Updated: July 11, 2022
One must challenge oneself, all the time. When it comes to 3D models, I recently faced a wee conundrum. Having created a whole bunch of new (and hopefully) interesting designs, like my monster truck or perhaps the steam locomotive and the VSTOL aircraft, I felt I needed to try something new. Yes, I could keep doing more of the same, but that's not as quite stimulating as it can be.
So I went for a twist. How about something real, something that actually exists and is not just a fruit of my imagination? In other words, I wanted to see if I could visually recreate an existing concept, without using any plans or design files. I decided to try to recreate the French FREMM Acquitaine-class frigate, simply by looking at photos and then drawing in SketchUp in parallel. The end result is this model, this gallery, and this article. After me.
All right. My model is almost exactly a 1:1 copy of the FREMM, except a few minor details. I didn't bother so much designing the lower hull quite as accurately as I could, for two reasons: 1) ships spend most of their time in the water, so whatever goes below the surface isn't that visible 2) there isn't a plentitude of photos that show the ship's underside. Furthermore, the dimensions are perhaps 1-2% off, but again, I was working with a naked eye only, using existing images as a reference.
Next, I added water - and I used the same trick as with my battlecruiser model. I layered several infinite planes, about 10 meters apart, and then painted them genuine ocean colors - deep blues and greens. Once I plopped the FREMM into the scenery, I tweaked some of the colors, like the rubber pontoons on the zodiac, the foredeck cannon enclosure and alike.
I tried to be accurate, and even added the towed sonar array on the stern. Furthermore, I used the genuine, real-life lettering on the helo deck. The only difference is the ship hull number; I went for a non-existent serial, unless one day, the manufacturer decides to build a couple dozen more frigates in the class. But hey.
I tried to account for everything. The ship's bridge is modeled on the inside, too. The gunwales have all the fine details and whatnot. You can also see the ECM modules on the sides of the second electronics mast, as well as the Exocet missiles, and the decoy-firing units. I did re-use the zodiac design from my battlecruiser, albeit with small modifications. The engine is folded up, the colors a bit different, and to be fair, different FREMM frigates use different boats, from fast rubber craft to full ocean-going rescue capsules.
The only thing missing is the wear-'n'-tear of real life. Some faded paint, rust, water marks, the scuffs from actually being deployed and used. But that's something to consider for perhaps a follow-up article.
I had a lot of fun making the FREMM. Now, this is perhaps not the most unique, original or avant-garde model I've made, but it was also more difficult in that regard, because I couldn't just plop this thing here or there randomly. I had to obey the authenticity of the ship's actual design, and that's what made the effort so much more enjoyable.
Speaking of fun and challenges, there's more good stuff coming, of course. I've just had another idea for a new model, and this one brings a fresh dose of difficulty and originality. But that's coming soon. For now, I hope you will only have praise for my re-imagining of the FREMM frigate. And if you have suggestions, do share them. See you around.