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F4D-1 Skyray

Tamiya 1/48 F4D-1 Skyray Build Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2005 (Updated Jan 2015) Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject F4D Skyray Scale 1/48
Kit Number 61055 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy build Cons Canopy cannot be positioned open
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $43.00

Build Review

Douglas designed a carrier-based, all-weather interceptor based on the delta-wing approach used by Convair for the Air Force's family of interceptors. The aircraft first flew in late January 1951. The aircraft entered service in 1954, powered by the same J57 afterburning turbojet that would propel the F-100 Super Sabre and F8U Crusader through the sound barrier. The aircraft was purpose-built around an intercept radar in the nose, four 20mm cannons and two Sidewinder missiles. It was so effective that one Navy squadron was assigned to NORAD for all-weather intercept missions in the US. While the aircraft never saw combat, it served US Navy and Marine Corps squadrons until retired in 1964. In 1962, the F4D was redesignated as F-6A as part of the Department of Defense's aircraft designator standardization.

Here is Tamiya's 1/48 F4D-1 Skyray kit and yes, it's beautiful! Everything you will ever need (except maybe crew restraints) are in the box. The markings offered are for the very colorful VF(AW)-3 with the dark blue tail and dorsal spine, VMF(AW)-114 and VMF(AW)-115. The dimensions appear to be spot-on. The molding is very crisp and the panel lines, etc., are finely scribed. The arrestor hook well that is molded to the underside of the wing is incredibly detailed. You'll have to see it to appreciate where Tamiya is taking the state of the art for this hobby. For a look at the kit in the box, go here.

F4D-1 Skyray

The instructions appear very well laid out, though there are some minor oversights in the painting instructions that we'll correct a little later. The elevators are made to be positionable, the wings can be built in the folded position (with nice detail showing, I might add), and some nice engineering has been done to ensure a nice alignment of the inner and outer wing panels if you do choose to build your aircraft ready to fly. Before you get too far, it might be worth looking over some references to see what you are going to be building. My primary reference (and I highly recommend it) is: Naval Fighters #13, Douglas F4D Skyray, by Nick Williams & Steve Ginter.

F4D-1 Skyray

As you start cutting out the major parts, be VERY careful with the upper halves of the outer wing panels. If you aren't watching closely, you could accidentally cut off the tab for mounting the outer wing panels in the folded position! You'll also notice that the plastic is thinner that on many other models and there are more mold ejection pin marks present. This must be the compromise for such a beautiful kit.

The cockpit went together without any surprises. They give you a decal for the instrument panel, but the kit panel has excellent depth and scribing that would be lost under that decal. The four-piece ejection seat is also very nice. Tamiya provides a nice pilot figure, but I added seatbelts instead.

F4D-1 Skyray

As you start cutting out the major parts, be VERY careful with the upper halves of the outer wing panels. If you aren't watching closely, you could accidentally cut off the tab for mounting the outer wing panels in the folded position! You'll also notice that the plastic is thinner that on many other models and there are more mold ejection pin marks present. This must be the compromise for such a beautiful kit.

In steps four & five, where the upper and lower fuselage halves are prepared and joined, don't overlook the step to open the holes on the underside of the aircraft for pylons.

F4D-1 Skyray

Step four shows that the wing fold mechanism insert should be mounted on the lower half of the wing. Don't do it! There is a positive location pin designed to mate with the upper wing. If you glue the insert on the lower half first, you may run into problems when mating the wing halves together.

Watch out for the mold ejection pin mark on the exhaust vent part B5. You may not notice it when you glue it into the underside of the upper wing, but it is much too visible when viewed from above!

F4D-1 Skyray F4D-1 Skyray

Take extra time and care to glue the upper and lower wings together. The engine face/wheel well bulkhead provides the structural strength for this assembly. Ensure that the fit is snug to the lower wing half and it is free of defects before joining the wings. I applied Tenax 7R to the inside of the tailpipe (careful not to foul the elevator hinge) and Testor's liquid cement to the rear cockpit bulkhead. Using a "Touch-N-Flow" glue applicator, I gradually worked my way around each wing until I had a secure fit. There is absolutely no way to glue the wing halves together at one time without causing a gap or problem. Take your time!

At this point, I dry-fitted the parts together and discovered that this kit is a dedicated tail-sitter! Tamiya's approach is to have you build the aircraft with the tail bumper extended and sit the kit on all four struts. A quick hop into Ginter's book shows that the Ford (F4D pronounced) keeps the bumper retracted at rest. I found that installing 14 grams of weight in that huge bay behind the cockpit and between the intakes solved the problem.

F4D-1 Skyray F4D-1 Skyray

The rest of the kit goes together very easily. The unfortunate thing is that Tamiya did not make the canopy to be left open. Another minor detail missing that is noticeable are the canopy handles that are attached vertically inside the canopy. That is easily fixed with wire. If you open the canopy, you'll also need a pair of mirrors and a stand-by compass on the canopy frame.

Some notes on painting. The instructions would have you use some Air Force grey for the upper color. The correct color is Gull Grey FS16440. The instructions also neglect to tell you that the upper surfaces of the ailerons are white (the underside color). The box art shows the aircraft with the white upper ailerons, but a semi-modern paint scheme on the AIM-9 Sidewinders. The 'winders of that era were all white. The practice of painting the seeker section a dark grey was adopted (I believe) in the late 1980s.

F4D-1 Skyray

These decals are robust, and the only warning I have is wherever you see a clear cut in the decal, be sure and cut away any clear decal film or you will have lots of fun contouring the decals over the aircraft. The markings for the intakes look intimidating, but actually went on with a little bit of coaxing. I used Solvaset extensively and repeatedly to get out bubbles and get the decals to conform to the details. To Tamiya's credit, the dark blue used in the markings is a perfect match with Insignia Blue FS15044 (in case you have some touch-ups like I did).

As you can see, the model came out nicely. It is hard for me to imagine what the aftermarket detailers could come up with for the aircraft. The only possibilities I see are: the late model ejection seat, an open engine bay and/or a 'canned' modification to open the canopy. I highly recommend this kit to everyone. Despite the minor problems encountered, this was a joy to build.

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