Is it possible…?

…to create a decent Thunderhawk Gunship for a sensible price using regularly available components?

The last weekend I visited friends in Cheltenham and have subsequently been invited along for a few 40k games with my Space Wolves should I fancy it.  It also seems that they play fairly large (as in Apocolypse sized) games which set my brain off at a tangent thinking about Space Marine super heavies and similar.  Mooching on the good old internet it would seem that the only thing Space Marines have available to them is the Thunderhawk Gunship which after years of secret development Games Workshop have never quite got off as a standard plastic kit.  Now in Apoc games it’s not too difficult to tag on an Imperial Guard ally and poke in a couple of baneblades – but that’s not the point of this post 😉

So,  there are “plans” out on the internet that allow you to create a Thunderhawk from cardboard or foamboard.  To my mind the concept of using any material that I would class as “terrain material” is flawed.  Foamboard is a possible exception, but I’m still not convinced as my experience using these items (or insulation foam) is that they damage very easily – a misplaced finger nail, or it flying off a table with a gust of wind could well spell disaster for what you’ve been working on.  However they do all have one benefit in that they’re lightweight.  This nicely leads onto the next conumdrum that would have to be solved, how to make something that is lightweight enough to transport around, but as substantial as a regular miniature.  It’s no use at all having a piece that you can’t move around a gaming board or one that you leave finger prints in the side of.

One other item that potentially would need to be idenfitied is repeatability of manufacture. I believe that a Thunderhawk costs between 600 and 1000 points, depending on how it’s kitted out.  Now although that’s a meaty blob of points, it also isn’t horrifically expensive and makes for a very juicy target so fielding two of them does make a little bit of sense, so whatever the method of creation is, it must be repeatable.

Now as I muse here, I also come up with potential thoughts.  Originally I believed that it might be possible to use the new Storm Raven model as certain pieces look very Thunderhawk-esq.  However I’ve again done a bit of research and the Storm Raven’s hull is only 3~4″ wide, whereas the Thunderhawk’s hull is apparently around 5″ wide.  Taking dimensions from the ForgeWorld resin version:

Thunderhawk Gunship measures 19 inches/480mm long and 17 inches/440mm wide.

Quite a meaty creature I’m sure you’ll agree.  The two main wings have to be 6″ long and probably 3.5″ wide at a guess.  The 19″ length is the bit that’s most concerning.  That’s a very long piece which could risk warping if the wrong material were used.  Mind you 5″ wide is also as wide as a Landraider…  Looking at the ForgeWorld pictures, I do think that 5″ is perhaps a little bit over the top – the ramp is wide enough for two regular marines to stand on, so 4″ is more realistic – but still larger than Storm Raven.

My initial gut feeling is that the best approach would be to build a hollow slug for the main body out of 1.5mm or 2mm plasticard.  5mm square plastic rod would be used as an “angle iron” to glue the pieces together and then the whole piece filled with builders expanding foam.  This would provide some resistance to the back of the plasticard structure.  Should a version be required that needed interior detail then I’d basically glue 5mm plastic rod in the same manner as you’d put baton on a wall in order to fix plaster board and use 1mm plasticard to clad the inside.  This would also give the illusion of thickness without using heavy and difficult to work with 6mm plasticard (which is a right sod to use).  Once the slug were ready, plasticard could be used to layer on the armour plating and create panels etc.  The more fiddly detail would either be taken from existing plastic kits (heavy bolter sponsons) or created with plasticard & rod and then cast in resin.  The battle cannon mounting would be a separate assembly as would the wings, tail fin and landing elements.

The wings would be pretty straight forward as they’re constant thickness – so squared plastic rod and plasticard.  It would also be sensible to bore some holes in either side of the slug and glue plastic rod through it before the foam is squirted in, in order to provde a solid fixing – plus it would probably make sense to reinforce the plasticard at these points too.  However the biggest complication would be the engines.  Making up one and casing it could be difficult as the weight of the thing would be significant and might pull off the side of the slug, the couple of long tubular engines in plastic kits (Storm Raven and Valkyrie) are very difficult to get hold of so it’s the biggest quandry so far.

So then going back to the initial question.  I believe that the answer is yes.  With the use of a piece of design software (AutoCAD/AutoSketch, etc), a bit of thought and a lot of hard work it would be possible to create a repeatable Thunderhawk Gunship.  Cost wise I reckon you’re not likely to get much change out of £50, however a portion of this cost you may well have in your regular modelling arsenal, such as the plasticard, glue etc.  However £50 is a significant improvement on £400 for a resin ForgeWorld one.  Obviously the above is just musings rather than definative fact, the battle canon, undercarriage and cockpit I’ve not really thought about and the engines need a solution to be thought of.

One big annoyance is that you’d have to purchase a whole predator in order to get the side sponsors (£25) and although you could still use that kit as a Rhino, it’s a damned expensive Rhino!  If you were prepared to compromise then you could use a Land Raider Crusader Pack (£12.50) which gives you sponsons with a top & bottom piece (instead of just the top one), although you would still need to locate a source for the heavy bolters (which in fairness shouldn’t be as bad as some pieces).

Personally do believe a Thunderhawk project is feasable, achievable and would be rewarding – however (and this is a big however, hence bold) it would be a lot more straight forward to just add an IG ally, giving access to Baneblades (which can be purchased as low as £52) and cheap troops.

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