Hobbycraft 1/48 A-4M/N Skyhawks


1429 / 1430


$21.00 MSRP


2 and 6 aircraft respecively


Jay Chladek


A Skyhawk II that doesn’t require lots of money or multiple kits to make.


With the operational experience gained on earlier Skyhawks, The Douglas Corporation began redesigning the aircraft to help make up for some of the shortcomings of the earlier versions and provide new mission capabilities to the USMC. The result was the A-4M Skyhawk II, introduced in 1970. The main change was increasing the power of the Pratt & Whitney J52 engine to 11,200 pounds of thrust, vs. the 9,300 pounds on the A-4F. This increase in engine power gives the A-4M 50% better climb rate and a 25% shorter takeoff run and the ability to carry heavier loads then the earlier marks.

Externally, the plane also looks quite different. It features a larger tail fin first fitted to the IAF A-4H models. Improvements in avionics and ECM equipment means that the A-4M is also bristling with additional antennas, culminating in a large ECM pod fitted to the tail fin. An APU is also carried, allowing the A-4M to power up without the use of external equipment (resulting in a large circular hole on the right side of the fuselage). An enlarged canopy provides the benefits of improved visibility and a less cramped cockpit for large pilots. The taller windscreen is also bullet-resistant. A braking chute was installed as standard equipment (introduced on the A-4H and retrofitted to many earlier Skyhawks in the export market). And an Angle Rate Bomb system laser seeker head was also fitted in a clear tip on the nose.

 The A-4N designed for the IAF is similar externally, but doesn’t have the APU exhaust port or the ECM fairing on the tail. The A-4N does feature an extended tailpipe, first introduced on the A-4H, to help counter the threat of shoulder-fired SA-7 missiles which brought down many Skyhawks during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The Israeli planes also had 30mm DEFA cannons installed under the wing roots, in place of the original 20mm armament, as they had done with their other Skyhawks. The Skyhawk II variants stayed in production until early 1979 when the last A-4M left the production line. These planes used by the USMC and the IAF in front-line service until the early 1990s with the Marines retiring their last squadron in 1994. Kuwait also utilized the Skyhawk II as the A-4KU and these saw combat during Desert Storm. Externally, the A-4KU is similar to the A-4N, but retains the 20mm cannon armament. A few Super Scooters have been sold secondhand to Argentina and Brazil (who acquired the A-4KUs when Kuwait converted to F/A-18s).


The Hobbycraft A-4s have been out for awhile and even with a couple difficult to correct inaccuracies (i.e. the canopy area) they provide a nice low cost alternative to the Hasegawa Skyhawks. But, with the Hasegawa juggernaut stealing their thunder by offering their A-4E first and having the Hobbycraft kits being relegated to seeming obscurity, I wondered if they would even continue with their plans to offer the big canopied Skyhawk II models that they listed in their catalog. Well, patience seems to have paid off and

The Hobbycraft kits are the first true Skyhawk II models that I have ever seen in 1/48 scale (Esci did a kit marked as an A-4M/N, but its really an A-4H with the tall fin and the smaller cockpit). They are also currently the only model kits out there of the “Super Scooter” as Hasegawa hasn’t even announced one yet. Plastic-wise, the A-4M and A-4N kits are the same except for ordinance and decals offered and will be reviewed as one kit for the purpose of this preview unless noted.

 Those who have read the other previews on the Hobbycraft A-4B and A-4H will notice that this one doesn’t look much different. The parts are laid out in the same fashion with the only obvious differences being the cockpit area and the supplemental sprues. Even the A-4M tail pod isn’t new as it was first seen in the A-4E/H kit (A-4N, H and KU use the fin tip without the ECM pod). As a result, there are similar problem areas for the cockpit, ejection seat and general fit of the cockpit. But the fit on the Hobbycraft A-4s isn’t really bad after a little test fitting. The instrument panel itself seems to be a copy of an A-4M layout anyway. If it’s modified with a piece of strip styrene on top with the additional indicators and in order to fill the gap between the console and the panel combing, it should look just fine without resorting to an aftermarket photo-etch or resin set. No HUD is provided and the control stick is still the same goofy looking “T” shaped stick that Hobbycraft instructs you to install backwards (what were they thinking, Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica?). So either retrofit the grip with something else or replace it with an extra stick from the Hasegawa kit.

 As for what’s different, the obvious change is the cockpit canopy. This canopy is just as wide as the previous kit offerings, but this is probably accurate, as the A-4Ms were known for having less claustrophobic cockpits. The windscreen has the proper shape with the bullet-resistant rectangular centerpiece. I’d say about the only thing I could compare this canopy and windscreen to for width reference would be one from the Monogram OA-4M kit, but I don’t have one in my stash currently. Either way, it looks okay to me.

 Also provided is a set of wide-mouth intakes on a separate parts tree. These intakes are also used on the Blue Angels A-4s and have been retrofitted to many other A-4s, so I hope Hobbycraft decides to offer them in their other mid-production Skyhawk kits. Numerous antennas and bits are provided on the trees and many are used in the other Skyhawk kits. But, the Hobbycraft instructions are not very helpful, as there are some noticeable errors on the sheet. For instance, the instructions say to use parts F7 and F6 for the nose mounted ECM aerials. But these are wrong for the A-4M (they are on the Israel Skyhawk parts tree, which is provided in the A-4M also as part “F9” is needed). Looking at the parts tree, parts D7 and D8 appear to be the proper bumps, but its not clear as to which one goes on which side exactly (BTW, not all A-4Ms had the ECM bits anyway, so check your references). The nose itself is the standard A-4E nose and it doesn’t have the clear port for the ARBS seeker head. This can either be faked with paint or added by a more ambitious modeler. The chaff and flare dispensers are also found on the “D” parts tree and not “E” parts as the instructions indicate. Some other antennas will need to be added as well, so check your references. The A-4M kit also doesn’t have the APU exhaust hole in the right side of the fuselage, but this is easy to add. Israeli Skyhawks apparently never had the APU hole so this is accurate for the A-4N. There appear to be some other minor omissions as well, so check your references when building this kit.

 Now what does this kit give you as far as ordinance? Well, you get two different types of Sidewinders (one being of the AIM-9L variety); several MERs and two different pairs of drop tanks (400 gallon and 300 gallon finless I believe). There are also no less then 12 Mk-82 “Snakeye” bombs (12 of what appear to be standard Mk-82s in the A-4N kit). Its enough ordinance to level a few city blocks and even if its not used in this model, I’m sure I can find uses for the hardware on other kits (the A-4B comes to mind for the Snakeyes).

 Decals provided in the A-4M kit are for an aircraft in low-vis scheme from VMA-131 Diamondbacks (the last Marine squadron to operate A-4Ms), and a low-vis camouflage schemed A-4AR of the Argentinean Air Force (complete with a false canopy painted on the bottom of the fuselage). The sheet is admittedly rather small and I had hoped for maybe a couple other Marine squadron options as there are currently no decal sheets being made for low-vis Marine A-4Ms. The A-4N sheet is more properly loaded down and contains markings for four Israeli birds and a pair of Brazilian Skyhawks. One thing I do love about recent Hobbycraft kits are that they are providing some nice decals for some very obscure aircraft subjects. Decal and paint instructions are printed on the back of the box, as with other recent Hobbycraft offerings.


It may sound like I’m coming down hard on this kit. But really I’m not as it does seem to be a nicely done kit of a never before offered subject in 1/48 scale and most of the other features have been covered in the other previews. As Scott has said in his previews of other Hobbycraft Skyhawk kits, this one isn’t quite Hasegawa, but it is close and offers very good value for the money in my opinion. It’s not a kit that builds itself and it won’t be entirely accurate if built straight out of the box with no modifications. But, with a few relatively minor tweaks, some TLC, a resin ejection seat, and maybe a little photo-etch for the cockpit mirrors, it should be easy to do a very attractive model with a few bits leftover for your spares box. And the best part is that it is less expensive then the alternatives, which are either kit-bashing the Monogram A-4E and OA-4M kits or adding some Cutting Edge resin to the Hasegawa kit. And even then you would still have to supply your own ordinance and decals. Cutting Edge recently issued three decal sheets of colorful high-vis scheme A-4Ms and Kuwaiti A-4KUs. There are also markings for IAF A-4Ns and some South American birds, but there is practically nothing out there for the low-vis USMC planes. Hopefully some decal company will offer them in the near future. But at least we now have a kit that is capable of being built into an excellent Skyhawk II model and wearing those colors proudly.

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