F-15C Eagle, 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron
No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you.
It is an F-15C with conformal fuel tanks.
By 1984, the USSR had amassed a considerable submarine launched ballistic missile capability which complemented their already powerful ICBM force. The vast majority of the Soviet SSNB submarines, known as ‘boomers’, were based at Archangel and Murmansk. Their pre-launch stations were usually in the White Sea sector. Because of this, the US Navy devoted a large portion of its SSN submarines or ‘hunter killers’ to located and then follow the movement of all Soviet SSNB boomers in the White Sea. To perform this task, US SSNs ran through the Giuk Gap in route to their patrol areas. To counteract the Americans, the Soviet navy began a pattern of deploying an ever increasing numbers of modified Bears, call sing ‘F’, in an effort to track the US SSNs boats before they enter the Sea.
In another countermove, the US assigned its best fighter jet, the impressive F-15C/Ds to the 57th FIS. In November 1985, the first of twelve F-15C/Ds arrived at Keflavik. The Eagles stationed at the Iceland base were different from its North American counterparts. They were fitted with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT). Each CFT could add up to 9,800 extra pounds of aviation fuel. Enough fuel to extend the overall operational range of the Eagles thus giving the aircrafts of the Black Knights the ability to intercept the Bears at a longer range. More fuel also meant that the planes from the 57th could shadow its target for a much longer time than before. The CFT became an integrated part of the F-15 deployed at Keflavik.
From January 1962 to the winter of 1991, Black Knights intercepted almost 3,000 Soviet long range aircrafts. The most active period was between 1985 and 86 when Iceland Eagles netted 340 interceptions. Nearly all Soviet inbound air traffic towards the Gap was detected and tracked by the Norwegian Royal Air Force’s air defense centers. The NRAF, with the strategic support of USAF’s Boeing E-3A AWACS from the 552nd Airborne Warning and Control Wing, painted all Soviet air movement in and around the Giuk Gap during their incursions. It was relative easy to spot a Bear. Its massive Kuznetsov NK-12MV turboprop engines contra rotating four sets of large diameter propellers made a huge radar reflection. After the NRAF notified NATO command, the E-3s fleet was scrambled to acquire and track the inbound bogy. At the same time, the F-15s would be placed on high alter status. Well prior to the Soviet aircraft’s incursion into the Iceland Military Zone, two Eagles would be dispatched to meet the intruders. A KC-135 refueling tanker would follow half an hour later to keep the Black Knights topped off thus maintaining their ability to divert and re-engage.
The Black Knights did not survive too long after the end of the Cold War: in fact the F-15s of the 57th FIS ensured the QRA service at Keflavik until Mar. 1, 1995 when they were eventually disbanded. That mission was taken over by 90 day rotations of USAF and Air National Guard F-15’s until the 85th Group inactivated in 2002.
The kit is for one aircraft, has actually been around for a long time. A kit of this particular aircraft was first released in 1988, as a straight F-15C of the 57th 57th FIS, plus three other sets of markings. In this issue, there are only markings for the one aircraft, 80033, but you can choose high-vis or low-vis markings.
The box is really full, because there are 8 total trees to the kit. The addition to the sprues is sprue F, which are all of the F-15E parts. You will only need the conformal tanks from this tree. These were the two parts that gave me the most fits throughout the assembly. But, I have to say that I have had trouble with conformal tanks on every F-15 I have ever built, in any scale. But, a little patience, repeated shaving and dry fittings ends up with a good fit.
The cockpit is rather sparse, but you do get the choice of raised detail or decals for the instrument panel and side panels. I cut out each of the sections for the instrument panel, and with some help from setting solution had good results. I opted to paint the side consoles. The kit seat is a fair representation of an ACES seat, but only has a hint of two shoulder straps. I used some decal seatbelts for the seat. The interior and the nose gear well then get trapped inside the front fuselage sides. This becomes another area that I have never had a lot of success with. The mating of the front and aft fuselage of an F-15, of any manufacturer, is not a fun time. This one, however was a lot better than expected.
The wings are in upper and lower halves, but the lower half mates span wise between two natural panels. It is a bear to fill and clean up.
Probably the source of the most trim and fitting was part A-19, the air brake. If you want to display it closes, you have to do a lot of thinning, both the brake and the brake well. When you finally get it where it blends in properly, it is paper thin. But, it looks good. The exhausts take some time to build up, but end up as a good representation of the real thing. The actuators are a little thick, but it would be very difficult to inject them thin enough to be in scale.
Sadly, this being a Hasegawa modern jet, you are not supplied with any armament. You do get three fuel tanks and wing pylons, but nothing to put on them. As always, you have to get one or more of their weapons sets. I chose to build this with only what comes in the box.
I utilized Gunze-Sanyo acrylics throughout and was very pleased, except for when I did some touch up, paint from the same bottle did not match. Prior to decaling, I gave the model several coats of Tamiya’s X-22 clear. I have to admit that I had less trouble with the decals in this kit than I ever have with Hasegawa decals. There were more than 210 of them, and no more than about twenty or so gave me any silvering problems. The ones that gave me the most problems were the unit markings and the checkerboard on the vertical fins. I had to slice them to get them to lay down over the light and antenna bumps and the long panel lines of the unit markings. Also, while putting all of stencils in place, I noticed that both decals 90 and 91 were “No Step”. 90 was supposed to be “No Push”. I went to the earlier Hasegawa kit box, and the same mistake had been made with it, too. I didn’t let that stop me.
Once all of the decals were on and all of the silvering taken care of, I sprayed the entire model with another coat of Tamiya Clear to seal the decals. This set the stage for two major disasters in weathering. As I told Dave Morrisette, don’t use a product you have never used before on a review model. I did and set forth a series of events that very nearly ended up with the entire model being repainted. I managed to only have to do some extensive touchup and thank goodness for that other F-15 kit’s decals. Once everything was dry, I finished up with Alclad’s flat finish. I really like how it goes on.
Adding all the fiddly bits and hangy-downs was all that was left. And, I have to say the main landing gear and struts are a little bit on the fiddly side, as are the landing lights. Once it’s all done, it really looks good
My thanks to Hobbico and IPMS/USA for the review model.