Trumpeter 1/72 Chengdu J-10S

KIT #: 1655
DECALS: Two options

Decals badly off register

On September 3, 2015, China held a big military parade in Beijing. Billed as a commemoration of the defeat of Japan, it was widely interpreted as a chance for President Xi Jinping to flex his muscles, and for China to "signal" the world that it's got a big stick now. Phalanxes of troops, trucks carrying the new "carrier killer" and ballistic missiles, and a 70-shot artillery salute all featured, as did a mass flypast of helicopter gunships, old Badger bombers, Sukhois and the Chengdu J-10. Unlike in 2009, when I lived right under the flight path of the flyover for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, I now live several kilometers to the north. Still, I could hear every cannon blast, and I could see the planes flying past. I've included a (slightly grainy, due to the distance, the low haze, my old 500m lens, and the fact that my 6 month old was in wiggling around in her BabyBjorn on my chest as I took it, handheld). You can see J-10s of China's air display team streaming colourful smoke behind an Il-76 kitted out as an AWACs.

The J-10 is one of China's newest combat jets, and it bears a strong resemblance to the Israeli Lavi project. Did China (a) copy it (b) steal the plans (c) work with Israel in the context of a real partnership (d) actually work with the Russians (e) come up with its own design or (f) some or all of the above?
You decide. I don't care - I just liked building aerobatic team jets which is why I picked this one up. Later, as you'll see below, I chose to paint it grey.
The J-10 is in service today with the PLAAF and PLANAF, and is apparently on order for Pakistan and Laos. According to the internet - and we know, instinctively, that the internet never misleads - the jet can top Mach 2 at height and beat Mach 1 at sea level. Combat radius is 550km and it comes with an internal gun plus a mix of weapons. It looks like the production model must be a bit different to the one in the kit, because it appears to have extra weapons pylons under the fuselage, not unlike the later F-16s that have pylons under the intake, or those export Mirage 2000s that have added pylons under the wing root.
Supposedly it is somewhere between an F-16 and a Eurofighter in capability, depending which performance metric you're considering (and, of course, how biased you are against Chinese technology).
Mine is carrying the PL-8 short range heatseeker outboard, and the PL-12 active radar homing missile inboard. Did China (a) copy the AMRAAM (b)...oh forget it! 

I previewed this one right here on MM a few years back and though I started it quickly, it was sent to the shelf of doom. Why? Well, as the preview states, the awesome aerobatic display team scheme on the box art isn't supported by any decals. I quickly realised how hard that was going to be to mask and paint. 
Apart from that the kit is quite nice. The decals were badly out of register and there was a seam on the canopy which I now understand is necessary for Trumpeter to mould the correct bubble shape. So I forgive them for that. But not for the decals.
You get two large underwing tanks, a centreline one, and a pair of PL-8, PL-11 and PL-12 missiles. The cockpit is quite detailed, the engraved panel lines quite nice, and the exhaust area a bit simplistic with limited surface detail.

I built the cockpit first. It has cool decals for the multicolour screens, though I suppose these aren't actually visible when the plane is parked and powered down. There are no pilot figures. The seats are pretty decent too. Be sure to put the one with the little mast in the front, as the canopy won't fit otherwise. Sadly, the HUD screen has a little pice of plastic on it that you have to cut off, leaving an inevitable blemish. The area is so small I didn't bother trying to clean it up.

The intake looks a little messy but the real thing does have those supports that might be confused for a moulding artefact. Keep them! The kit already blanks off the intake for you, and it could have been a bit deeper, but at least you don't have to do it yourself. I wish I had painted that bit black before I assembled and painted everything else. Instead I did it with a brush from the outside - it works if you take your time.
Remember to add some nose weight. There is plenty of room.
The fuselage and wings went together nicely, though with a bit of a gap on the wing join. I used some putty here - looking at the pics perhaps not neatly enough -  but otherwise it was a clean assembly. After painting, there is inevitably a lot of extra minor construction - air data probes, the refueling probe, and the weapons. It's all pretty straightforward though. For the weapons load, I copied what I saw in a few pictures.

Well, this is where the kit originally detoured to the Shelf of Doom. I wanted to make the red white and blue scheme of the Chinese air force display team. The kit has the team's original markings, later replaced by more contemporary ones that were done on a decal sheet by a company now out of business. Without decals for the complex colour patterns, though, I just felt the job was beyond me. Only much later did I realise I could just make the standard grey version - I'd totally forgotten the kit includes those decals. 

So I rustled up some unblemished Chinese national insignia from another Trumpeter kit (the K-8, which I finished as a Zambian AF example) and they were in perfect register. I went ahead and brush-painted the upper half Vallejo 70.905 "Blue Grey Pale" and the underside Tamiya XF-19 "Sky Grey". These colours may not be exactly right but if you look at the linked pictures you'll see it's reasonably so. I freehanded the demarcation line between the two shades.

The decals went on fine, though of course they'd look a bit better had I gone to the effort to paint the plane gloss first, then apply them, then apply a dull coat. Oh well!
For that reason though, I chose not to apply the large number of small grey data stencils. You can hardly see them against the grey colour of the aircraft, except that you'd be able to see them easily as shiny decals. That said, Mr Mark Softer certainly works on these decals.

Compared to American ones, these missiles look a bit sparse without stripes or markings. But photo seem to indicate that's how the Chinese ones are.

Well, in the end I was glad I built it, though this is my third grey jet in a row after two F-18s and I think my Eurofighter is going to be demoted in the build pile while I tackle something a little less, well, grey. For the price this is a good kit, and its flaws are easy enough to work around, meaning you will have an interesting and good-looking jet on your shelf that not everyone else will have too.
Pictures :


September 2015 

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