1/72 Fujimi A-4F Skyhawk

by Richard "RJ" Tucker



The Mission:  “On 23 May 1972, VA-55's Lt Dennis J Sapp launched with his wingman, Lt Ken Bray, from USS Hancock (CVA-19) on an Iron Hand mission to cover an Alpha strike against targets northeast of Haiphong, in North Vietnam. Sapp's section had two missions: to destroy a SAM site adjacent to the target and to silence a lethal cluster of SAM sites ringing Haiphong near the target area.

Sapp flew A-4F BuNo 154996, which was armed with two AGM-45 Shrike anti-SAM missiles and four Rockeye bomblet canisters. The A-4Fs had recently been equipped with the Target Identification Acquisition System [the APS-107], which allowed the pilot to centre the radar from the SAM site or flak battery on the cockpit radar, then look through the gunsight for tracking purposes to decide where and when to drop weapons. Iron Hand A-4s orbited over a known site, or between sites, at 10,000 ft, fired their Shrikes and then rolled in to drop ordnance. This arrangement permitted a much more direct attack instead of having to fire a Shrike from a greater distance as was the case for A-6 and A-7 crews.

Sapp detached his section from the main strike group to go on ahead, and it was soon the target of two SAMs fired from the Haiphong area. He and his wingman immediately began evasive maneuvers, narrowly evading the missiles. Sapp then continued on toward his assigned area. Although the site was well hidden, he pinpointed it and delivered two Rockeye canisters, all the while under defensive fire from 37 mm flak sites. Sapp destroyed all five radar vans in the centre of the site and his wingman dispatched three SAMs on their launchers. Fires and explosions followed the two aviators as they left the area. Sapp took a photo from 20 miles away that showed smoke billowing above 20,000 ft. The target had turned out to be a SAM storage area hidden in a mountainside.

Sapp took his section to their designated station and continued the mission, using their Shrikes and remaining Rockeyes to suppress defenses around Haiphong and allow the strikers to hit their targets. Sapp received the Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission.”(1p4)

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The Airframe: The A-4F was the last Skyhawk version built for the Navy, and had it not been for the Viet Nam war the A-4E most likely would have the last Skyhawk version. The A-4F improvements over the A-4E were: the dorsal hump for more growth space, nose wheel steering, a more powerful engine, wing spoilers, a zero-zero ejection seat and more armor plating around the cockpit. (2p18) Several A-4Fs were modified with the APS-107 Radar Homing and Warning (RHAW) gear. This modification introduced the “bent” refueling probe to the Skyhawk. (3p46)This addition allowed A-4F to employ the AGM-45 Shrike missile much more effectively than the standard A-4s. VA-55 was assigned the A-4Fs with the APS-107 sets in USS Hancock Airwing (CVW-21). Hence, LT Sapp found himself slaying SAMs on 23 May 1972.  

The Model: This model is the Fujimi 1/72 scale A-4E/F Skyhawk kit. I added plastic card to the main wing slat area to eliminate the small step down. The distinctive APS-107 antenna fairing under nose is an ECM blister part from a kit long forgotton, salvaged from the spares box and sanded to shape. The shrike missiles and rockeyes are from the Hasegawa weapons sets. The decals are from SSI sheet 72-828 and my decal spares. The BuNo “154996” I printed on  decal paper with a laser printer. I replaced the 20mm gun barrels with steel tubing and added details to the ejection seat. 



1. US NAVY AND MARINE CORP A-4 SKYHAWK UNITS OF THE VIETNAM WAR, Osprey Combat Aircraft 69, Peter Merssky, Osprey Publishing Limited, Oxford, UK, 2007
2. A-4 Skyhawk Detail 7 Scale Vol 32, Bert Kinzey, Detail & Scale,Inc, Blue Ridge Summit, PA, USA, 1988..
3. WILD WEASEL, The SAM Suppression Story, by Larry Davis, Squadron / Signal publications, Carrollton, Texas, USA, 1986
4. A-4 Skyhawk in Action, Aircraft No. Eleven $4.95(WOW! HOW ‘BOUT THAT!), by Lou Drendel, Squadron / Signal publications, Carrollton, Texas, USA, 1973

Photos and text © by RJ Tucker