Princess Leia’s Tantive IV Model From Star Wars Episode IV

Today we’re having a slightly different post in honor of Star Wars Day.  This is the actual movie model of the Tantive IV, Princess Leia’s Rebel blockade runner from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.  This is the first Star Wars ship to be seen in the films, famously fleeing from an Imperial Star Destroyer right after the opening text scrawl.  You can make a strong case that the Star Wars film ships are the most viewed models ever built.  An interesting bit of trivia is that this Tantive IV model is smaller than the Star Destroyer model used in filming, even though the Star Destroyer represents a much larger ship in the film.

Star Wars was innovative in that many of the models were weathered and “battle damaged”, unlike the squeaky clean ships of other franchises.  Truly the work of some very talented builders.  If you look closely you can identify some familiar shapes and patterns, the builders made extensive use of components from plastic kits.

Happy Star Wars Day, May the Fourth be with you!


1/72 Scale Los Angeles Class Submarine Build, Part VII

Time has been at a premium lately due to the home remodeling project but I have managed to sneak down to the workbench and make some progress on the submarine.  This is a section of the TASS hump being installed on the hull.  TASS stands for Towed Array Sonar System, which is basically a series of hydrophones in a rubber tube which is trailed behind the submarine.  The TASS was carried in the long hump when not deployed.  All the 688 boats carried TASS, but the first few boats were not commissioned with the system and had it added later.  It turns out that the outer diameter of 3/4″ PVC has the correct curvature for the TASS hump in 1/72 scale, so this was formed by shaving off an appropriate section with a band saw.
The sail is now permanently attached using superglue and bronze rod pins.  The seam is blended with Perfect Plastic Putty.  On the earlier boats the forward diving planes were mounted to the sail.  Later boats moved the planes to the forward hull and made them retractable to make it easier to punch through Arctic ice.
I have begun adding the various surface details to the upper hull, following the Greg Sharpe drawings.  The four “H” shaped fittings are retractable mooring cleats.  Some details are made from thin plastic sheet, others are scribed into the hull.
It’s getting closer.  I was hoping to have work completed in time for the Louisville show on the 18th but that’s going to be pushing it.

Hasegawa F-14A Tomcat in 1/72 Scale

This is Hasegawa’s 1/72 scale F-14A.  It can be built up into an accurate representation of the original, but it suffers from fit problems.  The mold is beginning to show it’s age, some flash is present and ejector pins are not seating flush.  Although most of the pins are located on the inner surfaces, many are now prominent enough to interfere with fit and have to be removed.  Fortunately Fine Molds has recently released a new-tool Tomcat, I’ll give that one a shot for all my future F-14 needs.

Hasegawa has a rather annoying business plan of leaving the armament off of their jets and selling the weapons separately.  Their Weapons Set V has no Phoenix, but enough Sparrows & Sidewinders for a full load.  Fortunately two Phoenix were generously provided by a fellow modeler (thanks Sjaak!)  The kit does have a TARPS pod & drop tanks.   I also used True Details ejection seats, Aires exhausts, and Eduard PE.  Decals are a special job from Fightertown Decals, and depict Wichita 14, F-14A BuNo 159000 of VF-1, embarked on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in 1975.

The story of this build started with a phone call from Michael Smith, Director of the Museum at the Academy of Model Aeronautics headquartered in Muncie, Indiana.  The museum was building a display honoring a long-time RC modeler and their PR Ambassador named Robert “Hoot” Gibson.  In addition to flying radio control models, Gibson was an professional aviator and the museum wanted to include a selection of models of aircraft he had actually flown, and would I have time to paint a few of them?  “Sure”, I said, “What have you got?”

Hoot Gibson is not an ordinary pilot.  He is not even an extraordinary pilot.  Hoot Gibson is the kind of pilot extraordinary pilots want to be when they grow up.  He flew F-4 Phantoms from the USS Coral Sea, and F-14s from the USS Enterprise.  He flew more than 300 types of aircraft as a Navy Test Pilot.  He raced several types at Reno and won the Gold Unlimited Race in 2015.  He was a commercial airline pilot, and holds records for homebuilt aircraft.   And he has flown on the Space Shuttle five times, four times as Commander.  The Museum needed two 1/18 scale F-14s repainted and marked as Hoot’s Tomcat and a wingman, and paint on a 1/48 scale model of the Space Shuttle Atlantis scratchbuilt by their staff.  I was in.

I got to meet Gibson at the dedication for the display.  He is soft-spoken, quiet and composed.  He was taken by his F-14, could we possibly do another for him?  No question.  Michael delivered the third model to Hoot during a signing event at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.  Hoot wasted no time assembling the components and the model sat on the signing table for the rest of the event.

Having repainted three Tomcats in 1/18 scale and a Shuttle in 1/48, I thought it was high time I built something in The One True Scale which I could keep for myself.  Hoot returned to the Museum to recover his Shuttle flight suit and RC F-16 among other items.  He was gracious enough to sign the display base for my model at that time.  Hoot’s 1/18 scale model hangs over his desk in his home, mine in 1/72 scale has a place of honor in my display case.






Grumman F6F Hellcat Mishaps

An F6F-5 Hellcat moments before striking the ramp.  The Landing Signal Officers are fleeing across the flight deck to avoid what comes next.  Note that the Hellcat is still carrying its’ drop tank, which is white.
Another Hellcat with a drop tank, this is an F6F-3 recovering aboard the USS Cowpens (CVL-25) on 20NOV43.  The pilot was LTJG Magee.  One has to wonder if he knew his aircraft was on fire.
Another view of the same incident.  The flames are coming from behind the engine, likely a ruptured fuel line.  The drop tank does not appear to be involved at this point.
An F6F-3 flipped on its’ back aboard the USS Monterey (CVL-26).  Clear photographs of the underside of aircraft are comparatively rare so this view is particularly useful for modelers.  The patterns of the dirt and grime are worth studying.
This F6F-5 was saved from a watery fate by getting tangled in the catwalk of USS Sable (IX-81).  Sable was one of two Great Lakes steamers which were converted to training carriers (the other being the USS Wolverine (IX-64)).  They both featured paddlewheel propulsion, and neither had hanger decks.  Here the crew is securing the Hellcat in place until a pierside crane can recover the aircraft.
Here an F6F-3 has missed hooking the arresting gear and wound up in the after elevator well aboard the Bogue-class escort carrier USS Barnes (CVE-20).  The Hellcat didn’t miss the wires entirely, they can be seen fouled on the landing gear.
Grumman earned a reputation for building tough aircraft, but even aircraft built at the “Iron Works” had their limits.  The sudden jolt of an arrested landing has pulled this Hellcat in two just aft of the cockpit.  The pilot can be seen exiting what’s left of his aircraft, apparently no worse for wear.
Sometimes your most useful role is that of a sandbag with legs.  Flight deck sailors aboard the USS Monterey (CVL-26) tip an F6F-5 back onto the deck and out of the catwalk.
This Hellcat has wandered off the coral runway and come to grief in a large hole.  Armorers are removing ammunition from the wing guns before recovery operations can start.  The aircraft has attracted a large crowd of recovery vehicles and onlookers despite the rain.

Dragon LVT-(A)1 Amphibious Tank in 1/72 Scale

This is Dragon’s LVT-(A)1 amphibious tank.  This is an outstanding kit, it went together easily with no drama.  There are several methods manufacturers use to produce tracks and I still struggle with them all.  The one exception I have found are Dragon’s tracks.  They look great, they fit, and they respond to model glues.

The kit gives you the option of PE shields for the machine gun stations.  The plastic parts looked thin enough, so I skipped fiddling with the brass.  The only thing I replaced on this kit were the grab bars and pad eyes.  The kit ones looked great, but I figured they would be a pain to clean up, and I would likely break or lose several as the build progressed.






Imperial Roman Warships 27 BC–193 AD, Osprey New Vanguard 230 Book Review


Imperial Roman Warships 27 BC–193 AD, New Vanguard 230

by Raffaelle D’Amato, illustrated by Giuseppe Rava

Series: New Vanguard Book 230

Paperback, 48 pages

Published by Osprey Publishing January 2016

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472810899

ISBN-13: 978-1472810892

Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.2 x 9.5 inches


Imagine taking any major navy and attempting to describe every type of warship they operated over a two hundred year time span, using terms specific to that navy and the various types of vessel.  Now add in an overview of the campaigns in which they participated, with names of places and commanders which are likely new to the reader.  Then take all that information and condense it into a format which only allows 48 pages for text and illustrations.

The result is a confusing jumble of unfamiliar terms.  While it is apparent D’Amato has mastered the subject, the narrative is bewildering and ungrounded, the story just does not flow.  I found myself confused by the over use of Roman terms and names, and never did gain a clear understanding of the specifics of the many types of vessels described, nor what drove their development.  The advantages of one type over another is unclear, and the factors which determined their tactical employment and suitability is a mystery.

If you are well versed in Roman battles, geography, generals, and naval terms, then this may be a useful overview.  If you are looking to gain an understanding of the Roman navy but are not already familiar with the topic, you will find this book confusing.