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by Matt Jacobson

Scale: 1/72

The TIE/Drill was an experimental Imperial fighting vehicle designed to allow for full-throttle pursuit through asteroid fields and other cosmic debris. It was designed by noted Imperial engineer Nardo Pace, after the embarrassing escape of the crew and passengers of the Millennium Falcon from the Hoth sysem. (More examples of Nardo Pace's stellar design work can be found here.)

When several TIE fighters (and the bridge crew of a Star Destroyer) were lost after the Battle of Hoth- not to enemy fire, but to simple impact with cosmic rubble- a call went out from freshly-promoted Admiral Piett for a new type of starfighter- one that could pursue a starship at high speeds through a crowded asteroid field.

Nardo Pace's winning design called for a compact yet heavy vehicle, featuring a standard TIE cockpit flanked by two Kuat Heavy Technologies mining laser “drills”. As the self-powered drills were actually heavier than the rest of the ship, two sets of standard twin ion engines were moved to the back of the drill casings, and a large Class VIII shield generator took the place of the engines in the main cockpit. Smaller-than-usual solar collectors modified from the successful TIE/Interceptor were used, to minimize the chance of impact with debris.

The idea behind this concept was that the drills would fire in concert, blasting anything in the ship's path out of the way. It should be noted that the “drills” on this ship did NOT actually come into contact with the asteroid material; rather, they served as “wave guides”, creating a vortex-shaped wave of energy powerful enough to destroy small asteroids and sweep aside the debris; push larger objects out of the way; and (in concert with the shield generator located behind the cockpit) literally push the ship out of the way of the largest objects.

To avoid the danger of side-vector impacts, two sets of large emergency thrusters were placed at the back of each drill/engine unit. In theory, these served to rapidly swing the craft out of harm's way.

While all of these “improvements” were excellent ideas on paper, the problems with this ship were obvious from the start of physical testing.

The placement of the TIE cockpit turned out to be a literal weak point in the design, with asymmetrical thrust and separation of one or both drill/engine units from the TIE cockpit a not-uncommon result of early tests. Seeing the ship pinwheel across the sky was one thing; seeing it uncontrollably swing around and accidentally blast a chase ship out of the sky was something else entirely.

The power demands and recharge period for the drills was also a concern. Testing soon showed that, unless an asteroid field conveniently consisted of four or five relatively wide-spaced objects, the drills would soon overheat and shut down. In addition to its general sluggishness and lack of maneuverability, the added weight of the drills made the “fighter” an easy target, especially when they were inoperative or recharging.

Development of this class was halted with the death of Admiral Piett and the end of the Empire following the Battle Of Endor. Nardo Pace was arrested and tried as a Imperial collaborator; after careful investigation, he was not only exonerated, but given a medal by the New Republic for “valuable contributions towards the end of Imperial rule.”

The genesis for this project came out of a discussion over five- or was it six?- years ago with a fellow SSMer about the TIE Fighter Challenge. We were discussing how many TIE variants there were, both canon and non-canon, and what would be the most ridiculous TIE variant we could come up with. I've forgotten what his idea was (I vaguely seem to remember something about pontoons…), but my idea was to do a “drill TIE”, built as a specialized vehicle for underground attacks. While I never finished a kit specifically for that challenge, I've kept that idea in the back of my head since then.

Over the next few years, I collected several kits specifically for this project (including 2 IMAI Thunderbirds “The Mole” kits and a few “hackable” MPC/AMT TIE Interceptor kits.) I also started fleshing out a back story for this model- why would it have a drill (or two, as the final design has?) When this contest came up, I decided to finally give this design a try.

Construction was easy enough. I started actual work on this at a communal modeling event in early December. The toughest part was trying to figure out the layout of the wings, drills, and body. I decided to add lots of greeblies to the Mole models, so as to somewhat disguise their origins. I even found a spot for some leftovers from my UFO Mystery Ship! While hacking apart TIE Interceptor wings, I noticed a few parts from some AMT/Ertl B-Wings from the old 3-in-1 kit that also looked like they would foot the bill as detail parts. I also got to use a lot of the Kotobukiya detail parts that I've had in waiting all these years.

I only had one setback, when during painting a piece of solar panel came off, ruining a perfectly good seam. However, the weathering on this model (symbolizing heavy use in an asteroid-rich environment) covers a multitude of sins, including this one. Even the base (bought for a buck from Jimmy Flintstone at Wonderfest a ways back) came together fairly easily.

When taking pictures for this contest, I used a variety of wide and long lenses at different distances from the model. It's fascinating to see how much the appearance of the ship changes with just a few small technical changes to the camera and lighting.

If I had this to do over again, I think that I'd add some sort of shock absorbers/bracing from the drills to the main TIE body. I might also make the attach points from the TIE cockpit to the wing more robust, with maybe a few more buttresses for good measure. Still, I'm pleased with how this turned out, and plan to enter the model in competition at Wonderfest this year. The question is, do I enter this as a “spacecraft” or “humor” entry?

Image: TIE/Drill from front and underneath

Image: TIE/Drill from side

Image: From rear- note emergency thrusters

Image: From below

Image: From above

Image: Another angle on the engines and thrusters

Image: Port side rear

Image: Drill details

Image: Drills under construction- note use of UFO Mystery Ship parts

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This page was last updated 4 March 2010. © 2010 Starship Modeler