HASAGAWA 1:72 A-3B SKYRAIDER
Reviewer: Gavin Dore (rec.models.scale)
The Douglas A-3 Skywarrior was one of the largest and heaviest aircraft designed for operation from aircraft carriers. It was intended primarily as an attack bomber with tremendous strike capability to meet a late 40's US Navy requirement. The Douglas design was that of a high-wing monoplane, with retractable tricycle landing gear, two podded turbojets beneath the wings, a radar controlled 20-mm cannon rear-turret and a large internal weapons bay that could cater for up to a 12000-lb bombload. The wings were swept back 36 degrees and had high aspect ratio for a long range. All the tail surfaces were swept and the outer wing panels and vertical tail folded. The first prototype flew in 1952 but had engine problems and the first delivery of aircraft, designated A3D-1 Skyraider, occurred in early 1956. In 1962 the designation was changed to A-3, and the A-3B examples derived from the versions that entered service in 1957 and were nicknamed the "Whale". These variants had more powerful engines and an inflight refuelling probe. The A-3B variant was by far the most numerous Skywarrior version with several subvariants branching off from the B - these inclued TA-3B (trainer); KA-3B (tanker); RA-3B (reconnaissance); EA-3B (ECM aircraft); EKA-3B (tanker/countermeasure/strike aircraft) and one VA-3B (VIP transport). The A-3B was only operated by the US Navy had a range of more than 1600 km and its maximum speed at sea level was 982 km/h.
The Hasegawa Skywarrior kit has only been around for a year or two and is really the only good example that one could purchase when it came out other than a tiny scale produced by Revell many decades ago, and I think a crude vaccuform product was also produced by Rareplanes. It's one of those aircraft that seems to have been overlooked by many model companies and as such we have been without this large aircraft even though it was still in the US Navy's inventory up until the mid-90's. Nevertheless, it finally arrived and I can tell you I was pretty happy although finding it was hard to get (seemed that many other modelmakers in my area were also waiting for its release).
Hasegawa have released this kit in a pretty big box, but at least it's not made up of wasted air. This is a big kit and the box should serve as warning for same. Parts are very crisp without any flash and external detail is finely engraved. You can just tell from handling the parts that this is going to be a good quality kit. Fuselage halves are split vertically, but there is no separate tail or nose area, and the wings are split into one upper, two lower sections to glue together.
Construction is relatively straight forward and is typical of Hasegawa manufacturing, you shouldn't have too much trouble with fits etc. As is the norm, you start with the cockpit area and this is quite large because the A-3 has a crew of three. The Interior detail is what we have come to expect from this company - no real detail at all, you have decals for the flat instrument panels, control wheel, right seat radar console and seats (which are replicated reasonably well as the Skywarrior had very unusual looking seats). Any further detail you would want in the interior, such as proper instrumentation, seat belts/harness, radio communications for the third crew member will have to be scratchbuilt, as none of these are touched by Hasegawa. Naturally, with closed canopies it would be hard to see them anyway.
You start to get involved with series of 'opening holes' and cutting 'parts' when you tackle the main assembly. The Vertical tail needs to be trimmed of the bulge it carries and holes need to be openened in the wings/fuselage area, while others are ignored. This seems to indicate that these parts will be recycled to make another kit for the Skywarrior - perhaps an ECM version. Given also that the bomb bay area is attached separately you can see that the company only needs to replace it with the ECM canoe to reproduce that variant. Other holes in the fuselage are positioned where you would attach fairings. But enough of that, by the time I write this, one may well be out and you will know whether this is right!
Back to main assembly: things get a little complicated - and frustrating - when you try and align the fuselage halves together. Because you have areas for the bomb bay, cockpit, wings and wheel wells to attach separately the fuselage requires some clamps (rubber bands will suffice) to ensure the whole segment stays together. I would think that breaking the fuselage into two or three sections (perhaps nose and tail unit separated from main body) would have made this area easier to manage and perhaps Hasegaw need to think of this in any future projects of similar sized aircraft. Nonetheless, with a little bit of putty on hand you should be able to have it aligned correctly without too much visible gapping.
Dry fitting other parts, in particular the wings, will show that everything should fit together relatively easy. However there is a noticeable bulge of excess mold on the back of the port wing and this is not part of the aircraft. You should sand or file this down before glueing onto the aircraft body. I attached the engines onto the wings before the wings went onto the fuselage - the instructions say the other way around. The engines are pretty simple, vertical halves attach to the wing strut and traps the blade representation within. I also used the opportunity to paint these areas before I attached the wings onto the body as I am sure it would create problems if you waited until the whole structure was mounted. Doing it this way (and only painting the engines and wing area around same) ensured that I would not have to test out these skills later. Another note of warning, there are no decals in the kit to apply as the red warning intake strips on the lip of the engine mounts, so I would strongly recommend you paint these on when assembling the engines and not leave it until the final painting chore on the finished product!
Moving onto the landing gear presented know real problems, perhaps it was a little too easy and on severe scrutinisation of the assembly one could argue that it's not completely accurate. I also noticed later when reviewing the completed model that the rear bumper tail wheel on the aircraft is not supplied in the kit, although the way the rear end bumper is shaped it appears that it was thought of but later forgotten!
Once you completed the model you then go onto painting and decalling it. As pointed out above, its best to tackle the engine areas and intake lips before you get to this stage. The colour scheme is pretty standard - grey and white but one thing to point out is that the instructions incorrectly tell you to paint the tail leading edge red for the VAH-11 checkerboard aircraft. It should in fact be a dark grey. The decals are up to Hasegawa's usual standard - easy to position but thin and there's a stack of them!
Overall this makes up into a nice kit and is quite an accurate portrayal of one of the Navy's largest carrier-borne aircraft. This is further highlighted if you sit the A-3 next to another carrier aircraft on your model shelf like a Tomcat, Viking, Phantom or C-2 - it's a very big model and I didn't realise til now that it was this big in comparison. I remember reading somewhere that the deckhands on the carrier used to hate them and now I know why! I wouldn't be surprised if space was one of the big factors that lead to their demise. I'd certainly recommend this for model buffs who like the US Navy aircraft of the Vietnam era and this should be easily accomplished by all but the extreme novice. The only downside apart from the little notations above it's heavy Hasagawa price tag.
Related reviews: Hasegawa 1/72 KA-3B Skywarrior
Hasegawa's example of the finished product, note the red lips on the engine that need to be hand-painted