1/32 Trumpeter A-7E 

by Terry Chan

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The USN A-7E Corsair II needs no introduction, but I'll do a brief one anyways.  The original A-7A variant was designed to replace the A-4 Skyhawk as a carrier-based light attack aircraft.  The later A-7E variant enjoyed a lot of success during the first Gulf War - ironically on the eve of its retirement - just prior to the Hornet replacing it.  It was such a successful design that the USAF also procured a number of its own A-7D's.  It is also operated by Thailand and Greece.
 
The Kit
 
The Trumpeter 1/32 A-7E needs no introduction either.  I bought this kit during last year's back-to-school sale, along with the following aftermarket add-on's: 
  • Black Box cockpit set
  • Aires SJU-8 ejection seat
  • Aires gear bays set
  • Aires Avionics set
  • SuperScale decals
Upon opening the box, I was very happy to see the kit jam-packed with sprues, rubber tires, PE parts and white metal struts.  More than half of the parts were dedicated to various weapons that you may not even use.  In fact, I've never built a kit of which half of the sprues are still sealed in bags after the model is completed.  However as the build progressed, I start to see an overarching theme of Trumpeter tried very hard to impress the modelers with various features, but they still manage to disappoint by failing to cover the fundamentals.
 
The VA-72 Blue Hawks "SLUF" in the "Last Mission" markings is one of the most modeled Desert Storm era birds, and it is the markings that I chose.
 
Intake Trunk and Cockpit
 
This is the first airplane model that I did not start with painting/assembling the cockpit.  The first piece I tackled was the long and prominent intake trunk.  In order to get a seamless trunk (without buying a resin replacement), you'll need to saw off the closed end to reach the inside seam.  The work was fairly straight forward: Fill ejector pin mark in trunks --> airbrush the inside flat white --> glue the trunk halves together --> saw off the closed end --> putty and sand the inside seam --> spray the seam white --> cap the open end with plastic sheet.  I used sand paper wrapped about a chop stick as a sanding stick.  It worked really well.
 
Black Box once again delivered an outstanding cockpit set.  Not only did it come with the high level of detail you expect from BB, unlike their other offerings, it actually fit very well inside the fuselage halves.
 
Unfortunately the seat that came with the BB set was used for older versions of A-7E's - DS Corsairs use the newer SJU-8 seats.  I didn't learn of this important fact until after my purchase, hence I needed to order the correct Aires seat.  Miraculously, the Aires seat slides into the BB tub without any surgery!  The only place that needed adjustment was the BB throttle stick.  In the end a hybrid BB-Aires cockpit looks pretty good.

Click on images below to see larger images

  

  

  

More Aires Goodies
 
In order to really showcase all the details on this model, I've also bought the Aires resin avionics bays and gear wells.  Man oh man were these worth the money.  The details were exquisite, and they look very accurate when compared to reference photos.  Fit-wise they were also quite good.  The avionics bays need some trimming on the inside in order to fit the intake trunk.  Some minor gap filling was needed for the main gear bays to fit the fuselage halves.
 
I painted them with Gunze acrylics, Tamiya acrylics and MM enamel.  The colours deviated from the reference pics a slight bit, just enough to give some visual variety.  They were sealed with Future, a wash was applied and the dry-brushing technique was used to pop out the details.
 
The gear bay set also come with resin gear doors.  Unfortunately their casting blocks were part of the doors' smooth surfaces, hence a lot of careful trimming, filling and sanding were needed.  Since they were so close to the edges (the "hanging" sides, not the "hinging" sides), any chippings were noticeable and difficult to fix.  I ended up messing up one of those doors and had to resort to the one in the Trumpeter kit.

 

Fuselage and Wings

When all the resin bits were attached to the fuselage halves, it was time to glue them together.  Speaking of fuselage halves, they are easily the biggest disappointment of this kit.  The incorrect profile of the intake lip is well-documented.  The engraved panel lines were too shallow, and there's also a very pebbly finish to the plastic.  None of these are hard to fix (except the intake), but it's baffling that Trumpeter went through all the trouble to provide excellent details throughout the kit, and plenty of ordnance to boot, but botched on the most basic aspect of scale kit design and manufacturing.  You get a sense that they might have simply outsourced the production of the key fuselage pieces to China to save money.  Oh wait a minute... 

When plastic finally meets glue, I realized how bad the fit was on the belly.  There was a huge seam on the area between the nose gear bay and main gear bay.  Sure, this seam was covered by the air brake, but it throws the whole air brake to fuselage fit out of whack.  I had to use a lot of putty to essentially rebuild the the area where the air brake meets the fuselage.

The windscreen-fuselage fit was ok, but some putty was still needed to blend them in.

The tail fin and rudder fit was pretty good.  No problems whatsoever.

Contrary to the fuselage, the wings were molded beautifully with very consistent engraved panel lines.  The trailing edges of the droppable flaps needed some sanding to get the correct scaled thickness.  The only problem I encountered on the wings was the bad fit on the inboard flaps - they cannot be dropped once the main wing section was glued to the fuselage.  Hence I had mine in the neutral position.  Oh well.

Another thing that puzzled me was the wing-top navigation light - it was molded as a solid piece of grey styrene instead of clear plastic.  I decided to replace it with a chunk of clear sprue sanded and polished to shape (see picture).

The wing-tip nav lights were molded as clear plastic.  I used super glue to blend them into the wing pieces.

Landing Gears

Trumpeter provided both plastic and white metal versions for all the landing gears.  The plastic main gears were too weak so you really have no choice but to use the metal ones.  Unfortunately, this is another weak link (har har) of the kit.  The metal parts were riddled with flash and mold seam and needed a lot of cleaning up.  The Hasegawa 1/48 Hornet also has metal lets, yet there were beautifully cast and needed minimal cleaning up - and the Trumpeter kit is supposed to be least 10 years ahead in manufacturing technologies.

I used the plastic part for the nose gear and found no problems.

Painting and Decaling

Painting a USN low-vis scheme with heavy weathering is a long and involved process.  Here are the steps I took:

  1. I primed all the parts with white Mr. Surfacer 1000
  2. Panel lines were pre-shaded with flat black
  3. Everything was airbrushed flat white.  The pre-shade will still show through.
  4. I sprayed a mixture of 1 part base colour, 2 part flat clear, 2 part gloss clear, 2 part thinner all over the airframe.  This gives a very subtle sun-faded look, yet it preserves most of the black pre-shade.
  5. Spraying small spots of grey on random spots on the airframe.  Spray white within panel lines to make the sun-bleaching heavier.
  6. Using the same mixture in step 4, spray across the airframe again to tone down the "damage" done in step 5.  This will bring a fairly realistic sun-faded USN style mottling look to the model.
  7. Use Future to seal the paint job.

Decaling is probably my least favourite part because I tend to make a lot of mistakes.  The checker piece doesn't fit the rudder very well, and I botched the 3-colour stripe multiple times, so I had to purchase another sheet to make up for it.  In the end I still don't think the decaling job is very good, but I just had to move on with life.

After coat of Future was sprayed to seal the decals in.  A wash was applied to the panel lines.  Finally, a flat coat was applied.  Pastel chalk (mix of black, white and raw umber) was liberally applied to make this Desert Storm warrior come to life.

Since these markings were applied to "401" after the hostilities ended, technically it should not carry any weapons.  But a SLUF without any bombs just doesn't look right.  Hence I put on a couple of GP bombs and AIM-9L's (leftovers from my Academy Hornet) and called it finished.

Final Words

Can I recommend this kit?  Yes, but ONLY if you absolutely must have a 1/32 model of this aircraft.  I've built the Hasegawa 1/48 version and it is a much better built in terms of quality and fit.  In my opinion, this Trumpeter model is only worthwhile if you put in the extra resin detail sets.  Sure it'd cost a lot of money, but the extras really bring this model to life.

Terry 

Click on images below to see larger images

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Photos and text by Terry Chan