Brand: Fujimi F-24
Markings: Superscale 72-828
The Douglas (later McDonnell Douglas) A-4 Skyhawk is a single seat subsonic carrier-capable attack aircraft originally developed for the US Navy and US Marine Corps. While relatively lightweight, it was nimble, had a top speed of more than 670mph and could carry the same bomb loads as the B-17 Flying Fortress. Deliveries to the USN and USMC commenced in late 1956 and withdrawn from US front-line service in 1976 and 1994. A total of 2,960 were produced and they are still currently flown by at least 2 national air arms and various private companies.
Skyhawks were the U.S. Navy’s primary light attack aircraft used over North Vietnam during the early years of the Vietnam War. Skyhawks carried out some of the first air strikes by the US during the conflict and 362 A-4 Skyhawks were lost due to all causes.
The A-4F is a refinement of A-4E with extra avionics housed in a hump on the fuselage spin, wing-top spoilers to reduce landing roll out, nose wheel steering, and a more powerful engine. 147 were built. About a dozen were modified with a bent refueling probe and the addition of an undernose APS-107 RHAW (Radar Homing and Warning) sensor to enhance the Iron Hand anti-SAM capability. During an Iron Hand mission an A-4 Skyhawk, armed with AGM-45 Shrike anti-radar missiles, would fly low-level so as to be purposely detected by SAM radars. After being locked on, the pilot would fire the Shrike which will ‘ride the beam’ back to destroy the SAM site.
The build depicts NP-516, a VA-55 ‘Warhorses’ A-4F Skyhawk in 1975. However, I’ve added the APS-107 sensor and bent refueling probe to depict one of the dozen A-4Fs that were modified during the Vietnam War. I believe that NP-516 was a bog standard A-4F during its service life with VA-55.
First released in 1987, the Fujimi A-4 Skyhawk kit is still at this moment (2020) considered as the best in 1/72 scale. Fujimi offers pretty much all the variants of the Skyhawk in various boxings using a modular molding style. With the E/F boxing we get:
- E/F front fuselage section
- sharp and finely done panel lines
- both 1 and 2 part canopies included (allowing for open canopy)
- decals are included but there are raised details on the instrument panels
- ejection seat includes molded-on straps
- wheels down option only
- parts to close up the cannon area are included
- open or close airbrakes
- leading edge slats are lowered out of the box
- with some cutting, option to lower flaps
- straight or bent refueling probe
- various spike antenna and a larger flat under nose sensor
- stores include 3 fuel tanks, a pair of 4-shot Zuni rockets and a pair of TERs
- decal options for 4 A-4s: 2x US Navy Adversary, 1x RAAF and 1x US Navy
So, a lot of details packed into a small box. A more modern take of the A-4E/F Skyhawk was released by Hobbyboss in 2019 but it lacks the options provided by Fujimi like the bent refueling probe.
This kit begins my foray into building a collection of SAM Suppression aircraft. While not a difficult build, this kit did present some challenges and didn’t go as smoothly as expected.
There were quite a few parts that kept breaking off due to their small size. The antenna on the hump and undernose, tailhook, detail on the tailhook actuator, refueling probe, tail spike antenna, slat actuators and gun barrels all broke off one time or another during the whole build. In some cases, they broke multiple times. In fact, the tailhook was mis-molded and I replaced wholesale with a plastic rod instead.
To cut down on work, I decided to leave the flaps in the up position (Fujimi tells you to cut and re-position), closed the airbrakes and not address the step that was molded into the wings where the slats retracted into. I believe every manufacturer is wrong in this area: the slats retract to sit in front of the wing, not into it.
There were also quite obvious fit problems. First the splitter plate to intake fit took some work to fit properly with the instructions being somewhat vague. In the end I had to check photo references on the Internet to get a better idea on how they fit together. Another problem was the fit of the hump. Made of 2 halves, they neither fit all that well together and on the back of the fuselage and quite a bit of effort was needed to fair everything together. The slat actuators were too long and needed some careful trimming for the slats to fit int he correct position: did I mention they like to break off?
Since I wanted an APS-107 modified A-4F I had to scratchbuild the undernose sensor hump with plastic plate for the bulk and epoxy putty for the shape. Luckily for me, I managed to get it done in 1 go. Weapons-wise, I got the pair of AGM-45 Shrikes and the launcher rails from the Trumpeter F-105G kit and the Mk.20 Rockeye cluster bombs from the Hasegawa F-15E Strike Eagle kit.
Colors & Markings
A-4 Skyhawks during the Vietnam War were painted in the usual gray (FS16440) and white camouflage with high visibility markings. I decided to try out Mr Hobby’s Acrysion paints as I find AK Interactive to be too thin. The results so far are quite good with Acrysion being able to be thinned with my usual acrylic thinners and spraying on quite easily with good coverage. But, like the other acrylic paints, it also suffers from dry tips. The glossy N-2 White color was harder to get right though but I think that’s the case with all acrylic gloss white paints. As usual, I went from light to dark so I painted the white, masked off, then painted the gray.
The decals from Superscale went on very easily and reacted well to Mark Fitter and Mark Softer. It also includes full stencils for 1 Skyhawk but oddly doesn’t include the rectangular shaped yellow ejection panel marking. I tried to use the one from the kit but it was old and 1 of the 2 broke apart even after I gave it a coat of Future. In the end I simply painted the other one yellow. I left off most of the stencils and painted the barber pole pattern on the tailhook instead.
As I was depicting an operational Skyhawk during the Vietnam War, I decided to go heavier on the weathering. After the panel wash I added filters, discoloration, stains and fading with dark gray, white and raw umber oil paints.
Final assembly took a bit of time due to the size of the parts and I had to carefully re-attach parts that broke off again withouot damaging the paint work. In any case, the result doesn’t look too bad and hopefully I can add to the Iron Hand collection very soon.
Number 11 of 2020