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Trumpeter 1/32 scale A-4E Skyhawk

This model kit includes detail in a lot of places you won’t see without picking it up, including landing-gear bays, speed-brake wells, and avionics compartments.

Kit:No. 02266 // Scale:1/32 // Price:$118.95
Trumpeter, from Stevens International, 856-435-1555
Fairly easy build; good fits
Not completely accurate for an aggressor; one-piece nose wheel and strut; vague painting instructions
Injection-molded, 531 parts (2 vacuum formed, 2 cast metal, 20 photoetched metal, 2 vinyl)
Designed in the early 1950s as an attack aircraft, the A-4 served for decades in the U.S. Navy and Marines, most notably in the Vietnam War. It also served with the Blue Angels for 12 years, and as an aggressor aircraft, a stripped-down version used to train pilots in air-to-air combat techniques, with the Navy and Marines.

The Trumpeter kit comes with 19 sprues of medium gray plastic, nine of which are the ever-present Trumpeter weapons. You get two white-metal main landing gear struts, which are optional as the kit provides plastic struts. You also get a fret of photoetched metal with parts to detail the speed brakes, seat belts, heads-up display (HUD), mirrors, and the ejection-seat pull ring. Three sheets of decals contain markings for three aircraft — one from VA-72, one from VA-212, and one aggressor aircraft from VF-43 — as well as stencils for the aircraft and the weapons. (Note: The stars and bars supplied are too blue, more of a royal blue than the proper insignia blue.)

The features of the kit include posable canopy flaps, control surfaces, and speed brakes that can be positioned to your liking.

Avionics bays in the nose feature interior detail with panels that can be positioned open or closed, as well as an optional avionics hump. There are machine guns with access covers on the undersides of wings, and the leading-edge maneuvering slats can be extended or retracted.

Then there is the aforementioned standard (for Trumpeter) assortment of weaponry: six Mk.82 500-lb. bombs; six Mk.82 Snakeye 500-lb. bombs; three Mk.117 750-lb. bombs; optional fuse extenders for all those; and two electro-optical smart bombs that aren’t used. You also get two wing-mounted fuel tanks and one centerline tank. All of the above comes with all the hard points, rails, and sway braces necessary to mount everything.

Construction begins with the cockpit. The seat has photoetched-metal belts, harnesses, and an ejection pull-ring. The instrument panel is molded in clear plastic with nice relief, but they have you paint the whole thing gray and apply a decal. My decal crumpled into a ball of mush and I had to hand-paint the whole panel. Missing in action is the throttle quadrant; none is provided.

Step 2 is for the main gear struts. Given the option of white metal or plastic struts, I used the plastic.

Step 4 covers the engine and intake funnel, a fairly nice assembly that you don’t see a lot of unless you utilize the removable rear fuselage.

Steps 5 and 6 include the assembly of the front and rear fuselage halves. The front fuselage encases the cockpit, engine assemblies, and the electronics-bay pieces E2 and E21. There are bulkheads to be installed at the rear of the forward fuselage (Part E6) and the front of the rear fuselage (Part E7). Make sure these two parts don’t sit proud or the front and rear fuselage assemblies won’t mate flush.

The intakes go together well, but when they’re mated with the fuselage there is a visible step between the intakes and the intake funnel. The back edge of the intake should have been molded a little thicker to better blend with the funnel, or at least hide the step.

In Step 7 you have the option of using an avionics hump or the usual configuration; I chose the option without the hump.

Without the avionics hump, Part A5 is used to fair the vertical tail into the fuselage. This part sat proud and needed sanding and filling to properly blend with the fuselage. Parts F20, the pitots, are both the wrong shape, and they’re over-scale, along with the blade antenna in back of the cockpit (Part A12). The photoetched-metal HUD frame was a little tough to bend into shape.

In Step 13, you have the option of installing the leading-edge slats extended or retracted. The outer actuating arms, parts D14 and D27, have to be shortened so the slats will be square with the wings. Make sure the actuator arms, slats, and attachment to wings are at the correct angle to ensure proper droop of the slats.

Step 14 is the installation of the ailerons and flaps. The ailerons come as separate assemblies but aren’t movable. There’s not a lot of play either, so it’s kind of difficult to offset the ailerons. The landing flaps can be positioned opened or closed. Trumpeter gives you the alternate fairings, pistons, and control arms for the open position. Nice! The only designation is for the interior of the upper flap surface to be painted red, but all the surfaces should be painted. Some aggressors had the interior of the flaps painted one of the camouflage colors, usually the lightest color.

The gun bay covers, parts F13 and F28, don’t fit very well; the plastic bumps on the inside of these parts blank out the shell-ejection chutes but need to be removed because they interfere with the guns. They fit loosely and have to be glued in place anyway.

In Step 18, the sensors and other bits are installed. Some of these may or may not have been left on the plane for an aggressor. Also, there are no guns on the aggressors. Trumpeter should have supplied wing-root parts with faired-over gun-barrel openings.

The nose gear strut and wheel are molded in one piece, which is annoying when it comes to painting.

Step 2 instructs you to replace two of the nose-gear door hinges with photoetched-metal hinges. These are way too fragile, so I didn’t use them.

Everything else went together fairly easy. Because I painted my model in aggressor markings I didn’t use any of the weapons, just the centerline pylon.

I used the aggressor paint scheme. The colors appear accurate — that is, I’ve seen this color combination used before. The VF-43 pictures I have show a much more subdued paint scheme. This scheme might have been used at some point, but I didn’t see any pictures close to it. Still, it’s pretty.

It took me about 29 hours to complete my A-4. It’s a fairly easy build, but some corrections are needed for an accurate aggressor.
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