According to the instruction sheet, Taiga Heavy Industries was commissioned in 2008, by the Ministry of Defense to begin development of the ASF-X, a larger interceptor aircraft with various data collecting devices. The basic design was a canard with swept-forward wings similar to the Russian Su-47 Berkut. The design evolved to one with STOL characteristics as well. The design featured twin engines in the over/under configuration while the wing tips, horizontal stabilizers and jet exhausts turn downward for STOL operations.
In reality, this model is based on an aircraft that was developed for the Ace Combat Computer Game. The ASF-X Shinden II was created as exclusive downloadable content for Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. In this case, my reference library did not help to provide details for the build. This version represents the well decorated aircraft used by the 19th Tactical Fighter Squadron – Ridgebacks. Other versions are offered with simpler color and marking schemes.
The Kit and Construction
As long as the directions are followed, the basic aircraft is simple to assemble. Assembly of the upper and lower fuselage/wing parts basically completes the airplane. Before this assembly, the engines, air intakes and the middle vectored nozzle are glued in place. With my model, I needed to pull the lower fuselage together while the engine and middle nozzle glue dried. As the fuselage/wing parts are glued together, the rear stabilizer parts, tail units, are trapped between the halves. Make sure that the pivot posts on the tail units are completely cleaned up and rounded so that, when assembled, the tail unit parts can swivel readily without cracking open the fuselage joint. At this point, the wing tips are attached. Two sets are included, one for normal flight and a drooped set for STOL flight. The modeler must decide at this time which version he wants to build.
The wing tips include molded-in pitot tubes. After assembly, the model is handled a lot during masking and painting etc. On my model one of the tubes broke off and ended up – somewhere. Good thing that I had a couple of extra parts to replace the broken tube.
The remaining assembly items were the cockpit, the landing gears and the armament. I chose to assemble these parts after painting and decaling. The model has six armament locations. Six AAM missiles and four rocket launcher pods are included to be used if desired.
Painting and Finishing
The instruction sheet provides a great four-view drawing of the model with all of the decal locations noted. Color references and color mix percentages are provided using Mr. Color paints. The main colors for the exterior are a dark blue trim color around the edges of all the control surfaces and for the nose with a blue/purple combination for the remainder of the airframe. A formula is also given for a light gray/purple mix for the decals color. I used Model Masters Blue Angel Blue for the dark trim color and mixed purple and blue for the other color. My mixture is lighter than the drawing because my blue was not dark enough but I believe that the final result looks acceptable.
When painting, we normally paint the light color first and then the darker color. This is what I did but it resulted in some very complex masking. If I were to build the model again, I probably would paint the model overall in the dark color and then mask the edges and apply the lighter color. One masking problem arose from the fact that the trim color around the intakes and the nose was in a serrated shape. The decal sheet provides a thin decal to separate these two color areas so I scanned the decal sheet and used the copy to cut out masking for these areas.
An extensive decal sheet is provided for this model. Decals cover most surfaces and many are adjacent to each other. As a result, only a few decals could be applied at a time and the modeler must wait until they were totally dry before the next group could be applied. I recommend using the four-view drawing and crossing off each decal as it is applied. I applied one hundred and forty seven individual decals to the model so I needed help keeping track of them. The decal sheet is well thought out and designed. For example, the anti-glare area in front of the canopy consists of two decals to make sure that the fit is perfect. I only found a couple of areas where a decal was applied to a compound surface. In these cases, a touch of Solvaset made the decal lay down.
While specific directions are not provided, the decal sheet contains decals of all of the black panels, trim stripes and formation light panels that are incorporated in the normal decal scheme. This is in case someone wants to hand paint all of the decal trim areas or develop a different scheme. Three hundred and thirty-six individual “No Step” decals are provided in case some idiot wants to paint the trim lines. The instructions only called for two of them to be used.
A nicely sculpted four-piece pilot is provided and the instrument panel and the ejection seat look realistic. Several decals are provided for the cockpit and the instrument panel. I added a seat belt decal from my collection.
My only problem with the final assembly was the canopy. The two parts to hold the canopy open did not fit too well. One part broke but a little extra super glue held everything in place. Probably my only other minor complaint was that no front view was given. I don’t know if I have the angles of the front canards and the rear tail units correct.
While I chose to build my model with the gear down, a well-designed mounting base with a swivel feature is provided. This reminded me of some of the earliest Revell aircraft kits that I built as a kid and mounted to the wall of my bedroom.
Conclusions and Recommendations
I was very pleased with this kit. It built into a very good looking model and should be able to be assembled by modelers with only minimal experience. The only concern would be the amount of decals that need to be applied. The kit is well recommended plus, other versions are sold with less complicated marking schemes. I would like to thank Hobbico for providing this interesting kit and IPMS for letting me hone my decaling skills.