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A-4M Skyhawk

Fujimi 1/72 A-4M Skyhawk Kit Build Review

By Richard "RJ" Tucker

Date of Review September 2021 Manufacturer Fujimi
Subject A-4M Skyhawk Scale 1/72
Kit Number 25022 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Accurate shape; engraved panel lines Cons Requires filler; Engine exhaust nozzle is too small
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) OOP (Hobby 2000 has re-boxed the Fujimi A-4M kit)

Build Review

The A-4M Skyhawk was the last A-4 version procured for US forces and was used exclusively with the Marine Corps while in front line service. The A-4M's existence was inevitably tied to the development and procurement of the A-7 Corsair. The Navy specified that a follow-on airplane to the Skyhawk be based on a design already in production and optimized for the attack mission utilizing the P&W TF-30 turbofan engine. Douglas Aircraft submitted an upgraded design based on the Skyhawk. In 1964 Voight Corp was award the contract for the A-7 using a designed based loosely on the F-8 Crusader.

However, Vietnam War attrition ensured the A-4 would stay in production alongside the new A-7 Corsair. As the war in Southeast Asia wound down, the Marines were procuring the British AV-8A Harrier "Jump-jet" and revising their doctrine and force structure to incorporate the new V/STOL technology.  The AV-8A was innovative but limited in its capabilities. The Marines address these limitations with an improved Harrier, the AV-8B, jointly developed by Hawker Siddeley and McDonnel Aircraft which had acquired/ merged with Douglas Aircraft to become McDonnel- Douglas. With this improved V/STOL airplane, the Marines intended to replace all the Skyhawks and AV-8A Harriers in Marine light-attack squadrons with the AV-8B Harrier II. Given the cost of the A-7, procuring the A-7 to be replaced after a few years with the AV-8B was just unaffordable.  The Marine wanted to keep the Skyhawk until the Harrier II was available. This suited the Navy because they could accelerate the transition of the A-7 into the fleet.

The A-4M was specifically developed to meet the requirements for close air support and austere land base operations. The A-4M had a larger cockpit, raised canopy, taller, square-off tailfin, and wider wind screen. It had an internal navigation system, self-contain engine starter and was powered by the P&W J52-P-408 engine delivering 11,200 pounds (50 kN) of thrust. The A-4M was upgraded with the Angle Rate Bombing System (ARBS) and improved electronic counter-measures suit that included the distinctive "hotdog" antenna on top of the vertical tail fin. VMA-211 was last active duty Skyhawk squadron to convert to the AV-8B Harrier completing the transition in February 1990. (refs 1 & 2)

This model is the Fujimi 1/72 scale A-4M Skyhawk kit (kit No: F-22, 25022) with MILSPEC decal sheet 72-030, VMA-311 TOMCATS. The kit tail cone is undersized; a QuickBoost replacement Exhaust Nozzle-late (QB 72-150) addressed that. A few construction highlights:

The main wing slat area has a small step down molded in the top wing parts that shouldn't be there. I cut out the wing portion under the slat then glued it flush with the wing top. A plastic shim filled in the gap between the lower and upper wing parts. Flaps are displayed down, so they were cut out, too.

A-4M Skyhawk

This model depicts the A-4M before the "hotdog" antenna, so the tail fin has to be squared off. The Fujimi A-4KU kit has the correct fin configuration; it's, probably, a better kit choice for this aircraft. I used a Ron's Resin fin part for an A-4N conversion. from my spares‘ box. The tail cut-up to square the top:

A-4M Skyhawk

The Ron's Resin replacement part:

A-4M Skyhawk

I decided use the entire plastic rudder, so I cut up the resin fin cap part. I used super-glue and accelerator to even up the back edge of the tail fin and fill the seams.

A-4M Skyhawk

Fujimi missed the engine starter exhaust on the right side of the fuselage. Before I glued the halves together, I drilled a hole in the right side of the fuselage and blanked the back with a piece sheet plastic. Photos from ref 1 shows the proper location.

A-4M Skyhawk

The Mk 82 snake-eye bomb are from the Academy F-8E Crusader kit. I used the 20mm gun barrel parts from an old Matchbox kit; the Fujimi gun barrels are too thick to my eye.

A-4M Skyhawk

I found a picture of this plane on the Detail & Scale website dated Jan 25, 1978, so that was my primary reference for this build. (Ref 3) Of note, the decal sheet depicts this aircraft in 1977. Somewhere along the way, the plane picked up a gray rudder vice a white one, so gray it is. The red and gold trim stayed the same. The MILSPEC decals were a joy to work with! They went on with no fuss and settled right down. A little decal solvent was required on the national insignia over port wing vortex generator vanes.

A-4M SkyhawkA-4M SkyhawkA-4M Skyhawk

There it is!

Refs:

  1. 1. McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk, Naval Fighter Number 55, Steve Ginter, 1754 Warfield Cir., Simi Valley, California, 93063, 2002
  2. 2. SCOOTER! The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk Story, by Tommy H Thomason, TAB BOOKS Inc., Cre'cy Publishing Limited, Manchester, UK 2011
  3. 3. Detail & Scale on line A-4 photo gallery