Sky Guardians 1/72 F-15J Eagle

It is always good to find a model from a range you haven't seen before that impresses you straight off.  That is certainly the case with this one, a 1:72 F-15J Eagle as operated by the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF), from Sky Guardians.

The model depicts F-15J (02-8916), a single seat F-15 produced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, under license from McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing).  Delivered in 1990, it was produced with the J-MSIP (Japan Multi Stage Improvement Program) which featured a new central computer and digital data bus which improved it over the initial production examples.  It also helped in applying an update in 2000 when the computer was replaced, along with a new FCS (Fire Control System).  A sign of the rapid advance in computer technology we have seen over recent years.  The upgrade enhanced the electronic warfare ability of the airframe, and enabled it to carry newer air-to-air missiles.  The aircraft serves with No 303 Squadron at the Komatsu airbase in Ishikawa prefecture.  It serves on this important airbase facing the Sea of Japan, alongside No 306 squadron as well.

The F-15 Eagle was another of the group of US aircraft developed as a result of their experience in the Vietnam war, and was intended from the outset to be an air superiority fighter first and foremost.  In that role it has proved very effective, with Japan being the best customer for the F-15 outside the USA.  Some 213 have been supplied to the JASDF.  Powered by 2 Pratt and Whitney F100-100 or -220 turbofan engines, with afterburners, it can reach speeds in excess of Mach 2.5 at high altitude.

The model is finished in thee two tone air-superiority grey camouflage also seen on USAF Eagles and you have the option of fitting the undercarriage down or closed up if you have a suitable stand for it.  There are also some moving parts on the model, including the rudders on the twin tails; the rear wings which move as complete units; the cockpit canopy opens, with the hydraulic arm included inside; and the large air-brake on the upper fuselage, just behind the cockpit, again complete with ram.  Markings for the aircraft are beautifully done, including a host of tiny stencils that are found all over the airframe, and the coloured guide for the in-flight re-fuelling socket.

Underneath, in addition to various antennae, it carries a large extra fuel tank on the centreline, 4x AIM-7 Sparrow missiles mounted on the edges of the main fuselage.  These are medium range active radar homing air-to-air missiles, used for BVR (Beyond Visual Range) engagements.  More recently these are set to be replaced in service by a Mitsubishi made AAM-4.

Then on launch rails under the wings, 4x AIM-9 Sidewinders, a short range air-to-air missile that has been a very successful design, though going through a number of upgrades and improvements over many years of service.  On the model, even the stencil markings for these are included on the missiles.  The other armament on board is only hinted at by the muzzle in the starboard wing root, where an internal 20mm Vulcan cannon is fitted, another lesson from the Vietnam era, where it became evident that missiles are not the complete answer for air-to-air combat, and a 'dog-fighting' ability with guns was still a requirement.

The model is quite heavy, and it helps tell of the quality in the whole model.  The only minor issue on this example is a little black over spray from the cockpit has spread out onto the grey of the fuselage, beyond the forward part of the cockpit canopy.  This could well be a one-off and not be found on other examples of the specific model.  For those who see an F15 and expect to see the 'stars and bars' of the USAF, it is a change to see the round red Hinamaru (Rising Sun) symbol on both fuselage and wings.

Despite the minor black over spray at the cockpit, this is a lovely model, thoughtfully and attractively packaged with the aircraft in the main box, while one side, or 'the lid', can be opened to see it rather than buy a box when you can't see what is inside, while the extra parts to be fitted, the fuel tank and the missile armament are in a clear packet fixed to the inside of that opening lid.  Neatly done.  I hope the set of photos below will help give you a good idea of what to expect from the model once 'out of the box'.