how rigid the self-supporting wings are, which is an amazing feat of LEGO engineering. Continue reading →
We’ve featured LEGO aircraft models by Jack Carleson before, but his latest model of Air Force One completely dwarfs them. This stunning model is a whopping six feet long and has a wingspan of five-and-a-half feet.
The aircraft is a modified version of the classic Boeing 747 airliner, used as the US President’s personal aircraft. Its official designation is VC-25A, but “Air Force One” is its popular name. It is the radio call sign whenever the President is on board. Whatever you may think of its current occupant, this model of his aircraft simply oozes class.
Jack’s model isn’t just pretty from the outside. It has a full interior, including the President’s stateroom and meeting room, and also a galley, an operating theatre and space for Secret Service agents and the White House press corps that accompany the President on his trips. It also has working folding stairs, for direct access to the aircraft’s lower deck. Whether the model also features an escape pod, as depicted in the 1997 movie Air Force One, is, of course, classified.
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 one other military: 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.