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"Fake MiG"
A Deceptively Painted A-4E

by David W. Aungst

 

 

A-4 Skyhawk

 

 


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Background

 

The camouflage applied to an aircraft is usually intended to conceal, either in the air or on the ground. The subject of this article has taken the concept in a different direction by using camouflage to disguise itself as a different aircraft. You will find a stylized outline of a MiG 17 carefully worked into the camouflage on this Skyhawk.

The attempt to disguise an A-4 as a MiG 17 is a valid one. For the given time period, the Skyhawk was primarily tasked with simulating MiG 17s in adversarial training. I have never heard how effective the camouflage was at making the Scooter look like a MiG in flight. Being a short-lived camouflage scheme, I can only assume it was not as convincing in flight as they hoped, and the camouflage was removed after its evaluation. On the ground, it was a very interesting aircraft to see.

 

 

This aircraft has always been on my "hit list" of models I wanted to build. I actually started a Monogram Skyhawk kit at one point with the intention of building this aircraft. I got bogged down on details and eventually re-boxed the kit to wait for another time. With the release of the Hasegawa A-4 Skyhawk, I now have a well engineered, easy kit to build of the Skyhawk. It was only a matter of time before I built a Hasegawa kit in these markings.

 

 

Hasegawa's A-4 in 1/48 Scale

 

I am not going to go into a long review of the Hasegawa Skyhawk kit here. See my previous posting, Diamondbacks Skyhawk, for a full review of the Hasegawa Skyhawk kit. I do, however, have one notable update to the previous review. I mentioned in the earlier posting that A-4Es do not have wing spoilers. After finding several pictures of A-4Es with raised wing spoilers, I asked a retired US Marine friend (that worked over 20 years on Skyhawks) about this detail.

He informed me that most all A-4Es were retrofitted with the wing spoilers at pretty much the same time as they were retrofitted with the avionics hump. This means the Hasegawa molded detail on the lower wing flap that provides the wing spoiler actuator is correct for A-4E airframes following the retrofit of the avionics hump. This actuator detail should only be removed on early A-4E airframes, prior to when they had the avionics hump installed. Aggressor airframes, like the one in this posting, likely were "humped" Skyhawks in previous lives that had the hump removed in aggressor service. They would have retained the wing spoilers, though.

 

 

The point to this model was its camouflage, so I wasted no time on detailing the kit any further. I did change the kit using the pieces already in the box, though. To correctly model this aggressor Skyhawk, I actually used several of the pieces the kit instructs you to ignore. Being able to identify the pieces for what they were, I merely opened a couple flashed over holes in the correct airframe locations and used the alternate pieces.

The things provided in the kit that applied to this aircraft are as follows.

  • The aircraft has the tail mounted pitot tube. This replaces the "L" shaped pitot that goes on the left nose, in front of the windscreen. I opened the flashed-over hole on the tail leading edge and installed the tail pitot tube (kit piece E20). Then, I omitted the nose pitot (kit piece F24).

  • While all the mounting fairings for the "ice-cream cone" antennae (as Skyhawk maintenance personnel refer to them) are present on the aircraft, none of the actual "ice-cream cone" antennae are mounted onto them. These occur at five positions on the aircraft -

    • one under the tip of the nose (kit pieces D19 and E31)

    • two on either side of the nose landing gear (kit pieces F22)

    • one under the engine exhaust (kit piece E19)

    • one on the lower trailing edge of the vertical tail (kit piece F21).

    • I attached these pieces, then cut off the antenna cones.

  • The aircraft is missing the temperature probe that is mounted to the right, just in front of the windscreen. I just omitted the piece when I was building (kit piece E32).

  • The aircraft uses the bent aerial refueling probe. I substituted the bent probe (happily, as I prefer this one) in place of the straight one.

  • As is true of most aggressor Skyhawks, there are not any cannons fitted at the wing roots. I substituted the faired-over wing root pieces (kit pieces D6 and D7) in place of the cannon mounts.

 

 

Camouflage and Markings

 

As discussed above, the point of this project was the unique camouflage. This A-4E from Topgun was one of two Skyhawks to get this "MiG Outline" camouflage. The other Skyhawk was a TA-4J that flew with VA-127. Of the two aircraft, I tend to prefer the TA-4J better. But, all I have to work with (right now) is the A-4E kit. As all the needed parts were already in the box, I decided to build the A-4E version of this camouflage.

 

 

I had been collecting pictures of the two "MiG scheme" Skyhawks for years, preparing for building a model of one of them. The final, conclusive documentation for the A-4E version came from another model kit (of all places). The alternate markings in the 1/72nd scale Fujimi A-4E/F Aggressor Skyhawk are for this aircraft. The instruction sheet from the Fujimi kit provided a full four-view painting diagram showing the complete camouflage. Armed with this instruction sheet (and a hand-full of pictures) I was ready to build.

I used all Testors Model Master enamel paints on the model. The camouflage of the MiG outline is painted Tan Special (F.S.20400) and Field Drab (F.S.30118). The underside MiG outline is painted Graish Blue (F.S.35237). The rest of the light colored areas of the Skyhawk are painted in Light Gray (F.S.36495). To the left is a link to a camouflage diagram I created for this aircraft.

A-4E_MiG_Camo-01.gif (103198 bytes)I started by painting the Light Gray areas of the airframe. I masked these areas using Scotch tape and Parafilm-M. Then, I painted the MiG outline portions of the camouflage. The camouflage inside the MiG outline is free hand painted with an airbrush. On removing the masks from the model, I was quite pleased with the outcome of my painting effort.

Just as I completed painting the model (the first time), a friend on the Internet forwarded me nine more color pictures of the aircraft showing even better detail than any other pictures I had found in books. I ended up doing some close scrutiny of these pictures to update the camouflage diagram for the aircraft. Then I re-masked and painted the model a second time to correct the inaccuracies from the first painting.

On studying pictures of the actual aircraft, I found that the beaten look of the paint was partially due to quite a bit of touch-up painting done to the aircraft. The touch-ups were not in perfectly matching paints, hence the camouflage started to take on a splotchy appearance. I decided to capture this effect, I needed to reproduce the same touch-ups on the model.

So, I mixed up some slightly off shades of the original colors I used to paint the model and made the needed spot-color touch-ups on the model. The fresh tan paint was a bit darker and richer than the original tan color. The brown touch-ups were a bit lighter than the original color. I took care to keep close tabs on where I applied the touch-ups to they agreed with what I saw in the pictures of the actual aircraft. The camouflage diagram I created and included above shows the spot colors in it.

For decals, no after-market companies make decals of this aircraft (that I am aware of). So, I created my own using MS Paint on my PC. I then printed the markings on my ALPS MD-5000 printer to obtain the decals. See my article on Printing Custom Decals for more details.

The image to the right shows my original artwork for the decals (reduced in small size to save space). I stole a couple Topgun badge decals from a SuperScale aggressor decal sheet. Happily, the aircraft had no positive/negative markings that would have complicated the markings.

The following are some note worthy points to make regarding the painting and markings of the real aircraft. Some of these notes are already stated on the camouflage diagram.

  • The inner surfaces of the wing slats are not red as seen on most other Skyhawks. Instead, the wing top areas have the brown and tan camouflage painted onto them. The undersides of the slats, themselves, are Graish Blue (F.S.35237) as found on MiG outline on the lower surfaces of the aircraft.

  • Similarly, the inner surfaces of the wing flaps are not painted in red. Instead, they are painted in the same light gray as found on the outside surfaces of the aircraft.

  • The nose number ("56") is not painted inside the wing flaps.

  • The brown and tan areas of the camouflage seemed to weather poorly and have a splotchy appearance.

  • The painting instructions in the 1/72nd scale Fujimi kit claim the tan color is Israeli Sand (F.S.33531). The color of the aircraft in pictures shows a much more orange color. After some consideration, I decided the actual color was really Tan Special (F.S.20400). On painting the model in this color, I am now convinced that my choice of this color was a good one.

  • There are no national insignia anywhere on the aircraft.

  • The decals in the 1/72nd scale Fujimi kit claim the pilot's name block reads "CMDR METCALF / VIPER". I have no idea if CMDR Metcalf is even a real person, or if he is, whether he actually flew this aircraft. I think the Japanese are just a little "Top Gun crazy" (CMDR Metcalf is the commanding officer of Topgun in the "Top Gun" movie). From what I have deciphered from the pictures I have found in books, the pilot's name on the aircraft actually was "CAPT FULTER / CARROT".

  • I could not make out the Crew Chief's name on the nose wheel well door, so I decided to be a little presumptuous and placed my name in the nose wheel door block.

  • The MARINES writing on the tail is undersized from the size normally used on fleet aircraft. This was done (presumably) to keep the writing inside the brown and tan camouflaged area of the tail.

  • The BuNo of the aircraft (150023) is present on the rear fuselage in very small red numbers.

  • There are no red lips or warning markings of any sort around the engine intake.

  • There are no RESCUE arrows marking the canopy jettison initiator points, but there does seem to be some small writing next to the initiator points.

  • There is a general lack of all the small data markings normally found on fleet aircraft. The ejection seat warning triangles are some of the few data markings present anywhere on the aircraft.

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

 

The floodgates are opening!

This is one of many strange aggressor Skyhawks that have appeared over the years. I expect (and hope) to see many more being built in the upcoming months. I know this is far from being my last one.

I would like to dedicate a special "thank you" to Dana Bell for giving me permission to use some of his pictures to illustrate this posting.

 

 

Additional Images and Project Summary

 

Click the thumbnails below to view images full-sized.
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Project Statistics

Completion Date:

13 April 2001

Total Building Time:

44.2

Research:

1.0

Construction:

7.7

Painting:

28.00

Decals / Markings:

7.5

Extra Detailing / Conversion:

1.0

 


Text and Images Copyright 2001 by David W. Aungst
Page Created 19 April, 2001
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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