by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Great Wall Hobby have released their first 1:72 aircraft kit in the shape of the F-15E. It clearly draws from their experience with their 1:48 Eagles and Strike Eagles and looks set to be the first in a series of F-15s in this smaller scale.
The kit arrives in an attractive top-opening box which is stuffed to bulging point with bagged sprues. I’m tempted to say it really needs a slightly deeper box, because I think there could be a risk of parts getting crushed in transit if you’re unlucky.
The F-15E comprises:
203 x grey styrene parts (plus 4 not needed)
3 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
The moulding is really excellent, with crisply defined detailing and subtle and precise engraved surfaces. Ejection pins have been kept out of sight in the cockpit and wheel wells, but I spotted some in the inside of the airbrake and on the landing gear gear legs.
Some sprue attachments are on the mating surfaces to avoid marring the surface detailing, so a little careful preparation is needed before you can start assembly.
Great Wall Hobby have taken admirable care to ensure the parts arrive intact; the canopy has a piece of clear tape attached to avoid it getting scuffed in transit, while delicate engine parts are protected on their sprue by hefty moulded shields.
Test FitThe main fuselage and wings are split laterally, with a full-span top surface and drop in panels for the wings and fuselage flanks. A single-piece moulding forms the belly, complete with conformal fuel tanks, and this clips firmly in place, matching the complex contours perfectly.
The nose section is separate (presumably, single-seaters will be coming soon) and is split vertically. It slots into a very solid cradle inside the main fuselage which also doubles up to extend the jet intakes into the body with engine faces moulded at the ends to prevent a see-through look.
The vertical tails fit without any fuss, although they are too loose to stay in place without glue, while the stabilisers can be set at whatever angle you like on their pivot mounts.
All in all, the kit looks a breeze to build - and I have to admit that this is one of those test fits that got out of hand… before I knew it, I was actually building the kit! So, watch out for progress soon in the Forum.
A Few DetailsConstruction kicks off logically enough with the 16-piece cockpit, which includes a neatly detailed tub with multi-part seats and crisply detailed instrument panels. Decals are provided for the panels and side consoles - although those for the consoles have been missed in the instructions. A nice touch is that the decals are split into sections, so there is a better chance on them snuggling down over the moulded detail.
Up front there is a neatly moulded radar array, which can be revealed by the separate nose cone.The nose cone has moulded-on hinges which you'll need to trim off if you want to model it closed - another small point missed in the instructions. In interesting touch is that the nosewheel well is installed after closing up the nose halves, so you can plough on with the main assembly without stopping to paint it.
There's no mention of noseweight being needed, but there's plenty of space if it does turn out to be necessary. I'd recommend dry-assembly the nose section with basic kit standing on its wheels before cementing everything shut.
Alternative jet intakes are provided, depending whether you build the kit with the landing gear up or down - but note that there's no stand provided to display the finished model "in flight".
The engines are well handled with some fine detail on the afterburner petals. The finished engines are designed to simply slot into the completed fuselage, which will make painting much simpler.
The wheel wells are very well detailed for this scale and the gear legs are good and sturdy while being very neatly detailed. The wheels boast some very crisp hub detail and even tiny maker's logos on the tyres. Oddly, the mainwheels are moulded "weighted", while the nosewheel isn't, so I'll file a slight "flat" to match.
The reason for the high parts count is down to the impressive arsenal of ordnance included with the kit:
2 x AIM-9L Sidewinder AAMs
2 x AIM-120B AMRAAMs
AAQ-13 Navigation pod
AAQ-14 Targeting pod
AXQ-14 Datalink pod
3 x GBU-12 Laser-guided bombs
GBU-15 TV-guided bomb
GBU-24 Laser-guided bomb
2 x 610 Gallon tanks
The stores are very nicely detailed and complete with stencil decals. Great Wall Hobby have provided a separate load-out chart for each of the aircraft featured in the colour schemes.
Instructions & DecalsThe assembly guide is a little unusual in that it's printed on a series of separate fold-out sheets. This is a bit more cumbersome than a booklet, but OK once you get used to it. The diagrams are shaded renders and quite clear and easy to follow, and the 14-stage sequence is pretty logical - but fitting the fuselage pylons is left later than I'd recommend, and I can't see any mention of installing the ones under the wings.
Colour matches are given for Gunze Sangyo and MIG paints.
Decals are provided for three aircraft:
F-15E 87-0173, 391st Fighter Squadron "Bold Tigers", 366th Fighter Wing, 2002
F-15E 87-0169, 391st Fighter Squadron "Bold Tigers", 366th Fighter Wing, 2002
F-15E 89-0488, 336th Fighter Squadron "Rocketeers", 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, 2003
The decals look to be very good quality, printed with a glossy finish and good registration on the sample sheet. There's plenty of stencilling provided, and some of the smallest items are joined together on extended areas of carrier film, which should make applying them and ensuring they're correctly lined up more straightforward. Clear placement guides are included in the instructions, with theses "multi-decals" highlighted as shaded patches.
ConclusionApart from the few minor omissions in the instructions, I'm really impressed by every aspect of Great Wall Hobby's new 1:72 Strike Eagle. It's highly detailed, but should still be a simple build that's suitable for modellers of pretty much all abilities thanks to clever design and excellent engineering.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.