Tamiya 1/48 F4D-1 Skyray

KIT #: 61055
PRICE: Currently $43.00 SRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: New Ware NOTS  rocket


Douglas F4D Skyray (later redesignated F-6 Skyray) was an American carrier-based supersonic fighter/interceptor built by the Douglas Aircraft Company. Although it was in service for a relatively short time and never entered combat, it was notable for being the first carrier-launched aircraft to hold the world's absolute speed record, at 752.943 mph, and was the first United States Navy and United States Marine Corps fighter that could exceed Mach 1 in level flight. It was the last fighter produced by the Douglas Aircraft Company before it merged with McDonnell Aircraft and became McDonnell Douglas. The F5D Skylancer was an advanced development of the F4D Skyray that did not go into service. 420 aircraft were built and eventually operated with nearly two dozen USN and USMC squadrons. Typical of most Naval aircraft of the 1950s, its active service was relatively short, such was the pace of aircraft development during the time.

Aside from Lindberg's prototype Skyray kit of the 1950s, this has been the only other 1/48 F4D-1 to be produced. Fortunately, Tamiya does excellent work on its kits and this 1998 offering will unlikely be eclipsed. One thing that has changed is that the kit is considerably more expensive now than when your editor purchased his in the late 1990s. There are a few build articles in the archives, but no preview so I though it was time to provide it.

The main parts of the kit are divided into upper and lower wing/fuselage sections with a separage vertically divided nose. Into this nose goes a nicely done cockpit tub that sits atop the nose gear well. The cockpit consists of the usual instrument panel, control stick and rudder pedals with a separate anti-glare panel. The seat is a five piece construct. A pilot figure is supplied. No nose weight is indicated.

The wing build is somewhat complex. First holes need to be opened if carrying all the various pylons. At the back of the fuselage are a set of connected trimmers that can be posed in various positions. The kit provides an option for folding wings so the wing tips are separate pieces. There are sections of airframe that you can see in the fold joins. An engine compressor section is attached to the inner main gear well pieces and this section also includes the intake blanking plate. There are separate slats that can be posed extended. Intakes are a single piece that helps to lock the nose section in place.

In the back is a three piece exhaust section that slides into the back of the fuselage so you can leave this off until after painting. All the landing gear are suitable complex with various retraction rods and struts. All the wheels are two halves and these can be installed after painting as well. In the back of the fuselage is a tail bumper and an a-frame tailhook. The fin/rudder is in left and right halves and slots into the upper rear fuselage. The instructions offer a complete guide when it comes to modeling the wings folded or extended. There are different parts to use in either case and some modifications needed for extended wings. A separate windscreen and canopy are provided.

For things under the wings/fuselage you have a pair of large fuel tanks, Sidewinder missiles and pylons as well as what is called a NAVPAC for under the fuselage centerline. Outboard are rocket pods which can be displayed with their aerodynamic nose and tail caps if you so wish.

Instructions are quite good and only offer Tamiya paint numbers for color references. All three markings options are in light gull grey and white. The box art plane is from VF(AW)-3 based at NAS North Island with the blue areas with gold stars. These are all supplied as decals. The other two are USMC planes. One is VMF(AW)-114 and the other is VMF(AW)-115. There are aftermarket decals if you wish to do other schemes. The decals are nicely printed and while a tad thick, should cause few issues in placement. Both black and grey wing walk panels and nose anti-glare panels are provided.

I have had this kit and the New Ware rocket for many, many years and like often happens, whenever I decided to work on it, something else came up. Well this time I decided to just go for it as I've wanted an F4D-1/F-6A in my collection for quite some time.

I started all this by building the rocket. This was a system that was designed to either put a very small payload into low earth orbit or it was the US's first ASAT. However, you see it, like most of America's attempts at getting things into orbit during the late 1950s, it was a huge failure. Despite all this, it was interesting and it was delivered by a Skyray, so that is the motivation behind this particular build.

The rocket is relatively simple as things go. There is a fore and aft section that needs to be removed from a large casting block. I do not do well with these sorts of things and so had to do quite a bit of sanding to get things even close to flush before attaching them. Even then, I used considerable Mr. Surfacer to help fill the gaps. The fins were next and there are indentations on the aft section showing where these go. Actually, they are little more than surface lines, but they help. Before attaching the fins, I flattened the end of each of the rocket motors and then sanded each nozzle attachment point to where they were all about the same length. Once the nozzles were glued on, the fins were attached. I then primered the whole thing and painted it gloss white.

During all this, I also went to work on the Skyray. The kit has a lot of subassemblies so I did things like put together the wing tips, one of the two fuel tanks, the wheels, the fin and the exhaust sections. Many of these, including the interior bits were prepainted. Wheels and gear were white, the exhaust was Alclad II jet exhaust and steel with all the wheel well bits painted white. The interior in those days was black which makes for a rather uninteresting cockpit. I used the instrument panel decal and then did some dry brushing of the interior bits with white. Then a few dabs of color just to make things look interesting.

The fit of these parts was generally excellent as you'd expect from Tamiya. I glued together the trimmer and painted it gloss white. The main gear well bits were assembled and after painting the engine compressor aluminum with a white surround, this was glued into the lower fuselage half and any white bits I missed were repainted. I also painted the inlet areas. These are full of ejector pin marks so those entering this kit into a contest will have their work cut out for them. I also found ejector pin marks on other pieces, most of which were easy to clean up, such as those on the gear legs. There are some rather large sink areas on the main gear legs which I did not fix.

I assembled the bang seat and then painted it dark gull grey and then did the head rest in red and the ejection seat pull handle yellow. Since I'm not using the pilot, the seat is pretty bare as Tamiya did not include a harness decal as they do with some of their kits.

Back at the wing, I painted the aft area with steel and when dry, inserted the trimmer and glued the upper and lower sections together. The trimmer is a VERY tight fit and I had to take care when cementing the wings to try to eliminate gaps. Unlike some, I had to use filler on pretty well every main airframe join, though not really all that much. With the wing together, I trimmed the wing tip sections so I could glue them lowered. The fit is quite good, but not great. I personally do not like separate wing tips on USN types as I rarely can get a perfect fit if modeling them extended. The kit is designed for raised wings and I guess we have to live with this.

While that was drying, I glued the nose gear well to the bottom of the cockpit piece. The various cockpit bits save the seat were then installed and this assembly was glued into one forward fuselage half. I was skeptical about the lack of info for nose weight, so stuck 7 grams in there just to be sure. The halves were then glued together and the seam dealt with. I found the trimmer section to be a very tight fit. At this same time, I masked the windscreen and canopy, gluing them in place when done. 


For this project, I wanted to model one of the China Lake test aircraft that was involved in the NOTS satellite launch system. In this case, preproduction aircraft were some of the planes used. The Skyray's excellent climb performance was the main reason it was used for this task. These early planes were overall gloss sea blue. Had I been paying attention to the few photos around, I would have painted the gear wells, inside of the gear doors and gear legs gloss blue, but I didn't and this caused me to repaint these areas after most of the other shades had been done.

Anyway, I first painted the underside of the wings and the rocket with Tamiya gloss white. I then masked off one of the rocket sections and the trimmer to keep it white. Then the rest of the rocket and the underside of the wings got a couple of coats of Testors fluorescent red after filling the wheel wells with Silly Putty. At this time I still thought the gear wells would be white. Major masking of the lower wings and of much of the rocket was done in preparation for other colors.

On the rocket, select areas were painted black, while the airframe had the exhaust section painted steel. That was masked and I sprayed a lot of sea blue. I also painted the fin and outer gear doors with the appropriate shades; main doors fluorescent red on the outside and nose gear doors sea blue outers. The wheel hubs had been given a white coat when I was spraying that shade.

It was after I had unmasked the wings and fuselage sections that I installed the landing gear and struts. After this had dried, I took a closer look at photos. Sure enough, during this time period, the gear legs were still sea blue, though the wheels were white. Were that the case, then the gear wells would have been this color as well as the interior of the doors. Photos taken of this plane after this project show a white nose gear leg which was undoubtedly a replacement. I doubt if they would have repainted the gear wells. I remasked the wings and other sections and began spraying these sections with sea blue. Thanks to the various crevices and crannies, I had to break out the paint brush to get these sections properly covered. Fortunately, brushed on Testors gloss sea blue looks just like those areas spray painted, especially when covered with a gloss coat, which was applied once all the decals were on.

So now I had the plane on its legs. I masked off the nose and painted that with Mr.Kit linen from their acrylic line. Often on the later planes you'd see the radome connection points in the airframe color, but period photos show this was not the case with this plane. The fin was then glued on as were the wheels. The forward nose gear and main gear doors are normally closed. Fit here was fair, but not perfect. Attaching the other doors was a breeze as Tamiya provides large contact areas for these. The pitot was glued on as was the tail hook. Later the rear bumper wheel and door were attached. I had to do a lot of brush touch up painting as using cement caused the white paint most of these bits had originally been painted with to bleed through.

Decals for this plane were included with the New Ware set, though common markings had to come from the Tamiya kit. I started with these decals. I painted the intake warning areas and attached the already painted intakes at the same time as the fin. Fit on these was only fair, but thanks to the dark paint, you cannot easily see the join. Naturally, the red I used was a different shade from the decal..... Normally, setting solutions are an anathema to Tamiya decals, but Mr. Mark Softer seems to work well with these.

The decals from New Ware, which were all white, were a real delight. Obviously they had been double printed as they were quite opaque. Not even the fluorescent red bled through, though that color can be faintly seen behind the white on the Tamiya decal. The NW decals were also quite thin.

While the decals were being applied, I glued the rocket to its pylon. As many folks now do, I drilled a hole in the pylon and the missile into which I inserted a section of paper clip. This not only ensures that the rocket won't fall off when bumped, but makes for very easy mounting. While on the pylon, I took the opportunity to give it a gloss coat as these things were not matte. With that done, the final pieces (tail bumper, slats, things under wings) were attached, some touch up painting was done and the masking removed. I then glued on the pylons with the tank and rocket. The rocket ends up with the lower fins being about 1mm off the ground. This leads me to believe that perhaps it would be wise to shorten the pylon on which it fits, though the New Ware instructions did not say anything about doing that.


This is one of those projects that I have been wanting to do for many, many years. Each time I think I'll get to it, something else comes up and it goes back on the shelf, sometimes forgotten until I see it while looking for another kit. Finally, I've had the chance to finish it off. The Tamiya kit is, well, a Tamiya kit. The fit is what you pay for and you get your money's worth in that regard. The New Ware rocket did not provide any issues that were not self-induced. I was very pleased with the decals that New Ware provided. From a look on their web site, this item is still available, though at a bit more than I initially paid for it way back when. In all, a nice project that satisfies my like of sea blue planes and some color as well.




August 2015

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