Hasegawa 1/48 A-4E/F Skyhawk
In the early 1950s, development began on the US Navy's first single seat, single-engine, jet-powered, lightweight attack aircraft. Douglas stepped up to the plate with one of Ed Heinemann's innovative designs, the aircraft that would become the A4D Skyhawk. Following on the heels of another famous Douglas attack aircraft, the venerable AD Skyraider, the Skyhawk would be capable of delivering a wide variety of air-to-ground weaponry, including the new guided-munitions like the Bullpup missile and even nuclear weapons.
After the McNamara directed aircraft designator realignment of 1962, the AD became the A-1 and the A4D became the A-4. The Skyhawk would go on to become one of the most-produced attack aircraft in the west, with many examples still in service today.
In addition to distinguished service in combat over Vietnam, the A-4 also served to defend air, land and seas around Israel in several wars; served as one of the principal attack aircraft of the Argentine armed forces during the Falklands/Malvinas conflict, and served to save the lives of many USN and USMC aviators as an adversary aircraft during Top Gun and similar training programs.
Interestingly enough, the A-4F was powered by the J52-P-8A that produced 9,300 lbs of thrust. These engines were later upgraded to the A-4M-standard engine, the J-52-P-408A that produces 11,200 lbs of thrust. On an airframe that weighed nearly that much empty, the A-4F achieved a thrust-to-weight performance that approached 1:1. The Singapore government also upgraded their Skyhawks into the A-4S standard, which included a non-afterburning version of the FA-18 Hornet engine, the F404.
There are not many aircraft in the world that started life in the early 1950s and yet remain in service today. The A-4 Skyhawk is one of these aircraft and there are many folks that wish we had such an aircraft back in US service once again as well.
When I first heard of Hasegawa's intent to release a 1/48 A-4E/F Skyhawk, the news was a mixture of joy and bewilderment. The joy was due to the fact that the only other decent Skyhawk kit, produced by Monogram, was (and still is) out of production. The bewilderment came from the fact that despite its age, the Monogram Skyhawk is a nice kit, and at its price, a very hard one to beat.
Upon opening the box, I was taken by the level of detail in this kit. There are 165 parts in the kit, though some are optional for an A-4E or A-4F, and others are reserved for future use. Molded in light gray (standard Hasegawa) plastic, this kit features scribed details on the exterior surfaces and some nice detailing on the interior.
As a nice change, the ejection seat features seatbelts/harnesses, while the cockpit includes a stick, throttle and rudder pedals, and a nicely detailed instrument panel. This cockpit tub will be hard to beat straight out of the box.
Another nice touch is the inclusion of the intake fairing down to the engine face, similar to the aftermarket set that KMC produced for the Monogram kit. An exhaust duct with a turbine face is also included for the fuselage assembly.
The fuselage halves are distinctively A-4E/F, with a separate tree for the intakes. The way the parts are broken down, all of the generic Skyhawk parts are on different trees from the A-4E/F-specific parts, meaning that there may be some early model, late model, and even trainer variants in our future!
With the A-4E/F kit, the vertical stab root is a separate plug part allowing for a slick aircraft or for the installation of the optional humpback avionics pack. The underside is also equipped with chaff/flare launchers/
The wings feature positionable leading edge slats and wing flaps. The remaining flight control surfaces are all molded in position. The landing gear is also an intricate work of art, right down to beautifully detailed wheel wells.
To round out the details, the canopy is positionable, as are the speed brakes and even an optional boarding ladder is included. The canopy is even supplied with a pair of rear-view mirrors, just to keep the level of detail consistent.
External ordnance is limited to two external fuel tanks (though they are offered with or without stabilizing fins). Wing pylons with anti-sway braces are also provided for all wing stations. You're on your own for weapons.
Markings are included for A-4E BuNo 151148, VA-192 (NM/200) aboard the USS Ticonderoga and A-4F BuNo 154190, VA-22 (NF/300) aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard. The decals also include a nice set of maintenance stencils and clear instructions on their placement.
Despite my initial misgivings about this kit, the Hasegawa 1/48 A-4E/F is the nicest Skyhawk kit produced in any scale today. With the possibilities of more variants on the horizon, I feel a few Skyhawks coming into my future. During its lifetime, the Skyhawk sported some of the most colorful paint schemes ever worn by USN and USMC aircraft. And with its petite size, even in 1/48 scale, you'll be able to depict any number of those schemes without taking up much display shelf room.
I recommend this kit to all Skyhawk lovers. This kit appears to be straightforward in design and should pose no problems to any modeler who possesses basic modeling skills.