by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Brief backgroundYou can't help but start to feel a bit old when you realise that an aircraft you remember first appearing during your childhood is still in front-line service over 40 years later! But so it is with the F-15 Eagle, which first set the aviation world alight in 1972. Acclaimed as the USAF's first true air superiority fighter in a generation, in addition to almost Gerry Anderson-style futuristic lines, the Eagle boasted an extraordinary power-to-weight ratio that allowed it to climb vertically coupled with unmatched manoeuvrability for its day.
The arrival of North American's Eagle fighter was followed around a year later by a two-seat trainer initially known as the TF-15 and later rechristened the F-15B. When the F-15C appeared entered production in 1978, it brought with it its own two-seater trainer version which became in turn the F-15D. 61 F-15Bs were built between 1972 and 1979, with a further 92 F-15D's following in production until 1985. Israel purchased 7 of each version. Although nominally trainers, the F-15B and 'D retain the armed capability of the air-superiority single-seaters and have seen combat in Middle East conflicts. The success of the initial two-seaters led the way to the F-15E Strike Eagle, a dedicated all-weather strike-fighter with a weapons officer taking the rear seat in place of an instructor.
Sources: Kit instructions and Wikipedia
in kit formGreat Wall Hobby's 2-seater Eagle is one of those kits that blows you away from the moment you open the box. It certainly helps that the first things you set eyes on are more of the company's uniquely (in my experience) well moulded one-piece missiles that rival some of the best resin upgrades available, but the kit continues to impress at every turn.
The first release in what is clearly set to be an extended series of single- and two-seat Eagles comprises:
208 x grey styrene parts
4 x clear styrene parts
7 x etched brass parts clear film
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
The moulding is quite simply superb. The crisp parts show no flash or sink marks, and ejector pin marks seem well hidden. The surface finish consists of fine engraving which varies in weight to depict panel lines and inspection covers, with lightly embossed rivets and fasteners – again in two weights. Slide moulds allow for some very delicate details such as the needle-like antennae on the sides of the nose (be careful, or you'll break them when handling the parts – yes, you've guessed it, I found out the hard way!) and the cones at the front of the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 engines. Multi-part moulds also allow the surface detailing to extend right around the complex contours of the eagle, with only the faintest of separation lines to clean up.
Test fitThe breakdown of the airframe parts is a little complex, but the engineering is such that a dry fit shows this should be a “no filler” build if you take care. A full span one-piece wing/fuselage top extends to just behind the cockpit area. The lower wing panels attach to a lower fuselage section with strong pins along most of the length of the joints, and the completed sub-assembly clips to the top section very precisely. The forward fuselage is split vertically and has a large locating block that is held in a “cradle” inside the rear section. Finally, a drop in piece bridges the area in front of the airbrake. The fit of all the sections is satisfyingly precise, with the joints mostly seeming to follow panel lines.
A few detailsThe 25-piece cockpit is well fitted out, with a choice of Escapac IC-7 or ACES II ejection seats, depending on whether you're building an F-15B or F-15D. Each type of seat comprises five parts and has moulded-on shoulder straps. These are perhaps the one point of the kit that I think could have been done better, as the straps are very basic (compared with the shots on The Ejection Site) and the rest of the harness isn't included. Previously, GWH have included etched belts – so it's surprising to see them mould them on this time. Aftermarket alternatives will no doubt be available soon.
As with the seats, there's a choice of control columns and instrument panels appropriate for each version. The panel detail is excellent, and individual decals are provided – around 20 per panel, so they should keep you busy while you hunker down and ride out this winter's storms. The front panel's coaming is rounded off with a nice 4-part etched/film HUD.
The cockpit tub shows some really crisp moulding on the side consoles that should look excellent with careful highlighting, and separate sidewalls slot in neatly under the cockpit sills,. The cockpit tub sits on top of a 4-piece nosewheel well which, again, has some very nice crisp detailing of the cabling and hydraulic lines.
There's a simple radar dish that can be displayed thanks to an optional open nose cone, and either side of the nose features a sharply detailed avionics bay. I've no doubt there's a lot more detail you can pile in if you have the necessary references, but the basics are certainly there and should really repay careful painting.
There's a choice of jet intake positions, and full length ducts lead back within the body to the engines themselves. There's a choice of PW-100 or '220 engines (the only difference being the front piece of the engine) and each is built up from 14 parts, with effectively detailed exhaust petals. There's no option to display the engines, and to be honest it's not quite clear from the instructions how they are held in place – they are simply shown to be inserted into the rear of the completed fuselage through the exhaust openings. Perhaps it will be self explanatory in the course of building the kit.
The canopy is crystal clear and is moulded with a correct blown cross-section. Inevitably, this means a light mould line to polish away. A nice touch is that the canopy is packaged with adhesive tape on the exterior to prevent any scuffing in transit.
The undercarriage looks good and sturdy, and sports some nice crisp detail. The mainwheels are slightly “weighted” and come with two styles of hub detail. The gear can be built raised or lowered, but no stand is provided, so you'll have to figure out your own way to display the model “in flight” (and, of course, there's no pilot figure).
Finally, there are the missiles and drop tanks. A quartet of AIM-7s and 3 x fuel tanks common to both versions, with the Israeli F-15B adding Python 3 and '4 missiles mounted on the fuel tank pylons. As noted previously with their MiG-29, GWH's one-piece missiles are incredible pieces of moulding, setting a standard I haven't seen another manufacturer match yet.
Instructions and decalsThe assembly guide is printed as a 26-page A4 booklet. The diagrams are very clear, with a few bi-lingual Chinese/English notes. Experienced modellers will almost certainly depart from the suggested construction sequence in places, and build the basic airframe before adding some of the finer details as shown.
Colour matches are given for GS Mr. Color and Vallejo acrylics, and a nice touch is the inclusion of F.S. numbers for many of the colours.
Decals are provided for 4 colour schemes:
1. F-15B (73-0113), no. 113, Knights of the Twin Tail Squadron, IAF, 2006
2. F-15B (76-1524), no. 704, Knights of the Twin Tail Squadron, IAF, 1982
3. F-15D (83-0046), 67th Jet Line, USAF, 2009
4. F-15D (85-0129), 65th AGRS, USAF, Nellis AFB
The decals arrive on no less than four sheets and look very good quality, printed with a matt finish and in perfect register in the sample kit. There is an absolute mass of stencilling included – a totally daunting amount for the F-15B, and strangely less for the 'D. The tiny text is legible with a magnifier – although doing so reveals some typos (perhaps not surprisingly). Purists may hold out for aftermarket stencils, but the rest of us? - well, how often do you honestly look at your models with a magnifying glass?... I'll be content to use the kit decals.
ConclusionGWH's Eagle is a gorgeous kit, that sits right at the cutting edge of current moulding technology. The construction looks straightforward enough to be suitable for anyone with a little experience, with just a few etched items to perhaps stretch newcomers to the medium a little. I think you can expect to see a lot of builds of this beauty at model shows in the year ahead! Highly recommended.
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