Hasegawa 1/48 F-15J Eagle MSIP Configuration II Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||October 2011||Manufacturer||Hasegawa|
|Subject||F-15J Eagle MSIP Configuration II||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||09957||Primary Media||Styrene/Photo-Etch/Resin|
|Pros||Updated F-15J release||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$99.95|
In 1969, McDonnell Douglas was awarded a contract to develop the Air Force's next generation fighter. The Vietnam air war had caught the service without a suitable all-weather fighter and as an interim measure, the Air Force purchased their own variants of the Navy's F-4 Phantom II. Given the rapidly declining kill ratios from World War II through Korea and into Vietnam, what was needed was a true air superiority machine. The resulting design was very large, but the F-15 Eagle was the first production aircraft that produced more thrust than it weighed. While the US Air Force didn't have the opportunity to fly the Eagle in combat during its first 20 years of service, the Israeli Air Force literally decimated anyone that opposed the F-15 in the sky. During operations against Syria in the Bekaa Valley, the F-15 destroyed around 80 Syrian Air Force MiGs with no losses, becoming the widest distributor of MiG parts in the world.
In 1975, the Japanese Defense Agency started looking at potential replacements for the F-104J Starfighter still in service with the JASDF. The US F-15C/D Eagle were selected and type entered service in 1981 as the F-15J and F-15DJ (respectively). Due to export restrictions by the US, the F-15J/DJ didn't receive the same avionics suite of the F-15C/D but Japanese industry provided indigenous solutions for the aircraft. While the F-15J has not had to fire a shot in anger to date, the JASDF continues to be modernized to ensure combat effectiveness should it ever be called into battle. The process for upgrades is the Multi-Stage Improvement Program (MSIP) and the F-15J/DJ received MSIP I in starting in 1987 and MSIP II started in 2004. While the MSIP updates are very similar to USAF MSIP updates to the F-15C/D, MSIP II added new electronic warfare antennas to the airframe, most notably the two blisters on the sides on the intake just under wing glove. GPS antennas were added to the canopy hood near the rear of the canopy and some aircraft have also received an InfraRed Search/Track set ahead of the windscreen similar to the MiG-29 and Su-27. While the F-15J retains the capability to fire the AIM-7 and AIM-9, the aircraft also can employ the indigenous AAM-3 and eventually the AAM-4 and AAM-5 missiles.
Hasegawa has reissued their F-15J Eagle which are essentially the same sprues found in their F-15C Eagle kit. The most notable difference is with the two trees with the tails and weapons. The AIM-9 Sidewinders on the F-15C sprues are replaced by AAM-3 missiles, but otherwise the trees are identical. Where the early F-15A/C kits only offered the F100 engine nozzles with turkey feathers, later releases also added the feather-less nozzles to the kits and this kit has both options including the photo-etched set for the nozzle actuators. To bring the kit up to MSIP II standard, two resin parts trees are included for the latest details.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and is presented on eleven parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts, one fret of photo-etched parts, and two trees of resin parts.
Assembly of the cockpit is the same as previous releases complete with avionics bay aft of the cockpit. The kit still comes with the original pilot figure with the hard helmet from the 1970/80s. For a MSIP aircraft, I'd hoped that this figure would have been updated with the lightweight helmet or the new distinctive helmet missile cueing system for the AAM-5. A new resin part mounts over the instrument panel for the cover under the windscreen that reflects the shape change in that area. Likewise a resin GPS antenna goes under the rear of the canopy.
The Hasegawa kit has always made their Eagle intakes up and locked as the aircraft either sits or in certain airspeed conditions in flight. At low airspeeds and on the ground, the intakes slant down to alter the intake area at lower power settings (look at the intakes in the box art photo above). If you're modeling the aircraft shut-down, the kit intakes work fine.
One new feature on the MSIP Eagles is the lightning arrestor system on the radome. These strips are similar to the arrestor system on F-16 radomes and Hasegawa provides these as self-adhesive aluminum strips.
As mentioned earlier, this kit has both engine nozzle options and for this project, you'll want the feather-less nozzles.
New antennas are mounted to the sides and underside of the intake trunks as part of the updated ECM system. One of the two Eagles depicted in this set is also equipped with an infrared search/track set which is also provided in the resin parts.
The kit provides the following external stores:
- 2 x AAM-3
- 4 x AIM-7
- 2 x 600 gallon tanks
If you want other weapons/stores, you'll have to acquire the optional Hasegawa weapons sets or raid your spares. One minor annoyance in the kit is the lack of one 600 gallon tank. The Eagle can easily fly with no tanks, one centerline (station 5), two on stations 2/8, or three on 2/5/8. If you want the last option, you'll need to raid another kit for the third 600 gallon tank.
Hasegawa provides a good-sized decal sheet that has marking options for two aircraft and an extensive selection of maintenance stenciling. The two subjects featured here are:
- F-15J MSIP II, 32-8942, ADTW, JASDF, Gifu AB
- F-15J MSIP I, 12-8928, ADTW, JASDF, Gifu AB
The Hasegawa F-15A/C/J kits are still the best single-seaters in 1/48 with the Revell 1/48 F-15E providing the better two-seat option. The kit is still an easy build and with the help of the multitude of aftermarket parts on the market, an AMS modeler can really have some fun. The only issue I can see is that $100 price tag. The F-15C reissue was only $36 in 2007 and the F-15A reissue was $76 in 2009. This F-15J pushes the retail price of the Hasegawa 1/48 scale kit very close to the retail price of the Tamiya 1/32 F-15C kit. Nevertheless, you've got a unique release with this kit given the radome strips and MSIP resin details.
My sincere thanks to Hasegawa USA for this review sample!