by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Fans of “Heinemann's Hotrod,” the Douglas Skyhawk, have a new treat–the Platz 1/144 A-4F Skyhawk “Lady Jessie” release. Platz is known for high quality 1/144 aircraft of the Second World War, and for models of the Anime / Manga / Gundam genre.
When 1/144 aircraft began to debut in the early 1980's, I bought some Revell Japanese twin-engine planes. One look and I returned them. Though I know that this scale has been making strides and is comparable with larger scales, I have had no interest in the scale. This model is changing my mind!
Beloved or simply admired by so many, the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, a.k.a., "Heinemann's Hot Rod”; "Scooter,” and “Tinkertoy,” is a fascinating jet. It was first conceived from a fighter to combat the MiG-15 and successors. With a first flight in 1954, the Skyhawk was produced until 1979, the longest of any tactical aircraft! While deliveries to Navy and Marine Corps squadrons began in 1954, it was not retired from U.S. Navy active duty until 2003. Civilian-owned Skyhawks are used as combat trainers and for weapons tests, and Brazil still use them aboard their aircraft carrier NAe São Paulo. Upgraded A-4s still serve with Argentina as the A-4AR Fightinghawk. Singapore uses an A-4 variant for training.
Skyhawks were operated by Argentine, Australia, Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the United States. A-4s have an extensive combat record with the United States and Israel. It also saw remarkable action against the Royal Navy in the 1982 Falklands War; flying at the end of its range, against NATO’s best navy, suffering terrible losses, they pressed their attacks and delivered surprising damage, the effects limited by unreliable WW2-era bombs.
Boasting performance hearkening to its fighter concept, A-4s were used by Top Gun to simulate Soviet fighters, often besting even fourth-generation fighters. The Skyhawk is also well known as a mount of the legendary Blue Angles Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron.
This A-4F is an A-4E improved with extra avionics (housed in the hump on the fuselage spine) and a more powerful J52 engine. In the Aggressor role, an even more powerful engine was installed, creating the A-4F 'Super Fox.' It is identifiable by enlarged intakes.
In the Box
The small end-opening box features eye-catching graphics with a photograph of the assembled models. Inside are two models sealed in a bag, with separate bags for the decals, and canopies. Removing the contents brought a pleasant surprise. The landing gear immediately caught my attention--delicate, and not in the fragile meaning of the word. So are the weapon pylon attachments, 20 mm Colt Mk 12 cannon barrels, and air refueling boom. Next I noticed the crispness of the recessed panel lines and other details. Each is lightly molded, thin, and narrow. Excellence! All parts are molded sharp and clean, without a hint of flash, seam lines, externally visible ejector marks, nor sink holes.
Each model is assembled with decals and 33 styrene parts:
• 32 light gray
• 1 single-piece canopy
Simplicity in engineering, the airframe is built with a top and bottom wing that fits snugly to the fuselage halves. The main landing gear wells are open. The nose gear well is an integral part of the lower wing. Neither sport any interior detail. Nor does the cockpit aside from a basic ejection seat. The A-4 has a relatively roomy cockpit, ripe for diminutive detailing for viewing through the crystal clear canopy.
The assembly process is simple. By step four you can have a clean Skyhawk for display in-flight. The fifth step is to attach all landing gear, gear doors, pylons and accouterments. Each intake is two-piece. The guns and wing fairing are separate.
Model surgery? Depending on your taste for underwing stores, you have 10 holes to open with a 0.8mm drill. The main gear doors are two doors yet curiously, Platz molded them as a single piece; the instructions show them as separate pieces but give no indication they need to be cut apart. It also appears the split flaps are designed to be cut off for repositioning–top wing half only (see below).
Finesse is the keyword for this model! The surface of the upper wing has dozens of oval access panels. Major components are detailed with the lines. Platz molded plenty of raised fairings for minor intakes and fuel dump ports. The leading edge slats are molded on the top wing and snap over the bottom leading edge providing the proper “lip.” In an exercise in molding finesse, the fine tail hook is molded to the fuselage, with a gap between it and the airframe.
Be careful of the six delicate antennas along the top and bottom of the fuselage! Platz molded a fairing on both halves of the fuselage where the windscreen blends with the fuselage. As mentioned above, the pylons have plenty of detail–attachments and anti-sways. The drop tanks also boast a half-dozen small raised nubs, most in the void between the tank and the pylon!
Curiously, only on the upper wing, there is some detail on the interior surface of the split flaps, as though presenting the option to cut and drop the flaps. The bottom wing has no such detailing, and would require cutting across the main gear fairings to separate the flaps.
Though there is no detail in the gear wells or cockpit, the inside of the gear doors boast structural detail.
Finally, no external stores are provided except for the drop tanks.
Decals, Painting, Instructions
The instruction sheet is a single paper. Except for the paint color information, almost everything is in Japanese. No matter, the simplicity of the model leaves little chance for confusion.
Painting is also simplicity, USN’s "Gull Gray and White"--FS 36440 Flat Light Gull Gray over FS17925 Insignia White. Three paint brands are referenced, Tamiya, Model Master, and GSI Mr. Hobby.
The decals are by CARTOGRAF, and protected by a wax paper sheet. Three decal options are included:
1. “Lady Jessie”, Bu155022, VA-164 Ghost Riders, USS Hancock, 1969
2. “Lady Jessie”, Bu155018, VA-164 Ghost Riders, USS Hancock, 1972
3. Bu155022, VA-153 Blue Tail Flies, USS Coral Sea, 1969
The colorful decals add striking livery to the aircraft, especially the Blue Tail Flies markings.“Lady Jessie” was named in honor of a woman who “adopted” the squadron as guests in her hotel. Several VA-164 commander Skyhawks carried the name. The decals are outstanding in registration, color, and thinness. All the main markings are provided, as are a few of the more apparent data stencilings.
Outstanding molding. Incredible detail. Colorful markings. Excellent decals. A simple yet high quality model. And two of them per box. A third aircraft would be appreciated instead of two decals sets of essentially the same aircraft, “Lady Jessie.” Lack of external stores is disappointing, and the main gear doors molded as one is odd. All in all, this model has kicked me out of my disinterest in 1/144 aircraft–it is a gem of a kit. Heartily recommended!
U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Skyhawk Units of the Vietnam War, Osprey Publishing
Royal Australian Navy News, Vol. 22, No. 13
( http://www.navy.gov.au/w/images/Navy_News-July-27-1979.pdf )
Naval Aviation Museum
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