Great Wall Hobbies 1/48 F-15B Eagle Kit Quick Build Review
|Date of Review||December 2013||Manufacturer||Great Wall Hobby|
|Kit Number||4815||Primary Media||Styrene/Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Beautifully done model of this distinctive aircraft||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$109.95|
Quick Build Review
For some background of this subject and a look at this kit out of the box, look here.
When I looked at this kit in the box, it was clear then that this featured some very impressive engineering. I had to find out whether it builds up as nice as it looks. I opted to do this as a quick-build review so you can see the model with any gaps or fit problems without any paint or filler. As usual for our quick-build reviews, I used Tamiya Extra-Thin Liquid Cement, a couple of files, a sanding stick, my Xuron sprue cutters, and an X-Acto knife. I didn't use the photo-etched parts (crew restraints, afterburner spray rings, etc.) so cyano was not needed.
For this quick-build, I decided to do an early B-model ignoring the issue with the featherless nozzles. I'd use the Escapac seats, build the aircraft with one engine running (and the starboard intake ramp down) which puts all of the flight controls neutral and all of the doors and panels closed. So let's see how this kit goes together.
Cockpit - construction starts with the ejection seats and I'm again impressed with how these seats are designed. They are not front and sides only, the rear is detailed too. The parachute pack and survival kit have crew restraints molded on them, so you might want to file these details off if you use the included photo-etch parts, or you could simply paint the molded-on parts and call it a day.
The cockpit tub is next and it is nicely detailed. Some careful painting here and this will look awesome. The ejection seat rails are installed in the forward and aft pits and the seats drop into place between the rails. Nice. The cockpit tub is mounted atop the nosewheel well, so that is assembled and glued to the underside of the cockpit tub.
The first nit in the instructions happens here - the kit specifically tells you which control sticks to use for the B or D model, but not which front cockpit instrument panel. The cockpit tub is enclosed with sidewalls and it is ready for installation in the nose.
Forward Fuselage - The model can be posed with the radome swung open to reveal the APG-63, but I opted for closed radome to see how all of this fit together. The cockpit tub plugs into one forward fuselage half, insert the forward bulkhead at the front, then close up the forward fuselage. This assembly fits very nicely together and no filler required. I clipped off the hinges on the radome and installed it. There was just the slightest step at parts of the radome but a sanding stick will take care of that. The front cockpit glare shield mounts in place and here is where the photo-etched HUD frame goes but again, I opted to pass on the photo-etched parts, so no HUD.
Here is my first major problem with the instructions. Nowhere do they tell you that you'll need ballast in the model. I'll describe how I came to that conclusion later, but you need at least 3/4 of an ounce as far forward as possible. If you're not displaying the radar, put it inside the radome, otherwise install the weight on the back side of the forward bulkhead between the bulkhead and the cockpit tub. Problem solved.
Main Fuselage - First step here is to assemble the two intake ducts. I found that the forward end of the ducts didn't want to align so I improvised with clamps and let the intake walls solidify.
The completed intakes install in the lower fuselage half aong with an interesting doghouse part that mounts in-between the intake fronts. This is a prime example of that engineering excellence at work - this is a receiver for the large stub you see coming from the rear of the forward fuselage above. This provides a very solid mechanical joint and you won't have the aircraft breaking apart later.
You can see the flanges on either side of the lower fuselage half above and these are where the lower wing halves mount. I was really skeptical that this was going to work without filler or other painful remedies, but I must say I am again impressed with the engineering here. The fit is so tight that the only places I'd need to fill would be where I filed away the sprue stubs a little too aggressively, and that would only be a slight dab of Mr. Surfacer 500. Very nice work.
The completed lower assembly was mounted to the one-piece upper assembly and the halves went together uneventfully. I instinctively clamped a few areas out as I glued around the perimeter but I found that the fit is so precise that clamping only takes the joints out of position. Again, very nice work here!
So now is the moment of truth, we plug the forward fuselage into that doghouse and add a dorsal fairing.
I know I keep saying this, but this is some impressive design work here. The fit from above is nearly perfect and you can see the worst gap in the entire build running behind the nose wheel well, and that is a simple fix with Mr. Surfacer 500.
Intake Ramps - as I've mentioned previously, the kit provides the intake ramp in the full-up (shut down) or down (running) positions. I chose to do one of each and built the port side up and starboard side down following the parts call-outs in the instructions. So imagine my surprise when I found the port side ramp was down and vice versa... No problem, I must have misread the instructions and build the other pair of intake ramps and these slide nicely into place.
Engines - I wasn't sure what to expect with these engines. I'm used to installing engines before the fuselage halves go together but the instructions have them build afterwards. I build them according to the instructions and using the compressor face for the F100-PW-100 that powered the early Eagles.
You can see these compressor faces down the intake ducts so it is a nice touch to provide that extra detail here. I'm not too convinced about these featherless nozzles as the pushrod actuators look a bit thick to my eye, but many modelers won't mind. The nozzles themselves are molded in quarters with each quarter mounting to the afterburner chamber (which is molded as a single hollow part). What the instructions don't mention is that each quarter has a different hole pattern to mount to the afterburner chamber - they are keyed to go on the chamber only one way. Once they're on, the turbine face (and the photo-etch afterburner ring) mount to the other end and the ring with the nozzle actuator rods slides over the completed chamber. The afterburner mounts to the rear of the F100 engines, and sure enough, they slide nicely into place from the rear of the fuselage (just like the real aircraft).
Tails - even though the left and right tails were the same configuration on the F-15B, I built the port vertical stab per the instructions and...I had built the starboard vertical stab? A closer look at the instructions and the starboard tail is marked 'L' and the port side marked 'R'. I started having flashbacks to basic training with an instructor yelling at us for not knowing our left from our right. Clearly we have another as a revisit to the intake step confirms that the port and starboard assemblies are indeed reversed. That is okay because by now I'm test-fitting everything even more - just in case.
The horizontal stabilators have a strange set of reinforcing strips molded to their upper and lower surfaces. I've checked my references and while I can see these structures in some up-close shots, these details are flush to the surface of the stabilators. You'll need to take a sanding stick and remove these details of the stabs.
Landing Gear - as before, the fit is spot-on and the gear is installed in short order. Here is where I had a bit of gullibility. The instructions show all of the doors open on the ground and (of course) all closed with the gear up. I installed the forward nosegear door down before catching this error and didn't feel like correcting it, but I closed up the rest of the doors that didn't have a gear strut sticking through them. Check your references.
Center of Gravity - as I mentioned above, this kit is a dedicated tail-sitter without some weight in the nose and the instructions don't mention this. When I put the aircraft on its gear, it promptly sat on its butt. I had not glued the engines into place and when I removed them, the aircraft would sit on its landing gear, so the balance isn't that far off. I put a .75 ounce lead weight on the front ejection seat and the model sat on its nose gear. To be on the safe side, I would put an ounce inside the forward fuselage as mentioned earlier or .75 ounces inside the radome. That should give you enough ballast to offset any external stores. To fix my aircraft, I dropped two .75 ounce weights through the rear fuselage (engines removed and let them slide up inside the wing roots next to the intakes. The additional weight compensates for the fact that I can't get weight in the nose at this point and it worked perfectly.
Wrapping Up - I installed the inboard and centerline pylons and stopped there. I'm not going to put externals in the way of seeing the basic kit for this review. I had held off on the speed brake and canopy and these were installed last.
I've done more than a few builds and quick builds as I'm sure you have. Building models is similar to reading books - most are enjoyable but every now and then you find one you can't put down. Such was the case with me and this Eagle. I kept looking up at the clock and another period of time had passed but I just kept pressing on because I wanted to see how this was going to end.
I think you can see for yourself, it builds very nicely and despite the glitches in the instructions, I was very impressed with the design, engineering, and fit of this model. You hear lots of people talk about how CAD-based model tooling assembles better than the 'old school' designs, but that simply isn't true. There are some things you can do with modern design and molding technology, but unless it is in the hands of the talented, the technology is no better than before.
There is a single-seat version of this kit coming, but after building this model, I'm going to do another two-seater (whenever I can get another copy) and that will be a full build.
My sincere thanks to Great Wall Hobbies for this review sample!