HobbyBoss 1/72 A-4F Skyhawk

KIT #: 87255
PRICE: $47.95 SRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES:  2019 tooling


Ed Heinemann's Skyhawk is one of the world's success stories. A small, light attack aircraft designed for operation from aircraft carriers. In addition, it had to carry a sizeable amount of ordnance and have fairly decent range as well. At the time, it seemed to be an impossible task, but the result speaks for itself. The aircraft was able to exceed expectations and became a mainstay of light attack craft for the USN and USMC for decades.

Even after its retirement from the USN, the USMC flew the type well into the 1980s and it enjoyed considerable overseas success as well. Even today, sixty years after its first flight, the type is serving military air arms.                 


I was quite pleased to see Hobby Boss release this kit in 1/72 scale. I was not pleased at the $48.00 SRP, so I waited until it was on deep discount before picking one up. I expected it to be pretty much a downsized version of their 1/48 and for most intents and purposes that is what you'll get.

It has a nicely done cockpit with a fair seat shape that lacks belts, decals for the main instrument panel and side consoles and a proper stick shape. This all fits atop the nose gear well as is the norm. Now I am not sure how many of you will build up the landing gear before painting, but this kit has you do that for both the nose and main gear.

The intakes will lead to a short trunk and stop at the first compressor stage. You have to do a little bit of trimming of molded on bits that are not needed. There is no indication of nose weight needed, but I always add a bit just in case. The instructions have you install a parabrake housing once the fuselage is closed. However, photos of all three of the planes as provided in the kit's decal sheet did not show this. So leave it off.

When building up the wing, no need to open holes as HB has already done that for you. The gear look nicely done. Now for the pylons. you get two pylons per wing and one centerline. The centerline pylon has an odd looking rack molded on it with a large, square brace near the front. Rather suspect to me. For the very outer pylon, HB wants you to put a missile rail on it for a Sidewinder. I was quite unable to find a photo of any early A-4F as is so kitted with this feature. It is quite common on Australian A-4s, but I'd not use it for this build.

You are committed to doing an early A-4F with the markings supplied as it only comes with the straight refueling probe. Like the 1/48 kit, no aggressors unless you find the proper bent probe. The inner wing racks each have a multiple ejector rack for a bunch of small Mark 80 series bombs and the centerline carries a fuel tank. The weapons sprues come from their 1/72 A-7 kit for the bombs and the missiles. You do get two fuel tanks, so despite what the loadout diagram shows, you may well be able to so equip your A-4 and two wing tanks were fairly normal.

Instructions are well done with Gunze paint references. There are full color exterior paint and decal pages that offer other paint options. The decal sheet is nicely done, but as usual, there is a glitch or two. One is that the fin markings for the VA-22 option are smeared so replacements have been included. Another is that 'Lady Jessie' was with VA-164, not VA-16 as on the decal sheet. the third option is with VA-94. A nice selection for building out of the box. There are aftermarket sheets if you so wish to use those.  


When working on this, I found that the build sequence seemed to be pretty standard among all the Skyhawk kits I've done and this one is no exception. The cockpit makes use of some decals for the instruments if you wish to use those. The cockpit tub fits atop the nose gear well and Hobby Boss wants you to build and attach the landing gear at this time. You don't have to and can wait until after painting if you so wish. Note that the nose wheel steering bits don't look like the real deal and placement of the torque tube is vague to say the least.

Since this kit has the avionics hump, you'll be removing the blade antenna. Intake is a single piece that fits well and will let you see down it to the first compressor stage of the engine. Note that the hole just before the exhaust on the fuselage does not need to be opened. That is for the parachute and this aircraft at the time of any of the kit markings did not have it. I installed the compressor piece and the cockpit assembly in the fuselage half, added a touch of weight just to be sure and closed up the halves. I left the exhaust piece off until near the end. I skipped step 4 until the end of the build to keep from knocking things off the airframe.

Wings are next. All the pylon holes are opened up already and I skipped most of step 5 as it dealt with building and adding main gear and doors. I also skipped adding the pylons as shown in step 6, but did attach the wings to the fuselage. Note that rarely did the Skyhawk carry air to air missiles so I'd skip those rails when you build your model unless you have photographic proof. In step 7, don't add the ESM antennas to the rear of the fuselage as those were a post-war addition. I did add the avionics hump. I also masked and attached the windscreen and canopy. Fit of the latter is not very good. I also left off the guns and built up the drop tanks. 


The Skyhawks of this period and this boxing were light gull grey over white. I used Tamiya white  to paint most of the airframe. When dry, I masked off the white parts and sprayed on some light gull grey from the Testors enamel line. I also painted the fairly large number of things that would be white while still on the sprue. Things like gear doors, gear struts, tail hook and such. The gear doors had their edges outlined in red using a Sharpie.

Once the kit was gloss coated I started applying decals. I decided to go with the kit decals as I've always liked VA-22s markings. The decals were actually very good and succumbed to Microsol, one of the weaker of the various solutions. It was at this juncture that the build really slowed down as I am slow at applying markings and there are quite a few on this kit.

During this fairly long time, I did bits and pieces such as attaching the landing gear, the gear doors, tailplanes, and fussing with the ordnance. I find building up ordnance to be fairly tedious work, which is probably why I don't build all that many kits that require a lot of bombs. This allowed me to work on other projects while this one was slowly evolving. The kit bombs were nicely engineered with holes in them that fit onto pegs on the racks. Same for the drop tanks. However, I wasn't going to put Sidewinders on this so I had to come up with something else. I picked a couple of bombs from the Hasegawa weapons set and drilled holes in them so they would fit on the outer racks. I then gave the upper surface grey a coat of Tamiya clear matte. A few smaller bits were attached, including the little sensors on the nose. I used E6000 for these and it worked find. I removed the masking from the clear bits and was dismayed to see that I had major paint creep. This was scraped off and these parts given a coat of Future in hopes of making it better. It did help quite a bit.

So what's the verdict on this one. It has been a while since I did what was the previous best kit in this scale from Fujimi, but this one has a lot to offer. For one thing, the fuselage is not in four parts. The pieces (aside from the canopy) seem to fit a lot better and I really like the pegs on the MERs for the bombs. Even the decals worked quite well. However, I think it is over priced. True, you can get it from time to time at half of retail, and if so, then snag one. I'm sure there are issues with this that Scooteristas will spot and I do wish Hobby Boss and other Chinese kit makers would spend a few cents on research so we wouldn't have to do it, but there it is.

May 2020

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