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|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is a single seat subsonic carrier-capable attack aircraft developed for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps in the early 1950s. The delta winged, single turbojet engined Skyhawk was designed and produced by Douglas Aircraft Company, and later by McDonnell Douglas. It was originally designated A4D under the U.S. Navy's pre-1962 designation system.
The Skyhawk is a relatively lightweight aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 24,500 pounds (11,100 kg) and has a top speed of more than 670 miles per hour (1,080 km/h). The aircraft's five hardpoints support a variety of missiles, bombs and other munitions. It was capable of carrying a bomb load equivalent to that of a World War II-era Boeing B-17 bomber, and could deliver nuclear weapons using a low-altitude bombing system and a "loft" delivery technique. The A-4 was originally powered by the Wright J65 turbojet engine; from the A-4E onwards, the Pratt & Whitney J52 was used.
Skyhawks played key roles in the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Falklands War. Sixty years after the aircraft's first flight in 1954, some of the 2,960 produced (through February 1979) remain in service with several air arms around the world.
This kit by Hobby Boss is not the first kit of this aircraft we have had in 1/48 scale. Prior to this, Fujimi did one in 1976, which I think is probably closer to 1/50, then a year later Monogram did an A-4E which was and still is a nice kit. In 1979 ESCI released an A-4 which was a curious mixture of raised and engraved detail. A nice kit though a very Spartan cockpit. In 2000 Hasegawa started a series of single seat Skyhawks that was the standard for years. Hobbycraft released a series of Skyhawks in 2002 and while they made nice models, they had some issues, particularly in a too wide canopy. Now we have this one from Hobby Boss.
I'm betting it is based on the Trumpeter 1/32 kit which in itself is not bad. The kit comes with a huge array of weapons including two MERs with their load of 6 mk82 bombs each, some Rockeyes, a pair of Sidewinders (rarely carried), LGBs, some really big bombs with large fins and two types of fuel tanks, though one set looks to be far too long. Not surprisingly, some of these items are not designated for use with this boxing.
Up front, you have a nice cockpit with a fair representation of the Douglas seat. There is raised detail on the consoles and the instrument panel with a decal for the instrument panel . This fits atop the nose gear well and the instructions recommend 10 grams of weight. Why the Chinese insist on opening up ALL the pylon mounting holes is beyond me, but they've done that with this one. Wing is the usual one piece lower that includes the ailerons and flaps with separate upper halves. There is an engine intake piece that fits behind the cockpit.
The fuselage has a rear insert for a single flare/chaff dispenser and one can build this with or without the avionics hump. Each engine inlet is three pieces and there are inserts for the gun barrels. Speed brakes can be posed open or closed as can the canopy. Landing gear is well done and if you have built ANY 1/48 A-4 you will recognize the way it builds. Each of the pylons has the appropriate number of small anti-sway braces to hold your ordnance. The refueling probe is the straight version and this brings a bit of an issue. It means that to build your A-4E, you have to use markings from before these all got retrofit with the cranked probe. Fortunately, there are resin replacements though they are not designed for this kit and they will run you $10 or more by the time you get them to your door.
Photos of the box art plane and indeed, the box art itself show the cranked probe. So you cannot build that one out of the box. The other option is a camouflaged plane from VA-155 in 1966 so the straight probe is appropriate for that option. However, the guide shows it with the avionics hump and that was part of the A-4F upgrade. While they were retrofit to the E, the scheme for the second plane should not have it. Decals are nicely printed, but again, unless you are doing the camouflaged option, you'll need aftermarket.
I am sure that this one will sell well, especially as the Hasegawa kit doesn't seem to be reissued too often and when it does it sells out quickly. The Hasegawa kit is a bit more fiddly and I personally am not fond of the clear wing tips, but it has the proper refueling probes and does offer separate flaps and slats, which this one does not. A big plus with this kit is the superb weapons suite it offers. I find the lack of the cranked probe to be a brain fart omission so it will be interesting to see if this is included in an A-4F boxing.
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