Hobbycraft 1/48 A-4E/H Israeli Skyhawk
HISTORY & THE KIT
For information on the A-4 and the Hobbycraft kit,
The Hobbycraft kit is laid out like just about ever otherA-4 kit I have ever built and is quite similar to the Hasegawa kit. The firstthing that I did was to start construction of the wings, drop tanks, nose, andcockpit. Before gluing the wings together, I opened up any holes for pylons.Unless you are doing an aggressor bird, you need to have as much stuff hangingoff the wings as possible!
The nose and drop tanks are a simple glue job with no realproblems. Unlike Hasegawa's kit, these drop tanks have no separate tail caps. Itmeans you don't have a belly tank option, but it also means that you don't havethe fit problem that the Hase tanks have, either. On both the nose and tanks Ihad to fill and sand seams. On the wings, you'll need to use filler on thewing slat area to smooth that join as it will be visible when the slats areglued on.
The cockpit is a rather simple construct consisting of a tub, aback wall and the small accessory panel behind it. Not sure if I liked having toglue all those little bits on the accessory panel, especially as the holes aremuch larger than the pegs on the parts. Fit of this panel to the back of the tubis OK, but the whole thing does not fit well into the fuselage. When I tried toline things up while the glue was still tacky, it just didn't fit into the guidetabs at all.
The cockpit has separate rudder pedals and control column. I'mnot sure where the mold makers got the T handle control stick from, but Itrashed mine and substituted the spare from my Hasegawa kit. Looks MUCH better.The seat in this kit is a bit tricky to build, being made up of two side panels,a rear panel and two seat inserts. Time for another gripe, and this is not justto Hobbycraft. The ejection seat in modern jets is not just a shape. Eachaircraft has a specific design that is often unique to that plane. How aboutsome research into this on upcoming kits? Monogram does a fairly good jobof this so it isn't beyond the technology of Hobbycraft, Fujimi, Hasegawa orothers to provide us with an accurate seat.
Now that the rant is over, the seat was painted flat black withgreen cushions. No harness is supplied; not even a decal. The fit of the seat isVERY tight. The instrument panel has raised detail on it, but that is about it.At least a decal to add some color to it would have been appreciated.
Now it was time to join the fuselage halves together. Testfitting the nose well showed that some trimming would be needed to get a decentfit. Once I was fairly satisfied, I glued it into one of the fuselage halves.Then the interior was installed. The fit of this is not good. The back of thecockpit is dropped down about a half inch or so from the underside of thefuselage. This kit will be built with the canopy closed so you can't see thatgap. I fear that only an aftermarket interior set (or a lot of work) willcorrect this problem.
Once the fuselage was together, some weight was put in to thenose (just to be on the safe side), and the fin tip, nose and dorsal fairingwere glued in place. The fit on all these is pretty good, though I did use a bitof filler on them to smooth things out (a normal occurrence for me). The intakeswere then painted white on the inside (the fuselage bit too), and when dry, theback of the fuselage intake was painted black. Then it was time to install theintakes. The kit directions seem to be reversed as far as which intake goeswhere. It seems to me that the intakes should either be straight or curve veryslightly down when viewed from the side. Going according to the instructions, itwould curve up and that just looks too weird. Fit of the intakes was quite good,again, a touch of filler used to take care of a gap or two.
While this was all drying, the wings had the wells, flap andslat areas painted white. This showed up a need to wash the parts in soapy wateras I got fisheyes everywhere! Usually I don't wash kits, but this oneapparently needed it. The area was then repainted white and flap/slat areaspainted red. The wing was then glued to the fuselage. Fit here is also prettygood, especially at the back and upper wing area. Some filler was needed in theforward wing/fuselage join. That was quickly sanded smooth and it was on to thenext step.
So far, this kit is going together well. Next the kit had the intakesrepainted white to take care of those areas sanded off. The cockpit was thentouched up and ready for the seat. As I mentioned earlier, the kit seat is waytoo wide and just doesn't look the part. I purchased a twin pack of Escapacseats from True Details (48-406). At $2 a seat, it is a worthwhile investment asthey look a LOT better than what comes with the kit. This was then glued intothe cockpit and the canopy then glued in place and masked.
Next item were the little bits in the front of the wings for thegun barrels to attach to. These fit reasonably well, but needed filler to blendin well with the surrounding area. The tailplanes were then attached. Fit herewas also pretty good, but again, some filler was needed as the curve of theinner part of the tailplanes was a bit greater than the mating surface. The fueldump was glued to the underside of the wing. Then all the bits I didn't wantrepainted were masked. This included the intakes, wheelwells and the red areafor the slats.
The kit was now ready to be taken to the paint shop for a bit ofcolor.
I used Gunze acrylic on the undersurface and Testors Modelmasterenamels on the uppersurface. The color instructions recommend using a lightgrey, FS 36495 for the underside, though the box art shows a blue. Frankly, Ithink they are mistaken and that it should be a light blue FS 35526 instead.That is what I used and perhaps it should be even darker. Your choice. Anyway,the underside color was painted on first, as it my norm.
Once the acrylic had fully cured (a few days), it was masked offwhere needed and the upper colors painted on. I started with the light tanFS33531 and painted the entire aircraft. Then the brown, FS 30219 was painted onwhere it should go. Finally, the light green FS 34227 was painted. I generallyfollowed the pattern on the box, but you can deviate pretty far from what isshown as no two planes were painted alike. I painted the slats separately andagain, in a pattern similar to what was on the box. If they don't match, don'tsweat it as these items were often taken from a 'hangar queen' if needed for anoperational bird.
After all the painting had been done (and there was quite a bitof back and forth touching up done), it was taken back to the workshop to havethe landing gear attached before more work was done.
A BIT MORE CONSTRUCTION
Before putting on the gloss coat, I like to have the plane onits landing gear. These were painted white and then glued into the appropriateholes. The main gear had to be trimmed a bit on the piece that sticks out on theside to properly fit. The nose gear has a separate nose wheel, which is nice.Both the nose and main wheels have separate hubs. Nice touch for the mainwheels, a pain in the butt for the nose wheel as there is no positive lock. I'drather have had the nose wheel as one piece. The nose wheel also had a hole init that was too big for the attachment points on the nose strut. The mainwheel inserts need a touch of sanding down to fit. The stubs on the main gearare too short to allow the main wheels to fit properly. The tires also look waytoo tall when compared to the Hasegawa kit, but don't look that bad whencompared to photos. It seems as if Hasegawa's tires are a lower profile than onthe real plane. The end result is that all the wheels need glued in place withsuperglue as they just don't properly fit.At this time, theattachment struts for the wing slats were glued in place and painted steel oncedone. It was then back to the paint shop to get the clear acrylic gloss coat inpreparation for putting on the decals.
After the clear had dried, I started applying decals.These are quite thin and go on well, however, I'd take the decal placementdiagram with a major grain of salt. I have a couple of books on the Israeli AFand neither of them showed the roundel placement that was given in the diagram.This is a case of making sure that you have the proper references for the planein question. Anyway, the decals are a real pleasure to use; a major differencefrom their earlier kits! I used the blue unit badges from the 'Valley' Squadron.I can only hope that this is a valid use as I have no uncensored photos to useas a reference for unit markings. Anyway, the decals are a real pleasure touse. Once all decals were on, I used a clear matte finish to seal thingsin place.
Now that the decals were on, it was time to get to work on therest of the model. The first thing I did was to laboriously paint the red on thegear door edges. Later, I was to discover that Israeli Skyhawks didn't all havethis done to them so could have saved myself the time and trouble! Next was towork on the ejector racks. These had their little anti-sway thingies glued inplace and then the whole thing was painted white. The anti-sway gizmos are notvery convincing, but the illusion is sufficient. Next the bombs. The kitprovides a slew of Mk80 series low drag bombs. When these aircraft were used inthe 1973 war, they mostly carried M117 bombs. These older bombs were suppliedfrom US stocks and were really Korean War vintage. The Hasegawa weapons set hassix of them per set. I chose to put four of them on the centerline MER. For theouter racks I picked a pair of SUU-30 dispensers (also from the weapons set)that would be full of anti-personnel bomblets. These were duly painted olivedrab and a shaky yellow band painted on the front. They were then glued onto theTER's as they would not fit directly onto the outer pylons. Both racks and bombloads were set aside.
With the weapons out of the way, there werestill a number of things to do to finish out the plane. First of all, the geardoors were painted and glued in place. Fit is very good and trouble free. Thenthe various pylons were glued on. Several need to have the holes enlarged tofit. There is no indication of what racks go where, but some deduction and thefact that only certain ones fit in certain places is a big help! With the pylonssecurely glued in, the flaps are glue in a slightly down position. Well, almost.You have to do some sanding on the aerodynamic fairing on the flap in order toget them to fit. Actually, you have to do quite a bit of sanding, but about 5minutes with a coarse sanding stick has everything ready to go. I put the secondset of aircraft number decals on the inside of the lower flap like is done onUSN aircraft. Not sure if that is correct or not, but it seemed logical.
It is a no-brainer to realize that this isn't a Hasegawa kit. Itisn't as well detailed, is probably not quite as easy to build, (though certainareas are), comes with a full weapons load that the Hasegawa kit doesn't haveand is a less expensive kit. You can also build a bunch of different versionsthat (at this writing) are not available from Hasegawa. As much as I'dlike to give this kit a glowing recommendation, I'll have to temper it. Thecockpit and canopy are the biggest problems. The poor fit of the nose wheel isanother problem that should not be there and many will not like the overalllower level of detail. Bottom line, you want a highly detailed and more accuratekit, get the Hasegawa. If money is a concern or you want to build aversion that is not available from Hasegawa, then the Hobbycraft kit is what youwant. In the end they will look like Skyhawks when sitting on your shelf athome.
Review kit courtesy of North American Hobbies
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