Hasegawa 1/48 Douglas A-4H Skyhawk

with Quickboost resin cannons and Armycast decals

109 Valley Squadron, Israeli Air Force, Israel 1970

Israeli Skyhawks look great, and so when I saw this on a visit to Hannants in Lowestoft in 2004, patiently accompanied by my then girlfriend (now wife), it was an easy decision to buy it.

Truth be told, I would rather have the later version of the H, with the extended tailpipe, avionics hump and DEFA cannon, but when it came to make this model, decal options for IDF Skyhawks were impossible to find, and so I was stuck with the single very early ‘H’ option provided in the box.

Or so I thought. Just as painting got underway I discovered that Armycast had reprinted their IDF A-4 sheet which had a DEFA-equipped Skyhawk minus the hump and tailpipe (which it was too late to add). It was jolly expensive, but I bought it anyway.

Hasegawa appear to have done their homework, and from what I can tell, this is a fairly accurate model. Some rooting around on the internet and through my magazine archive threw up some articles by people who seem to know what they’re talking about (good quality photos of early IDF A-4Hs are hard to come by) and so I made the following modifications to the base kit:

  • The reinforcement plates from the intakes and in front of the windscreen were removed
  • A small intake on the port side of the fuselage ahead of the airbrake was filled in
  • The fin at the top of the leading edge of the tail was added from thin plastic card
  • As with my other Skyhawks that I built at the same time, the leading edge slat well was filled in
  • Following photos of very early IDF A-4s and a preserved A-4H I left the catapult hooks off
  • Going by the sole photo I could find of ’03’ I replaced the recommended triangular spine aerial with the more rectangular option in the kit
  • The DEFA cannons were by Quickboost. I did not like the barrels, and so cut them out and replaced them with brass tubing from Albion Alloys.

Sadly I mislaid the small vent that should be fitted under the rear fuselage near the trailing edge of the wing. When building four models simultaneously I always expect something to go missing, and unfortunately it was a part I could not replace.

I had almost no reference photos for this famous Skyhawk that shot down two aircraft in 1970 and had to rely entirely on the marking scheme provided by Armycast and various other interpretations in profile art. I have no idea if it’s correct.

Most of the paint is Mr Color – 314 for the light blue, 310 for the brown, and 313 for the sand colour. Hasegawa call out the green as 312 FS34227, but Armycast recommend a slightly different shade, FS34258. Yoav Efrati, in his article on this very aircraft in FSM from 2016, also used the latter shade of green. Mr Color don’t have FS34258 in their range, and so I bought it from the MRP range (248). Some Mr Color 312 was used for the rear lower fuselage, as indicated by Armycast, and the two shades of green are very, very similar; the 312 is slightly more saturated.

IDF A-4s from the late 60s/early 70s always looked quite tatty to my eyes, with quite soft camouflage demarcations. I therefore decided to use my H&S Evolution with 0.2mm needle to apply the four camouflage colours freehand, rather than the finer Iwata Custom Micron. This was all done by black-basing with a mixture of freehand mottling on the upper surfaces and using stencils from Artoolfx and Uschi van der Rosten on the undersides.

To paint the intake lips, which were added after the main scheme was painted, I tacked them in place on a piece of plastic using a glue dot. When pulling one of the intakes off to mask for the red, it shattered:


Fortunately I fixed it in a matter of minutes using Mr Cement S from behind, CA from the front with accelerator, followed by sanding and respraying:


Having now built nine of these kits I can say this problem of weak plastic has cropped up in several places: the lower wing also cracked near the nose gear well, as did the fuselage near the airbrake well, and one of the intake lips on my A-4E also split along a flaw. All I can say is, be careful with the plastic!

The decals are from Armycast. They are very thin and settle down well without silvering. I used Mr Mark Setter underneath (and should have used more on one of the upper wing national insignia); Mr Mark Setter and Daco Red had no discernible effect on the decals despite multiple applications. The yellow on the rescue arrows is slightly out of register with the black outline. The other problem is that the decal backing paper is a dark blue and a few minuscule bits of it came away with some of the decals. I got most of it off, but on the small ‘243’ on the port side tail fin I couldn’t get one of the bits out. It’s not a big problem, but shows up under magnification.

My one regret with the finished kit is that I didn’t properly sand the intake lips into the intakes. I ummed and ahhed about it for a while and just didn’t fancy the work of remasking and respraying that area. But I regret not doing it.

Between the black-basing and some subsequent work with oil paints, I’m pretty pleased with the tonal variation in the finish, although the effect is more apparent to the naked eye than in the photos. The final clear coat is Tamiya XF-86 Flat Clear thinned with Mr Rapid Thinner. I was aiming for a semi-matt finish, but the final result is a bit speckled.

Well, with nine of these on the shelf, two built in 2002, three in 2005 and now four in 2020 (where did that 15 years go….?), I have a fairly settled opinion on the Hasegawa Skyhawk. It’s a nice kit: good moulding, good detail, good overall fit and good accuracy. The undercarriage is the most easily assembled and robust landing gear I can ever remember installing, and the doors all fit beautifully as well. But it has its issues too, mainly the poorly-fitting inserts that suck a lot of time to address. Whilst these are small, they add a lot of work, and when it comes to that leading edge light (which has a terrible fit and is difficult to mask), I’ve not managed to get a good result yet! The leading edge slat retraction arms are a pain, and out of these latter four Skyhawks, only one (the TA-4J) made it to the end without at least one of them being snapped off.

When I set out on this project to clear all the Skyhawks from my stash, I thought I’d be sick of them by the end and never want to see another. And that is sort of the case. But it is such a great looking aircraft, and I think the schemes are so fantastic, and I derive so much pleasure from looking at them in the display cabinet, that were Hasegawa to release an accurate A-4A, I would jump at it. And maybe an OA-4M, too. And maybe an accurate A-4N, too. And maybe…

Year bought: 2004 (Hannants, Lowestoft, UK)

Year built: 2020 (New Addington, Croydon, UK)