The F-15 is possibly my all-time favourite plane, and the E model’s variety of ordnance and interesting weathering makes it a very compelling subject. I had heard that the GWH 1/48 kit was very good, but found the reality to be more complex. How far into a build can you get before realising the kit isn’t as good as you hoped? Twenty minutes in this case.
When Great Wall Hobby (GWH) released the first of their 1/48 F-15 kits a few years ago, I was rather excited. It’s a favourite plane, and here was a new tool kit in 1/48. Sure, there were the usual mutterings about shape and accuracy, but since that has become a rather predictable response to Chinese releases, I have long since dismissed these as political rather than honest.
I did, however, buy their F-15I variant. I haven’t built it yet because Sean at Topnotch masks will soon be releasing the camouflage scheme for it, but I had a good look and was very impressed. So when I decided to kick this year off with an -E, this was the kit I chose.
While the kit has a lot of really nice detail, it quickly became clear that something wasn’t quite right. The -I variant contains some stunning single-piece missiles like you might find in an AMK kit: the GBU-12, -32, and -38 are all represented this way, as are Python-5s and AIM-120s. In this -E kit however, you get a few sprues of GBU-39s (okay, this is pretty cool as I don’t think they have been released in 1/48 before), but the other weapons provided are a single AIM-9M and single AIM-120, on a sprue that looked oddly familiar.
Sure enough, that sprue is identical to the weapons sprues in my Kinetic F-16I. I’m sure I’m not imagining this. More to the point, I’m sure that is the sprue that came in the box. Anyway, that was rather odd, and it gave me a slight sense that this release may not have been as careful and considered as some of their others. If you’re not following the company, the Su-35 appears the best and is really, really nice, and the MiG-29s look superb but have some fit issues.
I went a bit off-piste by my standards on this one: I decided to build it as a recent Lakenheath plane, using the Caracal decal sheet and weapons out of a handful of other kits to replicate a training loadout.
The weapons used were:
- AIM-9M from Tamiya F-16 aggressor
- ACMI from Tamiya F-16 aggressor (it has two so the other is staying with the F-16)
- AIM-120 from Tamiya F-16 aggressor
- GBU-12: 3 from GWH F-15I, 1 from the Kinetic sprue
- GBU-32 from GWH F-15I
- GBU-38 from GWH F-15I
I also added a really nice pair of 3D printed exhausts from KA Model. These have amazing detail and brilliantly represent the “featherless” exhausts found on USAF F-15s.
For the distinctive grey these aircraft wear, I used MRP-40. This is slightly odd: MRP also has a “Gunship Grey” which is the name of the F-15 colour, but it is significantly lighter. MRP-40 is sold as a match for FS 36118, which is the right colour.
The cockpit generally fits very well and is really beautifully detailed. There is just one, small problem: the right-hand cockpit sidewall’s rear locating pin is in the wrong place. A simple fix, but this betrays a lack of attention to detail in the design of this kit. And yes, it is the correct part.
There are two potential problem areas on the kit: the rear fuselage join and the wing / fuselage mounting.
The wing / fuselage is the less problematic. They have a very strange way of putting the lower fuselage together. A fancy slide-moulded piece gets detail on the non-CFT fuselage sides, which is fine, but the lower part of the wings has an insert that drops just inside the fuselage, and runs all the way along. It has some alignment pins, which are fine, and the benefit of this approach should be quite a solid wing-fuselage join. However, attaching the wings is a bit tricky because the fit is vague: they don’t exactly snap into place and await gluing. I had to stick them progressively along the length, and even then it was tricky to avoid a gap in places. Not a big deal here because that join is behind the CFT, but it could be on the C/D model without CFTs.
The rear fuselage join is more annoying, not least because the instructions have you mount some PE for the slime lights before you get to this step. Don’t do that. The fuselage halves don’t align very well and there is quite a big step to fix. That’s about all there is to say on the subject: it just doesn’t align and is an annoying, though simple, fix.
The instructions have you wait until one of the final steps before attaching the CFTs. I decided to do that a bit earlier. It seems best to attach large parts early so there’s less to risk damaging if it needs to be fettled. The CFTs themselves line up nicely over the whole length. There is a slightly odd look where they don’t completely cover the normal missile rails, but I think that’s just how they go.
The intake trunking is in the lower fuselage at this point. That’s just the tubes, the engines slot in later from the back. They locate well, but there is an awful seam the whole way down the trunking, as well as some nasty ejection marks. That’s not a huge deal for me because seriously, no one is ever going to look down there, but if it were a problem for you I think a seamless intake would be really useful. I don’t think you would ever be able to get those smooth. On the subject, GWH inexplicably provides full engines on a kit where they will never be seen. Many of you will know I really don’t like this, because it adds needless complexity, a chance to mess things up, and no benefit. I left them out, just sticking the compressor faces to the ends of the intake tunnels and the exhausts into the exhausts.
The forward fuselage closed easily enough around the cockpit tub, but with a seam that required a little bead of sprue goo top and bottom. Be aware that the pilot’s IP sits a bit too vertical as it aligns itself, and when placing the coaming this had to be slid on, pressing it the 1/2mm or so it needed and then everything sat nicely once the TET had set.
The cockpit parts are alone in going together without filler. Every other seam on this kit has needed fixing with either sprue goo or 3M red. Some needed a lot, others very little, but few parts “just fit” like I would expect for a kit with this price tag. They weren’t difficult to fix, but I expected better.
I had hoped this would be a nice, straightforward build, but instead it was rather a nuisance. Just about every join required filling, and while most big parts looked like they should fit well, a lot of the joins are vague and annoying.
Paint-wise, I had been trying to do effective and subtle weathering. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well. First I did one pass too many on the blend coat, then too much grime and fading, then too much oils work. There were some positive points though: the ordnance took far more effort than I have ever put in before and it paid off; I’m really pleased with how the cockpit turned out; and while I’m not happy that I wrecked the canopy while removing its seam, I am pleased that I managed to bring it back towards reasonable.
I was disappointed by the armament provided in the kit. Not only do they provide a very limited loadout, but they didn’t even provide their own (very nice) one-piece missiles that are in their other F-15 kits.
I have another of these to do, and two of their MiG-29s. I’m no longer looking forward to any of those quite as much as I was. That said, if you go into this one expecting to fill every seam it might not be so bad, as most were one pass with filler and done. But disappointing as the price and detail led me to expect a much nicer fit and more competent engineering.
Would I recommend it? Yes, with a caveat. I bought it because I didn’t want to fix all the seams on the Academy one, but then found myself having to fix all the seams anyway. The surface detail is nice, and definitely better than the Academy and Revell. However, given the price tag, I expected good fit and solid engineering, and it doesn’t deliver.
It is no worse than the other two kits, and certainly has more, nicer detail. However the armament selection is limited and the engineering is just not as good as I would expect. It’s better, but still not good enough.
Some detail photos