Tamiya's 1/48 A-1J Skyraider with AeroMaster Decals & Eduard Photo Etch
Model, text and photos by: Pete Wenman
Over 20 years ago I fell in love with an Airfix 1/72 kit, but at that time I had no idea what the aircraft was, only that I loved the colourful decals, and the huge array of under wing stores that came with the kit, it was every schoolboys dream. In time I become aware of the aircraft, and ever since have loved the Douglas Skyraider as an aircraft to model, and last year I was inspired to finish a Tamiya kit in the attractive three colour SEA camouflage finish, and the recently released A-1J kit provided the opportunity.
WHAT YOU GET
For your money you get six light grey sprues (243 parts, not all used), together with a smaller clear sprue (3 parts). Two decal options are provided, both aircraft from the 56th SOW, 602nd SOS, while together with the instructions you receive a 1/48 3-view plan, which can be used to create templates for the camouflage scheme. I must express my disappointment with the decal options, as neither caught my eye, and I therefore opted to model "The Good Buddha" using AeroMaster decal set 48-377 "Air War over Vietnam Pt IX". I also used the Eduard Photo Etch set for the Tamiya A-1H on this model, but the kit is fine without this extra addition. [Note Eduard have recently released a PE set specifically for the A-1J].
The A-1H kit has been around for some time, while the A-1J kit become available last year, and with the exception of the box art and decals these are the same kit. Physical differences are the wheel hubs and tail wheel, with both types supplied in both kits. The weapons loadout for the A-1J kit includes two extra sprues from the A-1H kit, which contain ten Mk 82 bombs (long and short fused), two M117 bombs, and one SUU-11 mini gun pod. The final difference is that for the A-1H you get a bucket seat, while a Yankee ejector seat is provided for the A-1J.
I believe this to be to a perfect beginners kit, particularly for someone looking to master the use of an airbrush, not because it is a basic kit, but because it is a superbly engineered kit, that when complete builds a huge model. It is 248 mm long, with a wingspan of 317 mm, and that's a whooping great 10 cm more than a P51D in the same scale. You can therefore practice to you hearts content on the huge areas that need to be painted.
The construction of the kit is that expected from Tamiya, with clear illustrated instructions, and a kit designed so well that it almost falls together. I can honestly say that this was the easiest kit to build I have ever made. The quality of the engraving, and level of detail on the kit must be seen to be believed, and the cockpit, with the addition of the etched brass was of sufficient quality that I do not consider it worth the effort, or cost of obtaining a resin aftermarket hub as a replacement. Follow the instructions and you end up with a full-grown Skyraider in no time. I must point out that I did not attach the D4 sub assembly until the painting was almost complete, as by not doing so I was able to screw a heavy duty pin vice into the front of the fuselage (D8) and used this to handle the plane while painting and using the airbrush.
I must admit as to being a modeller who cannot build any model out of the box, without embellishments, and I did not break the pattern here.
The six SUU-14 rocket tubes are the weakest part of the kit, proving impossible to construct to a satisfactory standard, due to the E38-E29 join. So only one thing for it, scratch build them. Luckily their shape is very simple, and I used plastic rod of the correct diameter as the basis, with plastic card and lead sheet for the detail. In my opinion the kit parts are so poor, they cannot be used on the model, so either go with a different weapons load, or having a go at bashing your own.
Nearly every photo of USAF A-1H/Jís that I could find show a canvas cover over the canopy hydraulic arm (A6) so this was made from two part putty applied over the already painted part, with a lace up style of detailing added based on photos of the real thing. This was then painted a dark olive drab.
Again based on photos (and the box
art) I created the whip antenna and its small mounting, found just to the rear
of the cockpit on the left side of the aircraft. I thought it a little cheeky
that this is shown on the box art, but is not provided for in the kit. It is
however very simple to recreate, and makes the kit complete.
PAINTING THE KIT:
As mentioned above the large size of the model makes it relatively easy to paint, particularly with an airbrush and careful planning of the masking and painting process will enable the three colour scheme to be recreated without difficulty. I started by spraying the whole model with a humbrol light grey undercoat as a primer. Once dry I pre-shaded all the panel lines with an acrylic dark brown. I decided to paint the upper surfaces first as I felt this would making masking the model easier as the painting proceeded, but it probably made little difference. The delightful tan colour (FS30219) was put down first, in light coats to ensure the pre-shading remained visible. The medium green (FS34102) and dark green (FS34079) were put down over the tan using tracing paper masks, traced directly from the 3 view plans. In order to avoid a harsh demarcation line, thin sausages of Blue Tac were rolled and used to lift the masks away from the model. With careful angling of the airbrush this allowed a subtle diffusion of one colour to the other. By the time the dark green had been sprayed on, the pre-shading under this colour was no longer visible, and so this needed to be dealt with later. Once the upper surfaces were finished it only remained to spray the underside with Light Gray (FS36622).
DECALS AND WEATHERING
As part of the decal and weathering
process the model now received several light coats of Johnson's Klear (Future).
Once a gloss finish was evident the decals were placed, and sealed with a couple
of further coats of Klear. Micro Sol and Set were used, and worked well with
the quality Aeromaster decals (once again available). Now the fun could begin,
weathering the aircraft, and again bringing out the panel lines below the dark
green. The latter was very easy to do, by dabbing very thin burnt umber oil
paint along the panel lines, and flowing a wash of the same mixture in the lines.
This was allowed to partially dry before being attacked by a large dry soft
paintbrush. With a gentle brushing motion this lifted most of the paint back
off the model, but left sufficient paint to darken the under lying colour. (This
effect can be seen more easily on the drop tanks of the aircraft.). I also used
this method to obtain the distinctive vertical stains just below and to the
rear of the cockpit evident in photos. I must admit however to taking a deep
breath before spraying the distinctive exhaust stains down the side of the aircraft.
These were done freehand, and without the benefit of protective masking as I
found it impossible to apply, and still get clear access to the area to be spayed.
Make sure the paint for this is thinned so as to be transparent, and apply in
controlled layers to build up the effect, at a low psi. Stop before you think
you have finished, and you will get the best result, but remember you need both
stains to look pretty similar in density and shape. The machine gun stains were
dealt with in the same way, although with a little protective masking to prevent
All in all, I love this kit, and not just because I like the aircraft. It is a quality kit at an affordable price. I know I will build many more including at least one more in US Navy light gray, a heavy duty conversion to a Korean war era aircraft in gloss sea blue, but my next Skyraider will represent a French aircraft that saw service in Algeria, in an natural metal finish, as decals for this have just become available. To sum the kit up in three words "Itís a Winner"
And so it was, winning one of only
two gold medals awarded in the aircraft category at this years Graversham Military
Modelling Societyís open competition.
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