Scale 1/72
Manufacturer Missile from Real Space Models; silo scratchbuilt
Kit ID Unknown
Type Martin LGM-25C Titan II
Unit 570-7, Oracle Junction
Date Unknown
Aftermarket parts used N/A
Other detail added Silo and diorama base scratchbuilt - see detail below
Model built by Alex Hunger
Date Completed November 2007

Strategic missiles have held a particular fascination for me since my teens.  I was also inspired by the late 1970s movie "Twilight's last Gleamings", which took place in a hijacked Titan II silo.  Back then, I drew scale diagrams of various missiles and scratch-built a 1/72 Minuteman III and a couple of Soviet IRBMs out of cardboard tubes and balsa wood.

Earlier in 2007, I finally built my first silo for the Minuteman III, but that's another story.  Since the early 1980s, resin manufacturers have been springing up all over the shop, so that I was able to mail order the Real Space Models Titan II and the Atlas Missile a couple of years ago.  The Titan II works well in 1/72 scale.  Unfortunately, Real Space managed to hand the fuel lines of the 2 rocket engines the wrong way.  Only a rivet counter would notice this, however.  One also has to scratch build and attach a lot of little rods out of paper clips to build the framework of the engine.  There are plenty of photos on the web if you search for them. All in all, the missile took 1 weekend to build and looks the part.

The Titan II silo requires a little more research, but if you take a holiday to Arizona, you can visit a de-activated silo, which is reasonably close to the Pima Air museum and Davis-Montham Air Base to round out the trip!! 

As the USAF SIG display boards are 61cm by 182cm and the silo was designed to abut to a normal model show table, I had my builder's market cut a 6mm thick plywood board to 61cm x 61cm size. I also bought wood strips measuring 3cm by 1cm to go around the edges of the board, which strengthened it and made it a more substantial display.  Some left over shelf boards were chopped up into 8 10cm x 11cm blocks which would act when stacked in twos would serve as attachments for the table legs.  In the builders market, I found suitable tubes and ducts for the actual silo. The 10cm plastic tube was a near perfect match. The rectangular rocket exhaust ducts were a somewhat over scale but better than nothing. 2 elbow joints were mated in order to attach the main tube and the two exhaust vents at the bottom. 2 white LED lights were attached to the bottom of the exhaust vents in order to brighten up the bottom of the silo, although this still has to work. I only taped the bottom of the tube together as I rightly predicted that I would often lose items at the bottom of the silo.

A further major module was what I called the chassis.  This is a 36cm by 21.5cm block of wood with which the tube would be interfaced with the plywood board.  This received the 10cm diameter hole for the silo tube as well as the arc shaped exhaust ducts. I also carved 2 trenches to take the 2 U-shaped brass rails for the sliding silo door. I managed to get these rails from my local hobby shop. Another 21cm by 21cm board was carved to the shape of the silo door and the backstop.  There are 2 reinforcement strips for the area above the exhaust vents, which were cut from thin wood sheets and glued to the prepared silo door. Both chassis and door were spray painted with grey Hallfords primer to simulate cement.

With the silo door, you need to make some choices. There are 2 types. One that is more square in outline and another that is more rounded in the front. I chose the later out of a whim, perhaps because it was more of a challenge. It required a lot of sanding with the electric sander to get it right. I had to do this in the basement, as I knew I was going to be covered in sawdust. I made the exhaust vent grills out of suitable strips of plasticard. A frame from wood strips was attached to the main board to take the so-called chassis when the rest of the silo was done.  The main wooden board was then enhanced by cutting holes for the Silo entrance and the cooling/generated pit.  Wooden bits were cut to provide sides and floors for these and all gaps were filled with wood filler and sanded smooth. 2 rectangular thin wood plates were also glued to the board to act as cement bases on which the oxidizer and fuel tankers would park on.

The builder's market also sold very nice 10cm long polystyrene sleeves designed to join the tubes together. These would serve to mount interior details of the silo. I first built the cross-shaped Missile cradle. The missile would rest on a suitable diameter ring, which was joined to the inner sleeve by 4 plastic spokes. These were reasonably visible on various photos found on the Internet. In the real silo, this cradle was suspended by 4 springs from higher up in the silo, in order to absorb the shock wave of a near miss from a Soviet nuke. I scratch built the spring mounts from plasticard, sprue and a lot of filler. 4 old ballpoint pens were relieved of their springs to simulate the real springs. In my model, for the sake of simplicity, the cradle simply rests on the lowest sleeve and the spring unit sits on top as a dummy.

The more challenging module was the top of the silo interior. This was decorated with 32 grated walkway platforms (4 rows of 8). I built one prototype from plasticard. I used a short length of tube divided into 4 parts to act as the receptacle of silicone moulds.  4 different moulds were successfully poured over the one master. Once dry and cleaned up, they were turned right-side up to receive the fresh resin. The process was repeated 8 times to produce the right number of platforms. Unfortunately not a single platform was faultless, so that all of them needed to be complemented by small plasticard fillers at various locations. Once sanded, they could be primed with grey Halfords primer.

From my model railroad shop I found HO scale model chain-link fencing which I then super glued to the platforms. I think I stuck my fingers together more than anything else, but in the end, I had 32 platforms.  From plasticard, I then cut 32 platform mounts, which were arc shaped to fit the silo sleeve on the rear and straight at the front to accept the platforms.  6 platforms were selected to be shown extended as these would then stabilize the top of the missile within the silo. On one part of the sleeve, a door was cut and shown open. Behind the door, I created a small chamber, which also received 2 red LEDs from a model RC car to illuminate the interior. This has yet to work due to my poor electrical competence!  Further details made of stretched sprue and plasticard were added to the interior of the sleeve sections.  All interior parts were spray painted in Hallfords Nissan Silver.  The sleeves were then glued to the main silo tube and the tube was glued to the chassis.

The entire bare top area was then spray painted with Hallfords grey. The chassis with tubes was then glued and screwed to the frame on the main board. This in place, I decided to work on the bottom of the board, in effect making it part of the display. A plastic rectangular electrical duct from the builders market was cut to serve as the silo entrance stairwell. Another electrical box with a removable plate was selected to serve as one of the entrance chambers and as my battery box for the lights. This was joined to the silo tube with a plastic tube, which also contained my electrical wire. There should also have been a dome shaped command bunker, but I didn't have enough room on the bottom of the board.

With the entire lower structure in place, I hid all the unsightly parts with builder’s foam.  Once dry, all the excessive foam was sawn off for a landscaped look. The foam was then also spray painted brown to simulate the earth the silo would have been emplaced in. The store bought table legs were then bolted on so that the display could stand on its own. Now, the entire top area could be decorated.

The area was painted with a mottled mix of beige and green just in case something showed through.  A thin strip was taped off to act as a grass verge. The rest was coated with white glue and sprinkled with fine quartz sand to act as the gravel of the original.   As even Arizona doesn’t look like the Sahara desert, the sand was spray painted in subtle gray, beige and green tones, though the cement areas remained gray, albeit with slight dustings of lighter shades to soften the grey. In reality, the cement would need to be even lighter, but it's very difficult to get the exact scale shading for the Arizona light conditions. To finish the diorama, I drilled 2 holes into the silo door to receive 2 nails, which acted as the buffer. Out of plasticard bits, I built 2 stoppers for the silo door. From the model railroad shop, I adapted some fencing for the entrance and the cooling pit, some telephone poles for the various masts and some I beam profiles for the walkway structure in the cooling pit. The formerly taped off outside strip on board was then also coated with white glue and sprinkled with model railroad grass.

As it was supposed to represent a silo in Arizona, it was lightened with a light airbrushing of beige over the all too green grass to give it that dried and sun bleached look. The available space didn't allow fencing.  If I hadn't limited myself to the chosen measurements of 61cm x 61cm, I would have been able to fit the Command Bunkers, retractable antennas and perhaps the fencing and I would have been able to include the fueling platforms at the right distance from the silo and in the right size.

For diorama purposes, I subverted an old Matchbox 1/75 scale police Ford Galaxie vehicle, which I spray painted with a Hallfords paint that came reasonably close to US Air Force blue. The Arizona museum has a bunch of other vehicles such as Jeeps and vans, as well as a SAC Bell UH-1F.  At a model show, I picked up such a suitable Huey chopper and which I will convert and build it in due course. The Hasegawa aircrew set also provided me with a few figures that looked a lot like security personnel, which liven up the display without taking away from its bleakness. The tanker vehicles could not possible be converted from commercially available 1/72 kits and would have to be scratch built one day. A plastic plaque from my local key shop suitably completes the display.

There was a silo at a place called Oracle Junction, which seemed mystical enough for my purposes. At the model shows, it is particularly interesting to observe people leaning over the front to look at the missile within its launch tube. At the IPMS nationals, my friends from the USAF SIG Comment I needed a launch command unit, preferably with a key ignition unit and some sort of fog horn alarm. Amusingly enough, I found such a USB operated unit within the novelty catalogue of I hoping to one day find an electronics specialist to one day converted it to a) turn on the light and b) run on battery power, as opposed to my Laptop, but that will be another story.

Model and photographs by Alex Hunger