This upgrade provides excellent cast cockpit tubs, instrument coamings, and ACES II ejection seats. Included are side controllers; the control sticks are molded into the side panels. Score high there; no disappearing act on the joystick or those throttle levers while trying to attach them to the panels. Detail is unmatched on the resin. The photoetch fret contains all the myriad little bits designed to disappear or be invisible except to specialized cameras or those with 20/05 vision.
Where this upgrade falls behind is the instrument panels; they require you to sandwich film with a photo-etch instrument panel, and paint the back of the films white to simulate instruments. In my case, this was not so good; the white does not show up well, and the level of detail is not up to par with other releases. You cannot see the instruments once you sandwich them to the PE; and there is no good way to correct this (Short of color PE, which if you know me is about the best there is out there IMHO). Same for the ejection seats; excellent cast items without seatbelts; unfortunately, the PE items require microsurgery to successfully complete the set, and since a couple of belts went flying, my set was incomplete. The seats fit on the rails after painting and are correct for the F-16I.
A couple of old man rants here: These upgrades require you to use serious power tools to remove the excess resin from the lower part of the tub so they will even fit into the plastic kits. Not a good thing; I spent 25 minutes on the cockpit alone, checking and re-sanding, and managed to have the shop vac ingest the left aft cockpit sidewall. I cannot imagine using a sanding block. (I use the shop vac next to the Dremel while removing the substantial excess resin… It works but has hazards; use a paint filter mask and take your time.) I modified a kit item to replace it…
The real disappointment is having to totally remove the existing cockpit sill and seal on the kit item. I could not get the AIRES set to fit into place, so out came knives and much swearing. In the end, I removed the entire sill and seal assembly, and used putty to fair in the new parts. The pictures show the mess I created; I have not decided whether to just close the canopy and not dink with it, or pull out the super-thin sheet plastic and make a new sill (to which I shall add the new seals). Time will tell… but not in this review.
Now the final verdict: Is this set worth it? It depends on your perspective. A true masochist like me will use the set because the instrument coaming, seat, and sidewall detail far exceed what is in the kit. However, be prepared to enter total insanity (and have the power tools working) to make this upgrade fit.
My verdict: highly rated (9/10) for detail, 4/10 for fit OOB. I had to remove way too much resin to make it work. Other Aires sets work much better than this; my experience harkens back to when Aires was the standard for detail but you had to work a lot harder to get it.