1/48 ProModeler A-4F Skyhawk

by Drew Thompson


  US Independence Day 2004 


This is the 1/48 scale Pro-Modeler A-4F Skyhawk (which is really a repackaged Hasegawa A-4).  An Aires cockpit and Yellowhammer and Victory Productions Blue Angels decals were used, and several changes were made to the model in order to represent the modifications that the Blue Angels made to their Skyhawks.

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The cockpit fit together without any major problems.  One change I made was to use a small piece of plastic to represent a sunglass holder, which the Blues placed over the square screen on the instrument panel.  Another change the Blues made to the cockpit area was to install a harness system to the ejection seat.  However, I could not find any clear pictures of this harness, so I just used the seatbelts provided in the Aires set.  The Blues installed a tan padding to the inside of the canopy framing, since the pilot’s head could hit the framing in high G maneuvers.  I used blue tac to simulate this padding by carefully placing the putty to the inside of the canopy, then pressing an exacto blade into the putty to represent the crisscross pattern of the stitching in the padding.  A clear picture of this can be found in the A-4 section of the walkaround section of ARC.  Next, the putty was painted a light tan, gloss coated, and an acrylic wash was added to highlight the previously added stitching of the padding.  Finally, Polly S clear was brushed over the padding.


The model fit together well, much like any other Hasegawa kit.  Wires were used to replicate the hydraulic lines on the landing gear.  I did have some problems with the intakes.  It seems that the rear part of the intakes (where the fan is) didn’t line up well, so that on the left intake, the two intake sections align well, but there is a step on the right side.  A cylindrical ladder tube was attached in the left cannon position, which the Blue Angels used to place their boarding ladders.  Also, two tabs were glued at the very rear of the rudder, which are evident on some versions of Skyhawks, and are definitely found on the Blue’s A-4s.  It seems that the Blues painted over the navigation light found on the leading edge of the left wing, so I did so myself.  I didn’t bother with the Super Fox intake conversion that the Blues used on their Skyhawks, since the difference is very small.  Also, some say that the hexagonal raised plate found on the outside of the intakes of the model is not present on the Blue’s A-4s, but I have seen them on their Skyhawks, so I left them.  This plate is just visible on the following picture of A-4 Bureau No.: 154180


At first, I decided to try “Blue Angel Blue” in the Testors Model Masters line of paints.  However, I found the blue to be too gray.  After looking at other blue paint, I decided Tamiya’s X-4 Blue to be a very close blue.  I also wanted a mirror smooth coat of paint on my model.  Not extremely highly buffed like some car models, but I did want a very smooth, shiny layer of paint.  Knowing that this could really only be obtained by sanding and buffing the paint, I tried to do this with Tamiya acrylic painta.  This paint didn’t sand or buff well, so I decided to go with Tamiya’s spray lacquers.  TS-15 was virtually an exact match to the X-4 blue acrylic blue, so I went with it.  This turned out to be the best gloss paint I have ever used!  I sprayed it through my airbrush without thinning and it worked beautifully.  The paint was dry enough to sand within minutes of spraying, and I sanded the whole plane with 1500 grit sandpaper.  Then, I buffed the paint with fine-cut automotive rubbing compound.  I had many problems with sanding or buffing through the paint, and many touch ups were necessary, but I ended up with a beautiful, glass smooth, shiny coat of blue paint.  The paint finish looks much better in person than in these pictures, and it seems to be very similar to the shine found on real Blue Angel jets.  About the only problem I had with the paint is that it cracks slightly when sprayed on enamel paint.  There were a few areas where I had dried enamel paint, and I can only assume the Tamiya lacquer crazed by eating into the enamel.  The polished metal of the intakes and exhaust were made from Bare Metal Foil and the other natural metal was replicated with SNJ paint.  A light acrylic wash was used on the landing gear.


I used the Victory decals almost exclusively, since they seemed to be much more accurate to the real Blue Angels Skyhawks.  On the Yellowhammer decals, the tail numbers are too small, and the bureau numbers are not accurate for all seasons, since the style of the numbers changed during the time that the Blues flew the Skyhawk.  The style of the pilot’s name of the Yellowhammer decal sheet is also incorrect for some years.  The longitudinal yellow arrow under the fuselage of the plane and the pilot’s name were about the only decals used from the Yellowhammer sheet.  Although the Victory decal sheet includes yellow decals for the fin tips, they were difficult to use over surrounding surface detail, and if I build another Blue Angels jet, I’ll likely just use yellow paint.  I wanted to coat the decals with a clear gloss, but decided against it, as I would have to sand and buff the clear, as I had already done with the blue paint.  Instead, I finished the model with “The Treatment” model wax, which is really just carnauba wax.  It did add gloss to the decals, but still did not do as good of a job as a clear coat would.  In retrospect, I should probably haven’t sanded or buffed the blue paint, but instead only do this to the final clear coat.  I also considered spraying on thin coats of thinned down Future floor polish, as Rodney Williams did with his Blue Angels F-18, but I couldn’t work up the courage to spray anything over the buffed out blue paint.

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Being my first Blue Angels plane and my first model with an overall gloss finish, I think it turned out well and it’s probably my best looking model to date.  I’d like to thank Rodney Williams for explaining to me how he achieved the awesome finish on his Blue Angels F-18, Nick Monopoli for info about how he built his Blue Angel Skyhawk, and Cal Cochran for his help with reference pictures.  Thanks guys!  Any comments, critiques, suggestions, etc. are very welcome.  Here’s some links to my previous articles on ARC:


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Photos and text © by Drew Thompson