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RA-5C Kit

Trumpeter 1/48 RA-5C Vigilante

By Fotios Rouch

Date of Review March-April 2005 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject RA-5C Vigilante Scale 1/48
Kit Number 2809 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice detail, optional nuke stores, positionable flight control sufaces (no photo-etch hinges!); outer wings and tail can be positioned folded Cons Mixed versions represented (see text); serious mold lines in fuselage
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $74.95


The Vigilante ranks as one of my top favorite navy aircraft. I am not sure if it is its sleek lines or that it was one of the very first models I ever built. It was an off scale and very basic kit but when I was a kid none of that stuff mattered!

I remember always wanting a good 1/48th scale representation of it. When the Collect-Aire kit came out I remember the comments going back and forth between the modelers over at RMS and thinking to myself that I had to have a copy one day. Well, time went by and a got three copies of the kit thinking that it would never be made in plastic being such a rare aircraft and such a complex kit to produce.

Well, one more time I was proven wrong and Trumpeter came out with a kit in 48th scale no less and a 72nd scale kit that should be around the corner. Trumpeter has not stopped to amaze me with their ability to saturate the market with interesting kits.

Starting the kit.

I decided to make this one a relatively quick build with minimum added detailing.


First all the parts came out of the plastic bags and were washed is warm water and 409 degreaser. When the parts dried I started test fitting and inspecting the parts for imperfection that would require extra attention. I noticed that the two fuselage parts and the reconnaissance pod had a peculiar blemish that run along the entire parts. I am no injection molding expert and I am not sure about the technical reason behind this oddity. It appears as the metal mold came in three units and that the joints never touched perfectly. I decided not to fill the parts with Acryl Blue at this point and to wait until the basic assembly was completed.



I then went on building the cockpit. It looks pretty good and a convincing effort has been made to represent the look of the real thing. The only thing I added was seatbelts out of thin lead foil and Reheat photo-etch buckles. I used Testors FS36231 Dark Gull Gray for the interior and flat black for the instruments. I touched with a fine brush all the switches with light gray to bring them out. I used Tamiya clear red for the warning lights for the pilot's instrument panel.

The instrument panels come in clear plastic and the modeler can use that to their advantage. You can chose to paint the clear plastic with clear red and produce a nice effect. I chose not to glue at this early stage the ejection seats and neither did I glue the ejection seat activation rings since they are so prone to falling off. Before I committed the cockpit subassemblies to glue I did a quick test fitting to see if the fuselage would have any problems closing around this complex cockpit. I was not left with enough confidence that things would be tidy so I left a few of the bigger parts floating and secured only with white glue.


Putting together the fuselage will take time and it would be a great idea not hurry things up at this point. I glued and clamped the main wheel wells and let them set overnight. I glued the two fuselage parts together but did in portion starting from the front and working towards the rear. I also glued in reinforcing plastic strips just to be on the safe side. This was another 24 hour operation. Even though I paid close attention I still cam up with some small alignment problems and gaps that had to be addressed with putty.

I then went on to the wings which assembled pretty easy. The port wing on my example had a little warp to it which was taken out with hot water. I also assembled at this point the flaps and slats. It is interesting to not that many parts have very nice and thin sprue gates but many other parts have thicker gates that go inside the part and require careful cleanup.


The wings were attached to the fuselage and left to dry overnight.

I sprayed the whole assembly with Mr. Surfacer 500 to reveal areas that I had not fixed up well enough on the first go-around and reworked the seams. I did not bother with fixing the fuselage seam because the tail is going to cover it.

Mr. Surfacer 1000 was sprayed in the end. All the panel lines and rivets were repaired and the whole assembly was sanded down with polishing cloth.

In between these operations I spent a little time to correct the tail profile. I marked it with a pencil based on my photos of the real aircraft and filed it to shape.


The wheels were painted with insignia white on the hub but I also used a little template to spray Alclad II steel color on the center hub as per the photos.

At this point I have sprayed the insignia white on the undersurfaces and I will let it dry for at least 48 hours before I handle anything again. The wheel wells were sprayed with RLM21 because it has a slight yellow tint to it and I like it for to bring out some contrast with the rest of the insignia white under fuselage.


The insignia white enamel hardened up and cured very well during my week long trip. White is a tricky color and should be treated with patience.

Before airbrushing the Light Gull Gray I cleaned up the model again and let it air dry. The demarcation line between gray and white was done free hand in the rear fuselage portion and with tape in forward fuselage. The Vigilante I am doing had a sharp demarcation line on the forward fuselage because of its special markings.

The areas I had repaired which suffered from poor molding separation and had been fixed with Acryl Blue came out fine under a coat of gloss gray. A few areas that had required rescribing came out very well too.



I decided to show the aircraft with the nose cone up and the radar exposed. I modified the way the radar dish will attach to the bulkhead. Trumpeter shows the dish attached straight on to the bulkhead. My pictures show the dish attached in a swiveling cradle kind of configuration. I scratch built the cradle and then drilled small holes on the cradle arms. It is not super accurate but it looks close enough. I also painted the nose cone brown inside to simulate fiberglass and zinc chromate in the areas were the metal attaches to the nose cone.


Lastly I pulled out from my resin stock a set of Aires J79-GE-10 engines and painted them up. They will replace the kit engines which are ok for the RA-5C in its early life.

Speaking of early. I am showing a picture here with the RA-5C tail as it appeared on almost all of the RA-5Cs except a few of the very early ones. For some reason Trumpeter chose to do the tail as it appeared on the A-5 and very early RA-5C. To modify the profile of the fin tip is very easy. To lessen the chord on the lower part of the tail, well, I leave that to others.


Again I will allow the gloss gray to cure well and then I will proceed with final assembly, detailing, decals and weathering. I can almost see the finish line!


Time to turn to the landing gear, the slats and the flaps. Two things became clear to me again. The first thing is that I cannot leave my out-of-the-box builds well enough alone. So I decided to add detail to the landing gear.

The other thing that became clear is that I just could not leave the flaps and slats hanging down as per the kit's design. So I decided to trim them in the up position as they are always seen when the Vigilante is on the ground. I do not have a single picture with the Vigilante showing its flaps and slats down when parked. I have seen the wing top and bottom spoilers extended but never the flaps.

Both these two decisions cost in time and effort.


The slats are clearly meant to be glued in the lowered position and Trumpeter provides tabs for their location. It was easy cutting the tabs off but I soon realized that the slats are too thick to make a clean butt joint with the wing. This really slowed down the project and I had to use the slats from the test shot of the first Vigilante I had received. I thinned the slats down before I glued them together and thus achieved a much better fit.

I painted them with Alclad semi-matt aluminum shade and also masked them off and used off-white for the specific areas as per the photos I have of the Vigilante I will be modeling.


The flaps where much easier to deal with. I cut off the locating tabs and fit them to the wings starting from the inner most flap and working out wards. They fit pretty good and left very small gaps between them.

Next was the landing gear.

I wanted to do all the underside work first and not have to flip the model much after I would have the wings and tail folded.

The landing gear is very much to my liking. Especially the main landing gear is of very good detail. I decided to add some plumbing and some extra actuator rods that were missing.


The rods were from Evergreen styrene stock. The wire was from jeweler's stock and it comes anodized black which helps a lot with painting.

The wire was bent approximating the pictures and also painted with white at the points it touches the landing gear followed by a bit of silver right next to it.

I also like the effect of Bare Metal Foil and I usually use it to represent the oleo struts due to its high sheen.

The front landing gear is nicely done too and it might have helped with the stance of the model if it was a little bit more extended as per the photos. I left the landing light off for later


All landing gear wells were lightly weathered here and there. The Vigilante I am going to model was in very good shape at the time the pictures were taken.

I am also including some photos of the before and after the modification on the tail fin tip.

It is very easy to sand down and reshape with a modeling file. After I looked at the pictures I took I realized that I had not filed off the mold seam on the main landing gear! Silly of me but I am not going to tear down all the work to fix the seam!


I am not going to make any predictions here on how long the next step will take but it will involve detailing the wing and tail folds, the inside of the recce canoe and of course the inside of the canopies that are totally devoid of detail.The strategy with completing the kit was to finish all work possible on the underside first. Once the open canopies, the folded wings and tail would be on the model it would be impossible to work the bottom side of the kit.


With that in mind, I first completed placing on the transparencies. I made up some basic structures to go in the recon pod. Nothing fancy but something to occupy the space behind the glass. I placed the beacons and painted them with Tamiya clear red. I also placed the Albatros decals at this point. No need for Future since the white gloss was very smooth and shiny. I used good amounts of Micro-Sol to help the decals snuggle down into the panel lines. I had temporarily taped the wing in the lowered position and when the decal softened up it sunk in the wingfold. Once dry I used a fresh x-acto blade and just cut the decal along the wingfold line. Then I removed the tape and removed the wing tips. This way I easily split the national insignia without any guess work.I used the CHAFF dispenser decals provided in the Albatros set to represent the missing detail in the Trumpeter kit.


After the decals were dry I sprayed a coat of Testors semi-gloss varnish. I used pastels for the weathering. I went light on the weathering since most Vigilantes were well kept. Note the light shade difference on the flaps. I did that back when I was painting the parts by applying a slightly lighter coat of white. The underlying gray plastic gives a hint of contrast and brings out the flaps.I elected to pose the arresting hook in the lowered position in an effort to add business to the look of the model. The arrestor hook was not seen often in the lowered position but I found plenty of photographic evidence in the new Ginter book (page 151 for example).After all that the model was turned over and work on the top surfaces began.


The rest of the decals went on as well as the various stencils. Many times stencils were omitted from many Vigilantes. In some pictures you can see them. In the case of my Vigilante the depot did a great job in remembering to apply the all important stencils that do so much to dress up a model! Remember to temporarily put the canopies down and cut the rescue decals so a portion goes up with the canopies and portion stays on the fuselage. Most Vigilantes had this kind of curious placement.Light shading was applied again to bring out some panels.


The Aires resin engines were test fitted. I realized that either the openings in the rear of the Vigilante were a little too wide or that the Aires engines were a little small in diameter. I tend to think that Trumpeter was a little too generous with space provided in the rear. The jet assemblies were secured with cyanoacrylate glue making sure that the exhaust tail feathers came out just enough to be covered by the top fuselage exhaust shroud but no further.Then the wing tips were folded at right angles to the main wings. The tail was folded matching the various photos and secured with cyanoacrylate glue.


The canopies were glued open. I should have scratch built something to represent the elaborate cockpit mechanism but I chose not to. If I had a Black Box cockpit in the plane then I would have had to had done something about the canopies. Things were left simple enough and out of the box. The only thing I needed to replace were the ejection seat loops. The Trumpeter provide ones were simply huge. I replaced mine with a set that came from the old Reheat photoetch generic compilation.The radar nose was posed up in the interest of making the model look busy and in an effort to distract the eye from noticing the peculiar shape discrepancy of the forward fuselage.


I remembered to add the static vent that is on the starboard side of the fuselage right over the red warning circle. It is an easy thing to add and it adds to the look of the model.The model was completed in roughly 30 hours. The majority of the time was spent fixing up the plastic, be it mold separation lines or trying to fix those silly slats that were just too thick for the wings to accept in the up position.The model was photographed in natural daylight that was augmented by the use of two big mirrors. Eventually I will unpack my big spotlights but in the meantime I though a little experimentation was worthwhile.


I posed the model for the shake of comparison next to my old full resin Collect-Aire kit. The differences in shapes especially around the intakes and the forward fuselage are evident. Neither plane succeeds in capturing the elegant forward fuselage of the Vigilante. The Trumpeter kit is naturally closer to a fair representation. To the eyes of the discerning modeler and Vigilante aficionados there is room for improvement.

An aftermarket set that would include a new fuselage plug starting from the rear cockpit all the way forward would address the cross sectional deviations on the nose as well as the cross section of the canopies and would properly represent the slender nose of the Vigilante. A reshaped tail and nice sharp intakes would be nice too. I wonder who would be up to the task. And while they are at it maybe the new fuselage could accommodate the Black box cockpit in it. Let's see now. $70 for the kit, maybe $70 for the correction and $24 for the cockpit and maybe $20 for decals... So, wait a minute. I still have to pay close to $200 for a great Vigilante?!!Have fun and happy modeling.

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!