When Hasegawa finally followed up their excellent 1:48 A-4 series with a TA-4J, many modelers were thrilled, including me. Of course shortly after its release, aftermarket companies soon had various releases to detail the kit even further. Eduard produced several new photo-etched sets for the TA-4J, a couple of which are applicable to other A-4 variants.
The set covers the following:
- Ejection seat details
- Cockpit details including instrument panel and side consoles
- Cockpit sills and canopy details including mirrors
- FOD covers
- Details for landing gear bay doors and landing gear
- Fuselage speed breaks
- Leading edge slats and rails
- Pylons and sway braces
- 300 gal drop tank fins
Sequence of construction is the usual fare starting with the cockpit and generally follows the kits instruction sequence. First was the ejection seats where pre-colored belts, ejection pull handles and other minor details are added. Everything looks good, as far as photo-etch is concerned; however part 11, the upper pull handle, and comes in 2 parts. While this does make the correct square cross-section for this item, it’s extremely difficult to align the two pieces and not bend it out of shape. In the end, I used wire, painted yellow and striped with a Sharpie. Also I’m not sure about the use of part 21; as I’ve seen this in photos of some non-US Skyhawks, but have yet to see a clear picture of a USN/ USMC TA-4 with this installed on the top of the E-seat, so check your references. Personally I don’t like dealing with multi-part photo-etch belts unless showing them pulled away from the seat (either strapped onto a pilot or hanging away from the seat), so I opted for the build to use some True Details resin ejection seats. If you go this route, you can still use many of the smaller Eduard details to dress up a resin seat even further.
The cockpit received a full treatment of both colored and standard photo-etch parts. I love the use of the self-adhesive on instrument panels, as I can sandwich everything together and not have to worry about glue. I have found it easier to cut the upper half (the bezels) positioning it on the lower part of the panel (the part with the printed instruments) whiles its still on the fret. Once it’s all to my liking, I will cut the completed instrument panel from the fret. For the side consoles I painted the kit parts as I felt the Eduard etch was too flat. However, those parts are saved and I will be using them for a “closed canopy” model where they will work perfectly.
Continuing on, Eduard provides a new HUD, however I found that it sticks up a bit too tall and conflicts with the front windscreen. Maybe operator error, but I found a slightly smaller HUD in my spares and used it instead. The FOD covers are a nice inclusion, however most USN units use the double handled ones, but the Eduard FOD covers could work for a non-US based Skyhawk. The underside of the leading edge slats get covered by photo-etch, which is excellent as the kit parts are marred by ejector pin marks. The photoetch makes this area very clean, yet detailed.
Landing gear has hydraulic lines added; however I personally found it easier to use fine wire. Detail is provided for the inside of the main landing gear bay doors. At first, it may look daunting, but removing the kit detail and adding the photo-etch is actually easier than it looks. Patience is the key, and being sure to remove all of the kit detail as required makes the fit of the photo-etch parts perfect. The result is worth it as the insides of the main gear doors are noticeable even while the aircraft is on its wheels. Probably one of the largest improvements the photoetch set makes is the fuselage speed breaks. Be sure to curve the exterior part (112, 113) which can be done by placing it face down on your cutting mat and rolling an Exacto handle across it with firm pressure. This should induce just enough curl to match the curve of part 99 and 100. The breaks assemble very easily, and look fantastic with the proper “see-through” effect.
The set wraps up with additional details for the canopy, all of which I pre-painted before installing. Being this kit has such a large canopy that is easily seen into, the addition of the Eduard parts really makes a difference. Many TA-4Js are not fully loaded up, so the addition of the pylon details to replicate the underside of the pylon is an added plus. Though not as deep or three-dimensional as the real thing, they do make enough of addition to be useful. Of course, if you plan on having a station loaded, don’t bother using these etch parts. The 300-gallon drop tank fins are also a nice touch and do make the aft end of the tanks look that much better. I would like to see Eduard release a generic drop tank fin set for all those other kits we have!
There was a period of time where some sets from Eduard were not the most cost-effective as I would end up leaving about a half or more of the parts on the fret, either because they were to difficult to use, or didn’t really improve the kit much. However, I’ve noticed in the last couple of years that I leave less and less of the parts on the frets, sometimes using everything. This set is no exception, with me using about 75% of the parts, and if I had used the ejection seat, side consoles, and FOD covers (which may all get used in other projects), the ratio jumps to around 90-95%. I also see no reason why much of this set could not be used on the Classic Airframes kit, as it was designed on a standard Hasegawa A-4, essentially following the same logic as Hasegawa. Comparing the two kits, the breakdown in parts is almost identical, so I’m sure very little modification would be needed to fit the Eduard parts to the CA kit. Looking from a distance, you can’t tell too much of a difference from a stock kit, but get any closer and suddenly you will see the wealth of detail that the Eduard set gives the kit. Highly recommended to any who want to add that extra touch of detail their two-seat Scooter.
Thank-you to Eduard Model Accessories and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review this set.