Hasegawa 1/48 A-4M Skyhawk

KIT #: 07233
PRICE: $40.95 MSRP
DECALS: Two options
NOTES: Superscale Sheet 48-824, Squadron A-4M Canopy, Hasegawa Weapons Sets and parts of Aires A-4M Cockpit Set used


The A-4 Skyhawk is one of the great jet aircraft of the Cold War.  It began as Douglas’ response to a US Navy request for a jet to replace Douglas’ own prop powered Skyraider.  Aviation legend Ed Heinenmann did not like the trend of bigger, heavier and more complex that he saw in jet aircraft so he decided to design a compact simpler single seat light attack plane that would meet the specs.  It became known as Heinenmann’s Hot Rod among its many nicknames.  The Skyhawk would serve on US Carriers from 1956 to 1976 and continue to serve in other Navies/Air Forces even today which speaks well of the design considering the rapid pace of aircraft design during the early days of the jet age.


The A-4M Skyhawk was the last new major model of the Skyhawk.  Designed for the USMC during the Vietnam War, it incorporated a lot of the modifications based on lessons learned including a more powerful engine, advanced avionics and enlarged cockpit.  It was operational with the USMC from 1971 till 1994.  Other nations flew variants of the A-4M including Israel which is still flying theirs as trainers.


VMA-311 “Tomcats”

VMA-311 was originally a training squadron during WW2.  As the war in the Pacific progressed, it was soon organized into a front line squadron (VMF-311) as part of Marine Air Group 31 and was equipped with the F4U  Corsair.  Unlike many notable USMC squadrons, it did not have many aces (only two) as its main role was providing close air support.  The Tomcat’s had a significant contribution to the war effort in helping develop the close air support doctrine that would play a significant role in the fierce battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  By the war’s end, VMF-311 would be assigned to assist with the occupation of Japan and then sent home in 1946.


In 1949, VMF-311 was one of the first USMC jet squadrons, flying the F9F Panther.  They were sent off to Korea in late 1950 to provide close air support during the desperate days of the Chinese intervention.  During it’s 1952 Korean tour, VMF-311 would have two aviators serving who would be more famous for other reasons than just flying for the Marines.  Major John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, and Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. 


Ted Williams was called up to active duty near the end of the 1951 baseball season and was rather livid at being an inactive reservist being recalled to duty while active duty reservists were being held back, but he served without uttering a word in public. In what one might consider an odd quirk of fate, he flew as wingman to the soon to be famous John Glenn.  Despite his “right stuff”, John Glenn earned the nickname “Magnet Ass” for his uncanny ability to attract flak as his plane was often hit by flak and on two occasions he returned his Panther back to base with more than 250 bullet/fragment holes.


In 1957, VMF-311 was re-designated VMA-311 and soon earned the nickname Tomcats.  In 1958, VMA-311 was assigned to fly the A4D Skyhawk and flew various versions including the A-4M till 1988 when VMA-311 transitioned to the AV-8B Harrier which it still flies today.


Info from Wiki.


Hasegawa pretty much owns the A-4 series in 1/48 scale.  Nice detail and clean parts.  For a much better write up of what you expect in the box, see Scott’s preview of the similar A-4N kit.


Only real issue I have is that the cockpit console Hasegawa provides is inaccurate.


As with most aircraft models, it began with the cockpit.  Hasegawa provides an okay cockpit with the inaccurate console and the ejection seat is lacking in detail which is why I preferred to use an aftermarket cockpit.  I had good experiences with the Cutting Edge A-4E cockpit but that line is no longer available so I bought the Aires A-4M cockpit.  The space inside the Skyhawk’s nose is rather limited and highlights one of the drawbacks to the Aires resin cockpit tub is that it has no nose wheel well (unlike the Hase part) which I did not realize this until I had hacked out the plastic sidewalls.  To say that I was unhappy about it was an understatement.  I set the kit aside for a couple of days as I figured out what possible solution I could do.  I abandoned the resin tub, kept the resin seat, console and sidewall and jammed this mishmash of parts together.  It was not a very good fit... in fact it was awful.


It took a lot of patient work sanding and filling to get the fuselage.  I even had to remove part of the nose.  On top of that, the resin console was too high on the Hasegawa tub (something that I didn’t notice while test fitting!) so I ended up using a bit of Vallejo plastic putty to fill very obvious gaps.  At this point, I realized that the Hasegawa canopy wasn’t going to fit and ended up ordering the Squadron vacuform A-4M canopy.


One thing I learned building models is patience and it takes a lot of patience to clean up a vacuform canopy.  It’s easy to remove the part from the sheet but it is another to split the canopy parts and remove the excess.  I split the parts by running a knife with a fresh #11 blade along to split till I get a groove and then slowly and gently cut with scissors (the groove prevents the parts from bending and causing the piece to crack or split.)  For the excess material, I found that gently running sandpaper along the edges till the excess material can be gently pulled away works best at keeping its shape even though it takes a rather long time.  Once all the parts were cleaned, they were masked using Tamiya tape in preparation for painting.


The rest of the plane went together and no real issues filling/sanding including the rather troublesome forward join where the wing and fuselage meet at the nose wheel well.  Since this model seemed to be an embodiment of Murphy’s Law, it seemed only fitting when I lost the starboard Radar Warning Receiver located by the exhaust.  I could not find this piece for two weeks till I found it sitting on top of the microwave (?) as I was cleaning.  Unlike my previous Skyhawk, I closed up the air brakes.


I added most of the antennas and landing gear (I normally don’t do that) as it would make painting easier.


First the cockpit interior was painted using Xtracrylix Dark Gull Gray.  The consoles were hand painted flat black and the details were picked out using a 00 brush using silver and white paint.  A couple of the details were painted red.  Once that was dry, the cockpit was stuffed with Kleenex and masked.


The exterior was preshaded dark gray and then the underside and including the rudder and flaps were sprayed Tamiya Flat White and when dry, the demarcation lines masked off and the topside was sprayed with two thin coats Gunze Light Gull Gray to let the post shade subtly show through.


I painted the canopy parts at the same time (makes things easier.)


Next, I had to mask off the tail to paint it yellow, the intakes to paint on the insignia red and parts of the nose for Radome Tan.  Just a word of advice, do a good job of masking the yellow and red as they are difficult colors to cover up if you have an oops moment (I did not have one, but in the past I have.)


Once dry, I sprayed on thin coat of Tamiya clear gloss to make a nice surface for the decals.  I used the Superscale 48-824 sheet for the markings as I like the colorful 70s era markings.  For the most part I used MicroSet and for the really stubborn decals (especially the red decals for tail) I used Solvaset.  The decals worked out except a couple of tail feathers are not 100% lined up.


A watercolor wash of burnt sienna and raw umber was used to get the details to show up.  I made the underside and undercarriage slightly dirtier but not that dirty.  The excess wash and decal solution were removed and a final coat of Xtracrylix Satin Clear was sprayed on.



The edges of the landing gear doors (painted at the same time as the plane) were colored red using a red Sharpie marker.  It works, but I found the felt tip gets worn away pretty quick.  Another touch was using aluminum foil (glued on with Micro Foil glue) for the oleo strut.


All the miscellaneous parts (previously painted) except the canopy and weapons were added including the wheels, exhaust, drop tank and the doors. 


Hasegawa does not provide any weapons (except the internal guns) so I rummaged through my various parts boxes to find something.  I had some Mk 82s and Mk 83s, but no MERs.  I was almost ready to keep the plane clean (which my lazy side would appreciate) till I found a photo of an A-4M carrying Shrike ARMs and Zuni rocket pods as part of an “Iron Hand” (suppression of enemy air defenses) mission.  Voila, I had my loadout for this model as I have both weapons handy thanks to my (sigh) past purchases of Hasegawa weapons sets.  The missiles and pods were painted, decaled and glued in place.


The last steps were attaching the Aires PE for the HUD and canopy and then gluing the canopy in place.  I needed more hold than Elmers white glue could give so I (very very carefully) used Tamiya Extra Thin glue to attach the clear parts to the fuselage.



The Hasegawa A-4M is an excellent kit to build.  It’s not something I would recommend for a beginner, but if you have some experience these kits are worth a look.  If you want an accurate console, better cockpit details and bang seat you will have to go the aftermarket route.  If you want to save some of your sanity (and money) then I suggest just getting an aftermarket bang seat.


Dan Lee

July 2011

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