The North American A-5A (A3J-1) Vigilante was originally designed as a carrier-based high-speed bomber and first flew in 1958. The nuclear or conventional weapon, stored in the central weapons bay, would be ejected out of the aircraft through a long tube that ended between the two engine nozzles. Theoretically, this type of deployment eliminated the drag and complexity of conventional bomb bay doors. In test, the departing bomb would hit the slipstream and try to return to the bomb bay (not a good thing).
Despite this 'minor' shortcoming as a weapons delivery platform, everything about the Vigilante was advanced and it would prove itself invaluable as a carrier-based reconnaissance platform. By adding a canoe-shaped fairing to the aircraft underside and filling it and some of weapons bay space with avionics, the RA-5C would become one of the most successful reconnaissance platforms in the USN. Capable of speeds in excess of Mach 2, the RA-5C could get in and out of most tight spots until the surface-to-air missile threat came into the field. Like most aircraft optimized for supersonic flight, the Vigilante was out of its element at low operating altitudes. Nevertheless, despite its age, the Vigilante looks as modern as the F-14 Tomcat, sharing many of the general lines. The vertical stabilizer was all-flying - the whole unit pivoted to provide yaw control - a capability not to be repeated again until the B-70, SR-71 and F-117.
This kit is a nice representation of the RA-5C which is molded in light gray styrene and features finely scribed panel lines. The front and rear cockpits are very basic, with a cockpit floor, two ejection seats and two seated aircrew figures. While it is virtually impossible to see into the rear cockpit, the forward cockpit is quite visible and will benefit from a little detailing. Do pay attention as there may be some interesting things overlooked - for instance, the kit does provide an instrument panel (blank) for the front cockpit though the instructions do not mention it.
Assembly of the 60+ kit parts appears to be straightforward, but there is a hint of flash along some of the edges of key parts, so dry-fitting and sanding will be essential to ensuring a good fit during assembly. Some of the parts suffer from ejector pin marks such as the main wheels, though clean-up should be no problem. There are no external options in this kit as the external wing pylons are installed in the pre-drilled holes in the wings.
Markings are provided for BuNo 149313, an RA-5C assigned to RVAH-9 aboard the USS Ranger. Also included on the decal sheet are some of the more visible maintenance stencils. The decals appear to be in register and not overly thick.
This kit will fill another important gap in your air wing. Despite its age, the Vigilante always looked like it was flying supersonic, even when parked on the ramp. This bird will look nice on your scale flightline as well.
My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!