Hobbycraft 1/48 A-4C Skyhawk
The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, also known as "Heinemann's Hot Rod", was designed as the follow-on to the A-1 Skyraider. First flown in 1954, the Skyhawk design drew on the lessons learned from its predecessors in the attack missions over Korea. Power for the early Skyhawks came from the Wright J65-W-2 turbojet rated at 7,200 pounds of thrust.
The A-4B and A-4C Skyhawks first saw combat over the skies of Southest Asia in the mid-1960s. As the newer A-4Es began to filter into the fleet, the A-4B and A-4C were relegated to Naval Reserve and training duties before being placed into long-term storage.
Other governments expressed interest in the lightweight attack aircraft, and the A-4B and A-4C were exported to a number of countries, including Argentina and Malaysia.
The Argentine Skyhawks would participate in yet another notable conflict, this time over the skies of the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. Lacking the sophisticated heads-up displays of the current generation of tactical aircraft, the Argentine pilots would simply draw a grease pencil line on their windscreens to provide a horizon reference line to 'safely' fly A-4 just above the wave tops. These extreme low-level tactics were essential to minimize the effectiveness of the British shipborne surface-to-air missiles.
The announcement of a new series of 1/48 scale A-4 Skyhawks from Hobbycraft was welcome news a few years ago. Until that point, the only 1/48 Skyhawks available were the Monogram A-4E/F (which is still a great kit), the Monogram OA-4M (which is still the only kit of this late-model Skyhawk in 1/48), the ESCI A-4s that needed a bit of work to render a decent model, and the Lindberg A-4.
Hobbycraft jumped into the fray with four Skyhawks - the A-4C (which can also be built as an A-4B), an Israeli A-4E (with the extended IR-suppression tailpipe), a Falklands A-4B, and an Aggressor A-4E/F. These were great, as nobody had produced an injection-molded 1/48 kit of the A-4B/C to date. The A-4E/F kits were equally welcome as the Monogram Skyhawks are out of production and getting pricey on the resale market.
The problem that Hobbycraft had with announcing their Skyhawk intentions so early before release was that the news gave Hasegawa the opportunity to produce an A-4E of their own in 1/48 and announce plans for an A-4B/C in the next year or so. We've seen the Hasegawa kit, so what about these Hobbycraft Skyhawks?
The kit is molded in light gray plastic and features scribed details almost throughout the kit. I say almost because the airflow vanes on the upper surface of the Skyhawk's wings are correctly rendered as raised details. The kit features a good representation of the early ejection seats found in the A-4B/C. Otherwise, the cockpit tub is nicely (though simply) represented.
Details on the side consoles and instrument panel are sparse and you'll definitely want to alter the 'T' handle of a control stick. A nice resin cockpit from one of the aftermarket companies will easily solve this problem!
The wings feature positionable leading edge slats and flaps. While the intakes do not give way to a full engine face as its Hasegawa counterpart does, this kit does offer the slope-away profile one would find looking down the intake. Nice job!
Additional detail parts are provided for the uniquely Malaysian or Argentine versions of the Skyhawk. One nice aspect of this kit over the Hasegawa offering is in the armament department. This kit provides two pair of external fuel tanks, one with and one without stabilizing fins. Two triple ejector racks (TERs) and one multiple ejector rack (MER) are provided for your bomb loadouts. In the bomb department, an array of what appear to be Mk.117 and Mk.82 bombs are included along with a pair of four-shot rocket pods, two early Sidewinders and two AIM-9L Sidewinders.
Markings are provided for a US Navy VA-76 MiG killer as it appeared aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard (Bonnie Dick), two Argentine Air Force Skyhawks and one Malaysian example. The Argentine birds also offer kill markings in the form of ship silhouettes.
This kit is a contender. While not up to the current standards of Hasegawa, the Hobbycraft kit is easily equal or better than the Monogram Skyhawk kit, which has long been the standard for this subject in 1/48.The suggested retail price is also significantly less than the Japanese offering, so the choice is yours. It will also be interesting to see if the Hasegawa kit also includes the tell-tale dorsal antenna fairing unique to the Argentine Skyhawks.
While the variety of color schemes of US Navy and USMC Skyhawks will draw many modelers to their benches, the variety of camouflage schemes and markings from Latin American, the Mid-East, and the South Pacific will liven up your scale flightline! Kudos go to Hobbycraft for getting these kits to the marketplace and providing such a great wealth of external stores and markings!