J-20 PLA Stealth Fighter

Published: August 9th, 2011     
Box Art
Box Art
Reviewed by: Jim Pearsall - IPMS# 2209
Scale: 1/144
Company: Dragon Models
Price: $12.95
Product / Stock #: 4625
Product provided by: Dragon Models USA

The J-20 is a prototype of the Chinese fifth-generation fighter. It is called a stealth fighter, and it has many of the characteristics of a truly stealthy aircraft, including occluded intakes, an internal armament store, and radar-absorbent outer skin. As it is now configured, most experts say it isn't truly stealthy as the engine exhausts are not low-observable technology for either IR or radar. There is speculation that new engines and exhausts will be added after the airframe has moved further toward production.

The prototype flew in January of 2011. Dragon's kit is now available 6 months later. That's fast work.

THE KIT

At first look, this is a simple kit, but the box art states that it's for skilled modelers, age 14 and over. It's nicely molded in flash-free gray plastic with 3 sprues of parts, the canopy, and a tiny decal sheet.

The simplicity of the kit is shown by the fact that there are only 2 assembly steps, and the instructions are printed on the box back. The color and marking instructions are printed on one side of the box. It's a good thing this baby doesn't have a complicated color scheme, as the color instructions rate as tiny and difficult to decipher.

CONSTRUCTION

The assembly starts out with a real attaboy. The lower front fuselage and the lower main body have a marvelous joint. This assembles strong and true, and is just wonderful. The red arrow is to remind the builder to put on the intake "carrots" before assembling the forward, aft, and upper fuselage parts. These parts can be inserted later, but it required a lot of fumbling. The instructions don't really give an assembly sequence for step 1, and it's harder if you wait.

The upper and lower fuselage sections fit together nicely, and I only needed some filler where the sprue connectors were removed and sanded down, leaving a small divot in the parts. The canard wings fit cleanly. Be aware that if you follow the instructions, the parts don't match well. The part numbers are reversed for 22 and 23.

I was pleased with how well the vertical stabilizers went on both the upper and lower aft fuselages. Same with what I think are actuator covers on the bottom of both wings. So now the whole main assembly is complete, after only about an hour total work. Time for paint.

PAINT

Simplicity itself. I used Floquil's Grimy Black. It handles nicely in the airbrush, covers well, and it's a nice, almost semi-gloss black. I painted the interiors of the wheel wells and the inside of the gear doors white, the seat with a green cushion, silver and black consoles, and applied Future to prep for decals.

DECALS

The entire decal sheet for this kit is about 11/4 inches square (3.25cm). The decals are the aircraft number on either side of the nose, the stars for the tails, stars and bars in 4 positions on the wings, ejection triangles, and what may be white slime lights. The slime lights were a problem because they're so tiny, and the white doesn't show up well on the light blue decal paper. The decals went on very well. I put in only about 2 hours work time to this point on this project.

FINISHING

Of course it's tiny landing gear. The wheels were OK to paint, as Dragon made a definite line between the hub and tire. The struts were good, too. I was pleased at how well the nose wheel fit into the forked nose strut. I did have to work a little with the main gear, as the struts just didn't want to go into the holes. Not a big challenge, just that everything fit so well up to that point.

The main gear doors were puzzling to me, but after a couple of tries at test fitting, I figured out how they were supposed to mount. The nose door was simple and fits well. I missed the little nose gear door on the back of the strut, a la the F/A-18, but went back and brush painted it black.

The only things left were the nose probe and the canopy. I'm glad I did the canopy first, as I probably would have destroyed the probe trying to get the canopy to fit. The canopy has a unique shape, with a rear panel which is supposed to fit into a slot behind the cockpit. Mine didn't fit. I wound up removing this panel with a cutter, and filling the place where I cut too far with Micro Scale's Krystal Kleer. It's fixable.

The nose probe went into place with no hassle.

OVERALL EVALUATION

Recommended, with a caveat. Except for the canopy, this kit is just about as close to a box-shaker as I've encountered lately. Even with that problem, it only took about 3 hours work, in one day, from start to finish. The caveat is that this aircraft is probably going to change before it reaches production or, like the YF-23, it'll never see service. How many of us have encountered models of the YF-15? There were at least 3 different kits of this aircraft, in 1/72 and 1/144 scale, and the wing tips are decidedly different from a production aircraft. On the other hand, Dragon just may have the first kit of the first Chinese production stealth aircraft.

Thanks to Dragon USA for an excellent model of an interesting air vehicle. And thanks to John Noack for allowing me to build it.

  • Instructions
    Instructions
  • Left side
    Left side
  • Right rear
    Right rear
  • Overhead
    Overhead
  • Size comparison
    Size comparison

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