Hasegawa 1/72 EA-3B Skywarrior 'VQ-1'
KIT #: 02126
PRICE: 3680 yen from www.hlj.com
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Limited edition with resin parts


For most of the Vietnam War, EA-3Bs of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 1 (VQ-1) flew from Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam, providing continuous electronic reconnaissance capability over the area, including the so-called Ho Chi Minh trail and all the way north to Haiphong harbor. This was known as VQ-1 "Det.B". The aircrew and ground support personnel were TAD from their home base at NAS Atsugi, Japan and after 1970, NAS Agana, Guam. After Det B was disestablished, VQ-1 provided detachments of two EA-3B aircraft that deployed with Western Pacific and Indian Ocean (WESTPAC/IO) bound aircraft carrier battle groups up until 1988/9 when, after a series of ramp strikes by Spain-based VQ-2 planes, it was replaced by the Lockheed ES-3A Shadow.

The type continued to be operated from shore bases, participating in the first Gulf War and retired in 1991. However, this was not the end of Skywarrior operations. The aircraft was operated by Hughes and later Raytheon for various test purposes and continued to do so so until final retirement of the aircraft in 2011.


I was associated with VQ-1 in the early/mid 1970s and based in both Guam and Atsugi maintaining the aircraft's avionics. So I had been wondering for years when Hasegawa was going to do the EA-3B version. I'd almost given up hope when this kit was finally released. At last, a proper EA-3B. Well, sort of.

You see, what Hasegawa has done is take their base EKA-3B kit and include a few resin bits and decals in hopes that this would pass for an EA-3B. Perhaps those who do not know the plane will find what they did acceptable. I was less than thrilled. Don't get me wrong, I'll build the kit, but Hasegawa took several short cuts.

I should mention that the resin bits included are a couple of blade antennas and the lower surface 'canoe' that had the directional antennas. Rather than mold an all new fuselage for the 'versions' Skywarriors, which have several differences in panel lines and item placements over the standard airplane, Hasegawa decided to make an EA-3B using decals. Yep, there is no fuselage interior, no prominent reinforced side entrance door, but a decal to simulate these items. Hasegawa totally forgot about the upper fuselage escape hatch as well.

The kit also maintains the standard jammer cockpit, even though this equipment was removed for the EA-3B. Now I know that the vast majority will not realize the differences and none of this makes the kit 'unbuildable'. These are simply the sorts of things one who is familiar with a subject notices.

Hasegawa provides markings for two planes in the last year of the type's carrier borne operations, before they were yanked and relegated to shore ops. The markings are very similar and differ by nose number and tail code. The box art plane is one was assigned to the USS Constellation while the other has no ship name. The decals for this kit are quite unlike any Hasegawa decals I have seen before. They are very matte, which is fine for the wing walk decals, but the rest of the markings on the real plane were quite glossy. It will be interesting to see how these work. In the last years of their life, VQ-1's planes had a stencil on the rear that stated "Caution. This aircraft on loan from the Smithsonian Institution" Hasegawa has the caution part right, but the rest of it is illegible gibberish.

From a personal point of view, the kit is a mixture of good and bad. I am disappointed that Hasegawa did not mold a proper versions fuselage, but then that would have meant additional clear bits and perhaps the need to provide a cabin. I am pleased that they at least made an attempt at an EA-3B and for that I can thank them. Considering the many other markings carried by these planes, I'm a bit surprised that both options are pretty much the same. I would guess that the aftermarket crowd would step in to fix that for us.

Just for reference purposes, here are a couple of photos I took in 1987/88. One is from the USS Kitty Hawk (NG) and the other from the USS Nimitz (NL). You can see that there is little different in the markings from the ones kitted aside from nose numbers and tail codes.



November 2014

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