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Top Gun Tamer: 1/48th Monogram A-4E/F Skyhawk

When the Monogram A-4 was released in 1977 the kit set the bar for A-4 Skyhawks for decades to come. The original release was of the E/F model with the avionics "hump", complete with a wide array of weapons to choose from.


Notable Kit Features:

  • Decent cockpit with seatbelts molded into the seat cushion

  • Pilot figure included

  • Good overall shape

  • Kit comes with parts to build a later F version (Weapons, pylons, tanks and all)

  • Separate slats

  • Flaps, airbrakes and canopy can be positioned open or closed

  • Detail in the wheel wells and landing gear

  • Raised panel lines and details mixed with engraved control surfaces and vents


Build Inspiration:

A-4 Skyhawks were initially utilized as adversary aircraft in latter part of 1968 at VF-126. The United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (also known as Topgun) was then formed to continued this practice months later in March 1969 at Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar, in California. Although not equipped with an afterburner, a lightly loaded A-4 (along with the F-5 & T-38) flown by experienced pilots, was well suited to simulate the small Soviet fighters in Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) sessions. These sessions taught the opposing F-8 and F-4 crews much that they had not covered in their initial training, which was previously focused on stopping (Russian) bombers at longer ranges. The A-4 earned the nickname Mongoose and continued in this role opposing many other types of aircraft including the F-14. The Skyhawk was officially retired by the U.S. Navy in 1999, however VC-8 continued to fly TA-4Js until 2003. There are so many different paint schemes for these Adversary aircraft you could have a large collection of these colourful aircraft alone.



Heads-Up Report:

  • Basic cockpit with the ejection seat molded into the cockpit tub

  • Cockpit sits too low (?) and was raised using a shim (Don't attach cockpit to front gear well in Step #1 until you determine if this is necessary by test fitting first - Then top of Ejection seat is too wide for fuselage so must be thinned... or I did something wrong here to start)

  • Ejector marks on many parts (including some mating surfaces)

  • Copyright information molded on the lower wing half (easy to file off)

  • Add a good amount of weight in the nose to keep this Skyhawk from tail-dragging

  • The seam on the wing in the recesses for the leading edge slats needs to be filled

  • You may have to use a spreader (or two) to obtain a better fuselage to wing join at the top root of the wing

  • Shim used at front wing to fuselage join to improve fit

  • Plastic shim was used to fill gap at the trailing edge of one wing

  • Tail hook / rear wing join area requires some filler (Also fill in the clear tail prop-up hole in this area... you remembered to add nose weight didn't you..?)

  • Light sink marks behind canopy (in my example) were filled

  • I found that the gear actuators were too long and had to be modified to fit

  • Canopy is thick and does not fit well in the closed position

  • I left the raised panel lines in place as I didn't think they detracted from the look


Kit Additions / Modifications:

  • Added HUD to the cockpit using clear acetate sheet

  • Removed various antennas not present on the Aggressors (and then forgot to add a couple that were present)

  • Sanded off later style nose equipment chin fairing - filled and smoothed

  • Filled pylon holes and gun ports at wing root

  • Modified refueling probe to style that extends out from the fuselage (Heat and bend - Keep the heat LOW!)

  • Used an assortment of spare decals and painted on lettering to approximate the Aggressor type markings


End Result:


The paint scheme for this aircraft was best-guessed from photos and references. Weathering was added during the airbrush session by lightening the initial coat somewhat and then spraying areas of the true colour. (Weathering doesn't always show well in the photos, and I find if it is the first thing you notice, you probably overdid it) Camouflage used was a wrap-around of Light Sand (FS 33531) Taupe Brown (FS 30279) Dark Green (FS 34092) (Although I saw the colours posted as FS 30400 /30117 / 34079 so you can decide yourself what paint is close when you do these Aggressors. I have read crew chief reports that claimed they were often custom blends of paint they had on hand)



The After-Build Report:


Monogram's A-4 series is still a decent option for a 1/48th A-4 kit to this day, due to its good overall shape, decent detail and typical low price-point. Despite the seemingly long list of things to watch out for, this kit can be built up into a nice model. With all the bombs, tanks and weapons racks in the kit a rookie can have a fun build and not worry too much about the small detractors. This Monogram Skyhawk kit wasn't really definitively bested until 2000 when the 1/48th Hasegawa kit came out, so it had a good run on top. To its credit the Hasegawa kit set the new standard and is the best kit to date of the A-4 in this scale, but typically includes no weapons or pilot figure and is considerably more expensive.


Completed build #251 - June 2022 using the 1/48th scale Monogram #5411 kit.


Feel free to comment or ask any questions - Keep on building, gain experience, challenge yourself if you like, but try not to stress yourself out over the build - it is suppose to be an enjoyable hobby after all - Cheers


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