Sunday, July 20

Gary's build of the 48th scale F-15DJ Eagle from Great Wall Hobbies - Part I

WE are so glad to have a bunch of great staff builders here on TMN - Gary Wickham being at the point of the spear - he regularly makes great models out of some so-called "unbuildable" kits...Today look on as he tackles the already very good F-15 Eagle from Great Wall Hobbies he is just about to make even better...


Great Wall Hobby
Kit No: L4815
1/48th scale
Available from: Great Wall Hobby directly & most model shops
Model by Gary Wickham

GWH 1/48 F-15B/D Eagle Correction set review here.
GWH 1/48 F-15B/D Eagle - Build Review Part I
GWH 1/48 F-15B/D Eagle - Build Review Part II
GWH 1/48 F-15B/D Eagle - Build Review Part III
GWH 1/48 F-15B/D Eagle - Completed Gallery

Today I kick off my build review of the Great Wall Hobby (GWH) kit of the F-15B/D Eagle. I’ll be breaking this build into several parts so we can share the progress on The Modelling News with you as it happens, rather than waiting till the very end.

The kit was originally released late in 2013 and I started my build in Feb 2014. I had not progressed very far when GWH announced plans for an update set which was designed to correct a host of issues that had been identified since the initial release. I decided to park the build until this correction set arrived, which true to their word, GWH delivered in June.

For a detailed exploration of what is included in the correction set, please see my previous review here.
GWH provide fairly standard markings for four aircraft in the box, two Israeli F-15B and two USAF F-15D. All these options use the air superiority ‘mod eagle’ two grey paint schemes. I was interested in something a little different and more eye catching and my research quickly led me to the colourful Japanese F-15DJ Aggressors.

The scheme that appeals to me the most (at least right now) is the two blue scheme applied in 2013 to aircraft 92-8068.
If you’d like to know more about the F-15 and specifically the F-15DJ in JASDF service then check out Wikipedia here - Once you are done reading about this amazing aircraft, come back and join us as I start the build of this latest GWH kit.

The Build
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 GWH 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 clearly 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.
Wherever possible I like to use reference photos of the real aircraft. This shot is particularly useful as it shows an example of 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 photographic modeller’s reference guide on the F-15 and shows that one of the visible differences between the B and D Eagles 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 grey (just to try something new). Over this dark primer I applied a thin coat of Mr Color C325, which is a lighter shade of grey than the C317 called out by GWH. 
The GWH kit provides the option to display the two main nose avionics 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 and interconnecting cables, many of which form part of the APG-63 radar signal processing system.
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 is 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 is 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 too 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 them 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 up to 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 labours 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 best 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 of these on the interior face 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. 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 mostly 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 is shown here. I am still not happy with the large lip on 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-15 is the addition of static dissipater strips along the length of the radome. Apparently, no other operators of the F-15 have these fitted. The quickest way I know to add thin strips like this is using stretched sprue. I carefully marked the location for 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.
So, that’s my progress thus far. I think from what I have seen this far that GWH have another winner here and as I progress I’ll be posting additional updates. Stay tuned.

Thanks to Great Wall Hobbies for sending this kit to us to build for you