Helicopter - a crossbred gunship

Updated: December 24, 2007; April 30, 2011

After the aircraft cometh helicopter ... so the popular saying goes. If you recall, I bragged about creating a number of aircraft and helicopter models several months ago. Well, it's time to show one of the rotary-wing creations.

Like the two aircraft, it has no clear design. It borrows elements both from Western helicopters, mainly Apache and the South African Rooivalk, and from the Russian gunships, Mi-28 in particular. I very much enjoyed creating it. Helicopters are unique in having no limit to ugliness. Anything goes. This allowed me an almost complete freedom of thought when sketching its lines, knowing that even if my ideas failed the imagined concept, the product would still look real enough, as long as it had a rotor somewhere. Speaking of the rotor, I did invest my time into making one, straying from simple symmetry. You will see.


First, here's the typical assortment of odd-angle looks. Unlike the planes, the helicopter sports no camouflage, just the monotone gray. I felt the stripes or spots of color would take away the focus from its already too-many curious details. But to improve contrast and make it more visible, I have changed the default background color in Google SketchUp.

Helicopter right front iso

Helicopter left top

As you can see, the front is typically American, as is the armament. However, the 5-blade rotor is Russian. The fan-in-fin tail rotor is a classic European concept. The engines would feature well both on AH-64 and Mi-28.

Helicopter left rear top

Imposing, ain't it?

Helicopter left back low

Here's a pair of aggressive-looking shot. You would not want to be a T-55 driver with that thingie coming from behind a hill.

Helicopter front top low

Helicopter front zoomed

This is what my little creation looks from beneath. Notice the racks of anti-tank missiles.

Helicopter bottom

Helicopter bottom iso

For some reason, I have always loved the tail looks on helicopters.

Helicopter back
Helicopter tail

Helicopter tail 2

I did not want to make a simple 4-bladed rotor. That was too boring. So I opted for a 5-bladed one, which forced me to measure the angle to an exact 72°.

Helicopter top

I spent quite some time perfecting the rotor.

Helicopter rotor

No modern helicopter can call itself a gunship without proper Mast-Mounted Sights.

Helicopter MMS

I also paid some effort in making the engines, especially the curved exhausts, which are supposed to suppress the IR signature and reduce the chance of getting hit by heat-seeking missiles (especially shoulder-fired SAMs).

Helicopter engine intakes 1

Accidentally, this is a great weapons shot, by the way.

Helicopter engine intakes 2

Helicopter engine exhausts

Helicopter engine exhausts 2

I do not usually bother to create internal details that are not visible, but I did an exception this time, furnishing the helicopter with a nice little turbine.

Helicopter engine zoomed

Finally, the weapons. Supposedly, the helicopter carries 16 laser-guided missiles (the cones are transparent) with tandem shaped warhead, usable against armored vehicles and helicopters, plus a pair of AA-11-like air-to-air missiles. This configuration is undoubtedly American, because Russians love rockets and usually pack at least a pair of launchers onto their gunships. But who cares?

Helicopter weapons 1

Helicopter weapons 4

Helicopter weapons 5

You may also notice the exquisite detail of the landing gear.

Helicopter weapons 6

And here's the chin turret. The helicopter packs a quad of cannon, probably 20-30mm with dual-purpose ammunition.

Helicopter chin turret

The ugly wart above the cannon is supposed to be all the thingymagiggie that aims the turret and such.

Helicopter nose 1

Finally, a long distance shot.

Helicopter far view 1

Kerkythea images

Time for proper fun ... This is where boys become men, or rather digital artists.

Here's the same model, only re-created using Kerkythea, after exporting the model using SketchUp Importer for Google SketchUp and rendered with photons and ray tracing and magic and whatnot. You will like this. My dream of making near-realistic models is coming true, finally. Nirvana. Spledidski.

Helicopter 1

Helicopter 2

An aggressive frontal side view. Notice the engine nacelle reflection in the cockpit window.

Frontal view

A zoom on the rotor and its fancy mechanism:


A top shot:

Top shot

A dramatic isometric image from the rear:

Back shot

In mid-air hover, with an early morning sky backdrop. Notice the elaborate missile pylons.

Bottom, 1

Bottom screenshot 2

A few dramastic close ups:

Zoom on weapons

Zoom on rotor

I need to work on blurring those rotors.

Hovering 2

Now, a few screenshots with even more realistic materials. The helicopter has a brown skin, somewhat similar to Apache. The background is an infinite plain, once with a calm and once with a slightly hurried water texture.

Realistic 1

Realistic 2

Looking good, eh? Now, some even more imposing images. Here's one that you might call a Kodak moment. The helicopter is taking off, with the front landing gear just inches off the ground. There's a lot more work to do, like creating realistic ripples caused by the rotor wash and maybe blurring the rotor blades. Remember the Hercules image I so much admired in my Kerkythea intro article? Well, I'm starting to feel cozy and confident.

Realistic 3

Zooming up on some fancy details:

Zoomed 1

Zoomed 2

Zoomed 3

A front shot, taking off. From this angle, it looks like the South African Rooivalk. Again, notice the slightest gap between the tires and the water surface. Not quite as realistic as you may want, since helicopters don't normally hover inches from a vast water surface, but fairly decent, plus it leaves room for a sequel full of artful goodies. This specific view took about 25 minutes to render at the reasonable 1600x1200px resolution, medium settings, four cores at 100% CPU on my HP laptop. Not bad, not bad at all. And still, there's room for improvement.

Front image

And here's one with the tires planted firmly on the ground. I even tried to create the slight impression of weight, not sure if I pulled it off, but you be the judge of that.

Helicopter, landed

And some more dramatic close ups ... the engines really look posh! Damn, this is good.

Zoomed 1

Zoomed 2

Have fun!