Updated: September 2, 2006
This was the first plane I ever built. Since, I have attempted my luck with this very same model three times until I was finally fully satisfied with the result.
McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle was conceived in the late 60s of the last century as a Mach 2.5 interceptor intended to tackle Russian high-altitude bombers. Eagle was made under the slogan 'not a pound for air to ground,' meaning it was supposed to be a pure air fighter. This doctrine was a leftover of the first two centuries of the Cold War era, when money was aplenty and single-missions types could be built. For many years, F-15 was considered the best suited aircraft to fight the Russian Mach 3 MiG-25 Foxbat interceptor.
Following the demise of the Soviet empire, it became costly to maintain the F-15 as a pure air-superiority fighter. The later versions, C (single-seater) and D (two-seater) were modified to allow the plane to carry air-to-ground ordnance. Perversely, F-15 proved to be an ideal attack plane. Today, F-15E Strike Eagle, the dedicated long-range strike bomber of the Eagle family, is one of the best and most sophisticated air-to-ground assets in the world today.
F-15 won its fame in the hands of Israeli pilots, after shooting down several Syrian MiG-25 fighters, its arch-nemesis. It proved to be a reliable and deadly machine. It was extensively used in the two Gulf wars, and remains one of the most advanced fighter jets in several air forces.
My F-15 is of the D version, seating two. The introduction of the D strike version came after the US Air Force realized that a single operator could not successfully handle the load of data during a typical strike. F-15D seats a pilot, who takes care of the driving, and a weapons officer, who takes care of the shooting.
I built an Academy F-15 in 1/72 scale. The model had about 140 parts, 30 of which belonged to a very complex-made exhaust cones, and more than 100 decals. It was a very pleasant challenge making this plane. I spent about a month perfecting it.
I was rather true to the manual with this plane. I granted it the two-tone gray camouflage that it was supposed to have. Then, I decked it with a whole bunch of weapons, including 12 cluster bombs, 4 AIM-120A AMRAAM medium-range missiles and 4 AIM-9L Sidewinder short-range missiles. I left the cockpit and the air brake open for best effect. I also tilted the tailplane, although a parked and secured airplane should have all of its flight surfaces reset to 0 angle.
One of the details I always liked most was the weaponry. Weaponry unto a model is like makeup unto a woman; it adds style (although this is not necessarily true of women). I always made sure I painted the missiles as precisely as I could, even though some of the paint schemes were purely fictitious. Both the bombs and Sidewinders are painted as in real life. I had a dilemma with AMRAAMs. Truth to be told, my F-15D shipped with AIM-7 Sparrows. But I did not like the obsolete missiles and I wanted the shiny new ones. So I used a file to trim off the Sparrows' flight surfaces to make them look more like Slammers (code name for AMRAAM) and followed a paint scheme I have seen on experimental AMRAAM missiles from the early 90s in order to convert my Sparrows.
It also always quite annoyed me that manuals were rather scarce in detail concerning the models paint job, while advertisement pictures on the box outside always showed extremely beautiful planes painted to the last detail. Luckily for me, I had access to a real F-15 and could carefully memorize what little items the manufacturer has deliberately omitted.
I painted the radome tip, wing root, wingtip and tail strobes as they ought to be in real life.
Here's the radome:
Here's one of the wing root strobes (both are red):
Here's the right wing tip strobe (it's green; the left one is red); also note the ECM bubbles:
And the tails:
Here are the famous exhausts. Considering that each part is only about 2-3 mm in size, it took a lot of patience to put them together. Note the abundance of decals - each one of which says NO STEP.
Being a detail freak, I could not leave the air brake unattended.
I did not skip the cockpit details either. The crew ladder was optional, but I had to put it there.
I even went as far as painting the fire buttons on joysticks and instrument panels using a needle. Alas, I will have to take fresh pictures before I can show them to you. The gallery you see now is from a four-year old archive and predates the age of easily available digital cameras with the Macro mode built in.
All in all, this is one of my more favorite models. I loved assembling it. The parts fit together well, and I had no need for putty plumbing. I did have to use it to weigh down the nose so my plane would not sit on its tail. This model might be a bit boring for the uber-serious enthusiasts, but it will do well for an inspired hobbyist. Most importantly, the planes comes with a range of weapons, including a not-seen-here dozen of (1,000-lb) 454-kg Mk.83 free-fall bombs and an underbelly drop tank. And if you happen to have purchased this model thrice, like me, you could have hung it with three drop tanks.
I must say I'm very pleased with this model. Call it the first love, if you will. And a lucky number three, as I have managed to build it right only the third time I tried. It is also one of the more detailed models, with lots of small parts, which made the whole project all the more fun.
Well, I hope you enjoyed it. See you around for another gallery!