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A-4M Conversion

 

Resin Conversion Overview

 

Cutting Edge Modelworks

 

S u m m a r y

Catalogue Number: To Be Advised
Scale: 1/48 scale
Contents and Media: 10 resin parts
Price: To Be Advised
Review Type: FirstLook
Advantages: Accurate; versatile; excellent clear resin parts; good fit
Disadvantages: Additional parts/sets required for full A-4M airframe conversion
Recommendation: Recommended to experienced modellers.

 


HyperScale is proudly sponsored by Meteor Productions

Reviewed by David W. Aungst

 

Background

 

I have been working with Meteor Productions for about a year now to help them produce an A-4M conversion in their Cutting Edge resin line for the Hasegawa A-4 Skyhawk kit.

My thrust was to have them create a 1/32nd scale conversion for the big 1/32nd scale Hasegawa A-4E/F kit. Using my research and the rough masters I had completed in 1/32nd scale as a guide, Meteor Productions decided to first put together a 1/48th scale conversion for the newer 1/48th scale Hasegawa A-4E/F kit. Since I generally built mostly 1/48th scale models, I was not going to argue with this.

This review is for the 1/48th scale A-4M conversion. The 1/32nd scale conversion is also coming, but it will not be out until later this year. Big scale modelers will have to wait only a little while longer.

 

 

Cutting Edge's Multiple Set Conversion

 

As has been the case in the past with some Cutting Edge sets, the total A-4M conversion is not all contained in one set. It will actually require two sets to make the full A-4M airframe conversion. Optionally, you will need to decide on whether or not you want to get a cockpit update/conversion, meaning you might need a third set for your A-4M conversion.

This splitting up of the sets into multiple releases is due to the fact that some of the components making an A-4M unique are also found in other Skyhawk versions. By dividing up the conversion sets into components, you can mix and match the sets you buy to build the exact Skyhawk you want. To make the full A-4M conversion, you need the following sets:

  • CEC48316 -- the A-4F "Super Fox" Conversion Set

  • CEC48334 -- the A-4M Airframe Conversion Set

  • CEC48279 -- the A-4 Cockpit Update Set - optional

  • CEC48##1 -- the A-4M Late Production Cockpit Update/Conversion Set - optional

  • CEC48##2 -- the A-4M Late Production "Super Mike" Landing Gear Update/Conversion Set - optional

The "Super Fox" conversion set (CEC48316) provides the needed bulged intakes that were standard on all A-4M Skyhawks. It also provides the "hotdog" antenna for the top of the tail, although this is not present on early A-4M Skyhawks. I am not going to go into any great detail on this set as it has been reviewed in other postings.

The A-4M airframe conversion set (CEC48334, the purpose of this posting) provides all the needed fuselage changes to update the Hasegawa A-4E/F kit to be and A-4M, except for the engine intakes and "hotdog" antenna. See the next section for a detailed look at the pieces of this conversion.

The A-4 cockpit update set (CEC48279) provides an updated cockpit that is a better detailed version of what the Hasegawa kit already has in it. I will not say much more as this, too, has been reviewed in other postings. You would only use this set in an early production A-4M, prior to any upgrades that brought these aircraft up to the later standards. Optionally, you could also just use the Hasegawa kit cockpit in an early production A-4M.

The A-4M late production cockpit update/conversion set (CEC48##1) provides an updated cockpit that includes the enlarged main instrument panel and HUD found on the middle and late production airframes. This set is not yet available, but is expected to be out later this year. This set is optional to your A-4M conversion as not all A-4M Skyhawks had an updated cockpit. You only need this set for a middle or late production A-4M. This set is due to be released sometime shortly after Nationals.

The A-4M late production "Super Mike" landing gear update/conversion set (CEC48##2) provides the minimum requirements to update the wheel well doors and landing gear to build an A-4M "Super Mike" Skyhawk. The last block of A-4M Skyhawks had beefed-up landing gear to support higher gross weights. The revision to the landing gear changed the contours of the lower wing and main wheel well doors. Because of these changes, the last block of A-4M Skyhawks were referred to as "Super Mike" Skyhawks (similar to how the improved A-4F Skyhawks were referred to as "Super Fox" Skyhawks). This set will include replacement wheel well doors, pieces to modify the lower wing to match the new doors, torque link sissors for the bottom of the main landing gear struts, and replacement main wheels. The set will not include replacement main landing gear legs. The difference in the thickness of the legs in 1/48th scale is not enough to matter. This set is due to be released sometime shortly after Nationals.

 

 

Cutting Edge A-4M Conversion Described

 

The A-4M airframe conversion provides eight casting blocks holding ten conversion pieces.

The two largest pieces in the set are the two fuselage side wall inserts to change the shape of the cockpit opening. These pieces are designed to fit into openings in the fuselage that you cut out following the existing panel lines of the Hasegawa kit.

 

 

Cockpit Side Walls Cockpit Fuselage Cuts

 

I scored a deep groove along the lower edge of the fuselage conversion pieces by pulling an X-acto knife backwards. I then bend back and snaped free the pieces from their casting blocks. I quick touch from an X-acto flat file trued up the edge and made the pieces ready to use.

I used a Dremel razor saw to hack out the right fuselage area. I cut about 1/32nd of an inch smaller then the intended panel lines. I then used an X-acto file to adjust the cuts to perfectly meet the panel line, dry fitting constantly with the conversion piece to confirm its fit. The piece fits so well that I feel it will need no filler. Gluing from the back side with super glue, the joints will look like the original panel lines of the kit.

With the right side going so well (and fast, about ten minutes), I got cocky and careless on the left side and cut too far down the fuselage on the lower cut. It cost me an hour of playing around to fit the conversion piece into the fuselage without a big gap. I fitted a piece of strip styrene to fill the unwanted gap on the lower edge of the cutout. Read the Cutting Edge instructions and take heed -- "Measure Twice, Cut Once!"

 

Right Fuselage Modified Left Fuselage Modified

Cut (Left) and Assembled (Right) Fuselage Inserts

 

Left Fuselage Modified

Left Side Close-Up (Note White Styrene Strip Used to Fill Unwanted Gap)

 

Left Fuselage Modified

Right Side Close-Up

 

The two close-up pictures show the fit of the "raw" conversion. I have done nothing at this point except apply super glue from the back side. I will lightly sand the joints to even them off a bit and use some Mr. Surfacer to slightly fill the seams. As they are supposed to be panel lines, I do not want to remove the seams, only reduce their size.

Next, you have replacement nose tips with all the A-4M specific bumps and bulges cast onto them. These nose tips pertain to middle and late production A-4Ms. The original early production A-4M aircraft had the same nose as already provided in the Hasegawa kit.

Two pieces are provided, one solid and one clear. It really only was necessary to provide the clear one, but Meteor gives you two. For middle production A-4M aircraft, use either nose and paint the whole nose to match the aircraft's camouflage. For late production A-4M aircraft, use the clear one and mask off the extreme tip of the nose to stay clear. This clear tip will then represent the ARBS camera window.

 

Replacement Nose Tips

 

Next is a casting block with three small pieces cast on it. The outer two pieces are the bulbous antennae that are found on either side of the engine exhaust. These pertain to middle and late production A-4Ms. The original early production A-4M aircraft had the same engine exhaust antennae as already provided in the Hasegawa kit.

The middle piece on this casting block is the APU exhaust pipe. The APU exhaust is found low on the right side of the fuselage, just above the rear end of the aerial refueling pipe fairing, over the wing. It is necessary to cut an appropriately sized hole in the fuselage to accommodate this exhaust pipe.

 

APU Exhaust and Rear Antennae APU Exhaust Location

 

The true gems of the conversion set are the clear cast resin canopy and windscreen. Once removed from their casting blocks, you will be hard pressed to tell these pieces were not right out of a commercial model kit. There will be no need for any skills relating to the use of vacuum formed canopies in this conversion. In the picture, here, they look a bit clouded, but I can assure you they are thin, clear, and beautiful.

 

A-4M Canopy and Windscreen

 

An extra piece I had in the set that forshadows what is to come from Cutting Edge is a strike camera window. While this does not belong on the A-4M, it does go on late A-4Ns and A-4Ks (following their respective improvement programs). Expect more Skyhawk conversions in the Cutting Edge line of products.

 

Strike Camera



 

A Brief A-4M Skyhawk Anatomy Lesson

 

With the release of this A-4M airframe conversion, it is finally possible to build an accurate 1/48th scale A-4M without having to move mountains and scratch build a lot of details (not the least of which is a new canopy and windscreen). But, the A-4M Skyhawk comes in many "flavors". This section is intended to assist you to decide what sets you need to get to build which aircraft.

The following table outlines the sets you need to get for each "flavor" of the airframe. This table relates specifically to how the aircraft were delivered. Later in life, all A-4M aircraft were updated to the "late" standard for everything except the beefed-up "Super Mike" landing gear.
 

Aircraft

Sets 

CEC48316
"Super Fox" Update
CEC48334
A-4M Airframe Conv
CEC48279
A-4 Cockpit Update
CEC48##1
A-4M Late Cockpit
CEC48##2
"Super Mike" Update
Early Production A-4M X X X    
Middle Production A-4M X X   X  
Late Production A-4M X X   X X



 

General A-4M Construction Notes

 

This section outlines construction items that are common to all A-4M Skyhawks.

  • Cut the kit fuselage and install the Cutting Edge cockpit side walls. Use the new canopy and windscreen.

  • Use the bulged engine intakes from the "Super Fox" conversion.

  • Drill an appropriate size hole in the right fuselage and install the Cutting Edge APU exhaust pipe. Note that the first few A-4M aircraft to come off the assembly line did not have the APU installed. Most of these aircraft went to VMA-324 "Vagabonds". By the time VMA-324 transitioned out of the A-4M, the APUs were retrofitted into the aircraft.

  • Consult references to get the correct configuration for the spike antennae and formation light on the trailing edge of the vertical tail, below the rudder. These were revised from how they looked on the A-4E/F.

  • Add the parachute brake housing under the rear fuselage (parts D11 and D28). Note that the kit provides two different parachute brake housings. The part numbers I list here are correct for the A-4M. The other parts pertain to other Skyhawk versions.

  • All A-4M Skyhawks use the bent refueling probe.

  • No A-4M Skyhawks have a flare/chaff dispensor on the left side of the rear fuselage. Use the kit part (part A6) with no dispensor molded into it.

  • Construct all the other antennae and details (not mentioned here or below) to match what the Hasegawa kit refers to as "Scheme 2".

  • The pitot boom for the leading edge of the tail is available in the Hasegawa kit (part E20). Most A-4Ms eventually had this style of pitot retrofitted onto them. This pitot boom is mutually exclusive with the "L" shaped pitot on the upper nose (part F24). An aircraft with the tail mounted pitot will not have the nose mounted one.

  • There are two static points molded to the right side of the nose (small trangular shapes with raised edging). These are also mutually exclusive. You need to carve or sand off one of these based on the type of refueling probe the aircraft has. Keep the rear static port for aircraft with a straight refueling probe. Keep the forward one for aircraft with a bent refueling probe. Hence, all A-4Ms will keep the forward one and should have the rear one carved or sanded off.

 

 

Early-Construction A-4M Construction Notes

 

This conversion is the least amount of change from the stock Hasegawa A-4E/F kit. This configuration pertains to BuNos 158148 through 158196 and 158412 through 158435 as they were delivered to the USMC.

  • Use the Hasegawa kit provided cockpit or the Cutting Edge A-4 Cockpit Update set (CEC48279).

  • Do not cut the nose tip off the fuselage. Leave the Hasegawa kit provided nose intact.

  • Use the Hasegawa kit provided square vertical tail tip (part A14).

  • Use the small Hasegawa kit provided ECM antennae on either side of the engine exhaust (parts D17 and D18).

 

 

Middle-Construction A-4M Construction Notes

 

This configuration pertains to BuNos 159470 through 159493, 159778 through 159790, and 160022 through 160045 as they were delivered to the USMC:

  • Use the Cutting Edge A-4M Late Production Cockpit Update/Conversion Set (CEC48##1). Remove the large square CRT from the right side of the main instrument panel, leaving a blank area on the panel.

  • This CRT is the TV screen for the ARBS camera in the nose, which the middle production airframes did not have installed, yet.

  • Cut the nose tip off the fuselage. Install the non-transparent Cutting Edge replacement nose tip.

  • Use the Cutting Edge "hotdog" tail top antenna from the "Super Fox" conversion.

  • Use the Cutting Edge bulbous antennae on either side of the engine exhaust.

 

 

Late-Construction A-4M Construction Notes


This configuration pertains to BuNos 160241 through 160264 as they were delivered to the USMC. These aircraft were all "Super Mike" airframes.

  • Use the Cutting Edge A-4M Late Production Cockpit Update/Conversion Set (CEC48##1).

  • Cut the nose tip off the fuselage. Install the transparent Cutting Edge replacement nose tip. When painting the model, mask off the extreme tip of the nose and leave it clear to represent the ARBS camera window.

  • Use the Cutting Edge "hotdog" tail top antenna from the "Super Fox" conversion.

  • Use the Cutting Edge bulbous antennae that are found on either side of the engine exhaust.

  • Use the Cutting Edge A-4M Late Production "Super Mike" Landing Gear Update/Conversion Set (CEC48##2).

 

 

A-4M Upgrade Construction Notes

 

To be complete for all the "bean counters" out there, here are a few BuNo notes of importance.

  • A-4Fs 155042 and 155049 were the prototype A-4M conversions and exibit most all the traits of the early production A-4M. I can not find information stating whether these were considered YA-4Ms or just A-4Ms. I can also find no mention of whether they were further upgraded (as most A-4Ms were) to late standards.

  • A-4M 158426 was the prototype conversion for the middle production configuration and came off the assembly line as a middle production airframe, not an early one.

  • A-4M 160036 was the prototype conversion for the "Super Mike" and came off the assembly line as a late production "Super Mike" including the beefed-up landing gear.

  • As time passed, all A-4M Skyhawks were retrofitted and brought up to the same production standard as the late production aircraft. The only exception is the landing gear. Only the aircraft delivered as "Super Mike" Skyhawks had the beefed-up landing gear. All the early and middle production A-4M Skyhawks retained the original Skyhawk landing gear as provided in the Hasegawa A-4E/F kit.

 

 

Other Skyhawk Possibilities

 

There will be those among you that will not want to start with a simple A-4M. Hence, here are some notes for making other Skyhawk versions from this A-4M Airframe Conversion set. I am not going to get into great detail here. Check references for varied antennae fits and locations.

 

 

Israeli A-4N Construction Notes

 

To build an early Israeli A-4N, most everything you need is in the sets listed above. An early A-4N is really not much more than an early production A-4M with no APU exhaust on the right fuselage and a varied cannon armament. The A-4N came standard with the 30mm DEFA cannons in fairings below the wing roots, replacing the 20mm cannons in the wing roots. The varied cannon armament is not in the Hasegawa kit or the above listed Cutting Edge sets. The 30mm cannons and fairings are available in the A-4H conversion from Cutting Edge (CEC48322).

A late A-4N has the engine exhaust extension and some different antennae. A lot of the different antennae are already in the Hasegawa kit. The extended engine exhaust is available in the A-4H conversion from Cutting Edge (CEC48322). The strike camera provided in the A-4M conversion set would replace the anti-collision beacon on the left wheel canoe fairing. The light is then moved to the right side canoe fairing, just ahead of the fuel dump mast.

From what I read, the cockpit is updated in late A-4Ns, but I have never seen a picture to know how much different this is from its original configuration (I have not looked too hard, though).

 

 

Kuwaiti A-4KU Construction Notes

 

To build a Kuwaiti A-4KU, most everything you need is in the sets listed above. An A-4KU is truely not much more than an early production A-4M with some varied antennae.

 

 

South American A-4M Construction Notes

 

Brazil and Argentina have both purchased used, late model A-4s.

The Argentine machines are ex-USMC A-4Ms. While the antennae fit is varied, the base airframes will be middle production A-4Ms with the ARBS camera in the nose. I have never looked to see whether any late production airframes ("Super Mike" aircraft) were sold to Argentina. I aussme the possibility would exist for this.

The Brazilian machines are ex-Kuwaiti A-4KUs. With slightly varied antennae, these aircraft are the same as the Kuwaiti A-4KUs mentioned above. Note that these aircraft are operational on Brazil's aircraft carriers, making the point that most all A-4s are navalized with catapult launch equipment, even if the user country did not operate them from a carrier (Kuwait has no aircraft carriers).

 

 

Conclusion

 

There you have it -- a run down on the new A-4M conversion from Cutting Edge as well as a quick reference to the anatomy of the A-4M Skyhawk and other late model Skyhawks. I am currently building this conversion with hopes to have it done for display at the IPMS Nationals. With all the big modeling pushes I have already made this year, I am unsure if I will be able to push one more time to get this one done in time, but I am going to give it a try.

With the late production cockpit not being available just yet, I am choosing to build my conversion as an early production airframe. Besides, this is less cutting and converting of the kit, so I stand a better chance of completing it in time.

See you in Virginia Beach!
 

Thanks to Meteor Productions for the review sample


Review and Images Copyright 2002 by David W. Aungst
Page Created 08 July, 2002
Last updated 22 July, 2003

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