J-15 Chinese Navy – Limited Edition
During the 1970’s Russia started the development of modern carrier borne fighter aircraft. The Sukhoi design team started with their basic Su-27 Flanker and added such carrier items as tail-hook, folding wings and structural improvements plus a set of forward canard wings to produce their proposed Su-33.
The Shenyang company of China had a working agreement with Sukhoi covering the basic Su-27 and their local version, the J-11, was in production. This agreement did not cover the Su-33 but when the Chinese Navy became interested in a carrier-borne fighter, Shenyang obtained an unfinished prototype of the Su-33 from the Ukraine and started to produce their own version. It appears that the J-15 is structurally similar to the Su-33 but utilizes Chinese engines and avionics. The Chinese name of this aircraft translates to “Flying Shark”. This model represents the first four or five test aircraft that were utilized to develop and prove carrier take-offs and landings. Like the Russians, the Chinese aircraft carriers utilize the ski-jump type of take-off.
The Kit and Construction
The kit consists of four sprues of yellow molded parts plus the airplane upper and lower halves along with one sprue of very clear transparent parts. Decals for four different aircraft are provided. All are from the test unit and are mostly overall yellow. I suspect that the yellow color is some sort of primer coating.
Hasegawa have utilized their Su-33 tooling to product the J-15 model. This is fair since I was not able to detect any visual differences between the Su-33 and the J-15 from the photos that I found on the internet.
A simple cockpit with decal instrumentation and controls is provided along with a simple ejection seat. Once the cockpit is glued into the lower half of the model, the upper portion is then glued in place. The fit of the two parts is good however the total glue joint of this assembly is over 30 inches. I used some larger paint brushes to apply glue to the wing area and then used a Touch ‘n Flo glue applicator to seal most of the fuselage joints. Next, the two engine nacelles were assembled and installed. After a few more parts were added, the basic model was complete except for the landing gear, the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, the canards and the exhaust outlets. At this point, I decided to start painting the model.
It is noted that many of the parts featured small nibs molded into the parts to ensure that the plastic was injected completely into the molds. This meant that most of the parts required cleaning up at both the place where they were removed from the sprue but also where the nibs had to be removed. There must have been a dozen or more nibs on the landing gear parts alone. A good set of sprue cutters and a sanding board ensured that the parts were cleaned up before assembly.
A complete set of external rocket armament is provided but I could not find any photos of this test fleet which included any external armament. These went into my spares box. Hasegawa have since produced a production version of the J-15 which should use much of the armament. The production version features an interesting “Flying Shark” tail marking.
Paint and Finishing
As noted above, I started painting the model before final assembly. The reason for painting before final assembly is that there are LOTS of surface antennae and burnt metal areas to be painted. These could NOT be masked if the model had been assembled more completely. I added the vertical and horizontal stabilizers after all these areas were painted.
I chose to model test airplane number 551 which featured a light blue-green color on the vertical stabilizers and around the dive brake. I believe that this is also a primer coating and it looked more interesting. Of course, this made my job more difficult (smile).
The prime overall color of the model is a mixture of White and RLM 04 Yellow. I mixed up about a half bottle of this color so that the model color would be consistent. I did the same for the tail color that was a mix of light green and light blue. The Hasegawa instructions provide FS color references for the major colors needed – a handy feature.
The decals were of good quality and conformed readily to the surface of the model. The markings for these four aircraft were all similar, being a number of yellow and black measurement targets for the test program. Very subtle differences existed between the markings of the various test aircraft and Hasegawa were able to capture these differences so that each aircraft would end up subtly different but accurate. The decal sheet also contains a myriad of additional small markings of which, few were used. I expect that these relate to complete markings of production aircraft, some armament markings or even some Su-33 markings.
Following painting and decaling, I applied some wash to bring out control surfaces, wing folding lines, grilles etc. I also noted that the test aircraft seemed to get pretty dirty so I applied a little extra grunge in key areas. This then was sealed with a clear flat top coat and final assembly took place.
Final assembly consisted of adding the landing gear, gear doors, tail pipes, canopies and the various pitot tubes.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Even in 1/72 scale, this is a large model and makes an impressive looking display. Hasegawa has engineered the kit so that it really goes together easily and accurately. It can be readily assembled by most modelers with just a minimum of experience. The only concerns are to clean up the parts before assembly and to plan early for the painting of the various different colored panels. This kit is well recommended. A big thank-you to Hasegawa for providing the model and to IPMS for allowing me to add this impressive model to my collection.