A little more than forty years ago, with the Cold War still in full swing, the Soviet Union introduced a new ballistic missile: the RSD-10 “Pioneer”. NATO code-named it the SS-20 “Saber”. It had a range of 500-5500 km and carried three nuclear warheads, each of which was roughly ten times as powerful as the bomb used against Hiroshima. It seemed purpose-built to threaten Western Europe. The missile’s short flight time, of roughly 15 minutes, left very little warning. Furthermore, it was mobile, which made it even harder to counter. A large six-axle MAZ-547 transporter erector launcher carried the missile, housed inside a large cannister, to dispersed launch sites.
My diorama shows the launcher at a snow-covered launch site, with the missile cannister raised upright for launch. On the model it is almost solid, so there is no actual missile inside, but you can just see the tips of the three warheads. Unlike most of my models, it is minifig-scaled (I picked 1/43) and built mostly without visible studs. I built it for a Cold War themed collaborative build for BrickFair Virginia, in the coming August.
No stranger to building wonderful and totally imaginative aircraft, Jon Hall brings us a gull-wing fighter plane that looks like a cross between a Corsair from World War II and a Star Wars TIE fighter. Like so many of his other aerial creations, Jon’s latest flyer – dubbed the AR-31 “Swordfish” – is exquisitely designed and presented. From the inverted gull wings and functional-looking pontoons to the bright color scheme and exposed engine components, this torpedo-armed seaplane has so much to love.
The wings and twin boom give the aircraft an undeniably sleek look, despite the bulbous fuselage. This plane and others by the builder are reminiscent of the Second World War and even interwar periods. Back then, aircraft designers went wild with all types of unique and downright crazy prototypes (see the French Breguet 410 or the USSR’s weird but intrepid Zveno Project). Jon’s planes, however, are completely and 100 percent original. In fact, one of his nicest touches is also developing the world in which they exist. It’s a fun addition that always leaves me wanting more.
These backstories and cinematic photos help bring these awesome creations to life. When it comes to this style of building – called “Sky-Fi” in the LEGO community – Jon is no doubt an ace. Check out many other great creations on his Flickr.
The story of the Trojan horse is one of the most well known in ancient Hellenic lore. In the classical version, following a fruitless and decade-long siege of the city of Troy, the Greeks constructed a gigantic wooden horse in which they had hidden their finest warriors. The Greeks feigned defeat, and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night, the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, ending the war. It was a brilliant coup, though historians have argued its veracity ever since. Regardless of whether or not the Trojan horse actually existed, Martin Harris wonderfully brings the story to life in LEGO form with his depiction of that fateful gift-giving moment.
One has to admire the simple but imposing Trojan walls and gate, which stood up to 10 years of determined Greek attacks (the angled walls are a great touch, though a bit more landscaping around the bottom edge would help break up the abrupt edges). The Trojans lined up along the battlements and the Greeks laboriously pushing the horse depict the sheer scale of this creation. Continue reading
The battlefield just became deadlier with this highly capable armored platform by master mecha builder, Moko. When it comes to an attention to detail, the builder has spared no expense. Moko’s piloted mecha is named after the wolf Fenrir of Norse mythology, and it looks ready to dish out some serious pain. Form and function are expertly fused together in a mech that not only takes down enemies, but looks good doing it.
There are plenty of crafty techniques, such as using an old school Bionicle head for the visor and printed elements as the rifle’s forearm. (Those pieces are from last year’s Mack Anthem set.) The design also allows for some intimidating poses.
Just like its ferocious namesake, this heavily armed and armored warrior is unlikely to allow itself to be easily restrained.
For decades, the Long Island-based Grumman Corporation was the US Navy’s primary aircraft supplier. They built a range of now-famous aircraft, including the Wildcat, Avenger, Hellcat, Cougar and, of course, the Tomcat. Starting in the early seventies, they also built the EA-6B Prowler; a four-seat electronic warfare aircraft for jamming enemy air defenses. I’ve had a model of one of these since 2007. In recent days I rebuilt it using new parts and techniques. Thanks to curved slopes and a lot more sideways building, I’ve been able to improve the shape.
Prowlers entered US Navy service in 1971 and, after a career of more than 40 years, the US Marines have only just retired their last examples. Their longevity is a testament to the quality of the design. Because its products were famously well engineered, Grumman was also known as the “Iron Works”. Their aircraft, however, aren’t exactly famous for their elegant looks. Even the Tomcat, arguably one of the prettiest fighters ever to grace an aircraft carrier’s deck and certainly one of the company’s prettier products, looks quite ungainly from some angles. Also known as the “flying drumstick”, the Prowler is no exception. It has a fairly large front end, which houses two separate cockpits, each with side-by-side seating for two crewmen. The large “football” on top of the vertical fin contains jamming equipment, as do wing-mounted pods. The wings fold up for use aboard aircraft carriers. For air-to-air refuelling, it has an oddly-cranked probe just in front of the windscreen. It all makes sense, but it’s not pretty. I think “purposeful” is more appropriate.
It’s done! Building my Transforming Bumblebee distracted me for a bit. However, I actually completed my Pave Low helicopter before the Beetle. In parts one and two of this series I explained how this sort of model has gotten a lot more complicated. Thanks to newer parts and techniques, the simple solutions I would have been happy with ten years ago just don’t hack it anymore. In this third and final part, I finally unveil the finished article.
Click here to continue reading…
Progress on my Pave Low helicopter has been slow. In Part 1 of this series, I explained how I am using new parts and techniques to build an up-to-date version of the model I built ten years ago. In this second part of a short series, I’ll explain one of the difficulties I ran into. I plan my models such that actually building them is usually a fairly straightforward process. I used my old model as a template and had an idea of how to do most of the other things in my head. As a result much of the model so far indeed came together quite easily.
Note the words “usually”, “most” and “much” in those last three sentences. The tail on my old model was quite narrow and I wanted the new one to be wider, using curved slopes and bricks. However, the fin is tilted aft at a roughly 45 degree angle, with a horizontal fin on top of it. I only had a loose idea of how to this. Actually building it took about eight frustrating hours of tinkering and trial-and-error. The diagonal part is attached to the tail boom using clips and plates with bars. The horizontal fin uses a similar attachment. A major problem was positioning all of this at the proper angle. I wanted as few visible gaps as possible and the tail should also be reasonably sturdy. This was asking rather a lot. The result is an improvement over the old one, but I’m still not completely happy.
A few months ago, I wrote three articles on how I built the E-1 Tracer aircraft model. I haven’t built much in the intervening months, but recently I have started on a new project: an MH-53M Pave Low helicopter. This is a somewhat different cup of tea. It’s not a fixed-wing aircraft and I am not starting from scratch. Instead, I am starting with an old model that I built ten years ago.
This means that there is a lot less planning involved. The proportions of the old model were pretty much spot-on, but there are many parts and techniques that didn’t exist or weren’t possible ten years ago. As a result, the old model looked, well, old.
In this and subsequent articles, I’ll go into how I am building this new version and how newer parts and techniques change how I approach the design.
When you need to get somewhere fast in Metal Gear Solid V, you can always count on Pequod, the callsign for the Solid Snake’s chopper transport. Seen here in its sea-grey color-scheme, the fictional UTH-66 Blackfoot is a huge helicopter that draws heavily on real-world inspiration, and nowhere have we seen a better LEGO version than this one by Marius Herrmann. He’s has made sculpting the compound curves of the accurate minifigure-scale cockpit look easy.
Outfitted with multiple weapons and a long refueling probe, this LEGO chopper is one of the best pieces of realistic military machinery we’ve seen recently.
If I were a minifigure, I would be fast to jump out of the way of this LEGO mech by Markus Rollbühler. Markus drew his inspiration from a plastic model kit by Industria Mechanika. Markus carried over several characteristics from the kit while still remaining distinct and original with his design. For being a static model, I’m particularly impressed by how mechanical the finished build feels. In the mid-section, inverted plates expose the pins underneath in such a way that is reminiscent of rivets. Dark and light gray elements are mixed together to great effect, giving off the impression of working hydraulics. Other fun details include the driver’s outstretched legs and rolled fabrics, which could represent sleeping bags and/or tents. Meanwhile, the olive green color is a welcome bonus.
With its distinctive inverted gullwings and gorgeous dark blue color scheme, the Vought F4U Corsair is easily my all-time favorite fighter plane. Produced throughout both World War II and the Korean War, the warplane also has the distinction of having the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter. While James Cherry may not be the most prolific LEGO builder — he shared his amazing 1/15-scale LEGO F-14A Tomcat jet fighter exactly two years ago — but each of his creations is well worth the wait. Built to the same scale as the Tomcat, James’s Corsair is deceptively huge; for a better sense of the scale, notice that the palm trees are built from stacked washtubs! We’ve estimated that this LEGO Corsair has a wingspan of over one hundred studs (over 32 inches or 82 cm), and it’s over 80 studs long from nose to tail (over 26″ / 67 cm).
See more photos of this amazing LEGO Vought F4U Corsair
Many military-themed LEGO creations depict exciting battle scenes or the machinery of war. However, a select few touch on the quieter moments and prompt reflection on a conflict’s human cost. This WW1 scene by Pixel Fox, called Letters to Loved Ones, does exactly that — showing a French and a German soldier, hunkered down in their respective trenches, taking the opportunity to pen a letter home during a moment of calm. The diorama is well done, the trench setting clear from a relatively simple structure, and there are some nice touches in the scenery, with a rat burrowing a hole, and various pieces of equipment scattered around. The French sniper rifle and German machine gun are particularly good. The soldiers themselves are excellent, the helmets and uniforms immediately recognisable as WW1-era. More importantly, they are built to a scale, and in a Mixel-ey style, more commonly employed for comic effect, enhancing the poignant effect of this model.