I’ve always wondered why we don’t paint our military jets with blue camouflage so they blend in with the blue sky. Well, after a quick Google search, it appears that the Russians thought the same thing, because the wonderful camoflauge pattern on this Sukhoi SU-34 by ModernBrix is indeed accurate to the real-life jet. It’s an excellent choice, because we rarely see this type of camouflage pattern recreated in LEGO.
Camouflage aside, the shaping is outstanding, especially on the cockpit and fuselage. The builder has also managed to fit side-by-side seating for two pilots in the cockpit — an uncommon feature the Sukhoi is known for — which eliminates the need for duplicate instruments required in the front and back of tandem seat fighter jets.
Even though the North Vietnamese didn’t have much of an air force at the start of the air war over Vietnam in 1964, with Soviet assistance they were soon able to present US pilots with a few surprises. Their MiG-17 fighters were old-fashioned and only had guns as their armament. The jets were small, though, and well-suited to out-turn heavier US jets mostly optimised for higher speeds. Peter Dornbach has built the more modern MiG-21, known as the “Fishbed” in the West. This entered Vietnamese service in 1966.
Peter’s model has a retractable undercarriage, opening cockpit and a brick-built representation of the characteristic camouflage used by the Vietnam People’s Air Force. With its higher speed and two AA-2 Atoll air-to-air missiles the Fishbed was typically used in hit-and-run attacks. The US countered this threat using the F-4 Phantom II. This wasn’t particularly agile, but had powerful twin engines. Its crews were taught to use these as an advantage against the MiGs by manoeuvring in the vertical.
The particular example built by Evan Melick is “Showtime-100”, a US Navy F-4J flown by Randy “Duke” Cunningham and William Driscoll who put this tactic to practice shooting down three Vietnamese fighters during a famous mission in May of 1972. Added to their two previous victories, this made them the US Navy’s first and only aces of the Vietnam war. Like most US Navy aircraft from the time period, it had distinctive squadron markings, which Evan recreated on his model using a mix of brick-built patterns, custom vinyl stickers and water-slide decals intended for 1/48 scale models. Note his clever use of new 45 degree angled tiles to build studless leading edges on the jet’s wings.
Both jets are part of a Vietnam collaboration by about a dozen builders, including yours truly, which will be on display at Brickfair Virginia in a little less than three weeks.
Digital LEGO models can be a polarising topic — many people would say it’s not “real building”. Strictly-speaking, they’re correct, but occasionally a CGI image comes along which demands attention for its imaginative construction without being a wish-list model of unavailable pieces in rare colours. This stylish and minimalist vision of submarine warfare by Mark B. is a cracker, rendered or not. The microscale ship and submarine models are nicely put together, but it’s the colour choices that set the tone and make this look so cool. I’d love to have this hanging on my wall as an art piece.
The release of the new 21042 LEGO Statue of Liberty set has seen a whole bunch of parts become available in Sand Green for the first time. Peter Reid takes advantage of the new range to put together this cool futuristic tank. The shaping is excellent, and the level of detail and texture crammed into such a small creation is impressive. The backdrop is simple, but provides a nice setting for the central model, and the addition of track marks in the sand behind the vehicle is a lovely touch.
You can read more about the creation of this model over at parts-focused blog New Elementary here.
From the way pop culture depicts the war in Vietnam, one would think it was all about fighting guerillas, involving lots of helicopters, close combat in jungles or rice paddies and music by the Rolling Stones. However, the US was simultaneously fighting a high-tech war, with US combat aircraft bombing targets in the North and duelling with air defenses of ever-increasing sophistication. Peter Dorbach has expertly recreated some of the North’s main tools in their fight against the so-called “Yankee Air Pirates”: the “Fan Song” guidance radar and a matching missile with its launcher.
These missile systems were part of the Soviet-built S-75 “Dvina” / SA-2 “Guideline” surface-to-air system. The comparison with the minifigs shows the size of these missiles. They had two stages and flew at 3.5 times the speed of sound. They weren’t particularly agile and they could be evaded, but this required careful timing. Initiating the evasive manoeuvre too soon gave the missile time to compensate. Manoeuvre too late and its massive warhead, with a 75 m blast radius, would do its job. S-75 missiles shot down dozens of aircraft during the conflict, with many crew members being killed or captured.
The model is part of a Vietnam War collaboration that will be displayed at BrickFair Virginia this summer. A surface-to-air missile may be a slightly unusual choice of subject, but it is certainly historically significant. The introduction of these systems completely changed air warfare. The S-75 is famous for shooting down Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 spyplane on a secret mission over Russia in 1960, and another over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. It is a Cold War classic and amazingly is still in service in about two dozen countries almost 60 years later.
Last time we featured builder Wesley, he took us to the smoky skies above the trenches of WWI with a magnificent trio of early aircraft. This time he’s set the clock forward a few decades to the Battle of Britain with this gorgeous Supermarine Spitfire Mk.II, created in a nifty scale that’s slightly smaller than minifigure scale. He’s taken off a few of the panels to show the plane in service, which also acts as an added bonus in showing us how it’s built.
In the last year or so, I have been steadily building a collection of classic US Navy aircraft. The latest addition is the A-3B Skywarrior, a twin-engined carrier-based jet bomber.
Back in the late forties nuclear weapons were large and heavy. According to the US Navy, a jet built to deliver one over a meaningful distance would have to weigh about 45 tons and be the size of a small airliner. Given that they wanted to operate their nuclear bombers from aircraft carriers, where space is at a premium, this posed an obvious problem. To add insult to injury, the first of a new generation of super-large aircraft carriers intended to operate these bombers was cancelled within a week after its keel had been laid. So, when the brilliant designer Ed Heinemann, also known for the A-1 Skyraider, proposed that Douglas Aviation build a bomber of about 30 tons that could fly from existing aircraft carriers, he definitely caught the Navy’s interest.
The resulting aircraft entered service in the mid fifties as the A-3 Skywarrior. It was still a big beast. It was the heaviest aircraft to routinely fly from aircraft carriers, which earned it the nickname “Whale”. The LEGO model is a pretty big beast too. At my usual scale of 1/36, it is about 78 studs long.
Read more about Ralph’s latest airplane, including the design process
It never ceases to amaze me that the Blackbird SR-71 was an invention of the 1960s. One can only wonder what flight technology exists today that we will only learn of decades from now. The sleek body and shape of this black beauty are captured well even it is brick form. Builder and designer Plane Bricks even made sure it fit the two required flight crew for operation with a pilot in the front, and reconnaissance systems officer behind complete with flight panelling details.
Check out some of the other detailing where the bird is also designed with a proper landing gear and storage during flight and flaps that tilt.
Click to see more details
World War I (1914-1918) marked a turning point in military technology. While the age of aircraft was still quite young, it did not take military strategists long to recognize their advantage on the battlefield. The era produced legendary pilots like the Red Baron and Eddie Rickenbacker. 100 years later, we can add Wesley to the list of flying aces with his brilliant aircraft from the Great War.
By themselves, Wesley’s models look really slick, but his excellent photography really kicks things up a notch. He does an excellent job of setting the scenery, with believable landscaping and cloud laden skies. The muted colors used to present the images are reminiscent of turn-of-the-century hand-tinted color photographs. Wesley has created a number of planes for us to enjoy, including…
Check out the rest of Wesley’s amazing aircraft below
Sleek and grey and deadly — a predator slips through the swell. At least that’s the image conjured up by Luis Peña‘s latest LEGO creation — a microscale model of a Porter-class US Navy destroyer. Although small in scale and simple in colour selection, this model manages to pack in some nice details and textures. I particularly like the use of “Wolverine claws” and quarter-circle tiles in the creation of the ship’s anti-aircraft emplacements.
The Porter was a class of eight heavy destroyers in the United States Navy. Although originally commissioned by Congress in 1916, construction was delayed and the first of the vessels didn’t enter service until 1936. The destroyers went on to see action throughout the Second World War. Only one, USS Porter herself, was to be lost in action.
Army and Marine Corps ground troops bore the brunt of the American casualties in the Vietnam War. Serving aboard a Navy ship off the coast may have been comparatively safe, but part of the US Navy was right in the thick of things too: the Riverine Patrol Force. They operated on South Vietnam’s many rivers, in particular in the Mekong river delta.
Hot on the heels of my USMC Seahorse helicopter, this weekend I built one of their boats: a Patrol Boat Riverine, which, like just about anything in the military, had its own abbreviation: ‘PBR’, which was typically pronounced as ‘Pibber’. These were small and fast boats that could operate on some of the smaller tributaries of the Mekong, often surrounded by jungle, with crews living in stifling heat and primitive conditions. This type of boat was made famous by Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, a war movie whose ‘Making of’ is at least as memorable as the movie itself.
The making of my model was considerably less of a psychedelic trip than the journey described in the movie. Despite the dark green, which is still a somewhat awkward colour to build with, it came together very quickly. The diorama will be part of a collaboration and for it to fit with the other builders’ styles, the boat has very few visible studs. I built its hull mostly with bricks on their side, which gave me both a smooth deck and a nicer shape. I used BrickArms M60s and helmets as accessories for the minifigures, but the rest is all LEGO, including the luscious jungle foliage.
The war in Vietnam was the first in which helicopters weren’t mainly used for resupply missions or as flying ambulances, but were a central element in newly developed tactics. In ‘Search & Destroy’ missions, helicopters flew troops into countryside controlled by Communist insurgents in order to, well, seek them out and destroy them. The troops would then be helicoptered to another location to repeat the procedure. I will spare you the details, but the insurgents had their own ideas about this and things often didn’t work out all that well.
My latest model represents a US Marine Corps Sikorsky UH-34D Seahorse helicopter on just such a mission, picking up troops from a rice paddy somewhere in South Vietnam. The helicopter most people will associate with the war in Vietnam is the UH-1 Huey. Consequently, there already are really nice LEGO Hueys out there. I wanted something different, so I built the Seahorse instead. Because this will be part of a larger collaboration, the model represents something of a departure from my normal style. It is minifig scale, I built the helicopter with only a few visible studs and I’ve used some third-party accessories in the form of BrickArms weapons and helmets.