Hobby Boss 1/48 A-6E Intruder

KIT #: 81709
PRICE: $66.49 at Squadron (94.99 SRP)
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


The A-6E was the definitive attack version of the Navy's last dedicated bomber, the Intruder, with vastly upgraded navigation and attack systems, introduced in 1970 and first deployed on 9 December 1971. The earlier separate search and track (fire control) radars of the A-6A/B/C were replaced by a single Norden AN/APQ-148 multi-mode radar, and onboard computers with a more sophisticated (and generally more reliable) IC based system, as opposed to the A-6A's DIANE discrete transistor-based technology. A new AN/ASN-92 inertial navigation system was added, along with the CAINS (Carrier Aircraft Inertial Navigation System), for greater navigation accuracy.

Beginning in 1979, all A-6Es were fitted with the AN/AAS-33 DRS (Detecting and Ranging Set), part of the "Target Recognition and Attack Multi-Sensor" (TRAM) system, a small, gyroscopically stabilized turret, mounted under the nose of the aircraft, containing a FLIR boresighted with a laser spot-tracker/designator and IBM AN/ASQ-155 computer. TRAM was matched with a new Norden AN/APQ-156 radar. The BN could use both TRAM imagery and radar data for extremely accurate attacks, or use the TRAM sensors alone to attack without using the Intruder's radar (which might warn the target). TRAM also allowed the Intruder to autonomously designate and drop laser-guided bombs. In addition, the Intruder used Airborne Moving Target Indicator (AMTI), which allowed the aircraft to track a moving target (such as a tank or truck) and drop ordnance on it even though the target was moving. Also, the computer system allowed the use of Offset Aim Point (OAP), giving the crew the ability to drop on a target unseen on radar by noting coordinates of a known target nearby and entering the offset range and bearing to the unseen target.

In the 1980s, the A-6E TRAM aircraft were converted to the A-6E WCSI (Weapons Control System Improvement) version to add additional weapons capability. This added the ability to carry and target some of the first generation precision guided weapons, like the AGM-84 Harpoon missile, and AGM-123 Skipper. The WSCI aircraft was eventually modified to have a limited capability to use the AGM-84E SLAM standoff land attack missile. Since the Harpoon and SLAM missiles had common communication interfaces, WCSI aircraft could carry and fire SLAM missiles, but needed a nearby A-6E SWIP to guide them to target.

In the early 1990s, some surviving A-6Es were upgraded under SWIP (Systems/Weapons Improvement Program) to enable them to use the latest precision-guided munitions, including AGM-65 Mavericks, AGM-84E SLAMs, AGM-62 Walleyes and the AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile as well as additional capability with the AGM-84 Harpoon. A co-processor was added to the AN/ASQ-155 computer system to implement the needed MIL-SPEC 1553 digital interfaces to the pylons, as well as an additional control panel. After a series of wing-fatigue problems, about 85% of the fleet was fitted with new graphite/epoxy/titanium/aluminum composite wings. The new wings proved to be a mixed blessing, as a composite wing is stiffer and transmits more force to the fuselage, accelerating fatigue in the fuselage. In 1990, The decision was make to terminate production of the A-6. Through the 1970s and 1980s, the A-6 had been in low-rate production of four or five new aircraft a year, enough to replace mostly accidental losses. The final production order was for 20 aircraft of the SWIP configuration with composite wings, delivered in 1993. All Intruders had been retired by April of 1997, including those that were only four years old.

A-6E models totaled 445 aircraft, about 240 of which were converted from earlier A-6A/B/C models.


For an aircraft that I rarely see on contest tables, the 1/48 A-6 has certainly been kitted enough time. Fujimi was first with one way back when, followed by Revell and more recently Kinetic and now Hobby Boss. Aside from the Fujimi kit, which I understand is pretty crude, those by Revell and Kinetic are pretty nice. I've only built the Revell version and found it to be an acceptable kit that made a nice model.

Hobby Boss has already done an A-6A and so it is only natural that they'd do an E-model since much of the airframe is the same. This one has state of the art engraved detail and comes with a ton of weapons. The cockpit has two well done seats and include photo etch belts. All the instrument panel and console detail is raised so you do not rely on decals for details, though decals are supplied. The photo etch sheet that is provided is mostly for the cockpit and canopy detailing.

A rather neat feature that I've only seen with this kit is that the main landing gear start with metal struts around which one builds up a plastic case. This will surely be strong enough to hold the model up. The nose gear well  encompasses some of the exterior fuselage near the rear. The instructions show the gear being installed prior to gluing it to the fuselage. When building, it would be wise to see if the gear can be added near the end as it will certainly make painting easier.

Engine intakes have full ducting back to the first compressor stage, and while there is a seam, it should not be too noticeable. This kit comes with a nicely detailed radar for the nose that comprises about 20 parts or so. Having this feature does not leave much room for weight as I'm sure it will be needed so the builder needs to decide if the space is more important for weight or a nice radar. I found it interesting that even though the side speed brakes are bolted shut, brake well detail and actuating arms are given. Both markings options have the solid speed brakes.

This kit is designed to have everything hanging down or folded so there is a lot of detail work to go into building up the flaps and the wing fold area. You can also build the wing tip speed brakes open, but this was rarely seen on the ground in any position other than closed. The kit also comes with full leading edge slats. To build the wings either folded or straight, one simply chooses which insert to place in the wing stub to hold the wing. Of course your choice will determine if the one piece hinge mechanism or two piece version is to be used. Braces are provided for the folded option. A RAT is also provided to pose in the extended position, but again, this was almost never seen when the plane was on the ground unless it was undergoing maintenance.

The boarding ladders can also be posed either up or down as you choose. Gear doors all have actuating mechanisms. The outer wing pylons all have those extended antennas on them and I do believe these were not used on the E model so you might want to trim those away. A centerline pylon is also provided.

Now one thing the A-6 has to have is a lot of ordnance and a lot is provided. You have not only a centerline fuel tank, but a pair for the inner wing pylons. A pair of MERs are also provided along with a bevy of MK 82 types. Cluster bombs and a pair of GBU-8s round out the weapons.

Kit instructions are nicely done and provide color information using Gunze paints. There are markings for two aircraft. One is an A-6E from VA-34. This is an early A-6E without the TRAM pod under the nose. It is in the early light gull grey and white scheme with a buff radome and is probably from about the same time period as the photo I've provided, which would be the late 1970s when not all A-6Es were outfitted with this system. The other is from VA-42, which was the west coast training squadron. This one is also lacking the TRAM pod. It is in the later tactical paint scheme which makes it very hard to see any sort of markings. The decal sheet may have the dark grey markings too dark with the lighter markings in white when they should be a lighter grey. I have this photo taken a month or so before the plane was lost so you can judge for yourself. Decals are provided on three sheets. One is for the two markings options and is shown. The other two are for missile stencils and the instrument panel and are not shown. There are some glitches on the sheet. For the first option, the carrier name is missing the J in John F. Kennedy and both options have Rescue markings that are without the R. There are also no crew names for the first option, just the banner on which they would be painted. You'll notice a few differences in the thickness of the lettering for the 'NAVY' and the tail serial for the VA-34 option. Perhaps one of the many aftermarket decal sheets would be a better choice.

Overall, you have an excellent and very detailed kit of the Navy's last specialized bomber. There is a ton of ordnance to make it look properly bulked out and you don't have to buy a separate weapons set. Thanks to all the detail and all the options, this one will make a great model for your shelves. Shame about the decal glitches though.



July 2014

My thanks to Squadron Products for the preview kit. Get yours today at this link.

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