1/48 Hasegawa A-4 conversion

The Tale of two Skyhawks 

Part one: A-4AR Fighting Hawk

by Everett McEwan

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    In my final contribution to my IMPS chapter's A-4 project I set out to build two A-4s based on the A-4M.  When my club started on this project a year ago I offered to build certain A-4s to help with the project, I at the time wanted to do a Blue Angels A-4 but my friend Al had already snatched that cool jet up, so I looked over what was left. I of course chose to build the (1-48 Hasegawa IAF A-4) and TA-4J (1-48 Hasegawa/Monogram TA-4J), but having just read a article in World Air power Journal I asked to do the A-4AR Fighting Hawk, the "newest" A-4 in service I also offered to do the A-4KU as well. I say the AR is the "newest" scooter because they are remanufacture A-4Ms with new glass cockpit and a F-16 radar jammed into the nose, making them a "new" plane that just entered service. At the time there were no 1/48th A-4M kits on the market (the plane both
the AR and KU are based on), so I had no idea how I could accomplish this lofty goal. 

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Along came the wonderful people at Cutting Edge and Meteor productions, if you've never bought anything from them, I can assure you they are among the best. I heard a rumor about them making a A-4M conversion a year before the set was released and even called them up and got the master maker for the set on the phone and he told me of all the things they were planning (I really remember being shocked when he told me about the clear resin canopy, it seemed incredible that such a thing could be done). I was going to do the KU also but someone else in our group took it off my hands so I instead decided to the M as my other Skyhawk.   

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  To build the A-4AR I started with the Hasegawa A-4E/F kit, the cutting edge A-4M conversion, and some parts from the A-4M cockpit set, parts from a Eduard F-18 PE set and a ejection seat from True details. I began by building up the cockpit, I used the CE side panels on the kit tub and the CE part for the rear deck/canopy actuator.

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I then had to scratch build the instrument panel since the AR has a modern glass cockpit. I had only one photograph of this from the World Air power Journal article but it showed me that it was two liquid crystal displays and up front controller for the HUD added to the upper portion of a normal A-4 panel. I took a left over panel from my OA-4M kit (used in my TA-4J) and sanded off the top part of the panel and drilled out some new locations for dials that were relocated. Then I used two PE CRTs from a Eduard F-18 set for the two displays and then some plastic card for the up front controller, and the F-18 HUD was also used for the HUD. The other work done in the cockpit was on the canopy, I added the CE frame to the back, made the canopy latches out of plastic card and added the mirrors made from  my OA-4M and made
from scratch.

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  The rest of the kit went together like any other A-4 so I won't add much more on that other than to say I had the usual problem with the wing root/gun area. I did add some other details unique to the AR such as the wing tip RWR antennas (relocated from the nose since the AR has a radar in the nose) the static discharger for the nose radome (made from thin wire) the RWR antennas on the tail pipe from the CE A-4M set, the hump from the A-4M set and the antennas on the hump and gear door. 

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    The paint job was a two tone grey camouflage that I did my painting Testors light ghost grey first then masking and air brushing Testors Flat Gull Grey on for the darker areas. I used the FS numbers provided on the decal instruction sheet from FCM to get these colors and in the end they were a dead on match. I did notice that the camo pattern on the FCM sheet does not match between the upper and lower surfaces, which required me to adjust the differences in some places, looking at photos of the real thing helped but there were differences in each aircraft so I went with what looked right to my eyes rather than an exact scheme. I then sealed with Future floor wax so I could have a nice smooth surface for the decals. I also polished the areas I was going to decal with some of my ultra fine micro mark sand paper. I say all this because despite my perfect preparations I had troubles applying the decals. I was planning on using the FCM decals primarily but I also had my Hobbycraft kit decals (from their A-4M kit) as a back up. Comparing the two sheets I saw that the FCM decals were closer
in size and color to the photos I had. I started with the large hawk head for the tail and had no problems, the trouble started with "Peligro" warning labels that go on the intake sides, I trimmed the film from the decals which helped, but all in all they do not like
being put on a curved surface. I think the problem was with the printing of the decals and the paper they used, I really don't want to blame FCM because they did a nice job researching the decals and after all it's up to the printers. I only got one side on without it tearing up, the other side was a complete loss so I had to use the Hobbycraft decals which are too big and the wrong color grey, but it's better than nothing. I think that had I coated over the FCM decals with some super scale decal film I could have avoided
the break up that happened, but it still would have had problems conforming with out the wrinkles I got. 
Earl Hosemer who is leading our A-4 project also used some FCM decals on his AF-1 (Brazilian A-4KU) and had similar problems so I think it may just be some bad printing. I sealed things up with Testor's flat acrylic and then weathered with chalk pastel sludge. I
also added some of the rivets to the windscreen using my ultra fine point marker.

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   After seeing a photo of an A-4AR loaded with 12 blue (inert practice bombs) MK 82 Snake eyes on 3 MERs during the flight testing program I thought this would look cool and add some color to my grey plane. I started with some MERs from on of my several Revell A-6E kits resting in the closet and 6 snake eyes from the Hasegawa weapons set (they give you 20 slicks but only 6 snake eyes in the kit for some reason). I then built up the snake eyes and copied them in resin to give more than just the meager 6, I then painted them.
After all this was done I built up the bombs on the racks and then went to glue them on and was shocked to find that they were too big, I think Hasegawa over scaled them, comparing to my picture they look oversized. I had to move the ones on the wings around to get clearance for the main gear and they look like they'll scrape the ground on take off. I thought about starting over with the Revell bombs (which look to small) but at this point I wanted to be done so I can live with it.

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    I was happy with the overall outcome of this Jet despite the troubles I had with it, I think it comes pretty close to the real thing considering there is no kit of it out there (the Hobbycraft kit is really an M and has a bad canopy). I recommend both the excellent Hasegawa kit and the awesome Cutting Edge conversion set to anybody!

Everett

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article

Photos and text by Everett McEwan