Italeri 1/72 Skyhawk A-4E/F Hot Rod

KIT #: 181
PRICE: NZ $14.95
DECALS: Three options
NOTES: Locally comes with RNZAF markings


The Douglas A-4 is one of aviation’s great success stories. It was a small, delta-winged single-engined jet fighter that was highly agile, nearly supersonic and could carry a hefty payload. Designed by Ed Heinemann (of SBD Dauntless fame) it was originally intended as a nuclear bomber, but over the years it was a fighter, close-support aircraft, bomber, aggressor (as in the classic 1986 film Top Gun), interceptor, trainer, target tug and air-to-air refueller.

 Between the prototype XA4D-1’s first flight in 1954 and the delivery of the last A-4M in 1979, close to 3000 Skyhawks were produced. The type was first blooded in the Vietnam War, seeing active duty with pilots of the US Navy and Marine Corps. The Israelis used them in the Yom Kippur War, the Argentinean air force and navy flew them against the UK forces in the Falklands War, and the Kuwaiti Air Force used them in Operation Desert Storm.

They eventually saw service with ten different countries around the world, and upgraded examples remain on the front line for Argentina and Brazil, with Singapore’s A-4SUs now relegated to training duties in France and Israel’s examples also now trainers alone. Examples are also flown by civilian companies in the US and Germany for training duties, and there are even privately-owned “warbird” A-4s on the US circuit. However many are now consigned to museums, their distinctive howl lost from the skies.


 I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how old this kit is (the artist’s signature on the box art is dated 1989), where it came from, or how many boxings there are. But I do know I’ve built it before, and remember it as being nice. This one has quite a bit of flash.

The kit seems to be fairly old, with all panel lines being raised and some deep lines around the speedbrakes. There is a very simple cockpit with seat-tub combo, no sidewall detail, stick and a raised-detail instrument panel. The gear doors are all moulded in the closed position and will need to be cut, there being no option given for an “in flight” build.

 External stores are limited to a centreline fuel tank and rocket pods for the inboard wing pylons. Any of the available weapon sets would probably add greatly to this one. The canopy is very thick, but with the pretty Spartan cockpit that’s probably for the best.

 The box says A-4E/F, but the fuselage seems to represent an A-4M with the ECM(?) pod on the tip of the vertical stabiliser. The instructions point out that this should be cut off immediately, along with the pitot tube below. The only real options that seem to be there relate to the vertical stabiliser, there being two different tips to use one the A-4M pod is removed; and the choice of the early straight refuelling probe or the later curved one.

The decal sheet gives the modeller two options, both United States Navy aircraft in grey over white: A-4E Bu.No.151040 from VA-45 aboard USS Intrepid in 1973, and A-4F Bu.No.154973 from VA-212.

 The Royal New Zealand Air Force flew the A-4 for more than 30 years and this, combined with their much-debated retirement, means that the type has quite a following here. As a result this Skyhawk kit gets an additional decal sheet from the importers, giving the modeller the option of six RNZAF A-4Ks from 2 and 75 Squadrons. The decals are the super-lo-viz black markings as used from about 1997 to their retirement in 2001, and aren’t really suitable for this kit as the aircraft underwent a major airframe and avionics upgrade (including removal of the dorsal “hump”) before this time. This either means major surgery, or (my choice) putting the sheet aside for another, humpless kit. Coincidentally, this kit was actually available with only RNZAF decals as a Flying Kiwis bagged kit, as reviewed here by M2’s previous resident Kiwi, Mark Fordham (he opted to remove the hump – please check out his great build review).


Based on what I’ve seen of the Fujimi and ESCI kits, this is not the nicest kit out there, but it is cheap and both readily available and (with the extra decals) good value for money.  


Zac Yates

April 2012

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