Zoukei-Mura Inc. 1/32 A-1J Skyraider Kit First Look
|Date of Review||October 2012||Manufacturer||Zoukei-Mura Inc.|
|Kit Number||32007||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Beautiful molding, excellent detail||Cons||Minimal differences from the A-1H release for 15% higher price|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$167.00|
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-1J 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. While the A-7 brought the CAS community closer to the rest of the supersonic Air Force, experience once again showed that the best CAS platform was still the straight-winged gunfighter like the A-1 and based upon those experiences, the A-10 Thunderbolt II would become the next generation of true CAS platforms as it too approaches its 30th anniversary of service.
One year ago, Zoukei-Mura released their beautiful 1/32 A-1H Skyraider kit featuring US Navy markings. Their concept was to provide a highly detailed kit in styrene and offer resin and photo-etched upgrades separately to keep the retail price of the basic kit as low as possible. We reviewed the A-1H kit here.
Here we are a year later and the 1/32 A-1J Skyraider has been released, and as you would expect, this release is essentially the A-1H kit with one new parts tree, one new decal sheet, and a supplemental instruction booklet describing the differences in assembly between this release and the original A-1H kit. The original A-1H instruction book is also provided. The images to the right are from the A-1H review except for the new parts tree at the bottom. In this new release, all of the parts trees are molded in light gray styrene instead of the different colors rendered in the first release.
Both instruction books are printed to resemble the NATOPS flight manuals for the A-1H and A-1J though they are entitled ZATOPS Modeling Manual. The instruction books are well-illustrated with color photos and CAD drawings with text printed in Japanese and English. A correction sheet is also included to correct some parts identification errors from their original A-1H release.
Let's start with the features and options:
- Choice of A-1H or A-1J configurations
- Detailed cockpit (even without the color photo-etch)
- Choice of pilot's seats
- Navy bucket seat (with and without belt/shoulder harness)
- Air Force Yankee extraction seat (with and without belt/shoulder harness)
- Cockpit subassembly also includes hydraulic service bay, main fuel cell bay, and avionics bay
- Canopy is movable
- Speed brakes are movable
- Detailed R3350 engine
- Cowling panels can be left off to show off engine
- Choice of open or closed cowl flaps
- Choice of open or closed cowl shutters
- Hinged wings can be folded and unfolded after assembly
- Optional parts can be inserted for folded wings (actuators and support struts)
- Detailed wing gun bays with removable access doors
- Detailed landing gear wells
- Choice of weighted or lightly weighted gear struts
- Choice of A-1H or A-1J wheel hubs
- Choice of A-1H or A-1J wing tips (A-1J tips have retractable landing lights)
- Positionable flaps
- Positionable ailerons
- Positionable elevators
- Positionable rudder
- Centerline external fuel tank
- Two inboard drop tanks
- Canopy masks included
If you build this kit per the instructions, you're going to have lots of details hidden inside the airframe. I won't call this over-engineered as there are panels like the dorsal fuselage panel that can be left off the model or left unglued so that the model can be displayed with those bays revealed. This isn't like the Trumpeter 1/32 P-38 Lightning kit with beautiful engines and no way to see them as there were no provisions for removable/separate cowling panels.
The only real difference between the A-1H and A-1J was a slightly more powerful R3350 and stronger landing gear for a greater take-off and landing weight (useful load). If you want to arm this aircraft, you'll have to obtain the separately packaged armament set from Zoukei-Mura, rob some weapons out of a Trumpeter Skyhawk kit (or one of their weapons sets), or look to Fisher Models and their weapons sets.
For those who might want to build this kit in USAF service, you'll have a little more work to do. The main difference between USN and USAF Skyraiders was the pilot's seat. Navy Skyraiders didn't have ejection seats. The USAF wasn't thrilled about that when they adopted the type for CAS duties and aircraft was modified to accommodate the Stanley Yankee ejection seat.
The movable speed brakes include articulating hydraulic actuators. I'll have to see how the ventral speed brake behaves after assembly. If I recall correctly, the ventral speed brake was locked closed when the landing gear was extended and didn't fall open on the ground when hydraulic pressure bled down after engine shutdown. I may opt to glue this closed since I don't intend to display this model in-flight.
Markings are included for four aircraft:
- A-1H, 137496, VA-176 (USN), AK/405, USS Intrepid, 1966
- A-1H, 137543, VA-176 (USN), AK/409, USS Intrepid, MiG kill, 1966
- A-1J, 142063 (42-063), 602 SOS (USAF), 'The Hasler'
- A-1J, 142014 (42-014), 602 SOS (USAF), squadron commander's aircraft
This release has two decal sheets included, the original A-1H sheet and the new A-1J sheet with USAF markings. The USAF sheet also includes the tail code TC (1 SOS) along with a set of generic tail numbers to provide the option of rendering other examples out of the 1st SOS or 602nd SOS.
If you purchased the A-1H kit (like I did), you now have the additional notes and corrections to render that kit in USAF configuration and you can easily do this kit as a USN A-1J, or perhaps do both aircraft from the same service. This kit is still a beauty and though the price has gone up by about $26 USD over the original A-1H release last year. I am really hoping that Zoukei-Mura does follow through with the A-1E Skyraider they'd discussed a number of months ago. It's time to dig out my copy of 'My Secret War' by Richard Drury and get more inspiration to build these as special operations birds.