Home  |  What's New  |  Features  |  Gallery  |  Reviews  |  Reference  |  Forum  |  Search

Hasegawa 1/48 scale conversion
Post-Kahu A-4K Skyhawk


A-4K Skyahwk
Royal New Zealand Air Force

by Anthony Papadis

Hobbycraft's 1/48 scale A-4E Skyhawk is available online from Squadron.com




The A-4 Skyhawk is an aircraft that almost needs no introduction.

Designed by ‘Ed’ Heinemann, the aircraft was affectionately referred to as ‘Heinemann’s Hotrod’ and the ‘Bantam Bomber’ due to its spritely performance and diminutive size. The aircraft has seen conflict in several theatres, including Vietnam, The Middle East and the Falkland Islands, and has served the in numerous armed forced across the globe.

My model depicts a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) A-4K “Kahu”, and is painted in the overall green, the final scheme these aircraft wore before they were retired. The aircraft depicted is NZ6201, which was involved in a potentially fatal incident.

On the 20th March 2001, this aircraft struck a 110,000Volt power line whilst on a low –level navigation exercise. The collision almost tore the fin tip completely off.

Fortunately, the pilot was able to safely recover the aircraft to RNZAF Base Woodbourne, which was nearby. The fin tip was still hanging by a few threads on the starboard side!



The Kit


This kit is the Hobbycraft 1/48 A-4E/F “Aggressor”. The Hasegawa kit surpasses the Hobbycraft kit in both detail and ease of conversion to A-4K, however I have used this kit as it was bought for a very modest sum thanks to a swap and sell at the local model club.

Whilst the Hasegawa A-4E/F kit contains just about everything you need to build a “Kahu”, the Hobbycraft kit has several deficiencies which I will outline below. Although the list may seem extensive, the majority of the items listed were fashioned from common modelling items and each took no longer than a few minutes to add or correct.

My changes/additions included:

  • Improving the rear cockpit shelf behind the seat

  • Adding a pilot, whose head was re-positioned and oxy hose added

  • Hud glass

  • Adding the VOR antennas to the fin

  • Adding the rear ECM antennas

  • Adding the strobe light to the upper fuselage

  • Replacing all blade aerials with plastic card

  • Re-positioning the Nav beacon from the lower left undercarriage fairing to the right fairing

  • Adding the wingtip ECM antennas

  • Adding the underside wingtip lights

  • Adding the wingtip navigation lights

  • Detailing the brake parachute opening mechanism

  • Adding the pylon sway braces



The kit instructions are brief, which posed no problems. Construction is both straight-forward and brief.

Starting with the cockpit, a few additional details were added. The “Kahu” was upgraded substantially in comparison to the original A-4E. They were fitted with an APG-66 radar, which is what is fitted to the F-16. The instrument panel also differs greatly in that it has two Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT’s) ‘TV’ screens. I decided that since this was to be a canopy down kit in a flying pose, the extra effort involved in making the new panel would be wasted as it would not be seen. This would also be true of the area behind the seat as it turns out as the canopy framing obscures this area as well!


This picture shows the pilot installed in the ‘office’ with the head moved to the left and a scratchbuilt oxygen hose added complete with the microphone lead. I have also added a small HUD glass from some clear acetate.

Here is a picture of the added oxy hose. I wrapped 8 Amp fuse wire around 16 Amp fuse wire and added the mike lead from stretched sprue. The rings were made from some wine bottle foil.

Another view, after painting. The oxy hose was painted dark grey and then dry brushed with a lighter shade. The mike lead was then picked out as were the green velcro bands



The original kit tub to which was added a basic throttle quadrant and a scratchbuilt canopy actuator bay. The rear cockpit bulkhead had the noise absorbent quilting added using some ‘sparkling white wine’ foil and bits of plastic strip and fuse wire.

I also added a small map to the instrument coaming as well as the seat ejection handle. The canopy interior had some rear view mirrors installed after it was polished and dipped in Future.

I also added a small map to the instrument coaming as well as the seat ejection handle. The canopy interior had some rear view mirrors installed after it was polished and dipped in Future.

The mirrors were made from 10 thou plastic sheet to which a strip of thin copper was added to provide an attachment point.

Once the canopy was completed, it was attached to the cockpit and attention was then focussed onto the lower fuselage.



The RNZAF A-4K’s had the lower navigation beacon situated on the rear of the right main gear nacelle. This is contrary to most operators. The beacon was carefully shaved off the left undercarriage fairing and transplanted to the right.


I intended to have the kit mounted in flight, moments after striking the power line. This would require the undercarriage doors to be closed. The kit’s undercarriage doors fit poorly and I had to use plastic strips along their edges to fill some of the gaps.

The nose gear door did not match the rounded fuselage contour and required some putty to blend the shape in.

Note the diamond shaped panel. This is the base for a small antenna found on late model A-4K’s.


At this point the wings came in for some attention.

There is a small ECM antenna at each wingtip. Also missing are the clear round lights. I also wanted to add a little detail to the antenna housing under the left wing tip. There is also an aerial missing from the right wing. I made a simple plastic card base and antenna from some 10 thou sheet.

The slats were fitted in the retracted position and fit with minimal use of putty.

The round discs were made from some 10 thou plastic sheet and punched out with a punch and die set.

The next area to receive attention was the rear fuselage. There are two ECM bumps missing (one per side), just forward of the exhaust. After making a base from plastic card, the bumps were made from some suitably shaped sprue pieces.

I also added the chaff/flare bucket covers and some drainage pipes from bits of plastic card and sprue.

The covers are in place and the drainage pipes have yet to be added to their drilled holes.

The final part of the lower fuselage that needed work was the parachute brake housing. I added some more detail to the actuator mechanism from some plastic strip.

Moving to the upper fuselage, I still had some work to do on the fin. The pictures showed that the aircraft landed with the fin tip hanging over the right side of the fin. This would necessitate the removal of the fin tip and adding some interior detail to the fin itself.

A rib was added to the inside of the fin after the edges were scraped down to a thinner section. A scalpel was then used to create a jagged edge to simulate torn metal. A similar effort was applied to the fin tip

A similar effort was applied to the fin tip

The addition of the VOR antennas either side of the fin completed work on the tail.

At this point I returned to the wings. I glued all the pylons to the wings and ran a bead of Mr Surfacer 500 around them. Once dry a cotton bud soaked in methylated spirits was used to clean off most of the Mr Surfacer and fill any small gaps.

NZ6201 was carrying an empty AIM-9 rail and centreline drop tank on the flight of 20 March. I decided to add a little interest to the lower fuselage by adding the pylon sway braces and the ejector pistons to each pylon.



I used a rotary tool to open some holes in the base of the pylons. To this was added some plastic strip and some discs using a punch and die set. I also added the electrical ‘umbilical’ to the rear of each pylon using some fine copper wire.



I made the pylon sway braces from some soft drink can aluminium and plastic discs punched out with a punch and die set.



Painting and Markings


Construction was rapidly nearing an end. I masked the canopy and primed the model to inspect it for any flaws or blemishes. Satisfied, I moved onto the painting.


I sprayed a coat of Testors FS 34709 overall to begin with. My references showed that the aircraft exhibited a very starkly weathered airframe resulting in a ‘patchwork effect. I lightened the dark green with some white and a dash of yellow and sprayed the masked off panels with the new shade. The result looked a little too stark so I softened the effect by spraying a darker shade freehand along the panel lines. I didn’t want to blend the border though, merely to soften the colour transition a little.

The radome was masked and sprayed black at this point.

My references stated that this aircraft featured a port aileron, nose gear door and starboard slat in the previous “Euro I” grey scheme that the overall green scheme replaced. My references were not conclusive about the nose gear door or aileron, so I painted them “Euro I” scheme. I did have however a front on shot taken on the day of the incident. I was not convinced that the slat was in the old scheme so this was painted in the ‘faded’ green.



I also picked out various wing access panels in a faded green to add interest, but not based on any evidence whatsoever!

Th model was then given a gloss coat in preparation for decals.


I used the Gekko Graphics sheet on this kit. These decals are superbly printed and performed flawlessly. I experienced some minor silvering, however that was due entirely to poor surface preparation on my part. The sheet allows you to build up to six machines and is thoroughly researched, and even includes conversion notes pertaining to the Hasegawa kit.




I was initially concerned that since these decals were designed to fit the Hasegawa kit,
I might have problems with the wing walkways.

My concerns were unfounded as they fit the kit beautifully.

I did have to apply several applications of Microsol to the outboard walkway decals in order to get them to conform to the many small vortex generators. Eventually, after about eight applications I was happy !


Now for the fun part!

I applied a dark brown wash to the panel lines. This was then removed with a cotton bud. Several streaks were added ranging in colour from black to reddish brown. Once satisfied, I gave the kit a coat of matt varnish. I now used powdered pastels to apply small graphite streaks behind control surfaces and the vortex generators at the wing tips. I applied black pastel to the area around the cannon ports as well as streaking back from the shell ejector ports. Another matt coat was applied to seal the pastels.



Final Assembly


It was now time to remove all the canopy and radome masking and add all the delicate bits. The fuselage centreline tank was atached as was the AIM-9 rail. The lower rotating beacon was added as were all the pylon sway braces. I also glued the clear wingtip lights into their previously drilled holes. The lights were made from clear sprue. The upper beacon (red) and the High Intensity Strobe Light (HISL) was added. This was made from clear sprue suitable sanded to shape then dipped in Future. The little probe in front of the windshield and fin tip was was glued in place with a small electrical cable added to add interest ( I don’t think there are actually any cables here in real life!)

He model is mounted on a 10mm acrylic rod that is inserted into a perspex back plate, which in turn is screwed into a Jarrah base. The rod is ‘keyed’ to fit into the exhaust which has plastic strips glued inside to receive the rod.





The Hobbycraft kit builds quickly and easily into a fine replica of the Skyhawk. I still have several RNZAF Skyhawks to build, and I will be using the Hasegawa kits as there is much less manufacturing required. Having said that, the majority of the additions were easily accomplished and apart from the decals and pilot figure (Hasegawa), which was taken from the spares box, I used no after market detail sets which I found very satisfying.

I would like to thank the following for their assistance. They helped provide very useful reference material to complete this project.

  • Richard Chafer (Gekko Graphics)

  • Darren Mottram (Motty’s Photo’s)



Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2004 by Anthony Papadis
Page Created 23 September, 2004
Last Updated 29 September, 2004

Back to HyperScale Main Page