Introduction to the Viper
One of the best shows on American Television today, the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” (2003) airing on the Sci-Fi Channel has attracted a loyal following. It is familiar to fans of the original 1970’s TV show – but yet so different in tone and production quality that it’s virtually new. Gritty, somber and moody, the show is replete with characters and situations that test one’s sense of what’s “right” and “wrong” in their universe. It is thought-provoking and what great science-fiction is all about.
As in the original series, the Colonial Defense Force’s strike fighter is a captivating vehicle. Ever since I saw the pilot for the new TV series, I wanted a scale model of this fightercraft. Black Sun Models has produced a 1:72nd scale effort that does the subject real justice. Plus, the scale puts this model miniature at home on a display shelf with other famous 1:72nd scale science-fiction spaceship icons like Fine Molds’ series of Star Wars spaceships and Hasegawa’s beautiful Macross series of Valkyries.
The Viper Mk.II as presented in this model kit, is an old, battle-weary veteran of the Cylon War. The Mk.II was flown by veterans like current commander of the Galactica
Admiral William “Husker” Adama, many years prior to the present events chronicled in the Battlestar Galactica (2003) television series.
A single-seat fighter, the Viper Mk.II is capable of both space and atmospheric flight. It is better streamlined than its predecessor in this role – though still a poor performer because of its stubby airfoils. The Viper Mk.II also has under-wing hardpoints (episode: The Hand of God) for mounting missiles, weapons pods and other special ordnance. Viper Pilots wear a complete flight suit when operating the fightercraft, even though the Mk.II cockpit is heated and pressurized. The Flight Suit can sustain the Pilot for a short period of time in the event of ejection.
The Viper Mk.II is 8.4 meters long, with a wingspan of 4.7 meters. In Landed configuration, the Viper Mk.II sits some 3.25 meters high. Like the original Viper from the 1970’s television series’, the Viper Mk.II is equipped with turbo-boosting engines. A single Voram VM2-D15 turbo-thrust engine is mounted on the upper part of the Fuselage. The two, opposing, engines mounted underneath are Voram VM3-D22 turbo-thrusters equipped with reverse-thrust motors. Adding some “realism” to the reimagined spacecraft’s design, the new series fighter-craft has a system of RCS (Reaction Control System) motors mounted along the axis of the fighter-craft to both explain how it maneuvers in flight and for displaying some visually stunning maneuvers.
The Viper Mk.II is armed with two MEC-A6 30mm Thraxon forward-firing KEW (Kinetic Energy Weapon) blasters mounted on spires thrusting from the wing roots. These two weapons have a load of some 800 rounds. The Viper Mk.II also has a storage bay that holds eight HD-70 missiles – that can be armed with high-explosive warheads as well as 50-megaton yield nuclear devices.
As she served in the Cylon War, Galactica
would likely have carried an Air Wing of 80 Viper Mk.I fightercraft. During the Cylon War, the Mk.I’s deficiencies were corrected in the Mk.II – and all Mk.I's were upgraded. The Mk.II also carried two light missile racks as part of the upgrade. The Mk.II, like Galactica
, was built with less-sophisticated equipment and technology – to counter the Cylon tactic of taking control of Human technology and turning it against them. The Cylons are particularly adept at infiltrating networked computer systems and wireless control devices. Immune from these tactics, the Viper Mk.II remained in service throughout the Cylon War, and long afterwards, eventually hailed as the best fighter in Colonial history.
At the beginning of Battlestar Galactica (2003), Galactica
was near retirement. The starboard launch bay had been converted into a Museum, and her Air Wing was composed of about 20 of the advanced Viper Mk.VII’s. The Mk.VII was so over-powered and over-engined that it incorporated advanced computer control to aid the pilot in handling it. Unfortunately, this also made the Mk.VII’s vulnerable to the computer virus the Cylons used in their attack upon the Kobol Colonies. As part of the Museum Exhibit in the starboard launch bay, Galactica
had a contingent of 40 of the older Viper Mk.II fighter-craft – which were pressed into defense of Galactica
during the Cylon assault. These Vipers are the bulk of what's seen in the television episodes.
By the time of their joining with Pegasus
, the Galactica
had suffered losses that virtually cut the size of her Air Wing in half – with the surviving contingent of Vipers being of mixed types. Galactica
does not carry production facilites for building new Vipers, but Pegasus
does and the Fleet carries enough resources to construct two new squadrons (20 each) of Vipers – likely one going to Galactica
and one to Pegasus
. So it would seem the Mk.II’s days are numbered as the series solders on...
Inside the Box
Hopeful, but not knowing what to expect because the Vipers seen on screen are CGI renderings and not “physical” models upon which to base a miniature, I tore open the sturdy cardboard box and was very impressed with what I found inside. Packing peanuts surrounded twenty-one grey resin pieces enclosed inside zip-lock bags, two vacuum-formed Canopies along with a full-color Decal Sheet and detailed Instructions. My kit example showed no damage to any of the parts.
Reasons for the Ratings
– Simple and sturdy. The packaging was thoughtful and the box just large enough to do the job but not so huge as to make you wonder what the extra volume was used for. None of the parts or materials included in the kit were found to be damaged upon receipt – earning high marks from me. The order process and delivery was swift – again, another reason for high marks.
– The diagram views are easy-to-follow, with the highlight for me coming in callouts for painting, assembly tips and instructions for decaling your model miniature. Amended by the Reviewer on 3/4/06:
Photos from Sci-Fi Channel were included along with the JBot Decals, illustrating the full-sized Colonial Viper citing decals specific to both the filming prop and the CGI version. The Instruction Sheets also include contact information for questions and feedback and assembly tips. If I could have asked for anything else would have been some technical data on the spacecraft - to aid in modeing features not included in the kit.
Quality of Parts
– The resin parts are finely detailed and portray a nice “scale” appearance. In 1:72nd scale, skimping on small details might have been expected, but not so in this model kit. What's presented is nicely executed. I noted several small air bubbles, some casting flash and mold seam cleanup called for in my kit example, but none marred the detailed areas of the parts and would prove easy to address by any modeler experienced with working resin subjects. The partial Pilot Figure (cut off below the knees) compliments the detail elsewhere in the model kit. As comprehensive as this release is, I thought it might be nice to have a small “face” decal for attaching to the open Helmet – a la Monogram’s Babylon 5 model kit. You won’t be able to see it clearly, but it would look interesting when peering into the Cockpit. Cockpit Seat and Details create an impression of “busyness”, modelers may opt not to permanently attach the Canopy. Equipment recesses in the Viper’s Fuselage are nicely represented and capture a “busy” look in scale too.
In testing out cleanup and joining the parts together, I found no need to wash the parts off – no mold release was present. The resin is easy to bond with white glue, superglue or 5-minute epoxy. As mentioned above, the modeler is provided two vacuformed Canopies in the event a mishap working with the part occurs, and it is advisable to mate the Canopy to the Fuselage with white glue if one chooses to do so. Superglue will fog the clear vacuformed part.
Locating holes and pins are cast on the parts to aid in assembly, though some might need to be opened up more. I would later trim these away. And, with option to pose your Viper Mk.II in landed configuration, it is noteworthy to mention that the solid resin casting is not too heavy – it appears that the seat of the finished model should be sturdy and the resin gear capable of supporting the weight of the model.
Of the other features, like the dorsal storage bay for the missiles and underwing hardpoints, this model does not offer these to the aspiring modeler. However, there is all opportunity to render this detail yourself should visual references present themselves as the series continues to evolve on television screens.
The first release of the model kit included work by JBot Decals. This sheet is really nice, with finely printed markings and data for the Colonial Viper Mk.II. The sheet allows the modeler to create a Viper assigned to any of the twelve Battlestars. Also included, are “readable” decals for several Viper Pilots – Starbuck
(Lt Kara Thrace), Apollo
(Capt Lee Adama), Raygun
(Capt Raymond Lai), Valkyrie
(Capt Lee Stringer), Husker
(Capt William Adama) and Joker
(Lt Pete Hickey).
The current release of the kit has equally impressive decals done by JTGraphics. A plus with this new sheet are inclusion of both tail numbers and callsigns of Viper Pilots from the first release: Starbuck, Apollo, Raygun, Husker and Joker – with the additions of Kat
to the list.
This is a well-detailed and thoughtful fan-produced model kit for followers of the Battlestar Galactica universe. It is very well executed and not what you’d initially think when someone mentions “garage kits”. It comes complete in the box, with enough options to satisify all. You can pose the model in flight, or on the deck with smartly detailed and designed landing gear. I highly recommend this model kit. It looks like just the thing when you want a relaxing but satisifing build. When you do model it, however, you might find out it screams out for a wingman and wish you bought more than one – mine sure did! Black Sun Models is anticipating a 5/1/2006 release date for a 1:72nd scale Cylon Raider to accompany this model kit. I wonder if a Raptor isn’t too far off in the distant future…
I purchased this sample from the Starship Modeler Store, and extend Special Thanks to John Lester of Starship Modeler
for providing the Instruction Sheet scans and assistance in providing this review for Armorama.