Kinetic 1/48 A-6E Intruder Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|Well engineered and lots of options
The A-6 Intruder was one of many aircraft off the Grumman production lines that was designed with the pointed end of the aircraft on the rear. The A-6, like the S-2, E-1, E-2, C-1, C-2, and others, were all purpose-built to meet the requirements of the mission. In the case of the A-6, the US Navy wanted an all-weather, carrier-based, precision attack platform. Initially developed in the early 1960s, the A-6A was a platform for the next generation of precision attack avionics - the Digital Integrated Attack/Navigation Equipment (DIANE) with required quite a bit of space for the black boxes and a sizable radome for the radar antennas.
The aircraft was powered by a pair of J52 turbojets, the same engine used by the A-4 Skyhawk. This made engine logistics at sea much easier.
The A-6A had early teething problems with its new avionics making its introduction into service troublesome, but not unique in the history of sophisticated aircraft. As the bugs were worked out, the A-6A would provide the best targeting information, even in bad weather, which would lead to A-6s leading multi-service air strikes over Vietnam.
The A-6B consisted of 19 A-models that were modified into Wild Weasels during Vietnam to parallel the Air Force's new mission and provide a Navy capability to suppress the new enemy SAM sites.
The A-6C consisted of 12 A-models that were modified with TRIM pod with FLIR and Black Crow sensors to interdict supply lines along the infamous 'Ho Chi Mihn Trail'.
The KA-6D was designed as a dedicated air refueling platform to top off aircraft heading off on air strikes as well as refuel returning aircraft so they can wait their turn in the marshal stack to return aboard the carrier.
The A-6E was a new-build airframe (though a number of A/B/C models were also upgraded to the E configuration) that incorporated new radars, updated avionics, and greater mission capabilities. In 1979, the A-6E fleet was again updated with the Target Recognition and Attack Multi-Sensor (TRAM) turret under the nose.
The A-6F was to be a modernized airframe replacing the old J52 engines with non-afterburning F404 turbofans (the same core engine in the F/A-18), and new radars and avionics. While five development aircraft were completed in the concept phase of the program, the Navy opted to cancel the program in favor of the upcoming A-12 Avenger II. When Grumman offered a lower-cost alternative, the A-6G, which would encompass the new avionics but retain the original engines, the Navy again declined. This left the Navy with a problem when the A-12 program defaulted a few years later.
When Kinetic announced the upcoming release of the EA-6B Prowler in 1/48 scale, there was quite a bit of excitement over a new-tool option to the two older kits on the market. It wasn't as big a surprise when this A-6E followed the Prowler to market. So how did Kinetic do with this kit? We'll take a closer look shortly, but first the basics:
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on ten parts trees plus one tree of clear parts. The detailing on the kit is very nicely done with a good combination of raised and scribed details, just like the full-scale aircraft. My first question was how this kit compared to the Revell-Monogram 1/48 A-6E Intruder that I happen to have in my stash. Having compared different tooling in the past, it is always interesting to see how the designers tackled the subject and this was no exception. Holding the fuselage halves together, the two kits aligned perfectly, right down to the panel lines. It is almost like they came from the same molds but the Kinetic kit has some nice differences as well.
It appears that Kinetic started with the Revell-Monogram kit and digitized the shape in three dimensions. This is a good thing for several reasons as there was nothing wrong with the basic shape of the Revell-Monogram kit. From there, Kinetic went down a long checklist of things we modelers wanted in from the Revell-Monogram kit and developed this new-tool kit from there.
If you look at the fuselage halves to the right and the same shot from the Revell-Monogram kit (like above), you can see the that they almost look alike - almost. The Kinetic kit has reworked the intakes and exhaust ducts so those areas on the fuselage are different. The horizontal stab is now positionable. The radome and air refueling probe go on separately making assembly and ballasting easier. The details in the speed brake wells look sharper on the Kinetic kit. Of course the panel lines are scribed on the Kinetic kit - another modern tooling update over the Revell-Monogram kit. Now that was just from looking at the fuselage halves. Let's take a closer look at the new features and options in this kit:
- Scribed panel lines
- Correctly shaped canopy and windscreen (thank you!!)
- Very nicely detailed cockpit
- Properly shaped intake ducts
- Properly shaped and routed exhaust ducts
- Choice of fuselage speed brakes (like the R-M kit)
- Wings can be folded or deployed (thank you again!)
- Positionable stabilator
- Wheel hubs are molded separately from the tires (easy painting)
- Positionable tail hook (same as the R-M kit)
- Separate TRAM turret so aircraft can be backdated to pre-TRAM (same as the R-M kit)
- Separate radome so you can add ballast in the final steps
The weapons mix is almost identical to the R-M kit as well:
- 2 x MER
- 12 x Mk.82 Snakeye
- 2 x AGM-84 Harpoon
- 1 x centerline tank
- 2 x wing tanks
- No cluster bombs (R-M kit provided 8)
This kit provides markings for three examples, all from VA-115:
- A-6E (TRAM), 155622, VA-115, NF/500, USS Independence, Aug-Oct 1996, CAG aircraft
- A-6E (TRAM), 155704, VA-115, NF/500, USS Independence, Jul 1996, CAG aircraft
- A-6E (TRAM), 164310, VA-115, NF/501, USS Independence, 1994, Skipper's aircraft
The decal sheet provides a really nice set of markings produced by Fightertown Decals and printed by Cartograf. The markings provide the key airframe stencils as well as two styles of walkways and national markings.
This is a nice special edition release from Kinetic and the addition of mission equipment in the cab make this project better detail-wise than the Panda offering. This kit relies on finer-molded styrene parts for its build hence only one small fret of photo-etched parts are provided. This will greatly enhance the buildability of the model over the Panda kit for the average modeler. We'll do a side-by-side look at these two machines in the near future. This kit should be available soon at your favorite hobby shop. Better yet, this kit is available at only $49.99 from LuckyModel.
My sincere thanks to Lucky Model for this review sample!