"Looks like a dropship to me, Chief."
"If it was a ship I'd be on better pay, mate. And I've never dropped one of these things yet."
So that I or this blog doesn't dry up waiting for a digicam or some extra cash for more minis, I have decided to start working ahead on a plan I 've had for my Armsmen. Basically, my fluff/GW fluff means that the Navy get no ground vehicles, so they are going to have all their armour in the air. However it makes sense that mass landings are unlikely to use Valkyries for every surface deployment but use heavy transports instead. Landing craft, like the amphibious LCVP barges seen in the Second World War during the Normandy landings were a natural if obvious inspiration.
Even today, a LCVP is still the most efficient way of getting men ashore apart from using helicopters. In WH40K helicopters are basically Valkyries so if I wanted something in the place of LCVPs.... I had to think sci-fi.
Forge World already makes the Gorgon superheavy transport, but this is ground armour - a tank. What I need is an aerial 'dropship' for my landing craft. My idea is that it comes roaring down from orbit in a cloud of jetblast as it slows its descent, within the landing zone, the dustclouds and fumes clear as the naval infantry assault enemy positions directly. No plodding along, treading tank tracks over barbed wire and trenches. My navy landing craft is not meant to move horizontally, but vertically- smack down on the enemy position and then once the cargo has disembarked it acts as a stationary armoured firing position, comms relay, med evac station... even a refuelling depot for Valkyries and VTOL flyers. Basically a forward operations base that can support an entire naval infantry 'platoon' and its air support.
As you can see Forge World's Gorgon is basically a landing craft with tank tracks. I took my aerial lander to the design stage swapping the tank tracks for engines or turbines that would allow a VTOL, but the thing just looks like a dropbrick than a dropship. The open-topped part of the landing craft was something the Gorgon inherited from the LCVP.
Open-topped dropships can be seen in the game Killzone, it is more of an aerial take on a kind of ATV four wheel buggy. Personally, I don't see the science in open-topped sci-fi dropships, it sure would get cold and windy coming through the atmosphere on one of them!
With a close-topped dropship in mind, I realised I was after something with an upper deck- possibly a landing pad. It also made me realise that if I wanted to avoid the look of the dropbrick I would need something more aerodynamic. The vertical drop means that I don't want wings so much as a boat shaped streamline. And so I have begun to lean more towards a u-boat look. It really suits the feel of the Imperial Navy recalling the Soviet and German navies of the Second World War. So I need a hybrid between a LCVP and a u-boat, avoiding the rectangular heavy look of the tank that the Gorgon has.
My main features are a rear conning tower for the commanders to direct fire and communications once the dropship has landed and committed to the battle. I want downward facing turbines along the sides where the Gorgon tank tracks currently are. I want a peaked prow like on a ship to give an aerodynamic look, this means that two landing ramps will fold down at 45° angles rather than a single forward facing ramp. I always thought an open frontal ramp was a bit of a design flaw anyway, since enemy fire could wipe out the men in the hold as soon as the ramp was dropped. Two angled ramps at least gives the guys inside some protection. If I want to be able to game with this thing, I have to form it around the Gorgon rules, I reason, so I am keeping the weapons load-out of the Gorgon (which is quite meagre): four heavy bolters, and four heavy stubbers. I loved the idea of having shooting galleries for the heavy bolters over the engines on the sides, and then a kind of submarine deck gun for the heavy stubbers which would be more or less a quad gun. It would give a cool powerful central armament focus, and a bit of a Anti-Aircraft look to the lander.
I guess that is where the guys at Red Star comic got the idea for their Skyfurnace airships (see opening pic). I am not going for anything near as big scale-wise, but the look is pretty much what I want. I have a couple of A3 sheets of modelling card that I can start using to bulk out the chassis.