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Building A Snapdragon

AN-Snapdragons1Since the first chapter of Whitecoat, we’ve known about Snapdragon. The first human-built aircraft to incorporate Saa technology into its design, the plane is meant to give Britain and the United States an unprecedented advantage over the rest of the world… though to be fair, the riches of the new world seem to have already pushed their R&D budgets so high that they’ve got technology years, sometimes decades ahead of what would have existed in 1940.

But Snapdragon is special. Emily wanted data on it; the whole Champions establishment was rearranged on short notice to protect it. So when we start 1942 with a novella named after it, I suppose it’s sort of obvious that the new plane will play a role. Tomorrow we get to learn whether Snapdragon has been worth all the effort. I think it has been, but then, I had the easy part.

When you write about something, you can get away with a lot. Whether it’s simply stating that space-going ships have engines that can make a run to Jupiter in a matter of weeks (not years), or assuring people that a character is a good shot, your words carry a lot of weight. Trying to realize those words in an image is tougher –– even when you’re simply dealing with characters and props for a photo shoot, it can be difficult.

But as I’ve said before, getting things that don’t exist at all in reality to come to life… that’s when you call a graphic artist. Fortunately, we here at Iceberg know one.

Wes Prewer started wrestling with Snapdragon in 2012. Leveraging his own interest and experience with aircraft, he and I kicked ideas back and forth about how a supersonic aircraft from the 1940s might look. A lot of time was spend researching early jet fighters, and also trying to determine what elements the Saa would bring to the table. In the end, we settled on something that looked largely human –– since the British would want to be able to produce it themselves, with or without Saa help.

Though the Spitfire wasn’t the best fighter of the Second World War, it was still the most loved fighter of the Second World War.

Initially, we figured the plane would end up on the cover of the novella bear its name, but when a blizzard closed in over the story, that became impossible. Nevertheless, Wes worked up the design for the aircraft, and created a detailed CG model, as he’s always done for us on Defense Command. In so doing, he’s made it possible to see what the British and Saa designers have done.

Consider: in the late-1930s, aircraft design is still done by hand. Though the Saa are involved, there’s no computer modeling like we see today –– designers go with what’s worked before, and experiment until they figure out what might get the job done next time.

When developing an aircraft meant to cruise at up to 2,000 knots, they therefore start with the most successful (from their point of view) airframe of their time: the Spitfire. They don’t know that a plane of that design might come apart at such velocities, but fortunately, the Saa provide technology that can compensate for the design deficiencies.

Compromises are still made; wings are tucked back, to look like those of a falcon in a dive; the propeller vanishes and engines are tucked beside the fuselage. The resulting plane isn’t as pretty as a Spitfire (or as many modern fighters, for that matter), but the important question is simple: will it work, or will it be a disaster?

Tomorrow, Snapdragon will tell us whether this plane might change the balance of power across two worlds… or if it might prove the most tragic sort of technological white elephant. Stay tuned…

Wes used standard RAF camouflage patterns for Snapdragon. Interesting to see how well they actually work.