by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
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 kitGWH'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 fitUnsurprisingly, 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 detailsConstruction 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 & decalsThe 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.
ConclusionGreat 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.
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