1/48 AMT/Ertl Douglas AD-4W Skyraider

Gallery Article by Mark L. Rossmann on May 27 2013



Universally known in the U.S. Navy as “Able Dog”, today it is still known as the most powerful piston-engine and versatile ground attack aircraft designed by any country.  Ed Heinemann’s original design began with tricycle landing gear, inverted gull wing, twin remote twin turreted called the XSB2D, that was developed to replace the Dauntless.  He was able to persuade the Navy that they needed something else and had 18 hours to do it.  This revised airframe powered by an R-3550, had a 10 hour endurance and boasted 14 weapon pylons.  Total “Spad” production came to 3180 aircraft being modified for many other uses. 


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As the US Navy was drawing ever nearer to Japan, the need for early warning of incoming aircraft was desperately needed, especially in detection of the Kamikaze.  U.S. destroyers were deployed far out from the fleet as picket ships utilizing their radars, however, becoming a main target of the Japanese in order to punch a hole through the radar net.  Evaluation by the Navy determined a need to elevate the radar to increase the line of sight detection ability, while remaining closer to the fleet for protection. T he C-54 transport was considered, however unarmed was vulnerable to heavy losses.  B-17G’s were finally decided upon.  At the end of WW2 Project, CADILLAC was reaching IOC with the first AEW detachment of TBM-3W Avengers conducting workups on the USS Ranger off the West Coast.  This was the lead group of the AEW capability envisioned for the planned invasion of Japan, fortunately the war ended.

Five years later a new war ("Korea police action") the AEW was there from the start, but with more capable platform.  Between wars, the Navy had added the extremely capable Douglas AD-3 being the first version adapted for AEW, but it was the AD-4W that would see the most action.  With 158 built, the AD-4W was a three-seat airborne early warning version of the AD-4.  It carried a crew of three–a pilot plus two radar operators/observers seated side-by-side below and behind the cockpit. The two observers entered the aircraft via doors in either side of the fuselage adjacent to the wing trailing edge. 

The radar was the S-band (today’s E/F band) AN/APS-20A; maximum output was 1 megawatt with an elliptical dish antenna rotating inside a fiberglass Radom underneath the fuselage (giving it the appearance of a pregnant Guppy).  The Radom often vibrated severely, affecting the success of the early-warning mission.  The AD-4W saw action from Inchon to the Armistice, primarily as an AEW, for countering possible attacks from North Korean (and later, Chinese) MiG fighters attacking the fleet. Secondary missions included ASW. 

Here is a report from Jack Sauter, an aviation electronics technician during the Korean war.

“During my 21 missions we often vectored CAP aircraft, usually a Skyraider or Corsair, to investigate unidentified air or surface targets.  In every instance, they turned out to be our own planes or a Japanese transport off course.  Once, one of our AD-4Ws picked up a surfaced submarine in international waters, apparently tracking our ships, but again the rules of engagement precluded any attack.

The only threat to TF 77 occurred on 26 July 1953, the night before the truce was signed.  Many bogies were seen closing on the force and we all went to general quarters.  Aircraft, including one of ours, were launched, but whatever was out there disappeared before our planes got close

On one mission I had along the Chief of Staff to Commander Carrier Division 1, a four-striper.  That day consisted of flying a 50-mile circle around the task force perimeter and plotting all air and surface targets.  The captain was very inquisitive.  Had I ever picked up any bandits?  No.  Did I find it difficult to interpret this five-inch screen, hour after hour with no relief?  You bet!  Then he turned to me and said with great seriousness, "I came along today to see for myself just how good our AEW was.  I’ve always been uneasy about the Chinese.  Ever since they surprised [General Douglas] MacArthur in November 1950 and nearly threw us into the sea, I have had the feeling that they might pull another surprise attack–this one on Task Force 77.  If that happens, you and a few other radarmen could be the most important crews in this whole fleet”

Royal Navy
The Royal Navy acquired 50 AD-4W early warning aircraft in 1951 through the Military Assistance Program.  20 of the Skyraiders (WT944/WT963) were delivered to the Royal Navy factory-fresh, but the remainder came from US Navy stocks.  All Skyraider AEW.1s were operated by 849 Naval Air Squadron, which provided four-plane detachments for the British carriers.  One flight took part in the Suez Crisis, Operation Musketeer in 1956 aboard the carrier HMS Bulwark. 778 Naval Air Squadron was responsible for the training of the Skyraider crews at RNAS Culdrose. 

In 1960, the Fairey Gannet AEW.3 replaced the Skyraiders, using the APS-20 radar of the Douglas aircraft.  The last British Skyraiders were retired in 1962.  In the late 1960s, the APS-20 radars from the Skyraiders were installed in Avro Shackleton AEW.2s of the Royal Air Force which were finally retired in 1991.

This is the AMT/Ertl AD-4W, I built this back in the late-90’s, however after looking at the plane white U.S. markings for almost 16 years, I decided to add some color. Stripped off the decals by simply submerging the model in a bucket of water over 48 hours and the decals slipped off. Let the model dry for about a week and then touched up needed areas.  As I have read this is not the best Skyraider, however it works up well and looks really nice with my other RN aircraft.

Most of the old Ertl decals were used except the RN roundels as the red dot was off center.  So I used markings from a Sea Fury kit and for the stripes I trimmed down the decal stripes from a Hasegawa F4U-7 kit, it worked very well. Touched up the white around the canopy with “Line o tape” pinstripe tape, 1/64” and used “E Z Line” from Berkshire Junction for the radio wire.

I used Tamiya Dark Sea Blue spray.

Thanks to Steve for his site.


Mark L. Rossmann


Photos and text © by Mark L. Rossmann