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Hobbycraft Canada 1/48 scale A-4E/F "Aggressor"

Manufacturer: Hobbycraft Canada, 140 Applewood Crescent, Concord, ON L4K 4E2 Canada, 905-738-6556
Kit: No. No. HC1435
Scale: 1/48
Price: $17.98
Comments: Injection-molded, 122 parts, decals
Pros: Good fit, excellent decals
Cons:Average detail, wheels too big, some details missing, instructions vague in spots
The A-4 Skyhawk was a workhorse for Navy and Marine aviation throughout the Vietnam War. Additionally, because of its small size and maneuverability, it simulated Russian MiGs for the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (Topgun). It also equipped several fleet adversary squadrons and was used in this fashion long after it retired from the Navy's attack role.

Hobbycraft's kit has typical recessed panel lines and average internal details. A curious double bulkhead midway through the fuselage suggests a two-seater might be coming, but a Hobbycraft representative indicated it was to reinforce the fuselage moldings. With optional parts provided, almost any small-canopy, long-nosed single-seater can be built from this kit.

The decals are beautiful. Well printed in seven colors, they comprise markings for an A-4F from VFA-127 and 2 A-4Es from the Topgun school that the painting guide misidentifies as belonging to VF-126. Underwing stores in this kit box include a 300-gallon tank, pylons, and a missile rail with optional Sidewinders. There is also a poor representation of a Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation pod. Since the kit is intended as an adversary A-4, you get all you need, but if you want to build a fleet Skyhawk you'll need weapons from another source, perhaps another Hobbycraft A-4 kit.

Options include flaps that can be assembled raised or lowered, separate slats, and a choice of straight and cranked refueling probes. The rain removal duct fairing in front of the windscreen is missing. The clear parts are too thick, and the center panel of the windscreen is too wide, making the side windows too small. Also, the main gear tires are too big, and the wheels too small, resulting in an overall diameter slightly larger than scale. Interior detail of the wheel wells is OK.

Hobbycraft's instructions are getting better, but are still vague in places. Some information on detail painting is now included, but it is sketchy. Instructions for the paint schemes and decal placement are printed in color on the bottom of the kit box. The call for the straight refueling probe instead of the cranked one doesn't agree with my references. There is a landing light that goes inside the right main-gear door, but it is not shown in the instructions.

Building the kit was straightforward. Cockpit detail is fair, with some engraving on the consoles and instrument panel. The seat is missing the "head knocker" safety lever in the headrest, but has a separate face curtain and lower ejection handle. You might want to add lead foil or paper harnesses. The canopy fits well in the closed position. You could open it, but there is no actuating mechanism included.

Overall fit was good, although I needed a bit of filler around the nose halves, on the underside of the forward wing-fuselage joint, and under the aft fuselage. The nose gear well fits loosely in the fuselage, the vent on the left main landing gear fairing fits poorly, and the main-gear strut covers need the forward hinges trimmed to fit. Don't forget to add nose weight! If you don't mount the pylons, fill their mounting holes.

The fit of the flaps in the raised position is good, although I used thin sheet styrene to shim the leading edges of the flaps to get better alignment with the wing's bottom surface. The leading-edge slat arms are assembled to the slats, and they fit tight enough to the wing that no glue is required. I used sheet styrene to make the missing rain removal duct, and wire for the missing tail-mounted pitot probe (fitted to late Skyhawks).

I used Gunze Sangyo dark ghost gray and Tamiya medium blue for the exterior colors, then added clear gloss before decaling. The decals are opaque and react well to setting solution. The black-outlined, gold name badges under the canopy were missing, so I added a set from an old Superscale A-4 adversary sheet. After the decals were dry, I sprayed Testors Acryl clear flat over the whole model.

Hobbycraft's A-4 measures a little underscale - about 1/8" short in length and 1/16" short in wingspan, according to dimensions listed in Bert Kinzey's A-4 Skyhawk Detail and Scale. I spent 15 hours on the model, about average for me. Someone who has completed a couple of kits should be able to handle this one without difficulty.

Hobbycraft's A-4E/F Adversary builds up into a good representation of a Skyhawk. It's not without fault, but it's a good value.


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