ESCI 1/72 A-4E Skyhawk
Kit Number: 9004
Decals: Two versions: VF-195 and VF-192 circa 1968
Reviewer: Scott Van Aken
The Scooter is probably one of the most famous attack aircraft to ever be designed. Over forty years since its first flight, the A-4 is still being used by a number of air forces world wide. The most recent recipient of the Skyhawk being Argentina, receiving modified A-4Ms, recently withdrawn from US service.
ESCI has released their 1/72 A-4E/F in at least eight different versions as well as upscaling the kit in 1/48. Until the arrival of the more detailed and more parts intensive Fujimi Skyhawks, the ESCI kit was by far the best to be found. Despite the raised detail on the wings and stabilizer and sparse cockpit, the ESCI kit has parts that fit well, reasonably detailed wheel wells, and a variety of stores. Oddly enough, the fuselage and many of the stores have engraved detail. It is like different people worked on different parts fo the mold.
This particular kit was molded in a strange tannish-brown reminiscent of many resin kits. The interior is relatively complete with seat, stick and instrument panel, the instruments themselves being represented by decals on both the main and side panels. The canopy is a one-piece affair that cannot be displayed in the open position. It is quite thin and clear so any additional detailing would be visible from the outside. The interior and nose wheel well are part of the same assembly. Careful fitting of this assembly in the fuselage is necessary to keep the cockpit in its proper place. Add a bit of nose weight while the fuselage halves are open. Both the nose gear and main landing gear can be added after painting. The intakes fit very well and need only a bit of sanding/putty for a good fit.
Once the fuselage is glued and drying, it is time for the wings. These are of the three section variety where the flaps and ailerons are in the top sections. Determine the stores your Skyhawk will be carrying and open up the appropriate holes before cementing the wings together. This particular kit came with fuel tanks for the inner pylons, rocket launchers for the outer pylon and a mer (multiple ejection rack) and six bombs. The bombs themselves are reasonably detailed as are the rocket pods. All these items can be left off until after painting. One item that needs to be attached before paining is the small antenna under the right wing. Another is the refueling probe. Be very careful with this item as it is easily broken. The wing/fuselage join is good needing only some careful dry fitting and maybe a bit of filler.
Once the canopy and horizontal stabilizers are fit, it is ready for paint. Since I was doing a Vietnam era aircraft, this meant light gull grey and white. I used Testors for the white and Humbrol for the light gull grey. The Humbrol paint turned out a bit darker than other brands so some lightening might be in order. The green on the tail was masked and painted, a rather tedious job, but it looks much better than the decal. I used an old Microscale sheet for this kit and they fit quite well. An area to be careful of during decal placement are the upper wing decals. They must be gently pressed down over the vortex generators on the wing while still soft from setting solution.
Once the paint/decaling is done, it is time for the landing gear. The nose gear is a single cast and quite well detailed. The main gear are three pieces and very sturdy once dry. The guns would be next and then the gear doors. There are no positive attachment joints or hinges for these, they simply butt fit. Final assembly is the underwing stores and I added some bare metal foil around the exhaust area, although it is supposed to be a metallic color. The exhaust shroud and tailpipe are an assembly that can also be left off until final assembly.
The end result is a very nice Skyhawk. Again, this is a kit I have built a number of times in both 1/72 and 1/48. It is simple enough for the average modeler and detailed enough for the experienced. Highly recommended if you can find it. It has been released by Testors a number of times and may eventually be released by Italeri as they seem to have released a number of ESCI kits over the years.
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