Kit No. 35102
Decals: Eight versions – all U.S. Marine Corps featuring a low visibility grey paint scheme
Comments: Engraved panel lines; option for open or closed canopy
The OA-4M Skyhawk was a tactical air control aircraft developed specifically for the U.S. Marine Corps for high speed reconnaissance, close air support and FastFAC (Fast Forward Air Controller) missions. It represented a refinement of the delivery of Marine air support needs based on their experiences in Vietnam. Its purpose was to direct air and naval gunfire and artillery onto enemy positions with greater accuracy, in part with the help of state-of-the-art avionics and onboard radios providing Marine aviators the ability to instantly communicate with ground commanders.
Of all the variants of the A-4 Skyhawk, the OA-4M may be the least well known. It was developed fairly late in the type’s service life (22 years after the Skyhawk entered service in 1956) and there were relatively few of them. A total of twenty-three TA-4F two-seaters were converted to the OA-4M designation, with the prototype OA-4M flying for the first time in 1978.
Improvements in the OA-4M included: new ARC-159 UHF air communications radio; ARC-114 VHF radio for ground communications; ARN-118 TACAN inertial navigation system; ALQ-126 electronic countermeasures equipment; a KY-28 secure voice system; and an ARL-45/50 radar warning system. Outwardly the major change was that the OA-4M was equipped with A-4M electronics contained in a dorsal avionics hump aft of the two-seat canopy — similar but not identical to the dorsal avionics hump installed in the A-4F and later retrofitted to the A-4E series. Additional changes took the form of extra cockpit side armor plating, an APN-194 altimeter, and a nose sensor group similar to that of the A-4M.
For a more comprehensive history of the Skyhawk, click here.
Fujimi’s OA-4M Skyhawk is injection molded in grey and consists of 97 parts, including 3 clear parts providing an option for a closed one-piece canopy, or an open two-piece canopy with a separate windshield. This kit is a variation on and shares parts in common with Fujimi’s earlier offerings, including its TA-4 Skyhawk kit, the version from which the OA-4M was developed. A key feature of this and earlier kits is the four-piece fuselage, featuring a two-piece nose section and two more halves for the remainder of the fuselage. This provides a challenge but also tends to slow down the build, as it requires more time and effort at seam-hiding than is usually necessary.
The two-seat tandem cockpit has no internal sidewall detail (the Skyhawk was a fairly small aircraft with snug cockpit dimensions, even as a two-seater) but is nonetheless well appoined with raised detail on both main instrument panels and on the side panels forming part of the cockpit tubs. Parts for the two positions are identical, right down to the main instrument panels and control columns.
Decals are provided for all instrument panels, which will require sanding all the molded detail off, but painting and dry brushing the panels in their original form are likely to have a more impressive finished look. The seats are above average in detail — ejection pull handles are molded onto each seat at the front, between the pilot’s legs, but feature raised details for the seat straps which are not terribly impressive and might have been better omitted.
There is good detail on the face of the intake fan, but it will be hard to see as it is positioned deep inside the fuselage and will likely be only partially visible at best, as seen from the mouth of the Skyhawk’s two intakes. Aside from the kit’s engraved panel lines, one thing readily noticeable is the level of detail in the wheel wells, and the painstaking accuracy of the inside surface of the main landing gear doors as well as the dive brakes – the detail in both is faithfully recreated. The landing gear themselves are nicely detailed.
There are separate parts for the leading edge slats of the wings, and underwing stores consist of one center line and two outboard drop tanks, along with two Zuni rocket pods. Alternate armament can be outfitted, as there are large triple ejector racks provided, but no additional stores — so the modeler will need to turn to an aftermarket source such as one of Hasegawa’s Aircraft Weapons Sets.
The decals are printed in Japan and are sealed in their own clear plastic package. They appear to have a semi-gloss sheen and are of the standard low visibility grey variety for U.S. Marine aircraft, with the exception of the aircraft number for the nose and the call letters on the tail, both of which are black. The instruction sheet is clear and easy to follow, and provides an illustration for a single Marine Corps version, with a paint guide calling out Gunze Sangyo colors.
This is a highly detailed kit of an impressive but lesser known members of the Skyhawk family, from the later years of Scooter’s service life. Highly recommended.
- Douglas A-4 Skyhawk by Peter Kilduff (Osprey Air Combat Series); Copyright 1983 Osprey Publishing Limited, London.