Manufacturer: Revell, 8601 Waukegan Rd., Morton Grove, IL 60053-2295, 847-966-3500.
Kit: No. 5511
Comments: Injection molded, 192 parts, decals.
Pros: Excellent detail and fit, long-awaited subject, correct bomb pylons.
Cons: No bombs or crew figures, decals slightly out of register, ejector pin marks mar some parts.
Previous 1/48 scale F-15E Strike Eagle kits may have impressed us, but all gave inaccurate representations of the bomb pylons. At long last, Revell brings us a 1/48 scale, mud-movin' screamin' demon, complete with accurate bomb racks.
Though packed in a flimsy hinged box, Revell's release is well tooled, with beautiful engraved lines and a clamshell fuselage construction. The instructions are clearly illustrated, and they give you the names of the parts: build and learn!
Markings for two fighter wings are included. The decals are a little thick, and the register is off a little (oddly, only on one side's markings, at least in my sample).
There is a conspicuous lack of ordnance (only four Sidewinders are included) and no pilot figures, though the empty spaces on the sprues promise future versions. Weighted tires and marvelously detailed afterburner cans are highlights of this kit.
The cockpit went together quickly, and detail fans won't be disappointed. The rear Weapons Systems Officer's CRT screens seem to be too high above the instruments, though. The ejection seats are well molded, but there are no lap belts. A nice touch is the inclusion of ACES logo decals.
Assembly is straightforward, with no major fit problems. The aft nose gear door molded with rear bay bulkhead looked like it would get in the way, so I carefully separated it for later installation. The forward nose gear bay door is usually closed on parked "Mudhens."
Take care gluing the front top end of the main fuselage assembly; you'll be endangering the beautiful grille. The clamshell fuselage halves enclose the intakes. To this you add the wingtips and forward section of the fuselage (you don't need to weight the nose).
Be careful installing the wingtips, as you'll lose precious detail on the upper surfaces if you have to sand. The instructions recommend that the forward fuselage go on last, and it's a good tip. Make sure the rest of the model has set before you attempt it. Line up the upper and lower surfaces slowly, and it's a perfect mate.
The intake assembly, step 3 in the instructions, should be followed to the letter. No sanding or filling was required, except for some nasty ejector-pin marks on the inner surfaces. The conformal fuel tanks fit well, too. Testor liquid cement did the trick for me, allowing me to readjust the fit a little in the process.
The bare-metal finish around the engines would call for some serious masking if the vertical stabilizers were in place, so I glued the stabilizers on with just a drop of white glue so I could remove them after the base coat of Model Master Gunship Gray enamel (FS 36118) was applied to the entire model. I thinned the paint with almost fifty percent flat white, because I knew that the four subsequent layers of Future floor polish and semi-gloss black wash would darken it again. The nose of the Strike Eagle, which is of a different material than the rest of the airframe, weathers at a different pace - I masked it off and sprayed it straight Gunship Gray with no white added.
The decals went on without any hitches, and only the tiger-striped squadron markings on the fin tips needed some decal solvent to settle down. The nose "slime light" decals were longer than the engraved detail.
The afterburner cans are especially nice. The slim nozzle-actuator arms are molded in styrene, and must be carefully removed from the sprue. There's only one extra arm provided, so don't launch any in the building process - you'll be digging through the carpet for hours. The cans' insides had a few ejector pin marks, and for the life of me I couldn't figure a good way to fill them without ruining the rest of the detail, so I left them there. Their assembly was painless, and a light dry-brushing of steel brought out the surface details nicely. The interior received a light spray of flat white over flat black to simulate the burned ceramic surface.
There was a seam in the canopy, though nothing a three-way buffing stick and a dip in Future couldn't cure. The canopy's fit to its frame was so tight that it stuck without glue, though when I tried to put it into the closed position it wouldn't fit the cockpit correctly. I might have to reshape the protruding hinge area.
This is an easy-to-build kit that looks great when fully assembled - mine took about 35 hours, though I'm positive that more experienced builders will eat it up in much less time than that. Now…time to find some laser-guided bombs for my Mudhen.
- Chris Appoldt