Wednesday, 16 September 2009

H-78 Helicopter

Unlike many military LEGO builders I tend to focus on building models of real vehicles. One builder who always designs his own models is Aleksander Stein and even though they are fictional, his models always look as though they could potentially be real. Stepping out of my comfort zone, a few weeks ago I built a fictional minifig scale Coast Guard helicopter, which I decided to call the HH-78 Gannet.
Coast Guard helicopter (1)
The design is obviously influenced by real-world helicopters such as the HH-60J Jayhawk (a US Coast Guard version of the BlackHawk), the HH-65 Dolphin and helicopters such as the A-109 and AW-139. Actually, the main reason for building a fictional helicopter wasn't so much that I wanted to, I just couldn't imagine actually building a Dolphin on a 1/45 scale that could still seat three or four minifigs. Anyway, I was quite happy with the result. In my opinion it looks as though it could potentially be a real helicopter.

You can probably imagine that I was quite happy when Aleksander contacted me to ask me whether I was OK with him building his own military variant of the HH-78. I was more than OK with it; I loved the idea! A few days ago he finished it and uploaded it to flickr. He turned it into a super-advanced ship-based helicopter, the SH-78 Sea Gauntlet.

The helicopter is armed with anti-ship missiles and has a side-mounted sonar buoy launcher, an enlarged nose-radome for a radar and various other goodies.

With navies performing more and more 'brown-water ops' (missions closer to the coast) ship-based helicopters have taken on a all kinds of roles that they didn't have ten or twenty years ago. They are much more likely to have to operate in areas with enemy air-defences. To defeat IR-guided surface-to-air missiles, the Sea Gauntlet has large IR suppressors fitted over the engine exhausts and a IR counter-measures turret mounted behind the rotor pylon.

One feature that I wanted on my helicopter, but couldn't get to look right was a ducted tail rotor, also known as a Fenestron or fan-tail. Aleksander managed to make it work. It looks excellent, but I simply couldn't make this in orange.

If you want to see more and let Aleks know what an excellent job he's done, I recommend you check out the full photoset.