Monogram 1/48 EA-6B Prowler
|NOTES:||Aires 48-4395 ICAP-2 Early resin + Eduard FE-293 etched|
The EA-6B Prowler is the United States Navy and Marine Corps ECM platform. It is soon to be replaced by the EA-18G Growler. It is an adaptation of Grumman’s A-6 Intruder receiving its baptism under fire during the closing months of the Vietnam conflict.
It has served as an Electronics Counter Measure (ECM) airframe for many years thanks to ongoing upgrades and modifications that have maintained its warfare capability. Therein lies its challenge for modelers and plastic kit manufacturers – how to create an accurate EA-6B.
n 1964 a design proposal led to a formal RFP in 1965. Production of new build EA-6B airframes began in 1969. Fleet deliveries of the EA-6B started in January 1971.
The EA-6B is a different aircraft from the A-6 Intruder. I do not profess to know much about the EA-6B changes over their 30 year operational history. I tried to put together some information so I could attempt a long awaited build of this aircraft. Trying to work through the airframe and electronics changes was a challenge. Starting with the original “standard” airframe, and follow-on configurations, EXCAP (mid-1970’s), ICAP I, ICAP II, Block 86, ADVCAP, ADV/CAP Block 91 a few years ago stalled the build of this aircraft. So, I put together a chronological Matrix with BuNos to try to help me get closer to a good build. My best suggestion is use a good reference photo for your chosen decal.
Monogram’s kit is the only EA-6B game in town in 1/48th scale (the Airfix/MPC version is OOP). It features raised panel lines, good overall shape and detail, a well appointed OOB cockpit, sparse wheel wells and well done landing gear. It also has a pair of optional fuel drop tanks and three inaccurate ALM pods. The kit decal is for an aircraft from VAQ-131. It is the same decal in both versions (releases 5611 and 5619). The original Monogram release (# 5611) of 1992 was recently re-released (2008) through a special program with Stevens International who did some fixes to the instruction sheet. The plastic and decals remain unchanged from the first release. The same box art was used and you can tell the difference by finding the Stevens International logo on the box cover and the model # is now 5619 for the last release.
The aircraft represented by the kit is an EA-6B ICAP 1. The Navy is past ICAP 2, Block 89, so the plastic is for an aircraft configuration of a mid 1980s EA-6B and requires quite a bit of effort to modernize it to this latest standard. As has already been mentioned elsewhere on the web, this kit reuses the wings from the Revell-Monogram A-6 kit; in fact the whole sprue is included. The wing fold mechanism hinge is wrong and a challenge to fix. Revell-Monogram doesn’t tell you in the instructions which parts are not used in the build. You should have left over the A-6 specific parts that you can add to your spares bin, the dive brakes (12, 13, 22, and 23), the canopy deck (26), Pylons (90, 111) and sway braces (51) for example. There are some missing items such as the pointed bare metal probes outside the air intakes where the circular decals go.
There are no photo-etch parts with the kit but you can build a nice OOB build without them. The kit comes with a limited stencil decal sheet. For an OOB build you will be looking at a general outline to model a generic EA-6B with a number of errors.
At the MSRP retail price or even when purchased for less from discounters’, it is a reasonably priced kit. I have a # 5611 release in the stash with the Paragon wing-fold and Black Box cockpit. Since I did not get the Cutting Edge correction set before Meteor vanished, the EA-6B kit, the Monogram # 5611version, remained there awaiting some new resin makers upgrade or correction set.
Not knowing much about EA-6B’s also limited my enthusiasm since I did not want to build a model using some expensive resin set and after-market decals only to find it has the wrong combination of “corrections” for the decal sheet used. The same airframe of an EA-6B can have a variety of antenna configurations and fuselage changes depending on the date you are modeling the airframe. Knowing this could be the outcome put off a build for many years. The message boards and build stories I read seemed to require too much fixing for my liking.
For the fast OOB build I wanted to do, I did not see any need for an aftermarket resin cockpit. I was awaiting some Eduard zoom color etch to add some limited detailing given the lack of specifics regarding a decal and airframe modifications combination to be close to correct. Then, Aires issued their EA-6B resin cockpit. It looked so good that it prompted me to get it into this build. At first the Aires resin price, more costly than the base kit put this thought on hold. After looking at it on the web many times I liked the detailing so much I purchased it and decided to add it to this build.
There is a new metal landing gear available from Scale Aircraft Conversions that has excellent details and may be better to hold up the heavy weighted nose required to fix the tail sitting nature of any EA-6B model. The kit plastic landing gear is almost as well detailed but I worried about its long term ability to hold up a weighted front nose so the metal gear went into this build. (Editor's note: I've had heavy kits do very well on the stock landing gear over the decades so this really isn't a concern)The SAC metal landing gear is excellent. It was a drop fit replacement. If you polish the oleo before you install it and cover it during the painting stages you will have a realistic metal oleo when you remove the paint masking.
This model, as are most Monogram kits, is very easy to construct. None of the detail is beyond the reach of an average modeler if you take your time, sand, dry fit and follow the instructions. The instructions are standard Monogram where the steps are reasonably clear and well illustrated. I did not find any problems with the assembly sequence. There are a few errors. For example, in step 5 you are told to add a HUD. Don't do this - ignore adding the HUD. There is no HUD on the EA-6B. This is left over from the A-6 Intruder plastic parts. Aires gives you the corrected front coaming that fixes this error.
Step 6, part # 118, is called a fuel dump on the instructions. It is not the fuel dump. It is actually the "inhibitor plate” used to protect the receiver from signal interference. The actual fuel dump is under the fuselage near the tail and can be corrected using a piece of square brass tubing or scratch built. At first I was not going to correct this hoping to avoid a protracted AMS EA-6B build. After I painted and decaled the model it looked so good I went back to retrofit improvements. After looking at the reference books waiting for the paint to dry I felt some additional detailing was needed.
I did find a worthwhile fix to the installation problem of adding the Aires resin cockpit. Aires produces the best detailed resin cockpits in my opinion. I also know they require much sanding, resin grinding, plastic kit grinding, and dry fitting to install. Despite my best efforts to sand and shape the resin cockpit the fuselage would not close. There was a big gap between the fuselage halves. I solved this vexing problem by routing a groove between the front and rear cockpit areas on top the Aires resin cockpit tub which allowed me to retain the kit locating pin (see photo). The fuselage mating after this change fit very well. I used some epoxy and AVES putty to firmly hold the cockpit and lead nose weights in place before closing up the fuselage.
Don’t forget to add nose weight. There is no call out in the instructions for nose weight. This should not be overlooked before you attach the fuselage halves. You can’t do this at a later step because it is a closed nose aircraft OOB. Monogram gives you a hint you will need one by supplying, on the clear parts sprue, a clear rod to hold up the tail.
I also painted the green and red wingtip formation lights. They were painted with clear Tamiya colors. The lights were painted Testers chrome silver first followed by the clear red and green coats, and a final clear epoxy coat.
Note – the EA-6B has unique red and green light attachments to the rear of the inner pylons – don’t forget them in addition to the wing tip lights! The Monogram kit has them correctly molded on the pylons. The yellow-green slime lights (formation lights) came from the Fightertown Decals # 48033 EA-6B decal.
I find attaching the “T” handles and small levers directly to Aires resin is best saved for last. It worked well and the Aires resin detailing looks great with all the bits finally attached.
The Scale Aircraft Conversions (SCV48022) metal landing gear was easy to attach. I really enjoy and appreciate using metal or brass landing gear for its better detailing but in this case the Monogram plastic had the same level of detail. I had some small assembly problems with the metal landing gear so be careful with this step. I used the landing gear placard decals from the Fightertown Decals # 48033, EA-6B. This decal sheet has excellent color profiles and decal placement information. It has many small details including markings for the aircrew helmets!
Normally I add changes or do the scratch building during the assembly before I paint and decal. With this build I started thinking I would overlook some of the kit flaws like the incorrect wing hinge and try to limit the adds to only using the Aires resin cockpit. It started to look so nice after painting and decaling that I thought a few modifications would be worth the effort. That meant I reworked the boarding ladder, the nose wheel door lights, the fuel dump vent and the aft turbine exhaust cooling duct for the electrical equipment.
The boarding ladder looked fine until I saw some photos in one of my references. Then I noticed it needed lightening holes on the sides, larger steps in locations different than the kit part and there was a missing trapeze apparatus between the top and bottom segments. I pulled out the evergreen styrene rod and strip and added those parts. The steps have black anti-slip surfaces. I painted flat black some flexi-file #600 X-fine grit and cut it into the correct shape for the anti-slip pads. Before attaching it I finished it with some flat black (the flexi-file sandpaper is a pink color before painting) and added some silver wear and tear dry brushing.
The fuel dump vent was made from square brass tubing. Using the reference books for a close-up photo I filed the brass tip to the correct angle, cut off the plastic kit tip which looks nothing like the real part (the kit plastic part looks like a landing skid) and it was an easy addition.
The aft turbine exhaust cooling duct for the electrical equipment (pg. 26 of the Squadron Walk around text) is omitted from the kit plastic. There was a nice “Beware of Blast” decal on the Fightertown decal sheet for this vent. The description of this component in the reference texts, of the EA-6B having a small bar across the opening to prevent birds from nesting inside the exhaust made it a must add. Note - It only appears on the starboard side. I drilled a hole near the wing trailing edge, cut a small square piece of aluminum foil and glued a small piece of guitar wire across the vent.
The nose wheel door lights were next. There is a large main light and three color landing lights, which are green, amber and red. I used the Eduard Position Lights etched metal fret to detail this area. If properly finished it looks nice and offers inexpensive detailing. Those who have seen the finished model always stop and ask – “How did you do this?” Squadron has these on sale every few months.
On the fret the Eduard 00 022
Position Lights consists of a variety of round, square or oval shiny etched
metal parts for a variety of scales. By painting a small white dot in the
center, putting a drop of clear epoxy glue and turning it over while the glue is
firming you can get a nice domed light. There are several shapes and sizes on
the fret. The smallest I used for the three color landing lights. I painted them
by touching a fine toothpick tip with Tamiya clear red, clear green and clear
amber to just coat the clear epoxy dome.
I attached them with
cyano glue and they sit in the nice depressions found on the kit plastic.
Everyone takes a second look when they notice them.
(Editor's note; MV Productions does superb looking lenses in all sorts of colors
and sizes that can be used for this, ID lights, and landing lights. You simply
drill out the shallow depression and tack them in place.)
(Editor's note; MV Productions does superb looking lenses in all sorts of colors and sizes that can be used for this, ID lights, and landing lights. You simply drill out the shallow depression and tack them in place.)
My final step was attaching the many static discharge wicks using thin guitar wire. There are two that I omitted because they are on the side of the wing edges and I know they will get damaged at some point so I did not add those two.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
I used Gunze acrylic paint, H337 & H307 for the upper surfaces and H308 for undersurfaces. I am almost out of Gunze acrylic and it is no longer produced. That was the only disappointment from this build – no more Gunze aqueous! Testor’s clear coat and dullcoat were used to create the pre-decal layer and the final finish. I added some weathering using oil paints after the first Testors clear coat was applied.
The EA-6B has gold impregnated into the canopy to protect the aircrew from radiation. I tried to simulate this by using Future floor wax with some SNJ Gold polishing powder. This was an experiment so others may have better techniques. I used a toothpick to place small amounts of SNJ gold polishing powder on a buffing cloth. I gently rubbed the clear crew canopies with the gold powder. After several applications the canopies took on a hazy gold color but remained transparent. I misted on very fine coats of Future floor wax which sealed and kept the gold flecks in place. If you spray too much Future too fast you will just wash away the gold dust. I like the final look a lot!
This is not used for the front windscreen which is clear or slightly smoke or green tinted. I have seen photos of some Prowler kit canopies painted using clear yellow but I did not like the final result since it is yellow and not a subtle gold flecked appearance like the actual aircraft. I hope the photos convey the subtle speckled gold that results from this treatment. It was not difficult to do and I like how this turned out.
I used Testors steel enamel polished with SNJ aluminum powder to get a realistic natural metal finish on the re-fueling probe and pitot tube’s.
Superscale 48-1126 EA-6B Prowlers VMAQ-1 provided most of the decals used. Superscale included the small fuel tank “banshee” as well – look at the fuel tank fins for them. I added some stencils from the kit decals and Fightertown Decals # 48033 EA-6B decal. Decal makers please add the ejection seat warning signs, landing gear plates and more stencils. Fightertown decals did the best in this area.
It was a very enjoyable project but I highly recommend having a photo reference for your choice of decal before you build. With all the modifications and upgrades the EA-6B has gone through, simple things such as using the correct antennas in the right locations cannot be overstated.
This problem put off my building the EA-6B for a few years. There are a few things I intentionally did not change or correct such as the wing fold hinge. I hope Quickboost comes out with a low cost EA-6B wing hinge, boarding ladder and multi-shaped antenna sets so you don’t have to fold the wings or scratch build a dozen antennas to get an accurate Prowler.
I am going to build some more Prowlers using the Paragon resin wing fold set. I have been intending to build the EA-6B for many years. The release of a cockpit by Aires pushed me to put one together and I am happy I did. I will build a few more of the Revell-Monogram EA-6B Prowlers using the Blackbox resin sets that are in my stash.
Don’t be put off by the EA-6B build articles showing large and expensive correction sets are needed for replacement parts to build an accurate Prowler. The resin used is up to you because some minor scratch building with evergreen styrene can add a lot to this kit. Avoiding expensive and no longer available resin should not be a reason preventing you from building a Prowler. The kit and an excellent resin cockpit are currently available. Get one or you will regret it!!
Once I listed the corrections and changes, and worked them into the build everything fell into place. They were not very difficult to do. I encourage you to use the great web based articals detailing the fixes to get an idea of the problem areas, pick those you want to fix and just take your time. The good news is it did not take too much time to build this kit and add the fixes. You will wind up with a fine kit without taking out a loan for all the resin parts. You should salt away a few of the EA-6B Prowler decals that are out there on sale too! For the AMS types – don’t worry, I do plan someday to go back and fix the wing hinges I promise!
World Airpower Journal Volume 12 Spring 1993, pages 34 to 95 A-6 and EA-6B.
World Airpower Journal Volume 30 Autumn/Fall 1997, pages 30-45 EA-6B only.
Koku Fan January 1997 Volume 1 pages 1 – 11
A-6 Intruder In Action, Squadron Signal Publications # 20 by Lou Drendel 1975
This volume is helpful with early Prowler airframe photos.
A-6 Intruder In Action, Squadron Signal Publications # 1138 by Joe Michaels 1993
This volume has an excellent photo and description section for the variety of Prowlers variants.
EA-6B Prowler, Volume 46 In Detail and Scale, Kalmbach Publications by Bert Kinzey 1994. This is the best overall Prowler reference. You can use the book photos as a detailers check list.
EA-6B Prowler Walk Around, Volume 35 Squadron/Signal Publications by Joe Michaels 2004. I used this for most of the scratch build additions.
A-6E, KA-6D Intruder, EA-6B Prowler, Lock On No. 20 Aircraft Photo File Verlinden 798
Grumman A-6 Intruder/Prowler Modern Combat Aircraft 26 Motorbooks Ian Allen 1987
This volume has good early EA-6B aircraft information and a BuNo table for most airframes.
If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.
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