Clearing out the Backlog

In an effort to maintain some balance and clear out the backlog of projects gathering dust in my workroom I finished up a couple of pieces that Ive mentioned on these pages before. First off is the pair of Israeli F-16A’s from GHQ. The models are the same high quality you can expect from GHQ but I’m not completely satisfied with my color mixes, or for that matter the application. At arm’s length their fine, at least for gaming purposes. I need to use an airbrush in the future.

1/285 Scale Israeli F-16A's. Models by GHQ

1/285 Scale Israeli F-16A’s. Models by GHQ

 

I’ve also finished the pair of Korean War USAF F-86’s also from GHQ.

1/285 scale F-86's. Models by Raiden Miniatures.

1/285 scale USAF F-86’s. Models by Raiden Miniatures.

 

Still on the workbench are a gaggle of aircraft from GHQ and Raiden Miniatures, now a part of I-94 Enterprises. Most of these will go towards my AIW collection. Not appearing in these photos are a pair of GHQ AH-7 Lynx still waiting to be primed.

 

1/285 Scale SU-7. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

1/285 Scale SU-7. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

 

1/285 Scale Mig-21. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

1/285 Scale Mig-21. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

 

1/285 Scale F-15C. Model by GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-15C. Model by GHQ.

Bringing Balance

I thought I might take a moment and shift away from naval matters for a while and go back to micro armor. In this case it is really about aircraft for micro armor. I painted up a couple of F-16s from GHQ in Israeli Air Force colors. If you recall one of my first posts was a pair of Super Mysteres and Skyhawks from Raiden Miniatures painted in IAF colors as well. I really liked the colors I mixed for those planes so I was a bit disheartened to see that the paints had dried out completely. Off to my local hobby shop, the Newport Hobby House, to get some new paints. They had most of what I was looking for but the pale green just didn’t come out pale enough to match the previous aircraft. I’m not going to strip them and start over but I will adjust the color before I paint the F-15s and additional Skyhawks I have sitting around. Anyway, here are the F-16s.

!/285 Scale F-16As in Early IAF Camouflage Pattern. Models by GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-16As in Early IAF Camouflage Pattern. Models by GHQ.

 

I’m definitely going to have to tinker around with the colors some more. While I was doing the research for the Skyhawks I came across an interesting modification done by the IAF to help defeat SA-7 and other IR homing missiles. They attached an exhaust extension to the engine tailpipe which caused the missiles homing in on the heat plume to proximity detonate too far away from the fuselage to cause much damage. I have a pair of aircraft that will be modded shortly. Here’s a picture from a plastic kit.

Modified A-4 Skyhawk Tailpipe.

Modified A-4 Skyhawk Tailpipe.

 

On to the F-15s!

The Cobler and the Elves

Some of you may remember the old fairy-tale about the Cobler and the elves.  For those that don’t remember (spoiler alert) elves come out at night to finish the work of the Cobler while he sleeps.  Lately that is how anything gets done around my house, at least any of the “geek stuff” that I want to do. I have to wait until the family is asleep and then the elves can get to work.  As you can imagine it doesn’t leave much time before they too get tired and have to go to sleep.

In that time however, I have been very active trying to convert my tanks with glued turrets into turrets with magnets.  I’ve detailed this process several times before so I won’t go over it again now. I’ve been converting essentially one company at a time so that on the off chance I actually get to play a game I can field a complete unit.  So far I have converted GHQ M1A2, M1A1, M60A3, M60A2, Leopard 2A6, Leopard 2A4, Leopard 1A4, Chieftain, Challenger, Challenger II, Merkava Mk IV, Merkava, Magach 3, Magach 6b GAL, Magach 7, M48, and M47 tanks. I have converted CinC M48G2 and Leopard 1A1 tanks as well. As you can see from the gallery I have also experimented with LAV and MRAP vehicles to see how small I could reasonably go. I absolutely love what the magnets can do. Unfortunately, now I have to go back and touch up the paint jobs.

 

I still might try to use magnets on the turrets of my WWII battleships but I haven’t decided yet for sure.

God is in the Decals, I mean Details

For those who frequent the GHQ military models forum you may recall that last September I posted a bit about some F-86 decals from Scale Specialties.  This is an update to that post.  To start with I purchased a pair GHQ F-86A-5 (GHQ stock # AC80).  I have my doubts that they are actually the -5 version but my reference library is in storage so I’ll table that discussion for the time being.  The models themselves are of the same excellent quality expected of GHQ.  One of the models had some minor pitting on the fuselage near the leading edge of the wings but it is barely noticeable at arms length.  You can see in the close-up view below that the mold lines were another area where I had to use an X-Acto knife to smooth it out a bit.  Here are the models after adding magnets and priming.  One word of caution, if you intend to place decals on the underside of the wings glue the drop tanks on as the final step.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabres from GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabres from GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 by GHQ

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 by GHQ

My original intent for these models was to paint them in Pakistan Air Force (PAF) colors for the ’65 war with India and to a lesser degree ’71 war.  I also intend to pick up a couple of the Raiden F-86 models for comparison.  In the end though I changed my mind and opted for a Korean War USAF F-86 instead due in large part to the Scale Specialties decals I found while looking for something else.  The company offers three sets of decals for Korean War Sabres.  The first pack represent the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing from 1950-51.  At that time Sabres were flying with black and whit ID stripes on the fuselage and wings.  The second pack, which is the one I selected, represents the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing during the period from 1951-53.  This pack has the familiar yellow bands which replaced the earlier black and white strips.  The final pack represents the 51st Fighter Wing during the same ’51-’53 time frame.  A very cool feature of these packs is the second decal sheet which includes distinctive nose or fuselage art which was carried by several aces in those wings.  In fact the decal sheet for the 51st Fighter Wing has a very cool dragon which goes on the fuselage that tempts me to buy another pair of Sabres.  In both packs the appropriate tail numbers are also included which allows you to make a very accurate model of that ace’s aircraft.  The downside is that the decals are specific to those aircraft.  Some purists might not like having to mix squadrons and wings when gaming with formations of more than two aircraft.  If that sort of thing does bother you I-94 Enterprises has good decals which are a little more generic in nature.

After priming I airbrushed the aircraft with Humbrol Chrome Silver #191.  In hindsight I should have used some kind of sealant over the silver.  With all the handling required for the decals the paint around the nose of the aircraft has worn off which will require a touch-up by hand.  I probably could have also worn latex gloves to prevent it as well.  Here are the models after painting and having some of the yellow bands applied.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabre by GHQ.  Humbrol Chrome Silver #191. Scale Specialties Decals.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabre by GHQ. Humbrol Chrome Silver #191. Scale Specialties Decals.

I should mention here that I am a big fan of the Microscale Industries Decal System.  I think their products do a wonderful job of really making the decals smooth onto the model presenting a appearance much closer to reality that other systems.

The Microscale Decal System

The Microscale Decal System

Micro-Sol softens the decal film which enables it to conform to the detail lines of the model.  An obvious hazard of using this is the softened decals can be ruined if handled during the drying process.  Unfortunately, I had this happen to this model when applying the yellow band on the vertical stabilizer.  As you can see here the aircraft number is mangled.  I briefly considered stripping the decals and starting over but I liked the artwork so much I decided to go on.

I handled the model too soon after applying Micro-Sol and ruined the aircraft number on this side.

I handled the model too soon after applying Micro-Sol and ruined the aircraft number on this side.

Here is the aircraft with wing and fin flashes, rounders, aircraft numbers, and “USAF” decals.

1/285 Scale F-86A by GHQ.  Decals by Scale Specialties.

1/285 Scale F-86A by GHQ. Decals by Scale Specialties.

Here are the aircraft with their full complement of decals.  All that remains is applying a protective coat and painting the canopies, intakes, and tailpipes.  All thins considered I think they came out very well.  If I had it to do over again there are things I would change but that is what learning is all about.

The decal process is complete.  All that remains is painting the final details.

The decal process is complete. All that remains is painting the final details.

In The News…

This week I’m taking a step back from my own work to highlight some recent news in the hobby industry.  Admittedly it is a bit of a cop out but with Carnivale last weekend there wasn’t much time to do more.

First up is I-94 Enterprises, one of go to favorites for storage boxes and 1/285 scale aircraft.  You may recall that I’ve previously mentioned that Dave WInfree purchased Raiden MIniatures.  Their latest news release states that they’ve brought several models back into production. Most interesting to me are the Grumman F9F Cougar and the Gloster Javelin.  While neither aircraft saw real combat there were ‘what-if’ scenarios that could have resulted in combat engagements for the Javelin and they’re both cool looking aircraft.  During the early 1960’s Javelins were stationed in Singapore to support Commonwealth forces in the ‘Konfrontasi’ between the British Commonwealth and Indonesia over the creation of Malaysia.  Indonesia operated mostly Soviet aircraft designs it could be an interesting scenario for fans of early cold war kit.

Next item is an announcement from author and game designer Larry Bond. Here is their announcement:

Larry Bond and Chris Carlson are pleased to announce the formation of the Admiralty Trilogy Group, LLC, a Virginia limited liability corporation. The Admiralty Trilogy Group (ATG) are the exclusive publishers of the award-winning Admiralty Trilogy wargame system, games that span naval combat in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These include:
· Harpoon (1955 and later, up to current day)
· Command at Sea (1925 through World War II and up to 1955)
· Fear God and Dread Nought (1905 through World War I and up to 1925)
The new company will publish wargames in digital format, using the Internet to deliver quality products through the Wargame Vault. We have over twenty titles available for sale, and will be expaning the list in the coming days.
Our biannual newsletter, the Naval SITREP, will continue publication. Issues 14 (April 1998) through 47 (October 2014) are available for sale at The Wargame Vault. Content in earlier issues will be condensed and published in an upcoming product. Current subscriptions with Clash of Arms will be honored, but will not be renewed. Instead of a $21.00 subscription for three issues ($28 overseas), each new issue will be posed on The Wargame Vault for $3.00.
In addition to the Trilogy product line previously published by Clash of Arms, Inc., The AT Group will be expanding and improving the game system with new naval and land-based rules sets, all designed to work with the current system and enhance your gaming experience.
The AT Group can be reached either at our email, AdTrGroup@aol.com, or on our Facebook page.
Our webpage, AdmiraltyTrilogy.com, will be up soon. We hope you will come and visit.

For the uninitiated Larry is the techno-thriller author who is also the creator of the Harpoon naval wargame system.  While sometimes maligned by gamers as ‘too technical’ or ‘too complicated’ for casual gaming the system was used extensively,at least in the 80’s and 90’s, within the U.S. Navy to teach basic naval warfare concepts to officer candidates.  What began as a modern naval combat system has expanded and evolved through the other games of the Admiralty Trilogy to encompass all naval warfare from about 1900 to the present.  The Admiralty Trilogy staff have been ‘unifying’ all the underlying equations for damage, construction etc. across the entire spectrum.  Does it matter to the average gamer that the data sheet for their HMS Agamemnon battleship of 1906 is calculated on the same basis as their HMS Agamemnon minelayer of 1940 or their HMS Agamemnon nuclear powered submarine of the present day? Probably not.  For me however it is significant.  After all, haven’t you ever wanted to game out the Final Countdown attack where the Nimitz class carrier travels back to Dec 1941 and must decide whether to intercept the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.

IDF Colors?

I have struggled for several years to find just the right shade of gray?, green?, tan? for my modern IDF forces.  My Google-fu reveals scores of pictures from Al Gore’s internet depicting IDF vehicles in a wide array of colors.  It is difficult to account for differences in sun angle, unit location, or whether the vehicle was photographed on a parade ground or during an actual combat operation.  No clear winner as far as color goes. Strike One!

So… I move on to step two: check the fora.  The Miniatures Page, Arab Israeli Wars, GHQ, and four or five others were not much more help.  Lots of opinions but little consensus.  ‘It Depends’ was probably the most common response.  What year?  Which unit?  Which front?  Which operation?  Well at least the diversity of opinion matches the diversity of photographic evidence.  Strike Two!

There was one positive development out of all of that however.  Several forum members suggested hobby paint manufacturers, such as Life Color, that offer pre-mixed IDF colors for specific time periods.  Progress!

But here’s the thing.  When the Lord gives with one hand watch out he doesn’t smite you down with the other.  In spite of the fact that I live in Italy, where I’ve been told Life Color paints are made, I can’t easily get my hands on them. There are precious few hobby shops in my area and those I have managed to find don’t carry Life Color paint.  Damn!  And for the double whammy military postal rules seem to scare online stores away from shipping hobby paint to APO/FPO addresses.

All of that is pretty disappointing.  Maybe there is a hidden silver lining.  Given the fact that there are so many different opinions and so many different photos out there it is possible there isn’t one right way to do it.  Perfect!  I Can now use one of my favorite modeling approaches… TLAR (That Looks About Right)!

Here are my Namers and my Magachs (with turret magnets) in my own version of IDF gray/green/tan.  The white chevron decals are from GHQ and the white barrel stripe decals are from an unknown source.

1/285 scale IDF Namer Heavy APC.  Model and white chevron decals by GHQ

1/285 scale IDF Namer Heavy APC. Model and white chevron decals by GHQ

1/285 scale Magach 6B Gal. Model and white chevrons by GHQ.

1/285 scale Magach 6b and Namer Heavy APC.

 

Works in Progress

Well summer and summer vacation are drawing to a close.  Its time to take stock of what has been accomplished and what has been left undone.  It feels like more should have been accomplished but when I consider the trips to Rome, Florence, Matera, Alberobello, etc. its small wonder there are so many things left to do.

I have been rapidly expanding my 1/6000 scale modern fleet.  As I’ve mentioned before I think the Figurehead miniatures are exceptional considering the scale.  I have just over 200 ships in my collection already with more on the way.  I’m still trying to decide how to paint up the sea base and blackwash the models.  The details are so fine I don’t want to overdo it.

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian Slava CG

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian Slava CG

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian/Soviet ships

Figurehead 1/6000 Russian/Soviet ships

I will say this about Figurehead, if you are buying them in the store carefully inspect the packages before you make your purchase.  I have made nearly all my purchases online and have discovered that four of the packages have incorrect ships.  The errors have all occurred in packages with a mixture of ships never when there is only one kind.  For example from the pack that was supposed to have two USN California class, one Bainbridge class, and one Truxton class I received one California, one Bainbridge, and two Truxtons.  The problem is there was only one Truxton made so I have a useless ship.  I encountered a similar thing with the Royal Navy pack that should have one Type 82 Bristol.  Maybe I’ll use these extras as wrecks or something.  I contacted the manufacturer about the errors, not really expecting anything to be done about it, and I received a nice email saying they would look into it and provide a replacement as necessary.  So far nothing else from them.  At least I wasn’t expecting any action so I shouldn’t be disappointed right?

 

More magnet madness.  I purchased some 1mm rare earth magnets online with the idea that maybe I could have revolving turrets on 1/2400 scale battleships.  Well I don’t have any unassembled battleship kits at the moment and I would hate to mess up the paint job of the finished ones I have on this experiment so I’m going to use a proxy to test the magnets.  Enter the trusty MRAPs, in this case the RG-31 Nyala from GHQ.  The machine gun turret should be comparable to a battleship turret peg so we’ll see how it works once the magnets arrive from Hong Kong.

 

GHQ 1/285 RG-31 Nyala

GHQ 1/285 RG-31 Nyala

 

Keeping the nautical theme going for the moment I have a handful of 1/2400 scale ships awaiting paint and decals.  If you remember my Pivot to the Pacific threads there hasn’t been much progress in terms of painting just adding more ships to the fleet.  I’m particularly keen on getting my hands on the Takanami DDG and the GHQ Hyuga when they come out next year.  I’m hopeful that GHQ will also solve my deck marking issues with an excellent set of decals they usually provide with their modern aircraft carriers.  Not appearing below is my recent purchase of GHQ’s LPD-21.  The model itself is up to GHQ’s usual standards and the V-22 Ospreys provided are also pretty good.  The major fault I have with this pack is the “Sea Stallions” listed on the website are in fact the same 20-30 year old casting of SH-3 Sea King helicopters.  I would buy  four or five extra sprues of Sea Stallions if they ever got around to making them but I guess I’ll have to wait.

GHQ 1/2400 Russian/Soviet/PRC Sovremenny

GHQ 1/2400 Russian/Soviet/PRC Sovremenny

GHQ 1/2400 PRC Jiankai II

GHQ 1/2400 PRC Jiankai II

Shapeways 1/2400 JMSDF Hyuga

Shapeways 1/2400 JMSDF Hyuga DDH

GHQ 1/2400 Arleigh Burke Flight IIA

GHQ 1/2400 Arleigh Burke Flight IIA

 

Switching gears to the land side of things I’m making, as a test case, a small diorama or vignette as a backdrop for photographing microarmor.  For this one I’ve decided on a European setting which will include a small farm complex with tree lined road, orchard and farmer’s fields.  The vision is to have the vehicle in the field on the left.  The photo would be a quartering shot, not straight down the road as shown here, with the orchards on the hill to the left and the farm complex center right with the road acting as a visual lead in line running from near right to far left.  We’ll see how it turns out.  And then there’s the need for an Arab-Israeli war setting as well.

Micro Armor Photographic Vignette

Micro Armor Photographic Vignette

Time to get busy.

 

Everything Old is New Again

Just to show that it isn’t all naval all the time here’s an update on my IDF forces.  I picked up a pack of GHQ’s new release, the Magach 3.  As with most of their offerings I liked this one right off the bat.  I’ve always loved the classic M48 lines, the boat-hull bow, the beefy tracks and suspension, and the big cast turret that says ‘I dare you to knock this off’.  Yes, yes, I know that in actual combat they suffered from a number of serious flaws…  but they look so cool!

The rare earth magnets worked so well on the GHQ Magach 6b Gal that I put these models through the same process.  I made sure that they all had the same polar orientation this time.  Here are some shots of the process.

Underside of turret with turret pin.

Underside of turret with turret pin.

Existing turret pin removed.

Existing turret pin removed.

Turret pin drilled out to accept 3mm magnet.

Turret pin drilled out to accept 3mm magnet.

Undersife of hull showing existing turret pin hole.

Undersife of hull showing existing turret pin hole.

Hull turret pin hole bored out to accept 3mm magnet turret pin.

Hull turret pin hole bored out to accept 3mm magnet turret pin.

5mm magnet glued to underside of hull.

5mm magnet glued to underside of hull.

Completed hull and turret. Now fully rotating but removable.

Completed hull and turret. Now fully rotating but removable.

The Magach 3 and Magach 6b Gal side by side.

The Magach 3 and Magach 6b Gal side by side.

Now it is just a question of getting them primed and painted.

 

Mini or Micro?

I have been a fan of microarmor (1/285 scale) and micronauts (1/2400 scale) since discovering them in college in the mid 1980’s.  The details and the quality of many of the models, given their small size, was very impressive.  In the past few years however I’ve found something which is even better – for some applications.  The Figurehead range of naval miniatures are smaller (1/6000 scale), less expensive (on a per model basis), and have a larger product range than 1/2400.  I suppose now is a good time to caveat my comments with the fact that I’m speaking about post-WWII models.  I’m just not familiar enough with earlier ranges to judge which ones are most complete.

Figurehead also seems to offer the most complete line of vessels for a full Falkland Islands campaign.  The only other line that comes close is SeaWulf, but I don’t think theirs is as complete and for 1/2400 scale the quality isn’t as high as GHQ, CinC, or Viking Forge/SeaBattle.  Don’t get me wrong I like the SeaWulf line because they offer ships no one else does like the Leander class frigates and all the variants of that class but they are gaming quality not collector’s quality pieces.

With a new affinity for 1/6000 scale I’ve launched on a naval expansion program that will provide a significant increase in capability and diversity of my navies.  In truth the original attraction to this scale was the breadth of models available.  GHQ makes some fantastic models but they have a very narrow selection in modern naval miniatures.  They are trying to correct that now but with eight major product lines spanning five scales, modern naval is almost the red-headed step-child.  As an example, the announcement for the 2014-2015 product year had four modern naval vessels out of forty-seven new models.  About 8.5% of their new model production.  The WWI and WWII lines each will be getting four new models as well so overall naval enthusiasts will be getting about 25.5% of GHQ’s attention next year.  Just think what wonderful models could be made if a company of GHQ quality focused only on naval units, but I guess its the sales revenues of all the other things that allow them to expand as they have in the first place.

Back on point, it was the breadth of models available that attracted me in the first place.  For several years now I have been working on a scenario supplement for the Harpoon ruleset published by Clash of Arms Games.  My supplement is devoted to aircraft carriers and naval aviation.  I have more than a dozen scenarios from 1962 to 2013 researched and written, some large, some small, some historical, some ‘might-have-been’ and so on.  If you follow my blog then you know real life often interrupts my projects and the Harpoon supplement is no exception.  At this point I’m not sure CoA will ever speak to me again much less publish my work.  Maybe I’ll have to go into micro publishing and do it myself…  I digress.  Some of the scenarios I’ve written that take place in the 1960’s have no miniatures in 1/2400 scale, only Figurehead makes appropriate ships.  Naturally I want to someday be able to play my scenarios on the table top and Figurehead, for the moment at least, is the only solution.

All of this got me thinking about the hobby and scales and names and things.  While GHQ has trademarked certain names like Micronauts, is “micro” really appropriate anymore when there is something even smaller?  A similar situation exists with Micro Armor, also a GHQ registered trademark.  With 1/600 scale tanks and vehicles on the market should the smaller version become ‘micro’ and the 1/285 range become ‘mini’?  Or maybe the 1/6000 ships and 1/600 tanks should be called ‘nano’.  There may be a marketing downside to that however.  The word ‘nano’ makes it sound impossibly small.  I doubt GHQ will give up their trademarks so the point is moot.

Dead End Projects

     A dead end project is when I have an idea for a kitbash or scratchbuild vehicle that I have a particular need for but somewhere along the way one of the existing manufacturers decides to produce one themselves.  The first project that has been overcome by events (OBE) that I would like to share with you is my conversion of GHQ Ferret Mk I turret-less scout cars into Ferret Mk II with the .30 cal MG turret.

     In 2010 GHQ published their production plans for the 2010-2011 product year and they scheduled a February 2011 release date for the Ferret Mk I.  This was excellent news!  I was working on early Cold War armies and needed some light scouts for the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and other areas.  The problem was I didn’t really need the Mk I version which was turret-less and open topped. 

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     What I wanted was the Mk II version with the small machine gun turret.

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     After doing a little bit of research I learned that the Saracen 6×6 armored personnel had an identical turret.

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     There is also an ambulance version of the Saracen which doesn’t have a turret.

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     Perfect!  I had some extra Saracens anyway so I decided to carefully cut the turret of the Saracen and graft it onto the Ferret after filling in the crew compartment with putty.  The ‘leftover’ Saracens would then become ambulances.  I didn’t need more than a handful of Saracen ambulances so this conversion process was never going to get me to the 40+ Mk II Ferrets I hoped to have but it would be a start.

     Here are the excellent Mk I Ferrets from GHQ with their crew compartments filled in with putty.

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  Here is the primed Mk II Ferret with its new turret ready for BAOR green and black camo pattern.

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     It was at about this point in the project when GHQ announced their production plans for the 2011-2012 product year.  They had a Ferret Mk II scheduled for release in October 2011.

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     Suddenly, there was no advantage to kitbashing any further Mk II’s.  I guess that was a good thing since it should have given me the time to work on other projects.