F-15E Strike Eagle
Hasegawa has released their 1/72 F-15E Strike Eagle kit several time, and this latest release (kit#01569) does sport three new sprues and one sprue from their JDAM weapon set that provides the Lantrin pods. Comparing an earlier release to this one, I did notice that some smaller parts are beginning to show fine flashing, at least on this kit that I have. However, the recessed panel lines are still as sharp and fine as ever. You may ask if with these new parts, does this F-15E finally build into the ultimate F-15E? You'll have to read the review to find out, but I will tell you that the new J sprue provides new CFT's, correct pylons, bulged main gear doors, bulged gun door, and two proper instrument panels; the K sprue provides a new arresting hook; and the new M sprue provides the final two CFT pylons. The existing G sprue (clear parts) has been modified to include the wide HUD found on F-15E's (part G6).
As with most construction, one begins with the cockpit. Glue in your instrument panels and put together the ejection seats. After painting the cockpit and the seats, glue the seats in the cockpit. Hasegawa has provided instrument and side console decals, or you can paint the raised details if you like. I did a little of both – I used the decals on the instrument panels, and I dry-brushed the raised details on the side consoles. You can see this well on one of the photos. Next, I added some lead to the nose halves – even though it was not called for – just to be safe. Then the halves were glued around the cockpit/nose well assembly. Do sand off the raised strips on the pilot's coaming, as the F-15E did not have these.
Steps 3, 4, and 5 deal with the engine fan, intake, and fuselage assemblies. At this stage, a lot of holes need to be drilled and some parts to be cut off. Some depend on the version you're doing or the details you want to have, so pay attention and go over this carefully so you don't miss a step. I deviated from Hasegawa's instructions on how to assemble the intakes. I glued the intake trunking (parts B1 and B2) and D18 engine fans as shown, but once the intakes were glued together I glued these to the bottom fuselage, rather than to the fuselage top half. This allowed me to fill the seams, sand, and paint with no obstructions. Just make sure you dry-fit the intakes several times to verify you have them in the proper place, and then glue them in. The intake top pieces (parts C7 and C8) were glued to the fuselage top and painted gunship grey. Once I was satisfied that the intakes looked good after the painting was done, I glued the upper and lower fuselage halves together. While this was drying, I put the wing together. I noticed that the lower inner wing panels (parts B4 and B5) rested on shelves on two sides, but were unsupported on the end that faces the tip. Being an unsupported butt joint is a weak joint, so I glued a strip of .030" plastic to make a step or shelf that now supports this long seam and prevents flexing. I also decided not to attach the vertical tails (parts D1 and C10) or the horizontals (parts D2) at this time as I felt they would get in the way of painting and attaching all of the weapons.
When doing the engine nozzle assembly, I did run into a problem; it may have been of my making, but not having built any of Hasegawa's F-15s, I don't know. There are five sections or petals that form the rear outermost nozzle. After gluing the five sections on, I was left with a .062" gap, straight from bottom to top. So I got another Hasegawa F-15 kit out and took one petal and cut 1/16" from that to fill this gap. This happened on both nozzles, and this one spare petal was enough to fix both. I have a photo that shows this problem and solution.
The conformal fuel tanks (CFT's) fit very well and required no filler. I did note that one needs to reverse the positions on parts J2 and J3 (exhausts) before you glue on the CFT's. Also, a word of caution – the long straight pylons (J8 and J9) have a small pin up front on the underside, so don't trim it off when cleaning up the parts.
The nose gear and main gear assemblies went together well. Pay attention in Step 10, as you need to cut off two small antennas on the forward fuselage underside. Please do this before you prime and paint the model. Hasegawa should have had this operation placed earlier in the sequence, I know from experience.
Now, a few things that Hasegawa has failed to provide or correct. The nose gear included in this kit is the same standard one found on F-15A-D models. Where the F-15E nose gear is reinforced, the yoke is shaped like an I-beam, and most F-15Es today have a shimmy damper attached to the nose gear yoke as well. Check your references on the plane you’re modeling to verify if yours has this or not. Hasegawa does provide a larger nose tire, but it does not fit on the nose gear – one needs to sand the edges to get it to fit. Two types of main tires are provided, the regular size for F-15A-D models and a larger size for the F-15E. The problem is the larger tire is larger in the wrong dimension. I've talked with an ex-F-15E crew chief, and references also bears this out – the F-15E tires are wider by 3 inches. The Hasegawa tire is larger only in its diameter; its width is the same as the regular tire. The rub is that the hub on the Hasegawa larger tire is correct for the F-15E, while the hub on the regular tire is correct only for the F-15A-D models. So I used the larger tire on this model. By the way, if you want to make a wider tire, you'll need to add .040" to make it wide enough. One last thing – the F-15E main gear were made beefier to withstand the increase in gross weight, and so far no one has come out with any new gear to reflect this fact.
This Hasegawa kit only provides CBU's for weapons, but with the punch out marks on them, I chose not to use them. Once I had decided to use markings from Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), I went to a website on F-15E info and found weapon load-outs for Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom. Once I had chosen one, I assembled the weapons from Hasegawa’s weapon sets. I went with six Mk 82 bombs on the left CFT and four GBU-12s on the right CFT, with one GBU-12 on the centerline pylon.
The model and various parts were primed with Mr. Surfacer 1200 and painted with Mr. Color 305, also known as Gunship Grey FS36118. The bombs were painted using different shades of OD from an old stock of Pactra enamels that I have. Several years ago, I bought a Two Bobs decal sheet (#72-010) and used that for a particular aircraft I wanted to model, but I did use about a third of the Hasegawa's kit decals. I found these to be thicker, but they went on easily and conformed to bends and curves very well. I used the kit's drop tanks with no problem – just don't sand off the rivets at the rear, as they belong there. You can lightly hit them with some sandpaper to lower their height, but don't take them off. The pylons and launch rails were assembled and painted, and from Hasegawa's weapon set I used two each of AIM-9Ms and AIM-120Bs. The one most useful reference that I found myself always checking was Jake Melampy's The Modern Eagle Guide, by Reid Air Publications. It covers all the F-15 models with informative text and a ton of useful photos. Since this model kit was one of the first ones, it comes with a bonus – a clear plastic stand or base. It uses two prongs that go into the engine nozzles and a third arm on the underside for support. I did not use this, but it's a nice extra on Hasegawa's part.
While not providing the definitive F-15E, this release does provide many needed updates. The few remaining trouble spots can be solved using modeling techniques we all have developed over the years. I can completely recommend this kit for those who want the best F-15E that can be bought in 1/72 scale at this time.
I want to thank IPMS/USA and Hobbicofor the opportunity to review this model kit.