Trumpeter 1/32 Douglas A-4M Skyhawk
By Thierry Laurent
- TYPE: Douglas A-4M
- SCALE: 1/32
- COMPANY: Trumpeter
- KIT NUMBER: 02268
- MOLD CREATION DATE: 2012
KIT DATABASE ENTRY:
TWEAK LIST VERSION 1.0 (publication date: June 2012)
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.
- The kit depicts a mid-production A-4M with “hot-dog” tail antenna and ARBS retrofit.
NOTICEABLE FUSELAGE ISSUES (from front to rear)
- The avionics bay boxes and connectors (parts E2 & 21) are not very fine, nor accurate. Compartments are too shallow, cables shall be replaced and boxes detailed with additional knobs. Either improves the area or close the nose compartments doors. Unfortunately, doors cannot be glued shut without modifying them. Note avionics hatches on the nose bay were very rarely opened unless the radio mechanics were fiddling.
- Note that the kit only gives the ARBS nose model option with the ALR-45 side bumps and ALQ-126 antenna under the nose (and above the tail so-called “sugar scoop”). However, the kit has no ARBS mechanism nor lens. To make an earlier Mike with or without the APR-125/ALQ-100 ECM & ARA-63 ILS bumps, copy the nose of an Echo or Fox kit.
- The AOA indexer vane is molded 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 instrument static ports molded on the nose starboard side. Remove the rear one as the front one is correct for planes using the cranked IFR probe.
- The ALR-50 antenna is missing on the nose LG main door (part F50). This antenna was present on all mid-production Mikes.
- 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.
- 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. Fortunately, this has no impact as this is hidden under the hump unless if you choose a very rare Adversary “Mighty Mike” with removed hump (such as VF-126 BuN°160039 or OMD BuN°160027).
- Thin the splitter plates located in front of air intakes lower edge. There shall be two small holes on the external edge and a small oval panel on the underside.
- Air intakes are given with full conduit up to the front engine face. Air intakes bulged profile is acceptable but their lips front face is not correctly shaped.
- The refueling probe red light on the leading edge of the starboard intake is missing.
- Each air intake has a molded reinforcement plate that shall be removed.
- The ECM camel hump is included but unfortunately, the parts are not fully accurate:
- The cross-section is suspect (more particularly for the rear part).
- The protruding door on each side of the hump front section shall be flush and far less "squared".
- The small side cooling louvers have been forgotten (note they are located further forward on the A-4M than on the A-4F).
- The hump has the ARC-51A UHF antenna of the early A-4M batch whereas the late ones had the same antenna (for the ARC-159 UHF) as well as a small antenna for AR-50 L-band radio systems. So this second –missing- antenna shall be added behind the first one.
- The kit has the APU exhaust peculiar to the A-4M mark on the port side but unfortunately it does not have the larger rear fuselage air intake. Either correct the kit one (split it into two parts and add a plastic strip) or replace it with an aftermarket one.
- 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. However, the engine detail is basic and the engine mounts are inaccurate. Moreover, the area requests additional pipes and connectors to depict accurately the engine systems intricate details. Note the engine access doors are missing the fatigue meter on one side and the locking mechanism.
- Do not glue part 102 and 103 to the engine. Glue them to each fuselage side after the assembly of the whole engine section. This is far easier than trying to assemble all components as described in the instruction sheet.
- 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 bulkheads, engine and air intakes. Any misalignment will result in noticeable problems.
- The kit has a bullet shaped indent located on the aft starboard fuselage. Normally, this engine oil breather shall be a flush vent round hole. Note there was a large clear yellow stain aft of this vent when maintenance was not done properly.
- 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. Check if the Skyhawk you want to build has them as some Mikes had none. Note that pictures of VMA-214 and VMA-311 planes generally show them.
- The kit instructions indicate that two chaff dispensers shall be used on the belly. Do not forget that the launchers were not used on Adversary Skyhawks (they were closed with a screwed plate).
- The tail stabilator support fairing is a separate part (D4& D17). This is an excellent idea as horizontal stabilator is run to the full nose down position before shutdown. This allows the maintenance crew to inspect or to reset the elevator disconnect linkage. 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.
- Missing APN-154 small radar beacon antenna shall be added on top of the “hot-dog” antenna. Note that early Mikes had a squared tail tip without the large “hot-dog” IFF ALR-65 antenna on the top.
- Some late Mikes got the pitot tube on the leading edge of the vertical tail. In such a case, the front L shaped pitot (part F20) shall be removed from the forward left nose area.
- There is a noticeable issue with the rudder length. The problem is not so easy to solve. The best solution probably asks for moving downwards the two big hinges. This would also require adding a strip of plastic between the rudder parts and the upper sections molded with the rudder. In the worst case, it is possible to divide the thickness in three and add a thin strip on the tail, another one under the rudder and a last one between the rudder vertical sections.
- Note the rear formation light is located lower on the Mike than any previous Skyhawk version due to the antennae placement on the tail trailing edge. Early Mikes had other antennae under rudder trailing edge (APX-72 IFF, ARN-52/84 TACAN & ALQA-100) whereas the late ones got a different antennae combination (ALQ-126, ARN-52/84 & APX-72).
- Keep in mind that, when a Skyhawk is parked, the arresting hook is normally up. As the aircraft has no internal hand pump or uplock on the hook, it could not be raised without external hydraulic power in. This made the planes very hard to tow. 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-4F 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. Note this modification is also applicable for Adversary airframes as all pictures of all Adversary or similar units using Super Mikes (NFWS – VF-126 – OMD – VX-5) show slats down on parked aircraft.
- 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 AOA 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. Normally, the flaps do not sag under gravity as they have an uplock in the system. The way the selector valve is set up does not allow any fluid to vent back to the return line. However, it is not uncommon to see Navy planes with flaps down on a Navy base flight line. So, they can realistically be displayed fully or partly up.
- The opened belly gun bays (aka “hell holes “) 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. Trumpeter has molded these with the movie can-like ammo drums in place.
- Parts F26, F42 and F29 do not look familiar. Part F11 is probably attempting to represent the inlet for the GTC starter. Note the color call outs here as well as the rest of the kit are inaccurate and should be checked first.
- If you want to build an Adversary Skyhawk, keep in mind that Colt guns and firing mechanism were removed. Unfortunately, the kit does not give the faired-in gun holes.
- Adversary Mikes used to carry the central pylon to carry an ACMI pod. Accordingly, the appropriate pylons holes shall be filled. They sometimes used drop tanks for ferry flights.
- 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. However, they did not seem to be used on Mikes.
- 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. Moreover, the kit does not include the launchers.
- USMC AGM-65 Mavericks did not use U.S. AIR FORCE stencils. Note that such missiles could only be used by ARBS-fitted Mikes.
- There are also some weapons mentioned as “unused parts”:
- AGM-62 Walleyes were at least tested by A-4Ms. They were also used later by IAF Skyhawks.
- GBU-8 TV-guided bombs were not used by USMC but were used by IAF A-4N. The bomb body is not fully correct but acceptable. However, the wing dimensions are completely off: they are far too short in length and far too long in height.
- There is an Aero-3A launcher. It may be used to carry a scratch-built or aftermarket ACMI pod on an Adversary aircraft.
- Fortunately, the Douglas 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. The rear scribed line shall be kept (separation between the body and the tail) but all other ones shall be filled with a length of sprue or fine rod. Indeed, these are not separation lines but welds. Accordingly, they shall be molded as raised and somewhat large flat lines. The access panels shall be corrected as well. They are depicted as a raised large oval. Actually, if you go from the periphery to the center of the panel, you should have a raised oval weld (corresponding to the external edge of the molded large one), a series of screw head holes and finally a recessed oval line (corresponding to the internal edge of the molded one). The filling plug is also missing. Last, rather than four faintly engraved lines, there shall be four deep grooves on the upper and lower rear section of the tank (between the wings).
NOTICEABLE COCKPIT ISSUES
- The A-4M used the upgraded ESCAPAC 1-G3 ejection seat. The ESCAPAC seat in the kit is a correctly detailed generic model but the parachute pack part (G24) is far too stiff and flat without any surface feature. Photo-etched 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.
- The instrument panel has undersized instruments. It depicts the mid-production standard with HUD (planes BuN°160241 to 160264 and retrofitted airframes). Earlier airframes initially got an IP similar to the Fox One.
- Logically, the kit has no AN/ALE-29A chaff dispenser control panel on left side of the coaming side of IP. This part (albeit too flat) is included in the E/F kits. It was only used on the early Mikes as later the system was included in the IP.
NOTICEABLE CANOPY ISSUES
- The windshield front armored glass is correctly shaped but its center section shall be shorter whereas the kit one goes almost all the way down to the nose. The frames are a little bit too thin.
- The shape of the canopy is not fully accurate. Its sides shall be a little bit bulged whereas the cross-section of the kit part shows too flat sides. This is not very noticeable if the canopy stays opened. Last, the canopy frame edge shall be located higher on the canopy side.
- There is no canopy hook on canopy internal sides. The padding (hard foam core covered with a black vinyl like material) on each canopy side is also missing. Note that most canopies got a fabric insulation cover over it. This may be replicated with lead foil or epoxy putty.
NOTICEABLE LANDING GEAR ISSUES
- The nose wheel is molded 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 front landing gear steering mechanism peculiar to the Mike is missing. This small device is rather complicated to scratch-build but this shall be added as this is a very noticeable feature of the late Skyhawk marks.
- The main landing gear bays are detailed with many molded pipes and hoses. Unfortunately, the large four longitudinal pipes housing various electrical circuits shall be molded 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. Using an aftermarket set will correct this easily.
- The front landing gear bay is correctly detailed even if numerous details shall be added here and there.
- The main wheels are noticeably undersized and the tire valve is missing 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 the gear legs are far too long. Moreover, the missing brake line shall be added on the landing gear legs.
OTHER NOTICEABLE ISSUES & REMARKS
- Kit has the Skyhawk ladder included whereas kits of the prior marks had none.
- Kit has no nose-weight. If you do not use a resin cockpit, do not forget adding ballast to avoid the tail-sitter syndrome.
- A-4 Mikes had wing lift spoilers but the difference with Alpha to Echo marks was not noticeable when the plane was parked on the ground.
- 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.
- Out of the 160 Mikes built, there were different batches of A-4M:
- Early ones delivered from 1971 looked very similar to the A-4F with an APU and a larger canopy. Mid-production ones got additional electronic system bulges on the nose and tail and a revised instrument panel with HUD (from 1974)
- Later ones got the IFF tail tip “hot-dog” antenna.
- Very late ones (BuAe n°160036 & 160241 to 160264) got stronger main landing gear and bulkier well doors. Planes also got the ARBS laser designating system.
- Early planes were also retrofitted with some features of the later batches along and after the production (HUD, “hot-dog” antenna, etc.).
- Remaining planes got ARBS from 1977 but the ARBS planes only became common in USMC squadrons during the eighties.
- Part or all of very late Mikes finally got normal LG doors later.
- So, the above-mentioned batch list is not a formal one linked to specific batches. It is just intended to help the modeler to identify the different features of the Mikes.
- Cross kitting parts with an A-4E/F kit is the best way (but also the most expensive) to create a very early or early Mike without ARBS. There is no way to depict the 24 final “SuperMikes” planes with bulged LG doors without heavy modification of the kit parts.
- The decals or decal schemes are seemingly inaccurate for airframes retrofitted with ARBS. The kit VMA-214 scheme is a 1980-1981 era one and VMA-311 corresponds to a late seventies one. However, all pictures of VMA-214 158164 (15) or VMA-311 158166 (12) as well as other planes of the same squadrons’ only show ARBS planes in low-viz camouflage scheme. The blue of the star and bars markings is far too light.
- The kit may be used to build a mid-production A-4M or an Argentina A-4AR. It may be easily converted to an early A-4M, an Israeli A-4N, a Kuwaiti A-4KU or a Brazilian AF-1.
The following sources were used to build this list.
- Chesneau, Roger, McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk, Aeroguide editions, n°14, Linewrights Limited, 1986.
- Drendell, Lou, A-4 Skyhawk Walk Around, n°41, Squadron Signal Publications, 2006.
- Efrati, yoav, Weiss, Raanan, Mac Donnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Aircraft of the Israeli air force, n°3, Isradecal publications, 2001.
- Kinzey, Bert, A-4 Skyhawk, Detail & Scale n°32, Kalmbach/Squadron Signal Publications, 1989.
- --, Skyhawk, Model art special, n° 346, 1990.
- --, Skyhawk A-4M, B,C,E,F,L/OA,TA, n°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, n°123, Koku fan, 1981.
- --, Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Famous Airplanes of the World, n°3, 1987.
- Ginter, Steve, McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk, Naval Fighters, n°55, 2002.
- Peacock, Lindsay, McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk Variants, Warpaint Series, n°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.
- Elward, Brad, McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Crowood Aviation, 2001.
- 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, n° 69, 2007.
- Munson, Kenneth, Skyhawk, War Data, n° 7, Eshel Dramit, 1979.
- Peacock, Lindsay, A-4 Skyhawk, Osprey Combat Aircraft series, Osprey Publishing, 1987.
- Thomason, H., Tommy, Scooter – The Douglas A-4 Story, Crécy publications, 2011.
- Winchester, Jim, Douglas A-4 Skyhawk: Attack & Close-Support Fighter Bomber, Pen & Sword books, 2005.
- Replic, Wingmasters, Scale Aircraft Modelling and Air Fan magazines.
© Thierry Laurent 2012
This article was published on Sunday, September 25 2016; Last modified on Sunday, September 25 2016