1/48 MatchBox AD-5

Gallery Article by Hỏa Long (C7A) on Apr 30 2014

  Saigon fell, end of Vietnam Conflict  April 30 1975



Kitbashing the 1/48 MatchBox AD-5 & Monogram AD-6 to create an accurate AD-5

29 APRIL 1975. Less than 24 hours before the total collapse of the Republic of Vietnam. The VNAF (Republic of Vietnam Air Force) put up a last desperate, but nonetheless heroic fight against waves of invading North Vietnamese Communist force.

Most well known was the final combat flight of the lone AC-119K call sign Illuminated Dragon 07 (Tinh Long 07) which for the first time in the war operated in broad daylight to suppress enemy artillery firing into Tn Sơn Nhứt Air Base.

Without the cover of the night, the slow moving AC-119K was an easy target for the SA-7's. 

Accompanying the AC-119K were a flight of Skyraiders. 

Flight leader call sign Flying Dragon 51 flying an AD-6 ( A1-H) , his wing man flying an AD-5 ( A1-E) call sign Flying Dragon 52.

The AD-6 / AD-5 Skyraider pair supported the ground troops as well as escorted AC-119K, and at times the AC-119K acted as FAC to direct the 2 Skyraiders striking on enemy positions.

Captain Phc Flying Dragon 51 flight leader remembered seeing Flying Dragon 52 Major Trương Phng trailing on his right wing. The AD-5 flew with two bombs still hanging from its wings, dropping them on a communist position minutes later.

VNAF Captain Trần Văn Phc, later recalled in his memoir . His wing man Flying Dragon 52 was flying an AD-5 Skyraider with faulty radio which only worked intermittenly . The two could not talk to each other, though his wingman, Flying Dragon 52 Major Trương Phng could hear his lead, but was not able to communicate back.

During the last few minutes of the mission, Flying Dragon 52's voice suddenly emerged over the radio - Suggesting that they should divert to Cần Thơ Air Base in the Mekong Delta as it might not be safe to land at Tn Sơn Nhứt which was still being shelled very heavily.

Flying Dragon 51 replied, "negative!" and explained that his fuel was near bingo and unable to reach Cần Thơ. Flying Dragon 52 responded, "Roger. We will land at Tn Sơn Nhứt."  

Flying Dragon 51 radioed to tell his wing man to land first just in case his faulty radio decided to quit again. 

Upon touch down the AD-5 for some reason started accelerating and taking off . 

"Flying Dragon 51 you land first and I will land in a few minutes . Wait for me at the flight line and I will give you a ride home..." .

Quite possibly the Major decided to be airbourne again to cover the lone AC-119K from communist ground fire.

Flying Dragon 51 landed first, few minutes later he witnessed in horror the AC-119K shot down by SA-7.  And there was still no sign of Flying Dragon 52. 

Major Trương Phng never landed at Tn Sơn Nhứt. Captain Phc Flying Dragon 51 reasoned that his wing man could have changed his mind and diverted to Can Tho after all. However later that day when he flew to Cần Thơ Air Base and could not find his wing man there either. 

The fate of his wing man was always on the back Captain Phc 's mind until many years later he learned that Flying Dragon 52 was shot down just outside Tn Sơn Nhứt AB perimeter. 

Major Trương Phng remains / grave site was discovered in December 2008. He finally came home to his waiting family after more than 33 years. 

Captain Phc account of his last combat mission with Major Trương Phng some how haunted me. His story inspired me to build an AD-5 depicting Major Trương Phng last fight and dedicate my recent work to in memory of fallen VNAF pilots who never made it back to base and paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of the Vietnamese people.

The 1/48 AD-5 was the result of kit bashing the Matchbox AD-5 (fuselage) and Monogram AD-6 (wings, prop and elevators). 

Many modellers before me have kit bashed the infamous and only 1/48 AD-5 available - usually replacing the hopeless Matchbox wings with Tamiya Skyraider wings and other parts ... 

My approach was more or less the same, replacing the matchbox AD-5 kit with more accurate wings from Monogram 1/48 AD-6 kit. 

It was not as difficult as I had imagined it would be, having said that unless there is an AD-5 1/48 kit released I would not try to build another AD-5 going the same path. 

So come on Tamiya, Italeri Hasegawa, Trumpeter, Roden, Kinetic, ... an 1/48 or 1/72 AD-5 Skyraider is long overdue! 

Hỏa Long / C7A


Photos and text by Hỏa Long