Star Wars Rebel Fighters Filming Models

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

The rebel fighters seen in the original Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope are some of the most recognized models ever constructed.  These are detail photographs of the actual models used in filming of the original Star Wars trilogy.  The models were part of a display of props and costumes which toured various museums throughout the United States, I took these pictures while the collection was at the Indiana State Museum in July of 2013.

The Star Wars models are known for their weathered and worn appearance.  This was in stark contrast to the squeaky-clean appearance of most science fiction ships up to that time, and lent an air of authenticity to the production.  The weathering and chipping techniques on display are worthy of note for all modelers regardless of subject matter.  The models were constructed making extensive use of components taken from plastic kits of the time, if you look closely at the details you may be able to identify some of the parts!

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Bonus!

Star Wars Millennium Falcon Filming Model

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

Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon needs no introduction.  These are detail photographs of the Falcon model used in filming the original Star Wars trilogy.  The model was part of a display of props and costumes which toured various museums throughout the United States, I took these pictures while the collection was at the Indiana State Museum in July of 2013.

The Star Wars models are known for their weathered and worn appearance.  This was in stark contrast to the squeaky-clean appearance of most science fiction ships up to that time, and lent an air of authenticity to the production.  The weathering and chipping techniques on display are worthy of note for all modelers regardless of subject matter.  The model was constructed making extensive use of components taken from plastic kits of the time, if you look closely at the details some of these parts may seem familiar!

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Mach Cones and Other Supersonic Goodness

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Some of the more spectacular aviation photographs are of jets breaking the sound barrier.  Often the pressure variation causes the moisture in the air to condense making the Mach cone visible.  This is similar to but different than the vapor clouds often seen forming around aircraft at airshows as they maneuver.  Most of these pictures are taken at sea as there are prohibitions against aircraft breaking the sound barrier over the continental U.S.  Here an F/A-18F goes transonic.

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An F/A-18C Hornet, from the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, breaks the sound barrier while making a high-speed pass close to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) during an air power demonstration. Many of these fly-bys were performed for service members’ family and friends who were invited to get underway with the ship. There are no Mach restrictions on the open ocean, so U.S. Navy aircraft are often the subjects.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ron Reeves, taken 24AUG07)

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An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 113 breaks the sound barrier over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans, taken 31MAY11)

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An Air Force F-22 Raptor executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). The Stennis was participating in Northern Edge 2009, a joint exercise focusing on detecting and tracking units at sea, in the air and on land. The Raptor is forming condensation within its wingtip vortexes along with a Mach cone.  (U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Ronald Dejarnett, taken 22JUN09)

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A Navy F/A-18F with a Mach cone visible is also showing another compressibility effect in its jet exhaust, known as a shock diamonds.  These are formed as the pressure fluctuations within the engine’s supersonic exhaust plume cause unburned fuel to combust.

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A beautiful photograph of an SR-71 displaying a series of shock diamonds in its exhaust.

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Using special photographic techniques, NASA was recently able to record the formation and interactions of the shock waves formed around two T-38s for the first time.  The photograph was taken earlier this year on 22FEB19.

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Spacecraft also experience Mach effects, and often adjust their thrust to minimize vibrations until they reach altitudes where the atmosphere is thinner.  Space Shuttles went transonic approximately 45 seconds after launch.  Here is the Atlantis mission STS-106 on 08SEP00 with the shock wave forming a rainbow effect.

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An even more spectacular phenomenon was caused by the Solar Dynamics Observatory launch on 11FEB10.  During this mission the shock waves interacted with ice crystals in the atmosphere and formed ripples as they passed.  A Mach cone is also visible at the nose of the rocket.

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 larger 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!

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Hasegawa F-14A Tomcat in 1/72 Scale

This is Hasegawa’s 1/72 scale Grumman 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.

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Scaled Composites Model 351 Stratolaunch “Roc”

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On Saturday, 13 April 2019 an aviation record was broken.  Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose held the record of the largest aircraft to have ever flown for a whopping 71 years.  That record was broken by Scaled Composites’ Model 351 Stratolaunch “Roc”.  With a wingspan of 385 feet (117 meters), its wings are 64 feet (19.5 meters) longer than those of the Spruce Goose. The Antonov An-225 still holds the record for the heaviest aircraft to ever fly.  Film of the flight here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBSJEYq9vBg

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Stratolaunch was funded by Microsoft Billionaire Paul Allen to perform aerial launches of orbital rockets.  The aircraft was constructed by Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites.  It is intended to be the “first stage” of a launch vehicle and is designed to carry up to a 550,000 lb (250,000 kg) external payload between the twin fuselages.

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A number of orbital insertion vehicles were in design to be carried by the Roc, but all of the designs have ceased development except the Pegasus II.  These are the missile-like objects pictured on the left in the graphic above.  Three can be carried at a time.  The manned Dream Chaser spaceplane is another proposed payload.

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To reduce developmental time and costs, Stratolaunch incorporated several proven systems used on Boeing 747s.  The engines are the same Pratt & Whitney PW4056 turbofans, six in total.  These provide the Roc with a maximum speed of 530 mph (853 kph).

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The Roc carries a crew of three, all in the starboard fuselage.  The flight deck of the port fuselage is occupied by flight test instruments and avionics.  The cockpit instrumentation is off the shelf, sharing many of the same systems as the 747.

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The landing gear components are also from the 747.  Twelve main wheels and two nose wheels are housed in each fuselage, for a total of twenty eight wheels in all.  Empty weight is 500,000 pounds, payload is 550,000 pounds, maximum take-off weight is 1,300,000 pounds (226,800 kg, 250,000 kg, and 589,700 kg, respectively).

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The test flight lasted two and a half hours and was successful in all respects.  The current goal is to achieve an operational capability by 2022 for launching Pegasus orbital insertion vehicles.