Trumpeter 1/32 A-4E Skyhawk Kit First Look
|Date of Review||April 2011||Manufacturer||Trumpeter|
|Kit Number||2266||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Nicely detailed option to the venerable Hasegawa kit||Cons||Minor points (see text)|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||$118.95|
The A-4 Skyhawk was first designed in the mid-1950s as a lightweight, agile attack aircraft. In its numerous versions, the Skyhawk served the US Navy and Marine Corps in peace and in combat into the 1970s. While the Navy transitioned into the A-7 Corsair II, the Marines opted for a new version of the Skyhawk as a stop-gap until the next generation of attack aircraft was available that could meet the unique mission needs of the Marines.
The A-4E was the first in the series to be designed with five external pylons versus the earlier three, thanks in part to a switch in engines from the Wright J65 to the Pratt & Whitney J52 rated at 8400 lbs of thrust. The A-4F was an updated A-4E with 900 lbs more thrust and the introduction of an avionics hump (which was retrofitted to the A-4E and other models).
The A-4E/F would serve as one of the primary strike aircraft for the US Navy and Marine Corps during Vietnam, and even after the Navy transitioned out of the Skyhawk in favor of the LTV A-7 Corsair II, Skyhawks remained in service in a variety of support roles, not the least of which was serving as a surrogate to the MiG-17 in Top Gun and then as a general dissimilar adversary aircraft for many years. The A-4F remained with the Blue Angel team as a low-cost performer for 12 years before the team transition into their current F/A-18 Hornets.
For the longest time, those that wanted to build an A-4 Skyhawk in 1/32 scale had only one real choice: Hasegawa. Their 1/32 A-4E/F kit was one of their earliest 1/32 scale kits and even today is not a bad model. You can take a look at the Hasegawa kit here. Like most kits produced several decades ago, the model was simple and the surface detailing raised. After a long time at the top, Hasegawa's reign as the best 1/32 scale Skyhawk is now over.
Trumpeter has released their first installment in their new 1/32 A-4 series with this A-4E Skyhawk kit. The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on 16 parts trees plus three trees of clear parts, one fret of photo-etched parts, two white metal landing gear struts, and two main gear tires in rubber. According to the specs, there are over 470 parts in this kit. If you look closer at the way the kit was tooled, you can see hints of additional Skyhawk variants to come.
The cockpit in this kit is more detailed than the Hasegawa kit, though I'm a bit surprised with decals for the side consoles and instrument panel. There are details molded into the consoles and instrument panel, but I suppose Trumpeter is offering an easy solution for entry-level modelers while assuming that the AMS modeler will opt for an aftermarket resin cockpit or color-printed Eduard photo-etch supplements to the kit parts.
The main landing gear struts are next and Trumpeter provides you with the option of styrene or white metal main gear struts. The wheel hubs are styrene and allow for easy painting before mounting the tires. What is a mystery is the nose gear strut - it is produced in styrene with no white metal option which is odd given that long nose gear strut will be more delicate. The nose wheel is molded as part of the nose gear strut to provide more strength.
The J52 engine is nicely done complete with full-depth intakes and the exhaust duct into the tail cone. Trumpeter did provide some nice detailing on the engine and provided positionable engine access panels as well as a separate tail section option to show that detailing off.
The fuselage goes together providing options for positionable avionics access doors in the nose with bay details inside. The kit provides options for the early bareback or the hunchback (dorsal avionics hump) installations, positionable canopy, positonable flight control surfaces, and nicely detailed wheel wells.
Among the various features and options in this kit:
- Nicely detailed Escapac ejection seat
- Detailed cockpit (never mind the panel decals)
- Positionable canopy
- Detailed gun sight
- Choice of metal or styrene main landing gear struts
- Detailed J52 engine
- Full-depth intake ducts and tail pipe
- Positionable engine access bay door
- Separately molded tail section (display removed w/your own dolly)
- Avionics bays with positionable bay doors in nose
- Full length engine intake ducts with engines at the ends
- Nicely detailed wheel wells
- Positionable leading edge slats
- Positionable trailing edge flaps
- Positionable ailerons
- Positionable elevators/stabilizers
- Postionable rudders
- Positionable speed brakes
- Photo-etched details inside the speed brakes
- Rubber tires
- Choice of avionics hump or hump-free dorsal
- Chaff/flare launchers
- Choice of underwing pylon types
- 2 x AGM-65 (three included in kit)
- 6 x Mk.117 750lb bombs
- 6 x Mk.82 slicks
- 6 x Mk.82 Snakeyes
- 2 x AGM-45 Shrike
- 2 x AGM-12 Bullpup
- 2 x TERs
- 2 x MERs
- 2 x external fuel tanks
You'll also see some other weapons on the parts trees that won't be used in this version including HOBOS and Walleye.
Markings are provided for three examples:
- A-4E, BuNo 149993, VA-72, AC/303, USS Independence, 1964
- A-4E, BuNo 150131, VA-212, NP/208, USS Hancock, 1964
- A-4E, BuNo 151118, VA-43, AD/320, Adversary
The decals are provided on three sheets and includes airframe stenciling, and weapons markings. The blue fields in the US national markings appears to be too light, but there are plenty of aftermarket decals for this and I have no doubt we'll be seeing some new aftermarket decals for this Scooter and its cousins when they too hit store shelves.
Trumpeter did a nice job of providing enough detailing in this kit to make it interesting without over-engineering the model. There isn't any detail here that can't be seen and the parts layout seems to indicate a straightforward build.
If you've been wanting a new-tool Scooter for your scale flightline, your wait is over. We'll have to see how much of the aftermarket sets that were made for the Hasegawa kit are adaptable to this model as well.
My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!