Classic Airframes 1/48 TA-4J Skyhawk
(you can easily find it for less)
Scott Van Aken
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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