On The Bench

www.scalespot.com

Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F-15B/D - Build Review
Great Wall Hobby L4815
Scale: 1/48

Started:    June 2014
Finished:  September 2014

Boeing F-15 Overview

The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter designed by McDonnell Douglas to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat. It is among the most successful modern fighters, with over 100 aerial combat victories with no losses in dogfights. Following reviews of proposals, the United States Air Force selected McDonnell Douglas' design in 1967 to meet the service's need for a dedicated air superiority fighter. The Eagle first flew in July 1972, and entered service in 1976. Since the 1970s, the Eagle has been exported to Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and other nations. The F-15 was originally envisioned as a pure air superiority aircraft. Its design included a secondary ground-attack capability that was largely unused. The design proved flexible enough that an all-weather strike derivative, the F-15E Strike Eagle, was later developed, and entered service in 1989. The F-15 Eagle is expected to be in service with the U.S. Air Force past 2025. F-15 versions are still being produced for foreign users, with the F-15 production line set to end in 2019, 47 years after the type's first flight.

The JASDF F-15DJ  (source: wikipedia.org)

The Mitsubishi F-15J/DJ Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather air superiority fighter based on the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle in use by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). The F-15J was produced under license by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The subsequent F-15DJ and F-15J Kai variants were also produced. Japan is the largest customer of the F-15 Eagle outside the United States. In addition to combat, F-15DJ roles include training. The F-15J Kai is a modernized version of the F-15J.

F-15J/DJs are identical to F-15C/Ds aside from the ECM, radar warning system, and nuclear equipment. The AN/ALQ-135 Internal Countermeasures System is replaced by the indigenous J/ALQ-8 and the AN/ALR-56 Radar Warning Receiver is replaced by the J/APR-4. The engine is the Pratt & Whitney F100 turbofan, produced under license by IHI C orporation. Some aircraft still have an inertial measurement unit, an old type of the Inertial navigation system. All F-15J/DJs have two UHF radios, which are also VHF capable.

Mitsubishi received the F-15C/D Multistage Improvement Program (MSIP) and in 1987 began upgrading the F-15J/DJs. Improvements included an uprated central computer, engines, armament control set and added the J/APQ-1 countermeasures set. The F100-PW-220 (IHI-220) was upgraded to the F100-PW-220E (IHI-220E) with a digital engine electronic control retrofit. Differences in appearance from earlier F-15Js include the J/ALQ-8 ICS with an ICS antenna mounted under the intake. The J/APQ-4 RWR antenna position on the F-15J/DJs is the same as F-15C/Ds, but the lens of F-15J/DJ MSIPs are black rather than white for F-15C/Ds

F-15Js have been equipped with the Japanese-built AAM-3 missile, an improved AIM-9 Sidewinder follow-on with distinctive "barbed" forward fins. Japan has been investigating an advanced fighter to replace the F-15, meanwhile the F-15J fleet is being modernised. In 28 July 2003, the first upgraded F-15J (#928) made its first flight, and it was delivered to the JASDF Air Development Test Wing on 21 October 2003.

The Hiko Kyodotai (Tactical Fighter Training Squadron) is the Japan Air Self Defence Force's dedicated aggressor squadron. Based at Nyutabaru, the unit provides air combat training for most of the JASDF's combat units. Something of an elite unit, the Hiko Kyodotai predominately operates the two-seat Mitsubishi F-15DJ Eagle, although some single seat F-15Js are also on strength. Most of the F-15s are painted in very colourful camouflage schemes, with each aircraft seemingly carrying unique colours. Aircraft of the Hiko Kyodotai regularly deploy to bases throughout Japan, in order to assist in the training of the regular squadrons. The two tone blue splinter scheme I chose was applied to aircraft 92-8068 in 2013.

Modeling Reference Material
During my build I discovered several online resources that you may find useful:

Photos of Real JASDF F-15J/DJ's Other Online Builds/Reviews of the GWH F-15B/D kit

Thoughts on Building the GWH F-15B/D
I continue to be nothing but impressed with Great Wall Hobby. I find their models enjoyable to build with the fit of the parts and the attention to detail comparable to Hasegawa and Eduard. I genuinely look forward to each new annoucment from GWH as I know it will almost certainly result in a superior model to the one it replaces in the market place.

It's true that each of their recent releases have had some issues (name my one model from any manufacturer that does not have some issues) but they have consistently listened to feedback and corrected most problems in subsequent releases of the kit (examples would be the P-61 and MiG-29). With this F-15 kit however they have gone one step further and not waited for the next boxing to include corrections choosing instead to issue a signifcant update set at no cost to modelers who have already purchased the kit.

When you combine the quality of what you get in the box with the obvious desire to continually improve their product and a willingnes to stand behind it (how may other model companies do you know that have issued correction sets for a kit at no charge?) you have, in my opinion, a winning combination.

So what about this F-15B/D kit?
When I first got this kit and had a close look at the parts in the box it was pretty much what I was expecting. Finely detailed parts, sharp panel lines and rivets. I of course got out my Hasegawa F-15 kit and did a visual comparison. The most noticable difference between the two kits was the surface detail and of course the different approaches the two companies took to engineering the parts breakdown

Now I'm not an F-15 "expert" so I did not initally have much of an idea just by looking at the parts as to the general accuracy of the kit. I find that its really only once you start actually working on the model, consulting reference photos, and reading the opinions of others that you truely get a feel for the subject and hence the job that the manufacturer has done. So it was for this build. I relied very heavily on Jake Melampys excellent book "The Modern Eagle Guide" which has fantastic photos and explanations on virtually every current variant of the F-15.

As for the build of the kit, well it pretty much goes together like a dream. As you will see I did have a few hiccups but heck you get those with even the best of models (its all part of the hobby). I notice that GWH have now issued an F-15C which I will certainly be getting without hesitation. I still have my Hasegawa F-15 kits which I think I'll hold onto for the moment even though I can't see myself building one in the near future.

Anyway, as they say "the proof of the pudding is in the eating" so check out the build below and see how it goes together.

Changes I Made to Build an F-15DJ

  • Removed the ALQ-XXX antenna nodes on the upper and lower forward fuselage.
  • Added static dissipators to the radome
  • Added the circuit breaker panel in the rear cockpit right sidewall (not present on the B but required for any D or DJ)
  • Put a canvas cover over the map box in the front cockpit right console as the kit shows this with 3 slots for the AVCR (video recorder) system but these were only fitted in the cockpit to ANG F-15s

The Build
The following photos and comments relate to my build of the GWH F-15B/D which I chose to model as a JASDF F-15DJ.

I almost always choose to use a resin replacement seat for my jet models because no matter how good the plastic seat is it cannot compete with the detail (and realism) of a hand detailed resin seat. As I dug through my spare seat box (yes I really do have a box dedicated to spare resin seats !!) and picked out a Black Box and Quickboost ACES II seats I was surprised at the significant difference in size between the 1/48 resin seats and the GWK kit seat. Choosing to use one of the smaller (more accurate) resin seats was going to have a bigger impact on my build than I had initially thought.
Ultimately I decided to use the Black Box resin seats. The kit seat rails were replaced with Evergreen strip as they were a better scale fit to the smaller seat. In this photo you can quite easily see the height and to a lesser extent the width difference between the kit and resin seats.
The kit cockpit tubs and instrument panels are very nicely done by GWH, no shortcuts here using photo etch or decals, all the detail being moulded in plastic. The bracing on the top of the seat rails has been added from 10x20 thou strip and I feel looks more to scale than the GWH parts.
The resin seats, being shorter than the kit seats have needed to be raised up from the tub floor. The rear seat was raised more as it was sitting much lower than it should be based on photos.
Wherever possible I like to use reference photos of the real aircraft. This photo shows the height of the two seats in relation to the canopy. From my reading the seats on the F-15 are electrically height adjustable and so this means that there is technically no one correct position for the seats in your model. Having said that, almost all the photos I have seen show the rear seat almost touching the canopy and the front seat not far below it.
Based on the photos of the real F-15DJ, I have adjusted the seats to sit as close to an accurate position as possible. I had to be careful not to raise them too high or they would look out of place next to the cockpit side consoles.
The GWH kit is designed to allow us to build either a B or D variant of the F-15. Jake Melampys excellent book The Modern Eagle Guide is perhaps the ultimate photgraphic modelers reference guide on the F-15. One of the visible differences between the B and D Eagle is the addition of a circuit breaker panel in the D rear cockpit. I added this panel as well as the flexible map light and some simple detailing to the oxygen hose.
With a few simple enhancements to the kit tub it was time for a coat of paint. I have previously used black as an undercoat to aid in tone variations but this time around I dropped the black in favour of a very dark gray (just to try something new). Over this dark primer I applied a thin coat of Mr Color C325 which is a lighter shade of gray than the C317 called out by GWH.
The GWH kit provides the option to display the two main nose avioincs bays and radome open. Normally I would close these up but for this review build decided to see how good they would look. Again good reference is essential and several clear photos can be found online that show the interior of both bays. As you can see the bay is crammed full of equipment boxes, many of which are part of the APG-63 radar signal processing.
GWH have done a very good job of recreating the general layout of the equipment in both bays. Shown here is the right hand bay. There were two things I wanted to enhance on the kit in this area, the first being the depth of the bay as it was too shallow and made the overall bay look unrealistically flat. The second enhancement was the addition of the cabling that was so prominent in pictures.
To deepen the back wall of the bay I had to start by removing the current wall. For this I decided to work from the back outwards. The interior of the bay was quite thick plastic and I knew that to try and cut this away would be difficult and result in unnecessary damage to the equipment boxes. For the purpose of thinning the plastic I could use a file or knife or something else ....
My Dremel motor tool is not something I use regularly. For some jobs (like carving away plastic in awkward places) it is the tool of choice. My objective here was to thin down the plastic to the point that I could simply trim it with a sharp knife blade, like paper. I had recently upgraded my Dremel to one of the new 4000 Series tools with a flex shaft. The 4000 is speed adjustable down to 5000 rpm and incorporates electronic feedback for consistent speed under load. This makes it much more suitable for working with soft plastic such as found in our hobby.
To check my progress with the Dremel I repeatedly held the part upto a bright light. As the plastic was thinned it became translucent and eventually it was so thin (like paper) that I could clearly see the light shine thru. It was at this point that I put aside the Dremel and with a new blade cut out the remaining plastic with ease.
With the old (shallow) wall now removed I added some detailing to the shelving inside the bay. I was happy with progress so far and felt that the bay already looked better than before.
Remembering that the reason I wanted to remove the kit rear bay wall in the first place was to more realistically deepen the equipment boxes I now turned my attention once again to the inside of the bay. Using custom cut sections of 20 x 100 thou strip I deepened the shelves and equipment sides in both bays.
With a new rear wall fabricated from plastic card and fitted in place the results of my labors were starting to become more apparent. Next up was to add come cabling.
After some experimentation I settled on 0.2 and 0.25mm copper wire to "busy up" the bay. Before the wiring could be added I needed to very carefully mark and then drill holes in each equipment box. This resulted in a few broken micro drills and more than a little cursing, but in the end the job got done. Each wire was added and glued with super (CA) glue. It was then bent to shape and routed within the bay to match reference photos.
Here we see the completed bay. Note that I have not attempted to reproduce every single cable found on the real thing. The objective here was to make each bay look suitably "busy" and this will hopefully add some eye candy detail to the finished model (plus I actually find this type of enhancement building enjoyable).
One of the inevitable things that we have to deal with on even the best kits is ejection pin marks. The doors to the avionics bays have several ejection pin marks on the interior and unfortunately in removing them some fine detail was lost (in particular the very nice raised rivet detail). A combination of light sanding and Tamiya basic putty was enough to eradicate the marks.
Whilst working on the avionics bay doors I noticed that when open the three latches along the bottom edge are very prominent when unlatched. Using my drills and a sharp blade I opened up the latches on both doors and will add short lengths of 10x30 thou strip to simulate the latch in the open position.
In addition to the avionics bays, GWH also provide some nice (and accurate) detailing inside the radome. This reference photo shows quite a few details that I will try and reproduce on the model.
The (almost) completed detailing work on the avionics and open radome bay. I am still not happy with the large lip in the radome bulkhead and need to figure out how I can best remove this and still have a solid way of attaching the open radome (more problem solving, its what keeps me coming back to this hobby).
One of the unique features of the JASDF F-15s is the addition of static dissipator strips along the length of the radome. No other operators of the F-15 have these. The quickest way I know to add thin strips like this is via stretched sprue. I carefully marked the location of each strip with a pencil and then while holding the strip in place applied liquid glue (pure MEK from Simply Glues) with a very fine brush. A light sanding followed to help blend the strip into the surface.
The rear shelf of the canopy interior offered me a chance to try out some of the Micro Mark Raised Rivet Decals I had recently purchased for another project. These are easy to use and I'll be interested to see how they look under a coat of paint.
Its not often that I find myself intentionally removing detail from a model but in the case of the canopy framing it looks like GWH were basing this part off photos of F-15E Strike Eagles. The Strike Eagle has additional cooling ducts/piping fitted to the framing to support the enhanced Environment Control System (ECS) requirements to cool the additional F-15E cockpit avionics. A sharp knife and sanding stick made quick work of removing these to accurately represent an earlier F-15D.
While I was working on the framing and looking at reference pics I could not help but notice that the hinge point for the main canopy strut was woefully under detailed. A few mins and several cents of plastic card resulted in something a little more interesting (and accurate of course). I added a couple of rows of Micro Mark raised rivet decals for good measure.
A before and after comparison of the canopy framing. Little touches like this are quick and easy.
Normally I would just hand paint the cockpit side consoles but for some reason I decided to mask and airbrush the Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black. The detail on the GWH plastic parts is very good and I see not reason you would need to swap this out for a resin set (even if one was available)
Like the cockpit tub, the instruments panels are very nicely done. As I am modelling a current (2013) JASDF F-15DJ I chose the post MSIP panel (GWH provide both pre and post MSIP panels). MSIP introduced a new Programmable Armament Control Set (PACS) in the mid 1980's. This featured a new MPCD (Multi Function Color Display) in the front cockpit left side panel.
The HUD frame is provided by GWH as photo etch in the kit (nice touch). One thing missing that I felt the need to add was the HUD camera. This was easily built from some plastic card and lead wire.
At the last minute I decided that the kit supplied oxygen hoses were not upto the task and created two of my own from copper wire. The comms cable was added from 0.3mm lead wire held on with small strips of Tamiya tape. I'm glad I did this as they look much better than the plastic parts.
The completed front tub. I really like that GWH provide the cockpit instrument dials as individual decals. I know its more work but the end result is so much better than one big decal. As usual I have hand painted all the details with Vallejo, applied a wash of Model Master Raw Umber and dry brushed with Model Master Chrome Silver.
The rear tub in the F-15B/D is pretty sparse (unlike the later F-15E Strike Eagle). Mainly occupied by flight instructors or passengers only basic flight instruments and controls are present.
An overall view of the completed cockpit tub with the front and rear shrouds in place. Being the first time I have used the Model Master Raw Umber enamel paint as a wash I am happy with how it gives a dusty/grimy look to the black parts in the cockpit.
With all the detailing work now complete on the fuselage interior I was inching closer to closing it all up. I was quite concerned about this model being a tail sitter. Normally you would just fill the radome and fwd fuselage up with as much lead weight as will fit but with my decision to display the radome and avionics bays open I was scratching for space into which to glue some weight. In the end I think I found enough nooks and crannies into which I could stuff fishing sinkers into (fingers crossed).
With the fuselage now joined it was time to figure how to attack the open radome compartment. The kit includes a large lip into which the bulkhead is mounted. This is simply not present on the real F-15 and once I noticed it I knew I would not live with it being there. My solution was to cut away the kit lip and glue on my own 10 thou plastic card bulkhead. I still needed to represent the actual sheetmetal lip which in scale terms is about 1mm in size. I needed a material that was strong, had the scale thickness of sheet metal and could be bent to match the curvature of the fuselage without breaking or kinking. The one material that I know which meets all these requirements is sheet copper. I cut a 1mm strip and used the radome to curve it roughly to shape. This was then progressively glued (using CA) to the edge of the fwd fuselage. When dry it was sanded (another benefit of copper) and putty used to remove the seam.
With the new bulkhead in place I next thinned down the kit bulkhead part (C32) so that it was as thin as paper (it was literally translucent). This was laminated onto the new plasticard bulkhead. The next challenge to be tackled was to make a sturdy mounting point for the radome hinge. This needed to be strong enough to fully support the weight of the open radome part. I cut off the hinge mounting point from the kit bulkhead, moved it closer to the edge and combined it with some plasticard supports to raise it up and give more strength. The radome hinge was likewise enhanced with card and finally three lengths of 15 thou brass rod was mounted into the radome hinge with corresponding mounting drilled into the bulkhead mount point. So far the strength of this solution seems to be good but we'll see once I start to transport the model in the car etc.
With the front of the model under control it was time to switch gears and move to the very backend. I decided pretty early on that the kit nozzles, whilst nice, had some overscale parts (the nozzle actuating rods mainly). I happened to have a spare Aires F-15E Nozzle set in my stash and was curious to see if it could be made to work on the GWH kit as it was originally designed for the Revell kit. The resin is wonderfully detailed and as I got to about half way thru carefully cutting off and cleaning up each actuating rod I did wonder to myself if just using the kit plastic part was actually that bad a choice :) Of course I pushed on as often doing the grinding work like this is all part of the hobby.
My patience and work was of course rewarded once I put the nozzles together and matched them upto the rear fuselage. The interior of most modern NATO jet engines is made from a heat resistant ceramic material and is white in color (much like the tiles on the Space Shuttle). The interior of the engines have been painted with de-canted Tamiya White Primer. I started using this paint whenever I need a white that covers really well is is bullet proof. It only comes in rattle cans (which I hate using) so I de-cant it into a small bottle for use in my airbrush. The nozzles become heat stained quite quickly in use and I have applied a coat of AK Interactive Burnt Jet Engine pigment and AK Exhaust Wash.
To make my life easier later on down the track when I need to glue the exhausts into the fuselage and ensure they are aligned perfectly I have added a series of small tabs which are offset by 1mm from the rear edge of the fuselage. These give the resin parts something positive to align onto.
A quick side by side comparison of the Aires nozzle with the kit nozzle. Other than the obvious difference in the actuating rods you will notice that the two are subtlely different in legth and shape. I am not sure which one is technically the more accurate but I'm going to assume it's the resin ones.
Turning now to the bottom of the rear fuselage a quick check against photos of JASDF F-15DJs reveals the need to remove some vents and to add some others. The JFS (Jet Fuel Starter) exhaust vent is accurate but GWH just have it as a shallow indent and so I quickly drilled it out and mounted some plastic tube on the interior ot give the impression of depth.
The U shaped cutout on the rear fuselage petals was traced using a scribing template and the cut out by hand with sharp knife and file. The other vents were filled with plastic card and super glue.
GWH have a reputation for delivering in their kits some of the finest injection moulded parts I have ever seem (the missile fins in this kit are amazing). So it was a major surprise when I started to work on the control surfaces and noticed that the trailing edges of the flaps, ailerons and horizontal tail were so thick. I mean we know that GWH can make beautifully fine parts so its not like its the best they could do. Having said that the solution for the flaps and ailerons was pretty easy (the horiontal tail not so much) but I was just surprised that this was necessary.
You may decide that the trailing edge problem is not worth worrying about and I'm hoping that this photo comparison of before and after will convince you to spend the 10 minutes of sanding and filing to make it right.
So the flaps and ailerons was one thing, but when I picked up the horizontal tail I looked at not only the trailing edge but the front and side thickness. No matter from which angle I looked at it from it simply looked bloated. Once more I consulted the 'Modern Eagle Guide' and Verlinden Lock On and my gut feel was confirmed. Digging once again into my Hasegawa F-15 kit I pulled out the tails for a comparison. This kind of put the final nail in the coffin for the GWH horizontal tails as I realised the amount of effort needed to thin them down to a realistic size was not warranted when I had a perfectly good set of Hasegawa parts in my hands already.
In addition to the thickness issue described above the GWH tails have surface detail that would also need to be removed for a F-15B/D. The raised ribbing on the surface is meant to represent a sealant strip between the gridlock panels. This sealant strip was only present on the F-15E Strike Eagle (as the tail on the F-15E is not the same honeycomb material used on the earlier Eagles). I was happy to remove these and re-scribe panel lines but this and the thickness issue with the whole part made my descision to just swap to the Hasegawa parts that much easier.
As a rule I do not get too carried away with intake trunking. If the kit provides it then thats great if not then I can normally live with it (I know that some modelers can't and that's ok). GWH do provide intake trunking and even with a torch (yes I tried it) I could not see more than about two inches down the sides. So when I glued them together I sanded the seams as far as I could and applied some Tamiya Basic putty.
The undercarriage parts in the kit are generally very nice. A quick cross reference to some photos showed the support struts had lightening holes drilled out (wheras the kit did not have them drilled through) This was a super fast enhancement. I did also notice that the main strut on the real aircraft is actually a circular tube all the way along its length unike the kit part which is very chunky at the top end. I figured that a) this would not be visible on the finished model and b) added to the strength of the gear mounting point to the wheel well. As a result I left the strut as is.
Skip forward to the point where I have now glued the main fuselage top and bottom together. As normal I used some modeling clamps to hold the parts in place as the glue dried. After some seam cleanup I decided to dry fit the intakes and nearly fell off my chair when I saw the size of the gap between the fuselage and intake on the right side (the left side had a gap but not as bad as this one). Now I am not going to blame GWH outright for this as I have since checked several other online builds of this kit and no-one else has had this issue (or if they did the have not mentioned it, which seems unlikely). My best guess is that when I clamped the two fuselage halves I applied too much pressure and they dried in an overly compressed position. Whatever the reason I now owned the problem and had to fix or work around it. If you are planning on building this kit then just heed my words here and check the intake fit as the glue dries on your fuselage matchup.
So how to solve this issue ? My first instinct was to reduce the height of the intake part, but given the internal ramps and general detailing inside the intake that would have been a LOT of work. So if I can't shorten the intake to come down the fuselage can I lengthen the fuselage height to come up and meet the intake. Well yes, I could but it would involve cutting open the fuselage and inserting some packing material. So with PE razor saw in hand I carefully cut along the seam (whose glue was not full cured luckily).
With the two part separated I was now able to use trial and error to determine the right size of packing needed to build up the height. In the end about 25 thou was needed to mostly close up the gap.
The self inflicted gap was now filled completely with suitably sized card stock and glued in place. I also added some packing around the front end so I could accurately re-create the sharp tip.
And so after a few hours of creative problem solving we are back on track. If you read this article at some point and like me you have this same issue then please email me so at least I know I'm not going mad !!
By contrast to the forward fuselage dramas, the rear fuselage was joy to work on. I'd advise you to ignore the GWH build sequence and leave the PE parts for the formation lights off until you have glued and sanded the fuselage halves. I also had a chuckle at the GWH instructions that showed how to measure the location for the PE parts. The instructions call for you to locate the PE part at 4.23mm above the centerline. Seriously GWH, 4.23mm ... I'm all for accuracy but I'd like to know how you expect a modeler to measure out 4.23mm. For my model 4.00mm did the job just fine :)
The next few steps in the build are not about correcting an error but an example of how you can find ways to enhance your build with some creative thinking. The F-15 has very distinctive red formation lights on each wing. These are located close to the wing root on the leading edge. GWH provide these as a panel outline which the modeler can paint appropriately. I wanted to take another approach.
On the real aircraft these lights are tinted glass and I find that using paint (even clear red paint) on plastic parts is not all that convincing. What we need is some clear plastic that is tinted red. As luck would have it you can pickup at your local supermarket cheap plastic toothbrushes that have handles made of tinted red, blue and green plastic. I took to one of these toothbrushes with my razor saw and cut off a chunk. This was shaped to match the cutout in the wing and super glued in place.
Using a sanding stick and file I carefully (and slowly) shaped the plastic part to match the wing leading edge. Once the shape was correct I used micromesh polishing pads to succesively polish the clear part back to a shine. Finally the panel lines and rivets were restored. The same technique was used on the wingtip navigation lights.
A final test fit of the radome and radar antenna assembly reveals no problems. Detail painting has commenced on the avioincs bays using Vallejo acrylics. I find these paints are the most versatile for brush painting but they do need to be applied over a base/primer coat or they do not adhere well to plastic.
After painting is complete a light wash of Raw Umber has been applied to tone down the brightness of the base paint. Darker washes also help to highlight the small details and add depth to the parts.
Turning my attention to the next to the external stores, the first cab off the rank is the drop tanks. The tanks provided in the GWH kit do match photos of current F-15's which have simple raised weld lines. This photo of an actual JASDF F-15 (in fact it is the exact aircraft I am modeling) shows a different construction for the tank to that provided by GWH.
As I had the Hasegawa F-15 kit on hand I pulled out the tanks and compared them to the GWH parts. The Hasegawa tanks appear to be a better match to the JASDF tanks and so I will use these on my model.
As I am modeling an aggressor aircraft the only stores carried will be an inert AAM-3 on the left pylon and an ACMI pod on the right. The centerline often carries a ECM pod and I will be using one on this model as well. None of these items come in the GWH kit and so have been sourced from various Hasegawa weapons sets. The missile rails used by the JASDF are the older LAU-114 as it seems they have not yet upgraded to the newer LAU-128 (to allow use of the AIM-120 AAMRAM) like the USAF. The GWH kit does provide LAU-114 rails but these seem to be a bit long when compared to the Hasegawa parts and the correct adapter needed to connect to the pylon is not provided in the kit. I therefore decided to use the rails and adapters from the Hasegawa kit. At this point you may think I am using a lot of parts from the Hasegawa kit. Given that I am building a JASDF aircraft and the GWH kit is designed for an Israeli or USAF bird its not all that surprsing I should "borrow" so much.
The interior framing of the canopy has been masked and painted black. The bottom framing part has also now been glued to the clear part. As I intend to apply several photo-etch canopy locking hooks to the bottom surface of the canopy frame I needed to putty up the fairly nasty gaps present after gluing. To mimimise the chance of the putty fouling the clear parts I have used Milliput which is totaly safe around clear plastic and cleans up with water.
The final detailing touch for the canopy frame is the addition of some PE locking hooks. These are from an old set by Reheat.
Not that long ago I came across some great scale lenses in various sizes from a local Australian hobby suppilier, Red Roo. I have used MV Lenses before (as designed for railway models) but have never come across a stockist of these here in Australia. To more realistically depict the lens of the two nose gear landing lights I will use a 3mm & 4mm lens and simply glue it to the front surface of each light body after painting them.
The nose wheet strut is generally very accurate and the only additions were some 0.3mm lead wire for the power cables for the landing lights and drilling out some lightening holes on the forward support arm. I think its a cool addition by GWH to provide the lettering on the side wall of the tire.
It was now time to mate the front and rear fuselage sub-assemblies. The fit was pretty good but I was not happy with pretty good and so chose to fill the join with super glue and re-scribe it.
With the fuselage join squared away it was time to attach those pesky intakes. With the work I had done previously to eliminate the major gaps all that remained was to glue the intakes on and then use super glue to fill the small gaps and sand everything square. Part B7, the forward fuselage hump is a good fit requiring no filler and minimal clean up.
Despite what the GWH instructions say, the main gear doors and the nose gear door need to be glued in the closed position. The only time the doors are down is when the gear is being retracted or the maintenance crew manually drop them. As the pylons are painted the same as the airframe color it makes sense to attach them now.
The last step in preparation for painting is to attach the vertical tails. I have offset the rudders by a small amount as I think this gives a little more interest and realism.
The very final step in preparation for painting is to give the model a wipe down with Testors "Plastic Prep". This is a special cleaning product for styrene plastic and does a good job of removing any oil (from my fingers) or sanding residue that has come to rest in the panel lines. I use an old soft toothrush dipped in Plastic Prep to flush out the surface detail. Let it air dry and you are ready for painting.
I wanted to have a try out a dark base (primer) coat over which I could apply the lighter greys. I have see this used to good effect on the net and with a boring grey scheme ahead of me seemed like as good a time as any to give it a go. I selected Tamiya X-18 Semi-Gloss Black and thinned it with the wonderfully versatile Mr Color Leveling Thinners. This made for fine paint that airbrushes wonderfully.
My Iwata Revolution CR was loaded up and a thin coat of the black was applied over the whole airframe. Even though the paint is semi-gloss and would normally take a while to dry, the Mr Color Leveling Thinners speeds things up a bit and also helps the paint to settle into a very smooth coat. Not sure if its the Mr Color thinners but the finish was not all that semi-gloss to my eye.
With the black dry I next applied several light coats of Alclad "Airframe Aluminium" on the exposed natural metal section between the tails. This went on smoothly with the trick to getting a good result with Alclad being to apply many super thin coats and build them up.
The unpainted panels on the F-15 extend further forward on the underside as shown here. Alclad "Airframe Aluminium" again was used.
It was at this point that things took a turn for the worse. As I was masking the Alclad I had to remove some of the tape to reposition it slightly and it lifted a big section of the Alclad and more disturbingly the black primer as well. I was left with several large chunks of missing Alclad and so I decided that if it happened here it could happen elsewhere on the model. I bit the bullet and sanded the entire model surface with some micro mesh pads to see where the black paint had not adhered well to the plastic. You can see quite a few sections where the black paint came off with little or no coaxing. I thoroughly sanded each weak section back to plastic and then applied some real grey primer to check my repairs. This goes to show that no matter how well you prep the model prior to painting that things can (and often do) go wrong.
After the repairs, I re-applied the Alclad, masked it and then applied the first of the two "mod eagle" greys. Gunze Mr Color have both of the greys required in their range. The lighter grey is C308 and over this we apply small sections of C307. Not having a very steady hand when it comes to airbrushing I always try to use a suitable mask if possible. Blu Tac seems perfect here as the demarcation needed to be curved and slightly soft.
With the sausages of blu-tac laid in position, small segments of Tamiya tape are used to block out the sections that need to be protected. This is time consuming work but the end result is exactly what I was after so it was worth the effort.
Longer lengths of blue tac sausages can be made by slowly rolling the Blu Tac into thinner sizes with a ruler. The lengths shown here are about as long as I think I could roll Blu Tac without it becoming a big mess. As before once the Blu Tac is where you need it, apply pieces of tape to protect from overspray.
At this point the base "mod eagle" scheme was done. My real work in reproducing the 2013 Agressor splinter scheme however was only just beginning.
One of the visually appealing features of the JASDF Aggressor aircraft is the way that all the stenciling on the airframe is masked over and hence appears as a patchwork of grey boxes over the entire surface of the aircraft. Anywhere there is a safety stencil, or walkway the grey paint had to be masked over, just like the JASDF do in real life. Tamiya tape was carefully cut to size and shape and applied to match the photos I had of the real aircraft (92-8068)
The stencil masking was very time consuming as I had to continually refer back to photos and instructions from the Hasegawa kit. As it turned out I noticed that Hasegawa got a few things wrong in their paint layouts so that made me even more paranoid and I was even more focused on double checking everything. The stenciling was very important because it was one of the main things that drew me to this scheme on the first place and I wanted to get it right.
Once I was satisfied that the stencils were covered, I proceeded to mask off the first of the two blues. The colors used here are the same as used on the JASDF Blue Impulse display team (not surprisingly) and once again the Mr Color range came to the rescue with out of the bottle matches for both blues. The light blue is C323 whilst the darker blue is C322 "Phthalo Cyanine Blue". The splinter scheme is actually not that hard to mask (being straight lines) but again it took a lot of time because I needed to check and double check where each section was meant to go. I think overall I went thru about a roll and half of tape.
The light blue was sprayed as normal and then the center of each panel was "faded" with a lighter (ie whiter) mix. I prefer this method over the more popular "pre-shading" technique as I think it looks more realistic and is generally easier to make look convincing. When removing the tape for the splinter I had to be very mindful not to lift the stencil tape I had worked so very hard to apply.
Some of the areas which had to be taped were a bit challenging. Around the intakes and LEX (is it a LEX ?) was a bit tricky due to the curves and the angles needed to be dealt with. As usual, a modicum of patience served me well.
The vertical tails were also masked and sprayed along with the rest of the fuselage. I left the horizontal tails off during painting to make things easier for myself. I was pleased how well the panel lines and rivets were holding up under now 3 coats (well four if you count the primer) of paint. I had pre-scribed all panel lines and sharpened up most of the rivets as experience has taught me the value of this when we get to the panel wash stage.
One of the more interesting masking challenges on this build was the star on each drop tank. The masks needed to be a reverse layout with the dark blue applied over the grey and a reverse negative effect below. The decal sheet did provide these stars but the color looked nothing like the dark blue I was using so a better solution had to be found. I scanned the decal sheet, printed it back out on paper so it was the same size and then using clear "invisible" tape stuck each star down over some Tamiya tape. I then used a sharp blade and traced out the star using the printed paper decal as a template. After a few wonky attempts I was eventually able to get a star template that would do the trick. I needed four of these, two for each tank.
It was now time to mask up the dark blue splinter sections. Looking at this photo it's hard to imagine how this would work out but again I proceeded slowly and carefully checked each piece of tape as I laid it down.
With the splinter edge layout in place I was able to finally fill in the blanks and mask up all areas that may have been subject to overspray. The dark blue is not the sort of paint you want to accidently spray somewhere it should not be.
Once the dark blue was dry (this actually took a couple of days as the C323 was high gloss) the masking was removed. Whilst it may seem odd, the dark blue did not cover very well at all and I was forced to apply several coats. This resulted in a noticable demarcation "ridge" due to the thickness of the paint which I then had to remove by careful sanding with 4000 grade micro mesh.
It was this point that I felt all my effort was paying off. You now the moment when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel :)
With the major painting done and dusted it was time to round up all the other stores and weapons that needed some paint. The AAM missile used on the agressor birds are dummy (inert) rounds and hence painted in a medium blue color. The best match I have found is actually a Model Master color for cars, #2730 Chrysler Engine Blue.
The doors to the avonincs bay also had to be masked and painted to match the fuselage patterns. This was mostly easy and I used a rule to measure where the tape had to go. You can see here my scratchbuilt latches in the open position.
The modified radome lip and hinge were painted using XtraColor "Interior Blue/Green" X159 . The interior of the radome is fiberglass and was painted Tamiya Buff.
Next up came the decaling. As usual I applied two light coats of Future (thinned 50:50 with Tamiya Acrylic thinner) to provide a gloss surface. As before, when I was masking up for the stencils, this task was very time consuming in applying each stencil and panel number decals in the right spot. I have to confess that I did not apply each and every panel identification number (to their credit, GWH do give you a decal sheet with every one present). The decals I ended up using were a combination of DXM (Double Excellent Models), GWH, Two Bobs and Hasegawa.
An overall view of the completed decaling. This model was finally starting to look like an Aggressor.
This closer photo shows more clearly the density of decals that were applied. It took me a couple of sittings to get this far progressed. Each and every stencil decal went down without a hitch, which was a relief because often such small decals are prone to silvering. You can see the sheen of the Future gloss coat which is so very important to make decaling easier and in my case provide a protective layer for the upcoming panel wash. Once all the decals were dry (overnight) I used a soft cloth and warm soapy water to clean away any excess surface residue from around the decals. Next I sealed the decals with a final light coat of Future.
Over the years (makes me sound old, I guess I am ...) I have refined a technique for doing my panel washes. I've actually done a small tutorial on my website here if you'd like to see a step by step guide. For this build I selected my default panel wash color of Model Master Burnt Umber mixed with white spirit for the grey and light blue areas. For the dark blue areas I needed to switch to a lighter shade and settled on Model Master Medium Grey.
The panel lines and rivets on the GWH kit are generally very sharp and for the most part deep enough. I did however lightly pre-scribe most all the panel lines on the whole model before painting as well as sharpening up any rivets that looked suspect. Its a lot of extra work to be sure but when you get to this point and the panel wash comes out well it makes it all worth while. I know that my panel/rivet highlighting style is not to everyones taste but I don't mind as I like the results.
The final step after panel washing is an overall flat clear coat (I still have a pretty good stockpile of Polly Scale Acrylic Flat Clear) and then final assembly of the various components onto the main airframe. As a rule at this point I attach most parts with Super Glue or Two Part Expoxy (for extra strength) for things like undercarriage legs. Although not highlighted in the earlier construction I also used brass pins to secure the ACMI and AAM to the pylons, as much for ensuring accurate alignment as for strength.
The finished model is displayed here on a pre-printed base from Uschi van der Rosten.

Conclusion
So that's another one for the display cabinet. Overall I'd give this latest kit from GWH a 9 out of 10. I'm not going to comapre it to the Haseagwa kit or anything like that. Sure as you have seen I used some parts from that kit in preference to the GWH parts but thats really only because I had one spare and I was being lazy. I'm very happy with my choice of paint scheme and I have my eye on the GWH F-15C and who knows maybe that too will be a JASDF Aggressor.

So if you are looking to build an accurate, detailed, well fitting F-15 two seater then the GWH kit should definitely by on your shopping list.
For photos of the finished model jump over to the Gallery.