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Trumpeter 1/48 J-8B Finback Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2012 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject J-8B Finback Scale 1/48
Kit Number 2845 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros First kit of this distinctive subject in this scale Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $56.95

First Look


In the mid-1960s, the PLAAF issued a requirement for a more capable interceptor that could deal with high altitude and/or supersonic threats. Shenyang developed the J-8, an airframe that was a MiG-21 (J-7) on steroids. The aircraft retained the wing and tail shapes of the MiG-21 though scaled up in size somewhat proportionate to the elongated fuselage. The nose retained the early MiG-21 centerbody intake but was powered by a pair of engines shrouded by a MiG-19 (J-6)-styled rear. While the aircraft successfully flew, it's performance was lackluster and the project was shelved.

The J-8 concept was resurected in the mid-1980s with the availability of better technology (to reverse engineer). This time the aircraft was given a new nose patterned after the MiG-23 and had the MiG-23-type lateral intakes as well (that even retains the F-4 Phantom II-styled splitter plates). The main fuselage, wings and tail section were pretty much the same from the first J-8 attempt with the exception of the fuselage mods for the intake trunks. One additional new feature is the MiG-23 folding fin which provides improved yaw stability. This new design was successful and was designated J-8-II (or J-8B) with an NATO Codename of Finback B.

One of these aircraft gained some fame when its pilot (Wang Wei) intercepted an EP-3 Orion over the ocean and the two aircraft collided. The J-8 pilot was observed ejecting from his aircraft but was never recovered. The damaged EP-3 made an emergency landing at China's Hainan Island where it was eventually dismantled and airlifted back to the US.

Trumpeter has been on an interesting production direction with the release of a number of recent and contemporary PLAAF aircraft in scale, this in parallel with their other brand name HobbyBoss producing a similar variety of PLA combat vehicles in scale. Trumpeter has even revised the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier tooling to render the nearly completed carrier that China purchased and rebuilt into its first aircraft carrier which is currently undergoing sea trials.

In this release, we have a subject that has been produced once before by a company called AA, but that kit is crude in comparison. The subject is the J-8-II (J-8B) Finback B and it fills a void in the contemporary PLAAF line-up. Trumpeter seems to have taken this subject on with the idea of rendered several variants of this airframe.

This kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on ten parts trees, plus two trees of clear parts and one fret of photo-etched details. There is no sign of over-engineering in this kit though there are some nice options.

The kit starts off with a nice cockpit that features that distinctive ejection seat that you'll see even in the J-20 that seems to be based upon a Martin-Baker arrangement (as opposed to a Soviet/Russian seat). The instrument panel, side consoles and sidewall panels are all provided as decals.

Among the highlights of this kit:

  • Reasonably detailed cockpit
  • Positionable canopy
  • Positionable ailerons
  • Positionable stabiliators
  • Positionable rudder
  • Positionable Fowler flaps
  • Positionable landing gear
  • Positionable ventral fin
  • Positionable speed brakes
  • Wheel wells and landing gear look good

Among the external stores options:

  • 2 x PL-5 AAM
  • 2 x PL-8 AAM
  • 2 x PL-9 AAM
  • 2 x rocket pods
  • 2 x 480 liter external tanks
  • 1 x 800 liter external tank

So with such a great start, Trumpeter does have a few head-scratchers in this kit. The kit has two complete engines from compressor face to afterburner nozzle in the box. Unlike earlier kits, these engines don't have the plumbing, pumps, etc., molded to the exterior of the engines which mean these are meant to stay inside the fuselage. Obviously the engine nozzles will be seen from the rear, but there are no ducts in the intakes and there is a fuselage blanking plate mounted so you won't see empty fuselage looking down the intakes. So if there are no intake ducts, why mold full-sized engines and have compressor faces if you're not going to see them? The other 'feature' is the photo-etched plates that represent the outer surfaces of the F-4 (and MiG-23)-styled splitter plates. Trumpeter did these same photo-etched plates for their 1/32 MiG-23 kits and I would encourage you to rob the splitter plates of a spare Hasegawa or Monogram 1/48 Phantom for this project.

Markings are included for two examples:

  • J-8B, Bort 13027, PLAAF
  • J-8B, Bort 81097, PLAAF

You can see in the decal images that Trumpeter also provides spare numbers so you can render other Bort numbers besides these two. The decals also provide airframe stenciling as well as stencils for the weapons and pylons.

This kit has some nice details and looks like it will be a straightforward build. Aside from the minor points presented above, this kit has some interesting options and would make for an interesting subject for your scale flightline. After all, this aircraft was the first aerial victory for the P-3 community and was the first score for the US Navy after a long dry spell (but you still didn't see the P-3 at Top Gun after that).

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!