In most military-space MOCs, railgun is a must, even for really small crafts… It is funny because rail gun is the “big promise of the future” for 50 years. The principle of launching very high speed projectiles with Lorenz-force was invented in 1911, first experimental gun was built in 1962, first shipborn trial happened in 2008 by US Navy (the ship could accommodate the truck-sized condensers and unipolar generator for a really small gun).
In the meantime, “conventional” missiles and rockets killing innocent women and children reliably in day-to-day office routine all around the world are heavily underrepresented at MOCPages. I found only one page dedicated for airborn missiles here.
Therefore I modeled several US airborn missiles and rockets in scale 1:10 for my coming soon WIP “Skytank”. Scale 1:10 is not very usual in Lego (Minifigs are 1:36, Technic figures are 1:18), but there were some models (e.g. Technic Quad) close to that. Usage of larger scale enables us to model fine technical details: fins, umbilical cables, IR-domes, etc.
AGM-114 Hellfire is a Fire-and-Forget Air-to-Surface Missile with semi-active laser homing produced by Lockheed Martin. Its original purpose was Anti-Armor, but in recent War of Drones in Iraq and Afghanistan they are mostly used against commanders of rebel forces. We show them on M229 quadruple launcher pod. Building Hellfire, the largest modeling challenge was that it has relatively short rectangular fins compared to other missiles. We solved this using ‘Plate 1×1 M with holder’ parts. The disadvantage of this solution is that fins are relatively thick. Another critical issue was attaching missile to launch pod. In the reality, it is done with very short rails, but they are too small to model the directly in scale 1:10. Therefore all missiles here are attached to launch pod with ‘Stick 3.2 with holder’ parts. They have the advantage of not standing out very far from the missiles outer shell plating. Missile shells are modeled based on ‘Rounded brick 2×2×1M’. In scale 1:10 it gives the diameter of 160mm (6.3”). Considering 125mm (5”) diameter of Sidewinder, 152mm (6”) of TOW, 178mm (7”) of Hellfire and AMRAAM, it seems to be a good compromise.
TOW stands for Tube-Launched, Optical-Targeted, Wire-Guided Anti-Armor Missile developed by Hughes Aircraft in 1971 and continuously improved since that. Its advantages are relative cheapness and accessibility. It is re-engineered and manufactured by Iran also, it is an everyday commodity on illegal weapons market. As the missile is controlled during its flight by electric signals traveling on a double piano wire spooling down from a coil, it is relatively safe against Electronic Counter Measures (ECM). Disadvantages are limited range by wire (max. 3750m), limited speed to prevent tearing the wire (187m/sec in average) , limited armor piercing (630 mm) by 3.1 kg HE warhead, and the biggest one: launching platform has to keep target in line of sight during whole flight time of missile (max. 20secs) being an easy target itself for AA guns. Its semi-automatic optical guidance requires a gyro-stabilized periscope sight with an ocular. At helicopters it is usually placed at cockpit roof, this way at least the cabin of the helicopter can be behind some cover during targeting. Therefore TOW imposed numerous modeling challenges in Lego: Periscope sight is constructed with working mirror, prism, suspension on cabin roof with elastic shock absorber and Cardan-hinge. Folding wings and fins were solved using combination of different hinge elements, even they are a little bit thick. The largest problem is that TOW launch tube in Scale 1:10 would require 3 stud diameter tube, which is completely missing from Lego. We solved this using ‘Engine 3×3×6 M’ parts, but this way missiles cannot be really stored in launch tubes, as they are not empty inside. But as they are fully covered at both end with hood and blast shield, missile is not visible until it is deployed.
AIM-9 Sidewinder, is the most successful, but still cheapest Infrared-Homing, Short-Range, Air-to-Air missile used by 27 nations, with more than 110,000 units produced and 270 kills up to date. But originally it was born from a nasty failure of billionaire Howard Hughes: At the very beginning of 1950s the advent of jet fighters and bombers made machine guns highly ineffective weapons because of two reasons: 1. The high relative speed of targets made firing time window dramatically short, and contemporary MGs could fire 1000 shots per min at their best. 2. Their effective range was inefficient, so debris from attacked plane could be sucked up by the attackers jet engine, finishing off attacker very quickly. Engineers first tried to solve these problems with introduction of launch pads capable of launching large volleys of unguided, spin-stabilized, solid fuel aerial rockets with HE warheads (see FFAR and LAU-61 below). But unguided rockets were inherently imprecise resulting in low efficiency even used in large volleys. So at the end of 1950s USAF launched a tender for guided air-to-air missiles and made serious experimenting and trials in China Lake base. Their first favorite was Howard Hughes with a highly complicated system: it was installed during three days, but still no hit was reached. Then came an almost unknown egg-head guy from MIT named Bill McLean with a 5" dural tube borrowed from his garage and stuffed with some propellant and IR-sensors. It hit the target at first shot, and this is how Sidewinder and its manufacturer Raytheon was born. At the beginning of 1960s and during Vietnam era, Sidewinder was relatively cheap but totally useless weapon with some 5-8% percent of hit rate due to primitive and unreliable electronics, and almost 45 degrees of "dead zone" aroud the sun. Reflections from water surface, fog and mist, flares and chaffs quickl developed also gave excellent opportunities for the prey to escape. There was a long road of innovations transforming Sidewinder into the 90% killer of Gulf Wars:
- Cooling of IR-sensors with liquified nitrogene stored in launching rail assembly.
- Rolleron wheels made of depleted uranium placed at control flaps at rear fins. They are spinned up by airflow and act as small gyroscopes, steering missile to stabilize it after full burnout of fuel: At this stage the missile flies at its peak speed, but change of pressure distribution resulted by burnout would destabilize it. But then pyrotechnic charges release the fixture of rear control flaps, and rollerons start to stabilize the flight.
- High-resolution Indium-Sulfide Focal Pane Array IR sensor.
- 64 processor parallel thermal image processing hardware.
- Radial laser beam proximity fuse of warhead: against Hollywood movies, Sidewinder in the reality never "hits" the target, but it is programmed to fly close and parallel with that. When laser beams are reflected by target, 20lbs of high explosive containing thin and long pins made of titanium is detonated. These pins make ementali cheese from the targets engine, fuel tank or pilot.
One thing AIM-120 AMRAAM Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile can destroy with 100% efficiency is taxpayers' money. One unit of AIM-120D costs the friendly amount of $1,470,000. It is more than most of the possible targets in third world countries airforces will cost... This missile is too good compared to potential enemies.
FFAR stands for Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket, a Spin-Stabilized, Solid-Fuel device with AP or HE warhead launched in volleys from hexagonal cluster of launch tubes. It was developed in WWII, but became really popular in 1950s when speed of new jet bombers and fighters made old 12.7mm MGs taking them out highly inefficient. Since the advent of guided missiles, they are mainly used in ground attack role because of their inherent inaccuracy. 24 rounds of Mk 4 mod 10 rockets can “clean up” a football field sized-area. These rockets have 70mm diameter (2.75”), while 1 stud in scale 1:10 is 80mm, which is pretty close. The LAU-61 tubular launcher pod itself was more modeling challenge. In Lego, we have curved wall elements only allowing to build cylinders with 8 studs outer / 6 studs inner diameter. Such a cylinder can accommodate 24 rockets in hexagonal layout instead of the real 19. So our Lego launcher is a bit enlarged version of the real one. Hexagonal fixing of rockets was solved with the help of 4 studs long rods ‘Lightsword blade’ and two layers of 2×2×1 studs ‘Damper’ parts connected into a hexagonal cluster.