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A-1J kit, model, first look, review, Cybermodeler, Cybermodeller, Online

Tamiya 1/48 A-1J Skyraider Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review April 2006 (Updated Dec 2009) Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject A-1J Skyraider Scale 1/48
Kit Number 61073 Primary Media Styrene
Pros The best Skyraider kit in any scale Cons Wings do not fold
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $43.00

First Look

A-1J
A-1J
A-1J
A-1J
A-1J
A-1J
A-1J
A-1J

In mid-1944, Douglas started work on an attack aircraft that was initially dubbed "Dauntless II". The AD was designed as a next-generation dive-bomber and torpedo aircraft with greater range and payload capabilities over currently fielded aircraft. The AD entered production side-by-side with the AM Mauler. The war ended before either could enter operational status, and production of the Mauler ceased after 171 examples were built.

The Skyraider, on the other hand, remained in production until 1957 with over 3200 aircraft produced. Each version of the aircraft incorporated improved engine, avionics, and payload capabilities. The AD-5 was the most unique of the versions in that it had a different fuselage that turned the single-seat attack aircraft into a multi-place, multi-mission platform.

The Skyraider had its baptism of fire over Korea, but it really came into its own during the early days of Vietnam. The AD-6 and AD-7 (redesignated in the early 1960s as A-1H and A-1J, respectively) were able to bring close air support (CAS) to a new level of precision and persistence thanks to the aircraft's range and array of weapons carriage capabilities.

As the US Air Force gained experience in combat operations over Vietnam, they quickly realized that they lacked a suitable CAS platform. The aircraft types currently in service were designed for the next push-button, guided missile, hi-tech nuclear conflict, not the down and dirty mud-moving battles in Southeast Asia. Where the Air Force was able to draw upon surplus P-51 Mustangs and adapt the straight-winged F-80 and F-84 into the CAS missions over Korea, these aircraft were long gone a decade later and it was going to take some time to get a new aircraft into service. The USAF made the painful decision to adopt the US Navy's aircraft - the Skyraider entered USAF service.

Not only did the Skyraider distinguish itself in the CAS mission, it helped to save numerous lives of downed aircrew as it would escort search and rescue helicopters into hostile territory, suppress enemy fire, and get the aircraft and crews safely back out of Dodge. The Skyraider remained in USAF service until its replacement came online - another USN adoptee - the A-7D Corsair II.

As a friend of mine in the hobby business would say, now and then a company will release a kit that will be the last one done for a given subject and scale. The kit is just so good, that it is pointless to try and improve upon it. Such is the case with Tamiya's 1/48 A-1 Skyraiders. These kits are just so nice that nobody can top them, especially at the price.

Molded in light gray styrene, the kit is presented on eight parts trees, plus a small tree of clear parts containing the two-piece windscreen and canopy. Detailing is all finely scribed throughout.

The project starts with the cockpit (naturally) and the kit comes with a nice cockpit out of the box. A Yankee ejection seat is provided instead of the standard crew seat. Navy Skyraiders were not ejection seat equipped, and USAF pilots wanted a safer way to bail out of the aircraft in the event of a low-altitude emergency.

The Skyraider had an unusual shutter system installed inside the cowling. The shutters would close blocking airflow over the engine so that as the engine is throttled back in a dive-bomb attack, the accelerating cold air through the idling engine wouldn't crack a cylinder head (or worse). The engine would stay warm and ready for power at the bottom of the dive when the shutters would reopen again with power. The kit provides options for cowl shutters open or closed and cowl flaps open or closed.

The landing gear was designed to be posed down, but if you want to build the aircraft gear-up, the doors can be adapted. The landing flaps can be positioned up or down. The side and ventral speed brakes can also be posed open or closed. The wings do not fold up in either Tamiya Skyraider release.

One feature that is present in this kit that we'll see in many subjects to come are poly caps. In this case, the poly caps are installed inside the centerline and inboard external fuel tanks allowing the tanks to be friction-fitted onto their respective pylons. The remaining twelve underwing pylons have their loads installed with the more traditional glue approach.

Among the external stores options:

  • 3 x external fuel tanks
  • 10 x Mk.82 slicks (6 with fuse extenders)
  • 2 x Mk.117 bombs
  • 2 x LAU-68 rocket pods
  • 4 x LAU-3 rocket pods
  • 6 x SUU-14 rocket tubes
  • 1 x SUU-11 7.62mm gun pod

Decals

Markings are included for two examples:

  • A-1J, 54-142014, 602 FS/56 SOW, TT, Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, 1969
  • A-1J, 54-142029, 602 FS/56 SOW, TT, Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, 1969, 'Sock It To 'em'

The Skyraider was reputed to be able to drop anything, and the famous photo of a Navy Skyraider on the catapult with a toilet suspended on a weapons pylon only proved the point. While not the glamorous aircraft that fighter pilots usually sought (and only their fathers or grandfathers had dealt with a tailwheel before), the rock-solid Skyraider was the star of CAS until a more modern version of the aircraft was developed a decade later - the A-10 Thunderbolt II.

This kit is a must-have for your collection. Tamiya did a great job with this kit and rendered the previous holder of the "best Skyraider in any scale" obsolete - the older but still-nice Monogram 1/48 A-1. If you are interested in building an A-1E, check out the 1/48 conversion from C&H Aero that provides the new fuselage and the beautiful Cobra Company A-1E resin cockpit for either this or the Tamiya 1/48 A-1H kit.

For a look at this kit built-up, look here.

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