Kit: EKA-3B Skywarrior

Scale:  1/72

Kit Number: ?

Manufacturer: Rareplane

Media: Vacuform with injected landing gear

Decals: black outlines for one version from VAH-4. Poorly printed and rather useless.

Date of review: 23 October 1997

Reviewer: Scott Van Aken

Undoubtedly one of my favorite aircraft, the A-3 was designed to carry a nuclear weapon and spent most of its service life as an electronics platform and as a tanker.  Retired from service in 1992, the Whale is still flying missions under the guise of Hughes Aircraft, who have a fleet of over a dozen A-3s.  These planes are used for various tests of missile systems and other classified projects.  The A-3 is also the aircraft I first worked on when I joined the Navy and was assigned to VAQ-130 out of Alameda, Ca.  This kit was built to portray one of those aircraft.

The Rareplane kit came in a poly bag with a great exploded view and equally good three-view drawings. There were bits to do an RA-3B as well as the KA-3B.  I decided to build an EKA-3B so what I needed were the side mounted antenna pods, the underfuselage 'canoe', and the tail 'football' antenna.  These were built using three views from Rene Francillion's book on the A-3.  I simply copied the 3views and enlarged them to 1/72 scale.

Building the kit was really a no-brainer if you have built vacuforms before.  Everything is there that you need to build a good replica.  In order to do the add on bits, I used several layers of plastic for a basis for the underfuselage canoe and side antenna pods.  Once the basic shape was there, additional layers of putty were applied and smoothed until the shape was right.  I also cut out the outer slats to place them in the extended position as they were when the plane was on the ground.  Not all A-3s had operating inner slats, so check your photos. Also  needing fabricated were various smaller antennas and a nose gear door antenna peculiar to the EKA-3B.  The biggest drawback was and is VAQ-130 unit insignia decals.  This kit doesn't have them as I cannot draw that well and all attempts at making my own have failed miserably.

After a quick start in which most of the airframe was finished, I lost interest in it and over the years little bits and pieces were added to it.  Finally last month, after  well over seven years in work, I decided to finish it.  What was left was adding the refueling probe, various smaller antennas, decals, flap hinges, gear doors and a few other smaller items.  None of them was difficult although it took several nights to do the decals.  All the letters and numbers had to be done individually and I used Scalemaster sheets for these.  Microscale came to my help with the insignia and I found some maroon decals on an old Fujimi Skyhawk sheet from which to cut out the tail stripes (try looking for maroon decals!)  The refueling probe was made from Contrail tubing and the end of an ESCI Skyhawk refueling probe.

As the kit had been lying about for years with masking tape on the canopy, I was concerned that I would not be able to get it off.  It was a terrible chore and caused much of the paint around it to chip.  Nonetheless, most Whales were not pristine so repainting those areas only helped add to the look.  Another job was adding Bare Metal Foil to the engines.  Those multiple compound curves are a real challenge.

After finally getting the darn thing finished, I must admit it looks good and is probably not going to be exactly reproduced.  After all, it is a replica of an exact aircraft I worked on in VAQ-130 det2.  Now that it is done, Hasegawa can release their injected Whale kit!!!

(Which they did about four months after I finished this kit.  Ed)

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