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!

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Progress Update: All Those Tiny Ships

A few years ago I decided to try out a new scale for naval wargaming, 1/6000. This scale offers a few potential advantages, from a gaming perspective, over my traditional naval wargaming scale of 1/2400. For one thing the “ground scale” can be matched more closely with the actual scale of the models. Depending on the scenario, a small scenario on a large table, one could even run a game at 1/6000 ground scale. Ship formations would be more realistic, at larger scales bridge to bridge distances between ships would require the miniatures to overlap if a player wanted to simulate naval doctrine. One result of this is players use formations that “look right” but end up breaking down the mutual support capabilities planned into particular formations.

In modern scenarios this scale helps illustrate how potent fast moving missiles and aircraft can be. Many rule systems designed for use with 1/2400 scale models use a ground scale of 1/36,000, in this scale two inches equals one nautical mile. Aircraft and missile move through engagement envelopes very quickly at this scale and certain abstractions have to be made to allow players at least one defensive shot.  Even running these smaller miniatures at a ground scale of 1/12,000 provides a 3x expansion over the typical scale with larger models. This reduces the need for many of the abstractions necessary with larger models. I think this gives a much better feel to the game.

So what are the downsides? Well they are smaller models so those of you who are more into collecting will have less detail to entice you. Another downside is that, to my knowledge, if you leave 3D printing out of the equation for the moment there is only one manufacturer that I’m aware of, Figurehead Miniatures. I believe, but I am far from certain, that Figurehead is owned by the good folks at The Last Square. In the 1/6000 range Figurehead offers models from the Russo-Japanese war up through moderns. If you’re a fan of modern naval wargaming then the modern range may be a little disappointing. To date they only cover U.S., British, Russian/Soviet, Argentinian navies, and some commercial shipping vessels. If you want to run the Falklands war you can. If you want to game the rise of the PRC in the South China Sea you can only field one side. I have spoken to  The Last Square about expanding the range to include JMSDF, RoKN, RoCN, PLAN, and Indian naval forces but so far there isn’t enough demand signal for them to go forward with those ideas. One can only hope the future will see these lines expanded. Even GHQ broke a 12+ year hiatus and started making new 1/2400 scale models for modern navies including JMSDF and PRC.

For those who may not have seen these ships here are some newer pictures. Once I get more painted, I’m only about 25% complete, I’ll standardize how I want to paint the water effects on the bases. Enjoy!

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Sacramento Class Replenishment Oiler. Model by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Sacramento Class Replenishment Oiler. Model by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Iowa Class BB, Raleigh Class LPD, Whidbey Island Class LSD, and Thomaston Class LSD. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Iowa Class BB, Raleigh Class LPD, Whidbey Island Class LSD, and Thomaston Class LSD. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale Russian/Soviet Navy Slava Class CG and Boris Chilikin Class Oiler. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale Russian/Soviet Navy Slava Class CG and Boris Chilikin Class Oiler. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Carriers and Cruisers. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Carriers and Cruisers. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Amphibs and Command ships. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Amphibs and Command ships. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Replenishment Ships. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Replenishment Ships. Models by Figurehead

A Look Around

As part of the Tow Tank feature I would like to offer a look at what is out there from some of the manufacturers. In depth analysis, in terms of fit and finish, of these models will follow. For now I simply offer a view of what one gets when they order a particular miniature. Some are quite good, some are less so. You can judge for yourself.

Viking Forge

Here are some of the offerings from Viking Forge for the PLAN. These models were purchased about seven years ago and the good folks at VF have increased their range of available ships since then. I’m in the process of acquiring the new ships re-shooting the finished models.

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052C DDG in the blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052C DDG

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052B DDG in the blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052B DDG

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 054 FFG in blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 054 FFG

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VF 1/2400 scale Type 053H FFG in blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale Type 053H FFG

 

 

 

 

 

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

What would you ask for if you had a replicator?  I suppose people in the 23rd century are beyond needing cash or maybe Jean-Luc would order up some gold bullion instead of tea.  While I don’t have a replicator but I do have access to Shapeways 3D printing. As I have mentioned before I have become very interested in Figurehead’s line of 1/6000 scale modern naval miniatures.  They pack a very impressive amount of detail into very small packages.  To date I have collected a little over 300 of these ships.  Sadly I have been a much more diligent collector than painter.

Figurehead Miniatures will be the topic of a future post so I won’t get too far down in the weeds here.  What I will say is they have a decent range of models available for the lines they choose to cover.  As one example, their Falkland Islands range is probably the most complete range of any manufacturer in any scale.  If you want Russian/Soviet kit, Royal Navy or U. S. Navy ships the you’re in luck.  If you want Chinese (either one), Japanese, Korean, or even French ships you’re out of luck, so far.  I have no insight into Figurehead’s production plans and I have no patience either.  Enter Shapeways.  I guess I should say once again that Shapeways is actually the print shop the actual designer is afrodri from Objects May Appear…

I have been reluctant to order very many “printed” ships.  The pictures on the Shapeways website aren’t always convincing.  Other photos I’ve seen on various fora suggest the models come out looking a little fuzzy.  Not out of focus but actually fuzzy.  My own experience with the JMSDF Hyuga was positive but not overwhelming.  But I have needs.  I need JMSDF, Korean, Chinese, and Indian naval vessels.  Looking through the Shapeways catalog I settled on a one-stop shopping approach for the Indian Navy.  While these ships weren’t at the top of my list they had the advantage of being offered all together.  The other “fleet packs” for JMSDF and Korea didn’t have the mix of ships I was looking for and there isn’t a set for PRC that I could find.

In terms of what comes in the package this is what the website says.  Indian Naval Fleet: 3 Brahmaputra, 3 Godavari, 3 Delhi, 6 Talwar, 8 Kumbhir, 12 Veer, and 1 Vikramaditya.  I don’t think I would have left the aircraft carrier last in the list but that is just me.  It looked like a pretty solid offering and all that for under $20.  I would like to see the Kolkata and Shivalik classes as well but this is good enough for now.  I have to say even though it was only an investment of twenty bucks, ordering a bunch of ship models with only the computer generated picture to go by was a bit disturbing.  Printing a Veer/Tarantul at this scale seemed unlikely to be successful.  In fact at one point I received an email from Shapeways informing me there was a delay with the shipment of my order “Each and every product is made to order at Shapeways, so sometimes we experience delays during the complex 3D printing process”.  And I felt sure the next email would start “We regret to inform you…”

Of course that didn’t happen.  The shipment went out three days later and arrived about a week after that.  Right out of the box I was impressed with the ships.  The level of detail is  on par with the Figurehead ships I think, although the semi-translucence of the material makes it hard to judge for sure.  If I can figure out how to base them in a manner similar to the rest of my 1/6000 fleet I will definitely call this experiment a success.  Here are some pictures…

1/6000 INS Naval Fleet Pack.  Models Designed by afrodri from Objects May Appear...  3D Printed by Shapeways.

1/6000 INS Naval Fleet Pack. Models Designed by afrodri from Objects May Appear… 3D Printed by Shapeways.

Detail of 1/6000 Vikramaditya. Model by Objects May Appear...

Detail of 1/6000 Vikramaditya. Model by Objects May Appear…

1/6000 INS Destroyers, Frigates, Missile Craft, and Amphibious ships.

1/6000 INS Destroyers, Frigates, Missile Craft, and Amphibious ships.

Detail of 1/6000 INS Delhi Class.

Detail of 1/6000 INS Delhi Class.

If I can get my hands on a digital calipers I’ll take some measurements to see how close the models are to true 1/6000 scale but that will be the subject for another day.

How Small is Too Small?

I was so pleased with how well the rare earth magnets worked with the flight stands for 1/285 scale aircraft that I wanted to take a look at smaller applications.  Could they be made to work with 1/2400 scale aircraft?

Well…  Um…  Ah…  In a word, no.

The problem isn’t with the magnets really.  I found some 2mm x 1mm magnets which aren’t too obtrusive even considering the diminutive size of 1/2400 scale aircraft.  The problem is the stands themselves.  I couldn’t find a reliable combination of base and post that works with the magnets and provides acceptable stability without looking too chunky drawing attention away from the models.  The search will continue.

  In the meantime I have decided to mount some of my 1/2400 scale aircraft on more traditional stands.

  I used sheet styrene and my Dupli-cutter, from North West Short Line (NWSL), to make a handful of roughly 1/4″ strips.

An excellent tool for repetitive cutting of sheet styrene or balsa to make uniform strips.

An excellent tool for repetitive cutting of sheet styrene or balsa to make uniform strips.

  Once that task was complete I used my Chopper, also from NWSL, to cut the strips into roughly 1/4″ x 1/4″ squares.  Obviously, I could have skipped some of this work if I had strip styrene of the appropriate size on hand.  I didn’t have anything acceptable on hand on my desired time line so I did it the old-fashioned way.

Another great product from NWSL.  The Chopper makes short work of chopping strips to a uniform size.

Another great product from NWSL. The Chopper makes short work of chopping strips to a uniform size.

  After cutting the rough bases I drilled a hole in the center of each one for the steel pin which would become the stand.

Bases before and after drilling center hole for flight stand.

Bases before and after drilling center hole for flight stand.

  To prevent the model from teeter-tottering on the game table I counter-sunk the hole on the underside of the base that would conceal the pinhead.

Underside of base features countersunk center hole which will accept pinhead to prevent teeter-tottering.

Underside of base features countersunk center hole which will accept pinhead to prevent teeter-tottering.

  Before gluing the pins to their bases I cut them down to scale lengths appropriate for hovering helicopters, aircraft flying Nap Of the Earth (NOE), aircraft flying low level bombing runs, and maritime patrol aircraft.  With the current bases size pins longer than 2 inches would probably be unstable.  At scale that is about 400 ft, a reasonable representation of routine operating altitudes for ASW aircraft.

Some of the steel pins cut down to size.  Those on the right are for hovering helicopters while those on the left are for NOE aircraft.

Some of the steel pins cut down to size. Those on the right are for hovering helicopters while those on the left are for NOE aircraft.

Here is the flight stand base and pin ready for gluing.

Here is the flight stand base and pin ready for gluing.

Glue applied to pin.

Glue applied to pin.

Pinhead fits into recess presenting a flat and stable surface for the flight stand.

Pinhead fits into recess presenting a flat and stable surface for the flight stand.

These are completed flight stands, except for painting of course.

These are completed flight stands, except for painting of course.

Prototypes are complete. Aircraft are mounted.  In this case GHQ F-111 standing in for SU-24 and two MiG-29s.  Caution, these are really small. I accidentally drilled all the way through the second MiG-29.

Prototypes are complete. Aircraft are mounted. In this case GHQ F-111 standing in for SU-24 and two MiG-29s. Caution, these are really small. I accidentally drilled all the way through the second MiG-29.

 

Making these flight stands was pretty fun and I’m looking forward to making more.  After I get these stands painted it will also be much easier to photoshop them out of pictures with my fleet.  I hope you enjoyed the mini tutorial.

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.

 

Of course the PRC is not the only China…

  Keeping the focus on the Pacific I have decided to revive a long dormant kitbashing project and in the process feature some models of the other Chinese navy.  The Republic of China (ROC) Navy has a long standing tradition of buying U.S. surplus warships so in 2005 when the first pair of Kidd class DDGs were commissioned into the ROC Navy, as the Kee Lung class, I resolved to have my own as well.  There are no quality castings of the Kidd class in 1/2400 scale.  Superior Models makes one I know but I think most of their models are poorly scaled.  The only remaining option is to kitbash one, or in this case four of them.

  With any kitbash project I started with a Google image search to determine what are the major features that differentiate the Kidd class from her sisters in the Spruance class.  Before I continue I should mention that my basic philosophy of modeling in this scale is that close enough is good enough.  What I mean is I consider myself primarily a wargamer and I want a representational model on the table I don’t feel the need for hyper detailing and I’m not bothered if minor details are not technically correct.  From three feet away does it look like a Kidd class DDG? If so, great let’s play!  So the end result is there will be technical differences between the Kidd and Spruance classes that aren’t accounted for in my conversion.  Here is a picture of one of the Kidd DDGs in ROC service which I used as my baseline for the conversion.

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  So the major differences between the two classes are; of course the Mk26 twin launcher instead of the ASROC launcher forward and BPMDS/Sea Sparrow launcher aft, the associated fire control radars on the superstructure, the small housing on top of the bridge supporting the forward fire control radar, and the larger housing aft of the main mast supporting the aft fire control radar.  Any other differences don’t matter at this scale in my opinion.

  Armed with the baseline of changes that need to be incorporated the next step is to identify the proper hull for conversion.  There are a couple of candidates here.  The first option is to use the excellent Spruance model offered by GHQ.

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  It is a beautiful model with plenty of detail.  In fact, the model in the picture is not what you get when you order one.  Most of the aerials in the photo are super details added by the modeler.  The challenges in using this model as the base hull are the cost, at $9.95 a piece it isn’t cheap, and the fact that it is the VLS version which just means more work removing the VLS system to make room for the Mk26 launcher.

  The next option, really two options, are from CinC models.  They produce two versions of the Spruance class, one is the VLS version shown here.

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  The other is the basic configuration shown here.

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    While CinC miniatures are not as detailed as those offered by GHQ the casts are every bit as clean and crisp which makes them excellent candidates for kitbashing projects.  The CinC ships retail at $7 a piece, almost 30% less than GHQ. The other factor influencing my decision at the time was the fact that I happened to have a surplus of CinC Spruance models on hand.  

  In 2006 I started the conversion with four CinC models that had seen better wargaming days and were a little banged up.  The picture below is where the project was left the last time I worked on it in 2006.  The small housing above the bridge for the forward fire control radar and the large housing aft for that fire control radar were constructed using Evergreen Plactic stock and Squadron modeling putty.  Then I got stuck trying to figure out how to make the fire control radars.  I spent hours hand carving two radars out of Evergreen plastic stock for two of the ships.  Result was less than stellar and I shelved the project.  The two radars can almost bee seen on the two closest ships.

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  I think I have a solution for that problem but more on that later.  The next step is to remove the existing launchers from the decks fore and aft.

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  Here’s where I add that I should have stripped the paint off the models before I began the conversion back in 2006.  The next step is to add a thin piece of plastic stock for the missile magazine doors.  I elected to use one larger piece which would be cut down to shape in subsequent steps because it just seemed easier to work with a larger piece until it was securely attached to the hull.  And for those of you with model building experience you already know what happened to me.  The CA glue I used adhered to the paint but not the hull so half of the pieces came off, in whole or in part, during the following steps making it much more work in the final analysis.

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  In the next photo I have drilled the hole for the Mk26 launcher pedestal and started trimming the magazine doors down to a more appropriate size.

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  The next step is to glue the pedestals for the twin launcher in place.  I used oversized pieces to account for variances in the depths of the hole that were drilled earlier. 

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  Here is the final step for today.  The pedestals have been trimmed.  I special ordered extra twin launchers from CinC – they come from their model of the cruiser Virginia – and glued them in place.  You can see that the 5in guns have been damaged in the process which will have to be repaired.  Unfortunately, the original owner of these particular ships cut out the supporting flash of the original cast to make it look more realistic.  Realistsic? Yes. Sturdy enough for table top gaming? No.

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  So what comes next?  Well as I mentioned I need to find a source for the fire control radars and I think I have.  Here is an excellent GHQ model of USS California CGN-35.  On the forward super structure there are three examples of the radars I’m looking for.  It seems like a terrible waste but I think I’ll have to special order o few of these superstructure pieces and them cut them off.  Three of these will give me one more than I need for this project.  Maybe I can use the leftover bits to start my own metal casting projects…

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  While I wait for those parts to arrive I will share a sneak peak at the next ROC Navy projects.  I have a couple of excess Knox class and Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates which will undergo conversion for ROC service.  Initial research indicates the major difference will be the addition of box launchers for indigenous ROC anti-ship missiles.

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  More to come…