Trumpeter 1/32 Douglas A-4F Skyhawk
By Thierry Laurent
- TYPE: Douglas A-4F
- SCALE: 1/32
- COMPANY: Trumpeter
- KIT Number: 02267
- MOLD CREATION DATE: 2011
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 is not an A-4F. It is the A-4E 02266 kit with new decals. To minimize corrections, the kit may be built as a very early Fox used in SEA (1967-1972 era) or simply as a late A-4E with hump as VA-94 152031 was in fact an Echo airframe.
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.
- Profile of nose end is not fully accurate. It shall be more rounded than it is.
- 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. The kit only has the straight IFR probe used on the very first Foxes deployed in SEA. As most Foxes got the cranked one and earlier planes were also retrofitted with this one as soon as they go back to CONUS for overhaul, this is a noticeable issue as this means that a late Fox cannot be built without replacing or converting the probe. This decreases the number of possible scheme options and as such, there is no way to do a late Adversary bird without conversion. As the cranked probe is in the A-4M kit, the owner of this kit may try to copy it or simply purchase an aftermarket one. Note it is not possible to use a leftover Hasegawa cranked probe as its diameter is noticeably smaller.
- There are two-triangular-shaped instrument static ports molded on the nose starboard side. The rear one is correct for planes using the straight IFR probe whereas the front one shall be kept 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.
- Wartime Foxes used the AN/ALQ-126 ECM system. However, some planes (more particularly adversary unit ones) did not have the system to gain weight. On some others, some supports and possibly the antennae were missing (look for instance at low-visibility Foxes used by some Marines units in CONUS). Similarly, the ECM system was removed on Blue Angels planes. 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 VA-94 152031 A-4E plane had the full system with supports and antennae.
- 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 early Fox or one with removed hump such as some used by Adversary units.
- 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.
- Blue Angels SuperFoxes had no guns. They had a cylindrical ladder tube replacing the port gun, This shall be scratch-build to depict an accurate plane replica.
- Air intakes are given with full conduit up to the front engine face. Profile of the air intakes is not accurate and their lips front face is too thin.
- Two-third of the Foxes received the Superfox modifications (mainly linked to the new J57-P-408 engine). This means that they got the bulged intakes and a slightly longer engine exhaust. So, if you want to build a Blue Angels or an Adversary bird, noticeable modifications will be required. Either modify the intakes, copy the A-4M kit ones or use aftermarket ones. Modifying the exhaust is fortunately very easy: add a thin strip of plastic on the exhaust edge to simulate the flange.
- The refueling probe red light on the leading edge of the starboard intake is missing.
- Each air intake has a molded reinforcement plate (half on the intake, half on the fuselage). This only appeared late in the life of A-4F.
- 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.
- 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. Even if they were regularly used in Vietnam by Marines scooters, check if the Skyhawk you want to build has them as many Foxes had none. For instance, 152031 Echo had none.
- The kit instructions indicate that two chaff dispensers shall be used on the belly. This is incorrect for Vietnam era Scooters which 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). Note that the flare launchers also were removed from the Blue Angels scooters and the hole was faired over. Blue Angels scooters used the para-brake as some foreign Skyhawk operators.
- 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.
- Cut the rudder top section molded with the tail parts to improve the look of upper seam as the rudder shall be clearly separated from the tail.
- Note that some SuperFoxes got the large “hot-dog” antenna on the top of the vertical tail. The tail with this antenna may be found in the Trumpeter A-4M kit or in some aftermarket sets.
- 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.
- 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. Solving this is easier for a Blue Angels plane as their slats were always closed. In this case, gluing the part in the “up” position shall be enough. Note this modification is also applicable for some Adversary airframes, so check closely your references.
- 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 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 if some front-line Echoes had no guns, this did not seem to be the case for Foxes. The museum Foxes without guns are in fact repainted Adversary planes.
- Early adversary aircraft had no pylon. Adversary Foxes used to carry one wing internal pylon or the central one to carry an ACMI pod. Accordingly, the appropriate pylons holes shall be filled. Blue Angels planes normally had no pylon but their Superfoxes used to keep the central pylon 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.
- 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.
- There are also some weapons mentioned as “unused parts”:
- 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.
- AGM-62 Walleyes were used by some scooters during the Vietnam War (including VA-212 ones). They were also used later by IAF Skyhawks. Besides the dedicated side instrument panel with the control stick, the airframes using the Walleye got a Sony b&w monitor in place of the radar scope. This explains why the use was limited to specific planes.
- GBU-8 TV-guided bombs were not used by Navy A-4Fs but were used later in the Skyhawk life (for instance IAF A-4N used them). 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-4F used the upgraded ESCAPAC 1-C3 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 and the radar is tiny.
- A shallow box is molded 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 appeared late in the Skyhawk life. Accordingly, update the part or remove it.
NOTICEABLE CANOPY ISSUES
- The windshield front armored glass does not have the typical elliptical shape. Its base is cut. This is not very obvious as the Fox 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 than the Echo 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 padding (hard foam core covered with a black vinyl like material) 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. Note that Blue Angels scooters had quilted cushions inside the canopy.
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 Fox 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 no weight included. If you do not use a resin cockpit, do not forget adding ballast to avoid the tail-sitter syndrome.
- A-4 Foxes had wing lift spoilers but the difference with earlier 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.
- Some VA-164 Skyhawks were modified to use laser guided bombs at the end of the Vietnam war. They got a Laser Spot Tracker in the nose end and a Ferranti gun sight showing the spot where the laser energy was directed. Accordingly, they worked in combination with two ex-marine TA-4F intended to designate the target (this was manually done by the RIO).
- The decals or decal schemes are not accurate. Indeed, the kit contains no scheme for an early F:
- VA-94 152031 airframe was in fact an A-4E retrofitted with the hump. However, as the kit looks more like a late Echo, this is not a big issue.
- The Blue Angels decal option is really a wrong choice considering the kit contents. Indeed, airframe 155033 was one of the 18 airframes modified for the Blues and such planes were part of the 100 planes batch (out of the 146 produced Foxes) converted into SuperFoxes.
- The blue of the star and bars markings is far too light.
The following sources were used to build this list.
- Drendell, Lou, A-4 Skyhawk Walk Around, n°41, Squadron Signal Publications, 2006.
- Efrati, Yoav, Weiss, Raanan, McDonnell 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.
- --, McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, Famous Airplanes of the World, n°3, 1987.
- Ginter, Steve, Douglas A-4E/F Skyhawk in Navy Service, Naval Fighters, n°51, 2001.
- Ginter, Steve, Douglas A-4E/F Skyhawk in Marine Service, Naval Fighters, n°52, 2001.
- 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.
- Chesneau, Roger, McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk, Aeroguide editions, n°14, Linewrights Limited, 1986.
- 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 Tuesday, September 20 2016; Last modified on Friday, February 10 2017