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Douglas A-4L Skyhawk

by David W. Aungst

 

Douglas A-4C Skyhawk

 


Hasegawa's 1/48 scale A-4C Skyhawk is available online from Squadron.com

 

Introduction

 

The US Bicentennial celebration was good for creating many colorful and decorative paint schemes on US military aircraft. This VMA-142 machine is one of my favorite A-4 Skyhawk Bicentennial schemes. Actually, this is one of my favorite Skyhawk paint schemes, period -- Bicentennial or otherwise.

Note that the year of the US Bicentennial (1976) marked the year that VMA-142 transitioned into A-4F "Super Fox" Skyhawks. Hence, this markings scheme adorned both an A-4L and an A-4F "Super Fox" aircraft.

 

 

Converting Hasegawa's Skyhawk to an A-4L

 

The basic kit for this project is the Hasegawa A-4C Skyhawk. Like the A-4E kit that was released before it, lots of extra parts are found in the box to allow the modeler to build most any variation on the A-4C airframe. The A-4L is an upgraded version of the A-4C that basically brought the A-4C up to the same avionics configuration as the A-4E and A-4F. Part of this upgrade included the fitting of an avionics hump similar to the one found on the A-4E and A-4F. Also included were many of the radar and radio antennae found on the A-4E and A-4F.  

 

 

The following procedure converts the A-4C kit into an A-4L. Note, again, that all these changes use parts that are already present in the kit. These parts are "grayed out" on the instruction sheet as being not used (on the A-4C), but they are the right parts to use to update the A-4C to an A-4L. The step numbers relate to the Hasegawa A-4C kit instruction steps:

 

Instruction Step 4

    • Before assembling the nose halves, open the flashed over hole (half the hole is on each half of the nose) in the middle lower portion, along the seam between the two parts.

    • After assembling the nose, attach the nose mounted ALQ-51A/100 ECM antenna (kit parts D19 and E31) into the hole you just open on the bottom. For the specific aircraft I was building, the fairing is present without the "spike" antenna. I attached the fairing (part D19) and ommitted the spike (part E31).

    • Do not attach the cover plate (part A12) on top of the fuselage. You need this part to cover the opening on the top of the avionics hump.

    • Fill in the small vent on the right rear fuselage, just ahead of the speed brake well. This vent pertains to J52 powered aircraft (A-4E and later). Drill out a new vent hole in the same location that is only about one third the diameter of the hole just filled.


 

Instruction Step 5

    • Assemble the avionics hump (parts D13 and D14).

    • Use the cover plate (part A12) to fill the engine beed air vent hole in the top of the avionics hump. Fill and sand the area to be smooth without any panel lines marking the position of the vent hole.

    • Open the locator hole for the upper COM antenna in the forward section of the hump. Attach the COM antenna (part E11) in the upper COM antenna hole in the forward section of the hump.

    • File off the two scoops on rear portion of either side of the avionics hump. Fill and smooth the holes remaining after the removal of the scoops. These scoops pertain to J52 powered aircraft (A-4E and later).

    • Do not attach the forward tail piece (part A13). In its place, attach the now assembled avionics hump.

    • Do not fill the panel lines around the engine exhaust as indicated in the inset diagrams. Use these panel lines to locate the attachment points for the tail mounted ALQ-51A/100 ECM antennae. Parts D17 and D18 go on the sides of the engine exhaust. Part E19 goes under the exhaust. For the specific aircraft I was building, the fairing (part E19) is present without the "spike" antenna. I attached the kit part, then hacked off the spike.

    • Do not use the smooth lower fuslage piece that has no chaff dispenser (part A6). Instead, use one of the lower fuselage pieces that have a chaff dispenser (parts A7 or A8).

    • Check your references for the exact aircraft you are building -- the small antenna on top of the fin cap (part A15) is present on some A-4Ls.


 

Instruction Step 8

    • Attach the mid-fuselage ALQ-51A/100 ECM antennae (parts F22) to either side of the rear portion of the nose wheel well. There are two small scribed rectangles in this area. One antenna gets mounted over each rectangle. For the specific aircraft I was building, the fairings are present without the "spike" antennae. I attached the kit parts, then hacked off the spikes.


  

Instruction Step 9

    • Use the later wheel spoke pattern (part F20) in place of the earlier one (part F19).


 

Instruction Step 11

    • Attach the rear tail mounted ALQ-51A/100 ECM antenna (part F21) to the trailing edge of the vertical tail, centered over the spot where the rear edges of the horizontal tails are found. For the specific aircraft I was building, the fairing is present without the "spike" antenna. I attached the kit part, then hacked off the spike.

    • I could find no confirmation concerning the underside chaff dispensers (parts A5). Since the rest of the avionincs suite was brought up to A-4E/F standards including the rear fuselage chaff dispenser, I would tend to think that these dispensers were probably added, also. For my model, I was not sure enough to add them and chose to use the plugs. If you choose to use dispensers, attach them (parts A5) in place of the chaff dispenser plugs (part A3 and A4).


 

Instruction Step 13

    • Attach the aerial refueling probe as indicated. The A-4L maintained the straight type of probe.

    • Ommit the upper COM antenna (part F4). As mentioned previously, the proper COM antenna (part E11) is mounted in the forward portion of the avionic hump.

 

One other change I made to the kit (that was not in the box) involves the use of an after-market ejection seat. While adequate, the kit provided ejection seat is a bit simplistic. So, I replaced the seat with one from Cutting Edge.  

As this is a bit of a "show bird" in its Bicentennial markings, I chose to keep the weapons load limited to just an external fuel tank, as provided in the kit. Attaching the tank highlighted a "gotcha" in the kit that I have not found until I tried to hang a fuel tank on the centerline weapons pylon. Note that the centerline weapons pylon is not quite symetrical and definitely has front and back ends. The instruction sheet is unclear which end goes forward. I seems I have been attaching the pylon backwards in all my Skyhawk builds to date.  

 

 

Looking at the pylon, note the two cut-outs for the sway braces are slightly closer to one end of the pylon than the other. The front end of the pylon is the end where the cut-outs are farther away. If you attach the pylon backwards and go to hang a kit supplied fuel tank on the pylon, it will hit the nose landing gear. Trust me on this.

I found the problem after my model was completely assembled, painted, decaled, and weathered. The pylon was too well attached to pop off and re-attach correctly. Hence, I decided I should just machine in two new cut-outs for the sway braces at the correct locations (if the pylon was attached right) and mount the fuel tank in these new cut-outs. I did not want to risk damaging the existing paint or weathing by trying to fill the original cut-outs. So, if you look closely at the centerline pylon, you can see the kit-provided sway brace cut-outs still present on the pylon. Oh well...

 

Painting and Decals

 

The camouflage on the model is the old standard of Light Gull Gray (F.S.36440) over a white bottom with the tops of the flight control surfaces also being white. I painted the white first and masked off the flight controls, then I painted the Light Gull Gray. I sprayed the line freehand between the gray and white along the fuselage sides.  

The decals on the model are from one of the Eagle Strike decal sheets released last summer (stock#48-033). I wanted to build a model of this aircraft ever since the 1980s when SuperScale released a 1/72nd scale set of markings for it. I was planning on creating my own decals when I found the Eagle Strike decals at the IPMS Nationals in Chicago. I did not want to argue with fate and bought a set on the spot.  

The sheet provides the white portion of the hump and tail markings and expects you to paint the red and blue. Since the decal instructions claim the decals are really intended for the Hobby Craft kit, I feared that the white decals would not fit the considerably different sized Hasegawa kit. I chose to mask and paint all of the red, white, and blue portions of the hump and tail.  

I also replaced the decals for the tail code, large BuNo numbering, and MARINES text with new decals I printed myself. The Eagle Strike renditions of these markings were not to my liking, being not bold enough and (in the case of the tail code) quite irregular. As all these markings were only printed in black, I printed them on my laser printer (no ALPS needed).  

 

 

Another shortcoming of the sheet involves the stars on the rudder. There should be thirteen stars on each side. The instruction sheet draws thirteen stars on each side. The decals only provide twelve. Oops! Not to fear, the picture I found of this aircraft also shows that five of the stars are supposed to be smaller than the others. Eagle Strike provides all one size. I secured a set of smaller stars from an old SuperScale sheet and used these in addition to the Eagle Strike stars. I ended up with four extra Eagle Strike stars from each side of the rudder that I could add to my decal scraps box.  

Another place it seems that Eagle Strike has trouble counting concerns the red stripes which they print separately from the white and blue national insignia. Don't get me wrong, I like the separate stripes because it lets me control the register of the stripes in the insignia. However, the sheet provides eight national insignia and only six sets of red stripes.  

As I was building two Skyhawks at the same time, I needed all eight national insignia. Fortunately, I was able to compensate from a different Eagle Strike A-4 Skyhawk sheet (stock#48-032) which also has eight national insignia and twelve sets of red stripes. Someone must have been asleep when these sheets were inspected for completeness.

For weathering, I used my typical style of thinned down enamel paint washes and air brush shading. I finished the weathering with some dry brushing to pop out the surface details. For a more complete discussion of what I do to weather my models, see my posting on "Weathering Aircraft".

 

 

Conclusion

 

OK, you are probably starting to get tired of these Skyhawks. Sorry. I am only getting started -- as is Hasegawa. Just covering unique airframe versions, I am expecting to easily see ten different Skyhawk kits from Hasegawa. I will likely build each of these as they are released, many in multiples.  

All I can say is that I am likely to not exceed the number of Fw 190 kits with all my Skyhawks - at least not this year!

 

 

Additional Images and Project Summary

 

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Project Statistics

Completion Date:

13 December 2001

Total Building Time:

40.2

Research:

0.8

Construction:

12.2

Painting (includes creation and printing of custom decals):

16.1

Decals / Markings:

10.6

Extra Detailing / Conversion:

0.5

Model, Description and Images Copyright 2001 by David Aungst
Page Created 31 December, 2001
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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