by: Andy Brazier [ ]
History Originally designed as a carrier-based nuclear attack aircraft with an ancillary conventional attack mission, the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk proved its worth during the Vietnam War as a highly-capable close air support platform. Designed by the prolific engineer Ed Heinemann, the Skyhawk first took to the skies on 22 June 1954 and squadron deliveries commenced in October 1956. Over 2,960 A-4s were eventually built in 17 different configurations over the aircraft’s 25 year production run. Over the years, it earned a variety of nicknames, including Scooter, Bantam Bomber, and Heinemann’s Hot-Rod.
The original Skyhawk was designated the A4D-1, and after 1962, was redesignated the A-4A (165 built), followed by the A-4B (542 built) and the A-4C (638 built). The A-4D designation was not used to avoid confusion with the pre-1962 designation. The A-4A through -C was flown by Navy and Marine Corps squadrons, filing the light attack mission previously filled by the propeller-driven Douglas AD Skyraider. The aircraft featured a low mounted delta wing, a large tailfin, and engine intakes located one each side of the fuselage. These early models were fitted with two 20 mm Colt Mk 12 cannons, each mounted in the wing root and carrying 100 rounds of ammunition, and featured three hard points for external weapons carriage – a centerline mount and one on each wing. The Skyhawk could carry a total of 5,950 lbs (2,698 kg) of ordnance, including nuclear weapons, plus fuel.
Introduced in 1962, the A-4E (also called the Echo) was a significant improvement over the earlier A-4C, and was the first variant to focus heavily on conventional or non-nuclear ground attack missions. Proposed in late 1959, the Echo featured a more powerful Pratt & Whitney J52-P6A engine with 8,500 lbs (38.6 kN) thrust, a reinforced structure and landing gear, two additional outboard wing stations for weapons each rated at 500 lbs (226 kg), and a stretched nose (roughly nine inches beyond the A-4C) for additional avionics, including the ASN-19A navigation computer. The J52 engine was not only more powerful than its predecessor but also offered increased efficiency, and thus better range. The A-4E featured a splitter plate between the fuselage and enlarged intakes, as well as small plates just above the gun barrel, which distinguished it physically from its predecessor. The A-4E replaced the A-4C in fleet squadrons in November 1962, beginning with VA-23 Black Knights.
The A-4E could carry 8,200 lbs (3,726 kg) ordnance. Later models were fitted with the cranked refuelling probe and avionics “hump” found in the A-4F. A total of 499 A-4Es were built, with production ending in April 1966. Twenty-two squadrons flew the A-4E.
Introduced in 1967, the A-4F was designed with the benefit of Vietnam combat experience, and served solely with Pacific Fleet squadrons. The most noted feature was the avionics hump along the aft dorsal spine, which housed various defensive electronic countermeasure (DECM) systems, and the angled, or cranked, refuelling probe. The DECM was added to specifically combat the air defence threats of Southeast Asia. The A-4F featured nose wheel steering and new wing spoilers, and a more powerful J52-P8A engine with 9,300 lbs (43.1 kN) thrust, and later the –P408, offering 11,200 lbs (50.8 kN) thrust. The first A-4Fs deployed to Vietnam in December 1967 with VA-23 and VA-192 Golden Dragons aboard
USS Ticonderoga (CVA 19).
Douglas built 146 A-4F models. The A-4F was the final single-seat Skyhawk built for the Navy, and the type was replaced by the Vought A-7 Corsair II.
A-4E/F in Vietnam
The Skyhawk played a major role in the U.S. Navy’s air campaign against North Vietnam, flying more missions than any other type. Reflecting this high number of sorties, a total of 266 A-4s were lost, more than any other Navy aircraft type. However, as a testament to its ruggedness, the Skyhawk suffered only a .002 loss per combat sortie, the lowest of any naval aircraft during the war. Skyhawk's flew the first strikes against North Vietnam in 1964 and are reported to have delivered the final bombs of the war in 1973.
Skyhawk's flew a variety of attack missions, including close air support (CAS) and Iron Hand missions, the latter being directed against enemy surface-to-air missile installations. For Iron Hand missions, Skyhawk's carried the AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile and Rockeye II Mk 20 cluster bombs or Zuni rocket pods. For CAS missions, Skyhawk's carried iron bombs as well as early precision-guided weapons such as the AGM-12 Bullpup and AGM-62 Walleye. A-4s could also carry a pair of AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missiles.
A-4s as a whole made 112 combat deployments during the Vietnam War. Of these, A-4E equipped squadrons made 38 combat deployments while A-4F squadrons made 20. The Skyhawk's were eventually replaced aboard the larger attack carriers by the A-7 Corsair II, but remained aboard the converted Essex class carriers through the end of the war.
Info from Eduard instructions
In the box Packed in the standard top opening box with a well used A-4 Skyhawk artwork adorning the box lid, the plastic sprues are packed in a single bag, with the clear parts separated into a bag of its own. A resin seat, a small coloured fret of photo etch, a set of masks, an A-4 size (not the plane size but the paper size lol) set of instructions, and a large decal sheet make up the contents.
The plastic parts are from Hasegawa and have no flash present, but the parts do have a high amount of very shallow pin marks. Most of these shouldn't be seen though.
The exterior of the kit have some very fine recessed panel lines, and the wings sport some rather thick vortex generators, but at least they are there. If you are modelling the A-4F or one of the A-4E aircraft then the dorsal spine must be fitted. This is a separate 2 piece part that slots over the fuselage halves.
The rudder, and elevators are all moulded as part of the tail and wings, but the wing flaps are separate and can be deployed in the down position by changing the flap actuator. The landing slats for the front of the wings can be deployed open.
The two fuselage airbrakes can be positioned open. The instructions don't state they can be closed, but by eliminating the airbrake actuator and a little trimming of the door they should be able to close.
The inflight re-fuelling probe, tail hook along with the various ariels complete the exterior detail.
A nice touch by Hasegawa is the inclusion of a boarding ladder for the cockpit.
Pretty much all of the moulded on Interior detail for the cockpit is replaced with the photo etch, with new side consoles, instrument panel and rudder pedal facings all benefitting from the pre coloured etch set. The interior walls of the kit has some very nice padding represented by Hasegawa and should look great with a wash over the top to really pop the detail out.
The HUD is replaced with a photo etch and clear film offering.
A resin two piece bang seat is supplied by Eduard to replace the plastic one in the kit. The casting is very good with some very fine detail moulded onto the two parts. A small casting block is attached to the underside of the two parts, of which care will need to be taken to remove them as they are quite large. The main seat frame is one part with the seat cushion as the other, which should help with attaching the harness. A pre-painted P.E harness is supplied, along with the ejection seat pull rings. Several decals are also supplied for the outside of the seat.
A very nice surprise with the Hasegawa plastic parts is the amount of detail in the wheel wells, they are packed with hydraulic lines, servo boxes and spars. Once painted up this will look very nice indeed. The nose bay is part of the cockpit flooring and the main wells are moulded into the lower wing.
The undercarriage is well detailed with a lot of P.E going onto the legs and the nose gear door has P.E actuators replacing the moulded on parts. The nose wheel is moulded as part of the leg, which should give it some added strength as the Skyhawk's nose gear is very long.
The main wheels have separate outer hubs which do have some nice moulded on detail on them. Two styles are in this boxing but only the "bolted" type is to be used.
The main doors have detailed moulded onto the inside face in the form of raised and recessed detail.
The exhaust is probably the weakest part of the kit with the exhaust ring having minimal detail present. The exhaust tube does lead to a fan. The air inlet also benefits from a fan, which is moulded into the air inlet tube.
As with most Hasegawa kits no external weapons are supplied other then a pair of drop tanks for the inboard pylons. A centerline and outer pylon are supplied.
The canopy is in two parts with the front windscreen as separate part. The parts are blemish free and distortion free. A couple of P.E rear-view mirrors attach to the inside of the main canopy. The instructions only show the canopy in the closed position but you could display it open as the canopy hinges from the rear.
A set of masks for painting the canopy are supplied by Eduard. The set includes masks for the wing navigation lights and the outside are for the tyres for painting the wheel hubs.
Instructions and decals The six featured Skyhawk's represent a cross-section of Navy light attack squadrons over the course of the Vietnam War. VA-22 Fighting Redcocks deployed to Vietnam with the A-4F from April through November 1970 with Carrier Air Wing 5 aboard USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA 31). VA-72 Blue Hawks made two deployments with the A-4E, one aboard the Forrestal-class carrier USS Independence (CVA 62), and the second with USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA 42). The Blue Tail Flies of VA-153 also made two deployments, one each in the A-4E an A-4F, and both aboard USS Coral Sea (CVA 43). VA-192’s Golden Dragons made three deployments, one in A-4E and two in the Fox model, all aboard USS Ticonderoga (CVA 14). VA-195 Dambusters deployed once in the Echo model,
flying from USS Oriskany. Of the squadrons represented, VA-164 Ghost Riders made the most A-4E/F deployments; three each in the A-4E aboard USS Oriskany (CVA 34) and the A-4F aboard USS Hancock (CVA 19).
The decals are printed by Cartograph, and are thin, with a little carrier film around them. Having used Cartograph decals on numerous occasions I have never had any trouble with them.
The instruction booklet is the typical Eduard style with the build taking place over 20 odd steps, with internal colours and any P.E or resin parts highlighted during the build. Construction looks to be pretty straightforward, with any optional parts highlighted in blue.
As usual from Eduard all internal and external colours are from the Gunze Sangyo Aqueous Hobby colour and MR Color range of paints.
ConclusionI feel Eduard have dropped the ball a bit with this release, as they have only included the cockpit extras, and some masks for this boxing. Eduard have released a Brassin exhaust pipe and resin wheels as separate items (reviews to follow), but I can't help but feel they should have been included in this kit.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.