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by Paul Wagner

Scale: Not stated

Since I was a kid, I have been designing a fictional Earth space fighter called the "Starfire". It started out as a slightly space-ified Mirage 2000 (back when the Mirage 2000 was new and spacy looking) but evolved over the years to something quite different. I must admit the Babylon 5 Starfury had a major influence in making it a "proper zero-g" fighter, though there are still issues with the 'Fury... apart from being totally unaerodynamic in atmosphere, if one of the engines gets knocked out it would have great difficulty even flying straight, plus without a central engine it lacks to raw acceleration you get in, say, a Viper on "turbo" (try that in 'Fury and you'd tear the wings off!). Anyway, so the layout of my Starfire has evolved to become the Ultimate Space Fighter Ever.

When I returned to modelling a few years ago, one of the first things I did was make myself a Starfire. It was, well, ok, but I didn't have many spares to help make the bits and pieces, and my skills have developed a lot since then, so for this competition reworked it, new paint job, etc etc. It came out much nicer, BUT:

This is NOT that model.

Sorry, but it just wasn't good enough. Only so much a new lick of paint can do. I am working on a second Starfire, so one day it will emerge, but in the meantime....

....I also had a simpler, more functional design on the same basic layout, which I called the Sunstorm - kinda the Hawker Hurricane to the Starfire's Spitfire. THIS is the model I have chosen to enter. Having designed the thing, I did a lot of searching to find a real-life thing to use as the base kit, and settled on... well, that would be telling. But I'm sure you can guess. With some plasticard (including my first ever attempt at scribing!), bits from a now over-flowing spares box, and lots and lots of putty it has come out extremely close to the intended design.

While there IS a backstory to this, I won't bore you with (too much of) it. What I will talk about is the design itself.

The Sunstorm is a single-seat starfighter, powered by a single central rocket motor augmented by three manoeuvring thrusters on the end of three equilaterally placed wings.

These thrusters, by firing forwards and backwards in various combinations, can adjust the Sunstorm's momentum and heading in any plane, giving it unparalleled zero-G manoeuvrability. The pilot is placed slightly forward of the Centre of Gravity, early testing revealing that some level of biofeedback was important for pilots retaining an instinct for their direction, momentum, yaw, pitch and roll that was lost if the pilot was shielded from all G-force. The Sunstorm's primary weapon is a single turreted rail-gun, placed forward of the pilot on the upper nose of the fighter, allowing the gun to track enemy targets in almost the full field of the pilot's vision. The gun is equipped with high-explosive armour-piercing "smart bullets", each of which will lock onto the intended target and is capable of a limited amount of independent manoeuvring. In addition, the Sunstorm has a small internal missile bay, and can carry external weapons on both sides of all three wings.

There is also an under-nose thruster that was originally intended simply to help arrest the craft as it made touchdown on the deck of its carrier, but in practice pilots used it to increase their manoeuvrability when tracking enemies. For atmospheric flight, the two lateral wings will "crank" about a third of the way down, giving it level wings and allowing it to land. The gun is protected fro the heat of re-entry by being placed on top of the nose (unlike the undernose gun of the Starfire). Unlike the Starfire, however, the Sunstorm cannot reach orbit under it's own power, and atmospheric flight is reserved simply for emergency landings, should the fighter be unable to reach it's mothership.

The colour scheme depicts a Sunstorm of the United Space Force (indicated by the simple Blue roundel of the Earth forces), 24 Squadron (the "Red Ravens"), as flown in the Battle of the Belt. The camouflage pattern was originally developed in the expectation of combat in and around Earth, but dark enough to by hard to see against the black of space as well. With the expected invasion of the Axis of Harmony forces, however, all USF ships were quickly given light blue and black stripes to aid in quick recognition.

One last thing to add about the model. There are no holes or anything for the stand. I use a magnetic system, where my stands have little magnets on top, and the models contain small metal washers (or sometimes magnets, if they are big) glued internally around the centre of balance. That way you can just click them on and off stands at will. I hope I get extra points because of this cleverness :)

Image: Top view

Image: Underneath

Image: Front

Image: Rear

Image: Left/front

Image: Right side

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This page was last updated 19 January 2011. © 2011 Starship Modeler