Classic Airframes 1/48 TA-4J Skyhawk

KIT #: 4147
PRICE: $55.00 MSRP (you can easily find it for less)
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Short run with resin parts.


The Skyhawk is old enough to be considered an antique with the first plane flying in June 1954. The first two seat version, theTA-4F, took to the air in  June of 1965. There are still a number of the later models still in service throughout the world, though in the US, the last ones were retired in 2003. There were generations of pilots who learned fast jet flying on the TA-4, an aircraft that not only looks sweet but was perfect for teaching advanced jet tactics and carrier landings. In its last decades the twin seat A-4 was used for Fast FAC by the Marines and as an aggressor platform. It is this last task with its myriad of interesting camouflage schemes that draws the greatest interest.


The Classic Airframes kit is not the only two seat Skyhawk done in this scale. Fujimi did the aircraft in 1/50, which was later marketed as 1/48. It is best left alone as it is quite crude by even the standards of the day. Monogram later did the OA-4M and many hoped for a TA-4F/J, but it was not to happen. Converting the OA-4 into a TA-4 was possible, but the biggest problem was in the canopy area as the OA-4 had a canopy and windscreen that were not the same as the TA versions. Still, many did the considerable work to bring it back to TA-4 standards.

Many of parts used in this kit look very much like they were inspired if not directly copied from the Hasegawa kit. Of course, it may just be coincidence as there are only so many ways to mold an A-4. Regardless, the kit is very nicely molded by one of the Czech companies. As building was to discover, looking nice and building well are two different things.  CA farms out all of its kit requirements, only producing the box and instructions in the US.

As it is a short run kit, it has some short run features. One are ejector towers inside the fuselage, intakes, wings, and the compressor intake section. Most will be easy to remove, though the depressed intake compressor section and curved intake interiors will require a bit more work.  I also noticed that the sprue with the ACMI pod was slightly misaligned so care is needed not to have an oval pod. Typical of many short run kits, the sprue attachment points are rather thick. Several pieces broke away from these points during shipment, leaving gouges in some of the parts. I recommend using a micro saw to remove all of the injected plastic bits as these large sprue gates are also on the very nicely done clear bits as well. I also found sink areas on many of the thicker small parts such as the slat attachment arms. This is not unusual with these kits and all can easily be repaired.

The kit has few options, mainly what is carried under the wings. You have a pair of fuel tanks with fins and a sidewinder rail for the ACMI pod. A centerline fuel tank without the fin section is also included. Skyhawks often flew without pylons and just a centerline tank or even without anything under the fuselage if the mission was short.  Another option is to have the canopy open, though there is no rear hinge mechanism.

There is the usual bag of resin parts and these are superbly molded. They are what could be considered 'old school' resin with the large pour stubs. The ESCAPAC seats are especially nicely done with molded on harness and the 'head knocker' in the down position as it would be on the ground. Equally nice are the main wheel wells with tons of detailing. The cockpit is made up of several sections, one of which is the nose gear well. One of the resin bits is the exhaust cone, which on mine got ripped during shipping. I should also mention that this kit was purchased from Squadron and arrived rather crunched. The person resizing the box made it too small and when it was closed and taped, it crushed the flimsy CA box rather badly. Fortunately, damage to the kit was minimal, but it was not non-existent.

It is obvious from the generic TA-4J instructions that there will be many more boxings. The sprue has open areas for the guns when one does a TA-4F and I should point out that it was not uncommon to see TA-4Js also armed. However, none of the Aggressor aircraft were and that is what this boxing is all about. 16 well drawn construction steps are provided with generic color references for wheel wells, cockpit and so on. There are four decal options, all aggressors from the early/mid 1980s in various schemes. The separate markings guide does provide FS 595 paint references. First off is the box art plane from VA-127 in Dark Green, Grey and Light Brown. Next are two VF-126 aircraft. One is in Medium Blue Grey and Light Grey while the other is in Dark Green, Mediuim Green and Sand Brown with Light Grey wing undersides. Finally, from VC-8 is one in Dark Blue-Grey, Medium Glue-Gry and Light Blue-Grey. Decals are nicely printed by Cartograf in Italy. The decal numbers are missing from the sheet so an addendum sheet was added. As you can see from the image above, it was not uncommon to find aircraft with replacement slats and the paint was often retouched several times, making for interesting schemes.


This kit was started almost immediately upon receipt back in 2008 (yup, that was seven years ago). I removed the big bits from the sprues, removed the ejector towers from these parts and then put the box back on the shelf for reasons now unknown. In the meanwhile, Hasegawa had finally decided to release the TA-4 in their standard kit line and that pretty well made this kit redundant and a lot less desirable. C.A. went out of business quite shortly after the release of this kit and so no other boxings were done. Since Hasegawa's kit release, MPM/SH saw the writing on the wall and have never reissued it.

I was cleaning up (a rare enough occurrence) and came across this one literally covered in dust. I then decided to go ahead and build it, though I'm not exactly sure why, but I think a latent trait of masochism has something to do with it. My first step was to prep resin parts. This meant removing them from the pour stubs. As usual, oversanding reared its ugly head on some of these bits, such as the nose gear well, but for me, that is pretty much normal. The first parts actually glued were the main gear wells. The actual placement in the wings is a bit ambiguous, but the key to this is to just make sure they fill the well openings. The openings on the wells and everywhere else has some relatively thick mold seams that will require removing so be sure to clean up all parts placement areas, test fit and then adjust as required. This is a short run kit and cannot be dealt with like a standard kit from Revell, for example.

I then built up the nose gear well and attached the cockpit bits atop them as shown in the instructions. The resin exhaust section was built up and glued in one fuselage half. I that same half was glued in the nose gear well/cockpit assembly. Then the engine compressor section was glued in place. The compressor face isn't a great fit and there is a bit ejector tower right in the middle of where this piece is to fit. I prepainted all the intake bits white and the compressor face aluminum. When that was done, I packed in about 10-15 grams of nose weight, just to make sure, and the fuselage halves were glued together. The aft portion of the lower fuselage is separate. It does not fit well.  Not surprisingly, I had to clamp the fuselage halves to get them to stay glued as well as to make sure that one of the intake sides did not have about a 1/8 inch gap between it and the inside of the fuselage. This would cause issues later. The exhaust section turned out being a bit undersized for the opening.

With all that in place, the wings were assembled and the gun plugs attached and smoothed in place. Then I glued the wing to the lower fuselage. Aside from the forward portion, the fit was pretty good. Before gluing the wings, I looked for holes for the centerline rack mount. There aren't any. With the wings in place, the tailplanes had the mounting holes opened and after some cleanup of the tabs, these were glued on. Meanwhile, I glued the intake halves together and attached those to the fuselage. On the underside the fuel dump (at least I think that is what it is) was glued on. I then attached all the slat rails to the forward wing and the blast shields. Even though this plane has no guns, it still has the shields as TA-4s could be armed.

I then painted and installed the two seats. Getting the canopy and windscreen in place was a real nightmare. Thanks to having to squeeze the fuelage to get the intake section to fit, the back part of the cockpit was a bit too narrow. I later 'cured' that by sanding and grinding and filler. The windscreen would not come close to fitting as the forward instrument panel anti-glare shield combined with the thick clear plastic meant that I had to grind away much of the anti-glare shield. Even then there was a gap at the front of the windscreen piece that needed filler.

Meanwhile, I cleaned up the landing gear and attached that. I found the fit to be fair once I opened up the attachment holes with a drill bit. This is a downside to some short run kits in that often the attachment holes are either too shallow or not opened up at all. The nosewheel steering rod broke while still on the sprue so I just had to wing it. I left off one of the forks on the nose gear leg until later when the nose wheel would be attached. The canopy was masked and it was off to paint.

Despite the nice options provided in the kit's sheet, I decided to save those for another day and used Superscale sheet 48-1223 that included markings for the VA-195 CAG (though the instructions call it VF-196). This aircraft is light gull grey over white. I first painted the entire underside, the upper control surfaces save the rudder and the area under the slats with white. These were masked off on the upper side save the slats well which was painted red. This was then masked and the upper surface painted light gull grey. I used Testors for the LGG and Tamiya for the white. The gull grey area showed some areas that needed more filler so those were taken care of and repainted. In the meanwhile I added the upper radio antenna aft of the cockpit after drilling the mounting hole. The refueling probe was also attached.

Other items painted were the gear doors with white along with the tail hook piece. I also painted the slats white on the underside and LGG on the top. After all this, I started applying decals. I had no real issues with the decals other than a propensity not to snuggle down into lines and such without some pretty strong setting solution. The instructions were decent in regards to the stencils, but I had to use a 10x magnifier to read not only the stencil decals but also the placement sheet.

With the markings on, I painted the underside of the slats in red using a brush and Humbrol acrylic red. These were later attached. I also attached the wing tip lights and after masking them with liquid mask, painted the area above and below them. The red on the gear doors was done with a Sharpie. The tail cone as masked around and painted steel. I then attached the gear doors. Note that the large main gear doors need the attachment areas on the wing enlarged considerably in order to get them to fit properly. I misted on some clear matte as the light gull grey of the era was matte.

Other bits attached were the tail hook, again after drilling out the closed up hole, the wheels, and other clear bits, such as the landing light. For the centerline fuel tank, I drilled a hole in it and one in the centerline rack. A section of paper clip was glued into the tank and this was simply pressed into the hole in the rack. The masking was removed from the canopy, windscreen and wing tip lights and the nose painted black. I then used some AK Interactive landing gear wash on the gear and wheel wells. Actually, if those areas got that dirty, the M.O. would have some butt, especially on the CAG bird. But I went and used it anyway. To add insult to it all, the nose wheel fork broke while I was taking photos so had to do a quick mend.

This was one of those kits that turned into a real challenge from the get go. Even for limited run plastic this one had a lot of issues. Rumor had it that Classic Airframes kits were developed by the 'second team' at a well known Czech model company and I can believe it. In all the CA kits I have built over the years, none of them have really been well engineered and I've had to use a lot of work to finish them. In this case it was just stubbornness to get something started off the shelf of DOOM. If you see this kit, even at the cheap, you'd be advised to pass it by and spend the few dollars more for the Hasegawa offering.

August 2015

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