The MK VIIE Strike Viper was a concept that I created quite a while ago and have steadily polished into the final form you see presented here. The core design came into being around the time I was originally auditioning for a position on the Beyond the Red Line team.
As the name suggests the initial inspiration was the McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle. For those of you unfamiliar with the “Mud Hen” it is basically the F-15 air superiority fighter that was heavily redesigned in the 1980s for long-range, high speed interdiction without relying on escort or electronic warfare aircraft. It also happens to be one of my favorite flying things in ever ever. I wanted to do something similar for the Colonials, specifically based off the MK VII. Cylon air defense doctrine is predicated on the use of Raider swarms to intercept any hostile strikecraft. As such any successful Colonial attack craft was going to need to be able to dogfight its way into a launch position. Therefore a fighter bomber like the Strike Eagle seemed much more desirable than a large slow heavy bomber platform like a B-52.
The first draft was done without the benefit of any VII orthos or much reference material other than memory of the show. While crude it did however cement the core design principles of the craft. First it would be a two seater, the back seater acting as a Weapons System Officer (WSO pronounced 'wizzo'). Second it would have a pair of conformal fuel tanks or CFTs, increasing its range and endurance; allowing it to penetrate deep into enemy territory or loiter over the combat zone. Third it would need a powerful targeting package to defeat Cylon active and passive countermeasures and guide its ordinance on target. Finally it would need to carry enough payload to accomplish its mission. In short the same basic changes the design team at McDonnell Douglas made to the F-15 platform, I would make to the Viper MK VII.
So as you can see below the cockpit was extended for the WSO, CFTs where added to the nose, ordinance was applied to the wings and the upper gun mount/vertical stabilizer was replaced with a LANTIRN esq target pod:
Time passed and as I honed my skills at designing equipment for BTRL I eventually decided I wanted to revisit the VIIE. I made two primary additions to the core design when I went through the second revision. The first was an increase to the ordinance and secondly I wanted to add an additional targeting pod under the nose for more ‘look down’ capability. The extra target pod was modeled after the camera system mounted on F-14Ds. As for the ordinance increases I realized in addition to the antiship weapons I really wanted the VIIE to have some air defense capability for clearing a path when it was making its attack run. If you ever seen an F-16 with AMRAAMs on the wing rails, you know it looks like unadulterated awesome. Therefore I added a pair of wingtip rails and designed a new Sparrow/AMRAAM style long range air defense missile which would eventually become the HD-51 Arbalest. I also figured I should get serious about the other ordinance and designed two additional pieces. One is the CBU-47 Sledgehammer Self Forging Cluster munitions which unfortunately will not be making an appearance in R1. Second is featured in R1; the AGM-41 Whiplash antiship missile, visually inspired by the Harpoon and Maverick missiles and will be your primary Colonial subsystem killer. In addition to the four under wing hard points I also added a pair of station pylons to the rear fuselage. The rest of the redesign was dedicated to polishing the general design and applying a snazzy dark gray scheme. This choice was also made in reference to the F-15E which sports a gunship gray scheme which is much darker compared to the regular F-15C. I produced the following two sketches for the second revision in concert known to me as “Stop! Hanger Time!” and “Baseship Hunting Team.”
This second revision of the MK VIIE eventually was built by Wildcard who did a very good job at modeling the concept material. Not too long afterwards I took about a year long hiatus from the project and by chance stumbled upon the fact that BTRL had split and found Diaspora ascendant. I threw my lot in with Diaspora and went about designing a whole slew of stuff with reinvigorated purpose. While Wildcard’s original model was a faithful rendition of the second VIIE version, the model was starting to show its age compared to the new assets and more importantly I was no longer particularly happy with the design. It’s often the case with my work that I revisit a concept I am fond of and revitalize it to a new standard and the VIIE is a concept I’m very fond of.
Therefore I started pouring over F-15E references, especially from the http://www.f-15e.info
site (I believe it was www.strikeeagles.com
at the time) which had plethora of photos and info on my muse. I also had found a great set of Zoic edition Viper MK VII orthos which I used as my starting point.
Armed with my newfound F-15E knowledge and refs I set about converting a VII into a Strike Viper. The “Block 30” started with a side ortho and was carefully labeled with actual Strike Eagle nomenclature to delineate the modifications that make this bird a VIIE. Enthused with the results I swiftly followed up with a top and bottom orthos. The bottom orthos also featured a display of the various ordinance a VIIE can use to “Shoot down what’s up” and “Blow up what’s down.” While some pieces like the Dazzler jammer pods, Sledgehammer cluster munitions and Razorback rockets pods will be added in later releases, the R1 VIIE will still come loaded for bear.
With the final version blueprints completed the design waited, while I fidgeted, till one of our very talented modeling resources became available to make her in 3D. In this case it was newman who was responsible for the Viper VIIE made manifest. I will turn it over to him to discuss the modeling, texturing and cockpit in a future post.