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First Look Review
148
F-15C MSIP II
F-15C MSIP II United States Air National Guard
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by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Great Wall Hobby have released the follow-up to their quarterscale 2-seater F-15B/D Eagle, this time focusing on the definitive Cold War single-seat air superiority version – the F-15C. First entering production in 1978, the F-15C joined the Multistage Improvement Program (MSIP) in the early '80s, with the first uprated aircraft appearing in 1985.

the new kit
GWH's first attempt at the Eagle was a beautifully engineered and produced kit, but suffered something of a roasting when it came out, particularly over the cross-section of the forward fuselage and radome. While many manufacturers would have ignored the critical reaction, GWH to their credit bit the bullet and set about redesigning the front end. As you'll see from the comparison shot at right, the new kit is noticeably different in this respect.

The kit arrives is a large and attractive box, with the sprues packed individually and the missiles protected in moulded clear plastic cases. The main cockpit canopy section has a piece of low-tack tape over it to prevent scratches in transit.

The kit comprises:

214 x grey styrene pieces
4 x clear styrene parts
6 x etched brass parts, plus clear film
Decals for 2 x colour schemes

The quality of the moulding is simply superb, with extensive use of slide-moulds allowing the designers to produce some exceptional detail. The surface finish comprises different “weights” of engraving to depict panel lines and inspection covers, along with a few appliqué panels and (again) different strengths of embossing for fasteners and rivets.

I haven't found any sink marks or flash on the sample kit, and ejector pins are light and mostly out of harm's way. The only ones I've spotted so far that look like them may prove troublesome are inside the separate nose panels and the radar mounting bulkhead. Other than that, it's remarkable how few there are – even on detailed parts that would normally be festooned with the perishers.

The sprue attachments are often on the mating surfaces to allowed an unblemished exterior, so you do have to take a little time removing the parts and preparing the some of the joints.

Areas such as the mainwheel wells and nose avionics bays are moulded integrally, with some eye-poppingly nice details that should really repay careful painting and highlighting. The moulded-on pipework and cabling is amongst the finest I've ever seen in injection moulding – really at the cutting edge of today's technology.

Test fit
Unsurprisingly, the breakdown of the airframe is unchanged from the original kit, with a full span wing/fuselage top that extends to just behind the cockpit area, ready for a new single-seater canopy mount. The wingtips are moulded solid with drop in lower wing panels that attach to a main fuselage section with 5 sturdy locating pins each side running along the joints, and the two assemblies clip together very neatly. The forward fuselage is split vertically and once again has a large locating block that sits in a “cradle” to hold everything true.

The fins are a straightforward slot-in, with separate rudders, while the stabilisers have tight-fitting pivots, so you could leave them unglued to position as you wish. While the fins have nicely thin trailing edges, the stabilisers look too thick and blunt to my eyes, so I'll sand them down and re-scribe the engraved detail.

A few details
Construction begins with the cockpit, which is very nicely fitted out with 33 finely detailed parts. The floor, sidewalls and instrument panel and consoles are all beautifully moulded. The depth and crispness of the detail is really excellent, and if you like painting and shading interiors, you'll have a field day with this “office”. The ACES II ejector seat is bit basic, despite being constructed from 5 parts, although it certainly shouldn't look bad – but it's disappointing that the etched fret doesn't include a set of harnesses for it. There are a couple of moulded-on straps on the back rest, but photos on the Ejection Site show a much more elaborate harness. Some aftermarket or foil straps will definitely help bring it to life.

The etched parts do include a neat HUD frame for a pair of clear film pieces.

Up front, the kit offers a choice of two styles of radar, although the instructions don't indicate which to use for the featured colour schemes. Whichever you go for, it can be displayed with the radome hinged to the side.

Assembly then turns to the jet intakes, with full length internal ducts to avoid a see-through look. The intake ramps can be built up or down, with corresponding vents in the one piece wing top. Then it's time to join the wing/fuselage assembly to the nose.

Each engine is constructed from 15 parts and should look superb if painted carefully. Given the level of detail, it's surprising that the kit doesn't include stands to allow the engines to be displayed separately in their own right but, as it is, all the detail will all be hidden once they're installed, so you may choose not to go overboard painting them.

The instructions show the canopy and airbrake fitted next, but I'd leave them off until later. As with the radar, there's a choice of airbrakes, but no indication as to which to use. The canopy is beautifully moulded with a blown cross-section. This inevitably means a faint mould line to polish away, but that is unavoidable on injected parts.

The undercarriage is both sturdy and well detailed, with semi-weighted tyres. Semi-weighted? Well, strangely, the bases aren't moulded flat, so they're neither fish nor foul. A sanding stick will soon level things though.

Finally, there's the ordnance: a trio of drop tanks, plus a pair each of AIM-9X, AIM-120A and AIM-120C air-to-air missiles. GWH have really set the standard with their one-piece injection-moulded missiles which rival many aftermarket products.

Instructions & decals
The assembly guide is printed as an 18-page booklet, with clear uncluttered diagrams. Construction is broken down into 18 stages – mostly logical, although as noted above, I'd leave the canopy etc. until last to avoid accidents. Paint matches are give for Mr. Color and Vallejo paints, but don't include the translucent blue-green often seen in photos of areas such as the electronics bay. (Apparently this has been superseded by white on later aircraft and in refits?)

Decals are provided for a pair of F-15Cs:

1. 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard, Westfield AB
2. 131st Fighter Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, Lambert International Airport.

The decals look very nicely produced, being thin and glossy, with minimal carrier film. The registration is pin-sharp on the sample sheet. Along with national and individual markings, the sheets include a comprehensive set of stencil decals. A nice touch is that GWH provide really large placement diagrams, so you won't be risking eye-strain to see what goes where.

Conclusion
Great Wall's reworked Eagle looks a real beauty of a kit to me, and it's to their credit that they've taken on board the criticism levelled at their first attempt and sought to rectify things. The result certainly looks like an F-15 to me, but I'll happily bow to those more knowledgeable on the subject than I am as to whether they've truly nailed it this time,

One surprise is that the kit is a fair bit more expensive than the original 2-seater (in the UK, at least), and the rather hefty price tag may put it beyond the reach of many modellers and deter casual buyers. However, it really is a kit that simply screams “Build me!” at you from the moment you open the box – so I intend to do just that at the earliest opportunity.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
SUMMARY
Highs: Beautifully moulded and highly detailed. GWH have responded to criticism of their first kit by redesigning the forward fuselage and radome with a rounder cross-section. Excellent quality decals.
Lows: The stabiliser trailing edges look rather blunt to me. It's disappointing that the etched parts don't include a seat harness. A bit pricey (in the UK, at least).
Verdict: Overall, GWH's is a very fine kit, packed with detail and looking to be quite a straightforward build thanks to its excellent engineering.
Percentage Rating
90%
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: L4817
  Suggested Retail: £75.99
  PUBLISHED: Nov 04, 2014
  NATIONALITY: United States
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 88.10%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 90.63%

Our Thanks to Great Wall Hobby!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)
FROM: NO REGIONAL SELECTED, UNITED KINGDOM

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright ©2019 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.



Comments

Rowan, Just a fantastic review. Well written, and very detailed in your explanation of the kit. The 45 pictures really show off all the detail that is simply amazing. Some of the electronic bays and sidewalls rival resin AM ones for their complexity and details. The Aces11 seat really needs to be replaced by any number of AM offerings as most come with full harness and belts. The two engines are better left as just plug ins for the interior of the fuselage, as the odds are they're generic in scope. The intake blades are incrediable. I can't remember ever seeing injected molded ones where the blades have any real separation. The only issue that I've heard from others who are true rivet counters is that the exhaust cans are too long as are the Aires cans, but there is already a few fixes online to deal with that issue. Also the actuating rods for the turkey feathers seem to be on the thick side. Other then that, the cans looks extremely well detailed. I've priced this kit out and Sprue Brothers has it for $90 while Lucky Models from Japan has it for just $60. Surprisingly shipping is about the same at around $18, so as Rowan said, this kit is rather expensive. But if Tamiya released it, I'm sure that it would be well above the $100 mark. Joel
NOV 04, 2014 - 03:28 AM
   

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