Trumpeter 1/32 Douglas A-4E Skyhawk
By Thierry Laurent
- TYPE: Douglas A-4E Skyhawk
- SCALE: 1/32
- COMPANY: Trumpeter
- KIT Number: 02266
- MOLD CREATION DATE: 2011
KIT DATABASE ENTRY:
TWEAK LIST VERSION 1.0 (publication date: April 2011)
The following list is intended to help modelers in improving scale accuracy of an airplane model replica. In no way is it intended to support or be offensive towards a scale model company. It is up to the modeler to decide whether correcting the listed issues is worth the time and money he will have to invest in the quest for accuracy process. No aftermarket correction or detail set is mentioned in this document as the availability of such items may be very variable. Hence, refer to other LSP sections to find relevant information. Moreover, aftermarket sets do not necessarily correct all listed issues. Please refer accordingly to relevant documentation.
- The kit is made of 16 light gray styrene trees, three clear parts trees, a photo-etched fret, white metal landing gear struts and rubber tires for the main landing gear.
- Fit is generally excellent. Shapes & dimensions are globally correct and the details are generally accurate even if simplified here and there.
- The kit has a reasonable amount of engraved rivets and screw heads. Panel lines are generally correct even if simplified. There are also some problems here and there.
NOTICEABLE FUSELAGE ISSUES (from front to rear)
- The avionics bay boxes and connectors (parts E2 & 21) are not very refined. Compartments are too shallow, cables shall be replaced and boxes detailed with additional knobs. Either improves the area or close the nose compartments doors.
- The AOA indexer vane is moulded on the fuselage port side. It is far too thick and shall be replaced by a separate and finer replica. Moreover, the 12 prominent heads of screw fixing its round panel are missing.
- Add the missing locks around the nozzle of the IFR probe.
- There are two-triangular-shaped double vortex generators moulded on the nose starboard side. The rear one is correct for planes using the straight IFR probe. Accordingly, the front one shall be removed as it was only used on planes using the cranked IFR probe.
- The lower side panel on each side of the lower fuselage is protruding whereas it shall be flush. Scribe its border and sand it cautiously to remove the step.
- The various NACA type air inlets shall be opened with a sharp blade end.
- Many wartime Echoes got the AN/ALQ-126 ECM system. For instance, VA-212 scooters Vietnam era pictures show them. However, some other VA-212 A-4Es and VF-43 151118, VA-72 149993 airframes did not have the antennae or their supports. The low-band antennae of the device had an ice cream cone shape. Unfortunately, if the nose and tail ones are given in the kit, the one or two antennae located behind the front landing gear door rear edge are missing. Their supports are nonetheless present on the sprues (parts 13 & 14). However, there is a recessed zone where the antenna base is located whereas when the antenna is removed from the support, a round plug or screwed flat plate is installed to close the hole. Check accordingly your references and either omit the parts; add the missing antennae or the plug/plate on the supports. Note that the system was removed on Adversary planes to gain weight.
- A good picture of the area shows that the rear fairing located behind the canopy is a little bit too pointy where it blends into the upper fuselage.
- Thin the splitter plates located in front of air intakes lower edge.
- Air intakes are given with full conduit up to the front engine face. Profile of the air intakes is not fully accurate and their lips front face seems a little bit too thin.
- The red light on the leading edge of the starboard intake is missing.
- Each air intake has a moulded reinforcement plate (half on the intake, half on the fuselage). This only appeared late in the life of A-4E. For instance, airframe 15118 did not have the plates on period pictures of VF-43.
- The possibility to open the fuselage side engine maintenance doors (E30 & E31) is an excellent idea as this door is often opened on the ground. Obviously, the area requests additional pipes and connectors to depict accurately the engine systems intricate details.
- Assembly of the front and rear fuselage part is done without any pin to ensure that sub-assemblies will be correctly mated. Hence, take care when assembling the engine and air intakes. Any misalignment will result in noticeable problems.
- The bullet-shaped indent located in the middle of the starboard fuselage shall actually be a flush vent round hole.
- Speed brakes and bays are nicely depicted but keep in mind that they are closed or nearly closed when the plane is parked. They were normally closed before shutdown, but could open a little bit as the hydraulic pressure bled off. On the ground, they were only fully opened for maintenance activities. Speed brakes have the three JATO attachment points. Even if they were regularly used in Vietnam by Marines scooters, check if the Skyhawk you want to build has them as generally early Navy Echoes had none.
- The kit instructions indicate that two chaff dispensers shall be used on the belly. This is incorrect for most A-4E. Vietnam era Scooters only used one dispenser (further on the port side). Additional launchers were retrofitted later and installed on variants such as the A-4H. Moreover, do not forget that the launcher was not used on Adversary Skyhawks (it was closed with a screwed plate).
- The tail stabilator support fairing is a separate part (D4& D17). This is an excellent idea as horizontal stabilators often angle downward at the leading edge on a parked Scooter. For inspection reasons, Adversary Scooters generally have drooped stabs as the maintenance technicians used them as a service platform to check the rudder area. However, there is a noticeable issue: when the stabs angle downwards, a hole shall be visible through the fin whereas the kit part has none.
- Note that normally elevators (D11 & D26) are always aligned with the stabs on the ground. The elevator control rod is missing.
- Cut the rudder top section moulded with the tail parts to improve the look of upper seam as the rudder shall be clearly separated from the tail.
- Keep in mind that, when a Skyhawk is parked, the arresting hook is normally lowered on ground-based A-4s. Moreover, the hook end is flat whereas there shall be three deep grooves.
NOTICEABLE WINGS/WEAPONS ISSUES
- The kit has the infamous slat step so common on model kits. This is intended to possibly position the slats up. However, this is non-sense as the Skyhawk A-4E slats are aerodynamically actuated, so they are always down on the ground (by gravity). Fortunately, this is not a huge step and this may be corrected quite easily. Here is probably the easiest approach to solve this issue: saw the recessed area, glue thin plastic strips on edges to compensate the saw blade width and re-glue it higher, flush with the wing surface.
- The wings and slats Vortex generators are far too thick. This is really a nasty issue as there are more than seventy blades to thin or replace.
- The three red landing lights in the port wing edge shall be added before gluing part J4. Drill the wing structural hole visible through the light cover.
- A panel line is crossing the service door located between the wing pylons, behind the slats. Fill the line section between the two panels.
- The radar altimeter fairing (located under port wingtip) has a noticeably too slim profile.
- The kit gives two options to position the landing flaps. On the ground, they sag down as the gravity overcame the residual hydraulic pressure. So, they can realistically be displayed fully or partly up if you depict an airplane that had just stopped its engine.
- The opened belly gun bays is a nice option as they are regularly left opened on the ground. If you want opening them, do not forget drilling the screw holes in the edges supporting the door.
- If you want to build an Adversary Skyhawk, keep in mind that except on the very early ones, their Colt guns and firing mechanism were removed. Unfortunately, the kit does not give the faired gun holes. Some sources state that the ammo boxes were removed as well but pictures showed that they were at least kept (empty) in some airframes (part F10 & F31). Note that some front-line Skyhawks had no guns. Various wartime pictures show it.
- Early adversary aircraft had no pylon. Later the VF-43 Adversary carried a central pylon to carry a drop tank. Finally, all Adversary scooters used to carry one wing internal pylon or the central one to carry an ACMI pod. Accordingly, the appropriate pylons holes shall be filled.
- Trumpeter used again one of their standard armament sprues. Consequently, the standard problems of weapons shape and dimensions came as well:
- AGM-45 Shrikes are misshaped but may be corrected with some judicious sawing and sanding job. Moreover, the kit does not include the Shrike launchers.
- Mk.82 bombs are unfortunately beyond any possibility of improvement; their body being too skinny. Moreover, their "Snake-eye" variant is far too simplified, their end not depicting correctly the complexity of the braking device.
- Mk.117 bombs are not correctly shaped but usable.
- MERs and TERs are noticeably too thin.
- AGM-12 Bullpups are correct but the kit does not give the specific small instrument panel with the missile control stick in the cockpit port console.
- AGM-65 Mavericks were only cleared for use by later Skyhawks (such as A-4M or A-4K). Moreover, they did not use U.S. AIR FORCE stencils.
- There are also some weapons mentioned as Unused Parts:
- AGM-62 Walleyes were used by some Echoes during the Vietnam War (including VA-212 ones). They were also used later by IAF A-4Es.
- GBU-8 TV-guided bombs were not used by Navy A-4Es but were used later in the Skyhawk life (for instance IAF A-4N used them).
- There is an Aero-3A launcher. It may be used to carry a scratch-built or aftermarket ACMI pod on an Adversary aircraft. Alternately, it may be used to carry an AIM-9B on a Vietnam war scooter.
- Fortunately, the fuel tanks are correctly shaped and if unused may be recycled to replace the misshaped ones of the Trumpeter A-7 or AV-8B kits.
NOTICEABLE COCKPIT ISSUES
- The ESCAPAC seat is correctly detailed but the parachute pack part (G24) is far too stiff and flat without any surface feature. Photoetched belts shall be replaced as the buckles are not accurately depicted. Some hoses and connectors are missing on the seat sides.
- The fuselage and rear sides of the cockpit are nicely depicted even if a little bit stiff looking (actual cover looks more "organic"). Note that the quilted material pattern shall be same everywhere. Unfortunately, it is noticeably finer on the rear bulkhead.
- Canopy actuator area is correctly detailed and just asks for some missing hoses.
- The five buttons, switches and trigger are missing on control stick
- The side consoles have no switches, nor buttons. Using decals on such a LSP does not result in an accurate look even if they are not very visible. Hence, adding some switches and buttons with a punch & die will noticeably improve the area.
- The throttle is missing on the port console (look for the hole in the port console). Fortunately, its shape is basic and it may be easily depicted using a section of plastic rod.
- A shallow box is moulded on the port side of IP coaming. It is probably intended to depict the AN/ALE-39 ECM console. However, it is however far too flat and has no control button, no switch, nor the indicator lights. Moreover, it only appeared later in the Skyhawk life. Accordingly, update the part or remove it.
NOTICEABLE CANOPY ISSUES
- The windshield front armoured glass does not have the typical elliptical shape. Its base is cut. This is not so obvious as the Echo used a de-icer device located at the base of the windshield (part E15). Unfortunately, this means that backdating the kit to an earlier mark is not really possible because the early birds did not have this de-icing device box but a simple wiper.
- There is no canopy hook on canopy internal sides. The structural reinforcement on each canopy side is also missing. Note that most canopies got a leather or fabric insulation cover over it. This may be replicated with lead foil or epoxy putty.
NOTICEABLE LANDING GEAR ISSUES
- The nose wheel is moulded with the landing gear fork. This is horrendous on a large scale kit. Either saw it cautiously from the leg, clean it - or replace it with an aftermarket or leftover Hasegawa one - and put it a strong metal axle. Oddly, whereas the metal leg option is given for the main landing gear, there is no choice for the front one.
- The main landing gear bays are detailed with many moulded pipes and hoses. Unfortunately, the large four longitudinal pipes housing various electrical circuits shall be moulded noticeably over the other pipes whereas they are cut by the bay ribs on the kit parts. Correcting this will ask for a tedious job.
- The front landing gear bay is correctly detailed even if numerous details shall be added here and there.
- Add a tire valve on the wheel rims. The details on the main landing gear rims are exaggerated. The half-circle reinforcement plates on which are located the bolts are faintly visible on the full-scale planes whereas they are very prominent on the kit. At least do not use a dark wash to avoid revealing too obviously this discrepancy. Note that some early A-4Es used rims with reinforcement ribs (pictures of VA-212 Skyhawks shows such wheel rims). Accordingly, check your references pictures to determine which wheel rim type is appropriate.
- Add the missing brake line on the landing gear legs.
OTHER NOTICEABLE ISSUES & MISCELLANEOUS REMARKS
- Kit has no weight. If you do not use a resin cockpit, do not forget adding ballast to avoid the tail-sitter syndrome.
- A-4E Skyhawks were generally retrofitted with the bent IFR probe. Unfortunately, the kit only gives the original straight one. This means that a late Echo cannot be built without replacing or converting the probe. Unfortunately, it is not possible to use a Hasegawa cranked probe as its diameter is noticeably smaller. This decreases the number of possible scheme options and as such, there is no way to do a late Adversary bird without conversion.
- There were a lot of variations in antennae and probes along the Skyhawk life. Hence, check closely the features of the plane you want to replicate.
- The ECM camel hump retrofitted on most Navy Skyhawks is included but no scheme is given for an A-4E using it.
The decals or decal schemes are not fully accurate:
- The blue of the stars and bars markings is far too light.
- There were variants but the VA-212 lion shape in the crest seems a little bit suspect.
- Pictures of the VF-43 151118 aircraft wearing the Adversary scheme of the kit show that the plane had no guns, nor pylon, nor ECM antennae.
The following sources were used to build this list.
- Drendell, Lou, A-4 Skyhawk Walk Around, No. 41, Squadron Signal Publications, 2006.
- Efrati, yoav, Weiss, Raanan, McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Aircraft of the Israeli air force, No. 3, Isradecal publications, 2001.
- Kinzey, Bert, A-4 Skyhawk, Detail & Scale No. 32, Kalmbach/Squadron Signal Publications, 1989.
- --, Skyhawk, Model art special, No. 346, 1990.
- --, Skyhawk A-4M, B,C,E,F,L/OA,TA, No. 2, MISA 108 Editions, Hobby Shop Work Publication, Hasegawa distribution, 1987.
Scale Plans and TM Extracts:
- --, Douglas A-4A/F Skyhawk, Famous Airplanes of the World, No. 123, Koku fan, 1981.
- --, McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Famous Airplanes of the World, No. 3, 1987.
- Ginter, Steve, Douglas A-4E/F Skyhawk in Navy Service, Naval Fighters, No. 51, 2001.
- Ginter, Steve, Douglas A-4E/F Skyhawk in Marine Service, Naval Fighters, No. 52, 2001.
- Peacock, Lindsay, McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk Variants, Warpaint Series, No. 21, Aviation News, 1978.
Colour Pictures & Photo Files:
- Francillon & Lewis, Navy Attack, Osprey Publishing, 1973.
- Francillon & Lewis, United States Navy Air Wings - Flamboyant Markings 1965-1975, Osprey Publishing, 1988.
- Nelson, Derek, Parsons, Dave, Bandits! A Pictorial History of American Adversarial Aircraft, Motorbooks International, 1983.
- Stewart, Chuck, Aggressor Aircraft, Osprey Publishing, 1990.
- Drendell, Lou, A-4 Skyhawk in Action, Squadron Signal Publications, 1973.
- Kasulka, Duane, USN Aircraft Carrier Air Units Volume 3, 1964 - 1973, Squadron signal Publications, 1988.
- Kilduff, Peter, Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Osprey Air Combat series, Osprey Publishing, 1983.
- Kinzey Bert, Leader, Ray, Colors & Markings of Colorful U.S. Navy A-4 Skyhawks, TAB Books, 1991.
- Kinzey Bert, Leader, Ray, Colors & Markings of the U.S. Navy Adversary Aircraft, TAB Books, 1991.
- Mersky, Peter, US Navy and Marine Corps A-4 Skyhawk Units Of The Vietnam War, Osprey Combat Aircraft, No. 69, 2007.
- Munson, Kenneth, Skyhawk, War Data, No. 7, Eshel Dramit, 1979.
- Peacock, Lindsay, A-4 Skyhawk, Osprey Combat Aircraft series, Osprey Publishing, 1987.
- Replic, Wingmasters, Scale Aircraft Modelling and Air Fan magazines.
© Thierry Laurent 2011
This article was published on Wednesday, September 07 2016; Last modified on Friday, February 10 2017