I’m a person who loves spaceships. Ever since I was a very little boy, I’ve loved drawings of spaceships, seeing them on TV and in the movies, and reading about them. I think it comes from my dad being a fan of science fiction, and me always getting to see the awesome cover art on sci-fi books from his weekly library runs. Going to see Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back when I was 4 didn’t hurt either, I’m sure. To this day, I love most space ships, although I will admit that those from Star Trek do nothing for me.
Thankfully, I grew up in a time when Robotech was on TV, and while I was only 8 or 9 at the time, I was blown away by all the awesome spaceships. Of course, I liked the Godphoenix from Gatchaman as well. There was something about how the Japanese drew spacecraft that I liked a lot. However, when I started modelling, kits of anime spaceships were not something I had access too. That would come later. One great source of spaceships, though, was video games. Unfortunately, I’ve also never been a gamer, so there’s a whole world of neat designs I’m likely never going to get to see.
However, I did get to see one when I encountered Wave’s non-scale Solvalou fighter from the apparent smash arcade hit “Xevious”. I say apparent, because as I said I’m not a gamer, and have never followed that scene. In North America, Xevious was successful, but a single game was all we got. In Japan, though, Xevious was very big, and spawned numerous successors. To celebrate this legacy, Wave released a kit of the fighter that the player flies, the Solvalou. As far as anime-like space fighters goes, the Solvalou definitely piqued my interest, and I picked up the kit. To see more details on what the kit is like, check this out:
Inspiration and Imagination:
The nice thing, for me, about the Solvalou was that it represented a “non-aligned” spacecraft. By this, I mean I had no connection to it since I’d never seen it before, and thus I didn’t feel I needed to paint it to represent any specific vehicle. Since I’d not played Xevious, I was freed from the temptation to build it as shown on the box. Of course, the problem then became what to do with it at all! The possibilities were nearly endless, and I more or less became paralyzed by choice!
One of my ideas was to paint is as a “space Natter” from the “Nazi Moonbase” of conspiracy fame. This would combine alternate history and crackpottery in a Maschinen Krieger kind of way. While I was trying to work this idea through, another, stronger idea came to mind. It was based on my love of ‘70s Sci-Fi art, and something even more deeply rooted in the past, yet which had surfaced only recently. Before I detail my build of the Solvalou, please allow me to explain this inspiration.
Most people can point to something, or some event, that had a formative effect on their lives when they were children. It might have been a favourite book, or a specific episode of a TV show, or maybe something seen on a vacation somewhere. However, this thing (and I’m not talking something traumatic, that’s different), whatever it was, seems to take on an importance far greater than anyone might reasonably think. For me, there were two things that shaped my imagination more than anything else in the world, and they were two books in the libraries of the two elementary schools I attended growing up.
The first book, and the direct source of detailed inspiration for this build, is one I can remember vividly: The Usborne Book of the Future. This was a collection of three books dealing with Robots, Star Travel and Future Cities. I can remember reading, re-reading and re-re-reading this book endlessly in grades 3 and 4. There was always a competition among my friends over who would be able to get to it on the shelf first on library day. It was very popular, and not always on the shelf when we wanted it. It was so popular I can remember it being repaired by the librarian at least twice in two years just because of wear and tear.
The “Future Book”, as we called it, had an unbelievably huge effect on me. It made me want to learn about technology, opened my eyes to science fact and fiction, and made me want to learn how to draw such cool things, all at once. (Note: I can’t draw, even today!) It’s not possible to adequately articulate how it shaped my psyche and made me a fan of futurism and sci-fi. It just isn’t. It’s a book I’ve never forgotten, and it’s one I hadn’t seen for decades. Until, that is, my brother gave me a like-new copy for my birthday in 2015. You want to talk about “flashback”? Yeah. It was overwhelmingly amazing and inspirational.
The second book that shaped me, as I’m sure it has many of the people reading this, was the original “TTA Handbook: Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD”. I first saw this book in Grade 7, when I was 12. It was like all the coolest parts of the Future Book had gone out, bulked up and come back to kick my imagination’s butt. Here was a book, FULL of amazing space fighters and gunships, and there was an interstellar war, and OH MY GOD!!! My imagination literally grew three sizes that day! Needless to say, I have managed, in the intervening years, to acquire all the TTA books (again, thanks to my brother for his generous contributions!). However, none has ever managed to equal the simple grace of that first book.
So, you’re likely thinking, “What is your point?” It’s this: As a modeller, faced with the Solvalou, an unaligned spacecraft of cool, but somewhat clunky appearance, I decided to act on a long-held desire. I wanted to create a TTA-Universe ship of my own, using the aesthetic from both the TTA series and the Future Book. I had always wanted to do this, but my lack of art skills killed any 2-D hopes of this. However, with the Solvalou, I figured I could do it.
Looking at the Solvalou under this light, then, a few things came to me. Firstly, the gigantic engine bells and their exposed engines reminded me a lot of the CAM-117 Gunship (the first entry in the TTA 2000-2100 book). However, the Solvalou was a fighter… wasn’t it? It was at this point I realized that I didn’t even have to be constrained by scale! If it looked like Gunship engines, then maybe I could somehow make the Solvalou bigger… a LOT bigger, by simply painting over the cockpit! Thus, my idea of a super-gunship was born.
Building the CAM-1228:
I’m going to be honest. A lot of my articles go into great depth about how I build the kits I do. A lot of the kits I build are, quite honestly, pretty crappy. This means there’s a lot of work, either rescribing, correcting, adding or deleting. The Solvalou required NONE of this. It is, perhaps, one of the very easiest kits to build I’ve ever encountered. That it is a snap fit kit actually worked in my favour this time; much of the kit is actually snapped together. I know it smacks of heresy, but it just worked out this time.
The Solvalou is a very modular kit, and this makes doing the work on major subassemblies like the wings, engines and main body very, very easy. I decided it was best to put the front fuselage (cockpit and “air intakes”) onto the upper main body before doing any paint work. This basically meant I had a top body, bottom body engines and wings. Everything fit rather well, and the only putty I needed was to correct my own ham-handedness when it came to custom etching.
I did have to do one bit of build work, though. The Solvalou came with a stand that represented one of the “boss ships” in the game. This made no sense for my “Super Gunship”, so I decided to use another stand instead. Of course, I have LOTS of Matchbox stands, and I decided to use one of these. I adapted the “no stand” fuselage hole-plugging piece from the Solvalou to take the mounting blade on the top of a Matchbox “clear M” stand. This was pretty easy, and with a bit of build-up and sanding, I had the adapter made in no time. Of course, it fit perfect, because it was technically made for the kit!
The only other creative constructing dealt with how to delete the cockpit. At one point, I thought of leaving the canopy off, and just using Apoxie Sculp to make new contours. However, it seemed easier just to paint over the canopy and make the ship even more “hunchback” and lumpy than it already was. I knew that, in order to really tap into the Future Book/TTA vibe, I needed a strange, but obvious, identification number. I chose to inscribe this on the cockpit’s front panel, which would be the “neck” of the Super Gunship. I chose a simple pattern, a long rectangle with a square next to it. Is it a one? Does the relationship between the lengths of the two patterns mean something? You tell me!
To change the scale on the ship was easy. I simply carved a new, thin “window” in the nose radome. This was to be my bridge, immediately making the ship super-huge. I figure it’s actually on the order of about 1/1500.
So, other than scribing in the bridge, building the ship was something literally anyone could do. I chose not to use the deployed airbrakes, too, and put in the standard “closed” section into the wings. The only disappointing part of the build was that the gun bulges on the side of the ship didn’t’ match up front-to-back once everything went together. It looks bad, so I’d fix that if I had another go. However, besides that, it was fine. And that’s all that there was to it.
Colourful Imaginings – How paint shaped the “Super Gunship”:
If there’s one thing that the ships in the TTA books and the Future Book have in common, it’s weird colour schemes. There are strange panels of different colours, almost organic looking cammo/Aztecing, and strange symbols and numbers. I wanted all of this, but deciding on a particular colour wasn’t going to be easy. Well, at least that’s what I thought. However, the Future Book came through in spades, and I didn’t even have to open it up! On the cover there is some kind of space battle scene, and the main ship is a strange orangey-yellow with red markings. If it was good enough for the Future Book, then it was good enough for me!
I mixed up a yellow-orange that was a little bit deeper than the Chrome Yellow used on School Busses using Testors Model Master Acrylic (MMA) Blue Angels Yellow, International Orange and Flat White. I then airbrushed the entire airframe in this colour, including the wings, fins and body halves. I primed the engines and exposed reactor components with Krylon Fusion silver shimmer paint. This leaves a heavy silver metallic flake, perfect for doing “metal” work.
As for the hull, as nice as the yellow was, I knew that I’d need panels of different colours to get the right “feel”, and I chose MMA Light Grey and Tuscan Maroon, as well as a custom-mixed cranberry-red colour and Virsago Black (which is my own creation of Black and Gunship Grey). There were still a few details to work out even though I had the basics. For one thing, what to do about the vented “air intakes” on the Solvalou’s shoulders? Clearly, they wouldn’t be intakes in space! They could, though, be weapons or fighter-bay doors of some kind, I figured, and I ended up painting them in alternating Virsago Black and Light Grey stripes!
For extra TTA-ness, I also added the stripes into the Virsago Black/light grey striped panel low on the port side, and I scribed in the “X” that is seen in the large panel on the starboard side upper fuselage. I originally thought this would also be in matching black/light grey, but then I thought better of it and used the cranberry red and light grey. This gives it the appearance of both a four-panelled airlock door as well as that of an identifying pennant. Again, I wasn’t sure which it was, but it looked cool.
I then painted various panels in the secondary colours, making sure to avoid duplication in most cases. Except for the upper fin leading edges (also part of the squadron identity markings), I don’t think there is a single panel of repeated secondary colour anywhere on the bird! To add contrast, I used MMA Gloss Green for the identifying number (?) on the ex-cockpit. It’s the only green on the entire airframe, and it sure stands out! I used a light blue (can’t even remember which one) to do the window on the bridge, and painted the stand MMA Aircraft Interior Black.
I did all the panel lines with a filed-down mechanical pencil. A marker, like on Gundams, would have been far too stark, and I didn’t want to grunge the thing up with washes. I still think the “pencil trick” is about the perfect way to highlight panels on aircraft and large spacecraft. Close in, you can clearly see them, but they don’t scream at you from miles out.
I used various shades of MMA metals on the engines. I loved, and I mean LOVED, playing with MMA Steel, Aluminum, Jet Exhaust, Gunmetal and Brass (as well as some of my Jacquard pigments) to do the engines. I did the bulk of the “metal” in Steel, and then accented the area with the colours previously mentioned. I also used some Tamiya Copper to do what appeared to be heavy “plumbing” in the engine area and on the reactors themselves. The engine nozzles were painted Light Grey in the interior, to simulate the ceramic coating found in a lot of modern jet nozzles (and on the Schwalg, incidentally). To give the exhaust “turbines” look of heatedness, I used a blue Jacquard pigment mixed with Future (the gloss coat, not the book) and painted it on. The entire setup was given a wash of Citadel Nuln Oil to help bring it all alive!
Final Assembly and Finishing:
Just before final assembly, I Futured the major subassemblies and then applied a coat of Delta Ceramcoat Indoor/Outdoor Matte Urethane Varnish. This made all the subassemblies dead flat. I then cut that same mixture with some Future, to create what I call “High Satin”. This is a bit glossier than “Low Satin”, which is what I used on most of my planes and mecha. I wanted the ship to have a bit more of a sheen, but still not be glossy.
Final assembly was as simple as sticking the parts together. That’s it. Other than the misalignment of the aforementioned gunpods, everything fit and looked fine. Since I was just building this kit for pure fun, I didn’t even let the gunpods bother me, and before I knew it, my rather diminutive Super Gunship was finished. I gave it one more light going over with the High Satin. I’ve found that once you have the “High Satin sheen”, extra coats don’t really affect the glossiness. The extra coat was just put on to unify everything and make sure any missed areas got hit.
As a kit, the Solvalou is a very nice, albeit relatively simple, model. It is a perfect kit for a beginner, as it’s almost impossible to ruin it and it builds up with little real work. However, like so many kits, it is also excellent for more advanced modellers, as it is a perfect canvas.
The only downside to the kit is it seems to be a bit expensive for the size and content of the kit itself. Still, if you want a cool spaceship, you’re going to likely be okay with paying for it, and at least you’re getting a quality product. It’s nowhere near as finely detailed as, say, a Hasegawa Creator Works kit, but it’s something different, and it has that retro-clunky-super-cool-future-awesomeness about it. Since I got it used, the price wasn’t an issue for me, but it could be for you.
I can clearly recommend this kit to anyone, and if you’ve got a sci-fi leaning, and want to experiment a bit, then this is definitely going to be something you want to get your hands on. If, like me, you have a burning need to let loose your inner TTA-junkie, it’s a must have.
The Story of the CAM 1228-P2 “Super Gunship”:
Of course, no imaginary TTA ship is complete without a story! Making up the backstory for this ship while building it was another part of the fun! So, for what it’s worth, here’s the “history” of the Super Gunship:
The significant weaknesses of the original “Gunship”, the CAM-117, were its light armour and limited range. Even though its speed was incredible when it was built, and even still respectable at the time of the Battle of Mars, these two major drawbacks could not be overcome. They were, in fact, recognized long before the pitched, desperate battles around Sol’s fourth planet, and shortly after the original CAM-117 entered service, plans for a follow-on ship were well in the works. These, however, were given a low priority and largely forgotten during the excitement of the contact with Alpha Centauri.
Once the Proxima Wars began, however, the engineering teams at Consolidated Aerospace dusted off their old prints and began to seriously consider resurrecting their “Gunship II” plans. The technological advances made since the time of the original design work resulted in significant changes to the powerplants, weapons and sensors. The performance of the CAM-117s at Mars also pointed the way to a different approach; speed, it seemed, would not be enough to survive against Proximan weaponry. As a result, it was decided that too much reworking was required, and a “clean sheet of paper” design was proposed.
At the time, there was no particular requirement issued by the Terran Defence Authority (TDA). Thus, the marketing and the Advanced Strategic Studies groups employed by Consolidated sought to anticipate a need and fill it before their competition. They envisioned the need for a fast, heavy-hitting “breakthrough” ship. This, like the tanks of WWI, were to blaze their way through enemy fleets , punching a hole in their formations and then turn about in their rear and continue the attack. To augment the firepower of the ship itself, it was designed to carry heavily armed anti-shipping fightercraft. These could be either launched to further harass and destroy the fleet from behind, or they could continue onwards to assault whatever objectives the enemy fleet was protecting at the time. (Things like space stations, merchant vessels and other relatively “soft” targets were the intended victims.)
This meant that the “Gunship III” (as it was called at the time) would be a much larger ship than the CAM-117, and would need considerably greater installed power. To this end, the design was given two immense engines, similar in appearance to the CANE IV Supernovas of the CAM-117, although in truth it was only their immense thruster bells that were huge. The new ship was powered by a pair of Statyn Systems BP5-C4 toroidal fusion engines, burning pelletized propellant stored in a “coal room” (as it was affectionately dubbed by crews) that served to divide the ship’s occupied and purely mechanical sections.
The front half of the ship was essentially designed to be “inhabited”. This half contained the fighter bays, crew quarters, weapons and ammunition for the ship’s main gun. It also contained all the astrogation equipment, life support machinery and, of course, the bridge. To fit all this into a well-armoured hull that was essentially largely and empty box (for storing the fighters and other essentials) meant that a particularly slab-sided design was the outcome. The new ship, by this point called the “Super Gunship”, was thus a boxy affair, with a small protruding “nose” section housing the bridge and main combat control sections.
The main weapon of the Super Gunship was a mammoth rail gun which could fire a variety of ammunition, including nuclear-tipped warheads, explosive penetrator rounds (for anti-ship work) and “earthquake slugs”. This last type of warhead was just a solid lump of very dense material in the shape of a bullet. It was designed to be blasted, from orbit, at surface targets. The immense speed and mass of the projectile would do all the work; the energy released from one of these slugs was, in many cases, almost equal to that of a nuclear weapon, and of course there was no fallout for friendly forces to deal with upon landing to occupy any enemy territory.
Behind the bridge and tactical sections were the hangars, cargo bays and the inhabited portion of the engineering sections. There were several different access ports on the Super Gunship. The most obvious were the fightercraft bays, who’s often-striped “roll-top” doors flanked the “nose” of the ship. However, there was a large door on the starboard side of the upper fuselage, as well. This larger door was composed of four triangular sections that split to reveal a surprisingly spacious cargo deck. This could house landing craft or supplies, as required.
One interesting part of the design was the inclusion of small “wings”. These were not designed to directly provide aerodynamic lift, but they were used to house Gravity Resist generators and projectors, to allow the Super Gunship to move more easily through an atmosphere. For this, the ridiculously powerful main engines were shut down and their exhaust ports “shuttered” (keeping dangerous radiation inside the engines). To maneuver in atmosphere, smaller, cleaner engines at the wingtips were used. Of course, the main engines could be used as well, in the event of an emergency.
To save weight and ease servicing, the bulk of the toroidal reactor engines were left exposed, although less so than on the original ‘-117. There was some top/bottom armour and a bit on the sides, but the bulk of the engines’ casings were exposed. This helped also to prevent heat and radiation buildup. The incredibly massive thruster bells were lined with a heat/radiation-resistant ceramic-lead compound. This added considerable weight, but without it, the bells would have required changing after only 7 hours at full thrust! With it, the life of a bell was generally on the order of 2-3 years under normal conditions.
The bridge of the ship was a fairly spacious affair, with a wide, “wrap around” viewport designed to make navigation in an atmosphere more reliable and safer. Above the bridge was the CIC – Combat Information Centre – also known colloquially as either the “war room” or the “dance floor”. This large, multi-tiered room was similar to an auditorium, and had room for battle management staff to conduct operations around a large holographic display that could generate images right out of the floor (hence the “dance floor” moniker). This area was heavily armoured, and control of the entire ship could be routed through it, should the main bridge be destroyed. It is the CIC and its armoured carapace that form the “lump” or “hunchback” in the protruding nose profile. It was common for the ship number and squadron ID to be painted on this structure as well. Some Super Gunships even had nose art up on this structure, although such things were not officially condoned.
By the time that the first prototype Super Gunship was finished and tested, the fortunes of war had begun to turn, and the Terran/Alpha alliance had begun to push the Proximan aggressors back. There was real fear at Consolidated that the need for the Super Gunship had passed, but as it turned out, the opposite was true. The TDA brass were impressed with the heavy punch and ridiculously high speed/power output of the ship, and deemed it to be immediately worthy of production. Its ability to maneuver in an atmosphere was another selling point, since at this point invasions of Proximan worlds were now in the planning.
Overall, 292 of these ships were laid down, although only 250 were completed by war’s end. Most came from the massive shipyards on and around Mars. The bulk of the ships were used to spearhead “second echelon” attacks. These were attacks on important targets that were in the Proximan rear, but not the focus of current strategic or tactical action. The Super Gunships often operated in squads of four, and were sent deep into Proximan territory to attack things like shipyards, factories and troop assembly points.
One of the most famous, and most controversial, raids by Super Gunships was “Operation Breadbasket” which saw four four-ship squads sent against Proximan food transports and the low-orbital space platform that was being used as a distribution centre. The ostensible goal of the attack was to cut the supply lines to front-line Proximan troops and force their surrender as their provisions ran out. The raid was a success, and the speed and hitting power of the Super Gunships saw eight of the nine Proximan transports destroyed in orbit and the space platform also knocked out of orbit. The damage it caused on the planet below was significant. Further to this though, the Super Gunships also punched through to the planet below, where they and their fighter squadrons did considerable damage to food processing plants, dams and other infrastructure before retreating. No Super Gunships were lost to enemy action, and only one was damaged by debris it hit on its run into the planet’s atmosphere. The controversy came when Proximans claimed that the transports, and indeed planet-side facilities, were civilian, and that all the Terran/Alphans were doing was starving the citizenry of Proxima.
After the war, most of the Super Gunships were mothballed, and many dismantled. However, a few found use in the civilian sector with high-speed courier services. Indeed, the TDA converted a few to high-speed troop transports to deal with any “contingencies” that might arise in the post-war unification period. A number of Super Gunships (some records say as many as 11) were resurrected for use during the chaotic days of the Laguna War, where they served well as high speed tracking and assault vessels.