1/48 USMC VMAT-102 TA-4F conversion
Hi all, this is a companion build to the TA-4J I posted earlier. I started it with a Hobbycraft A-4C. When the Hobbycraft kits first came out, I bought a B, an E, and two C kits sight unseen (no reviews/photos beforehand). I was a bit disappointed once I got hold of the kits, because of the shape of the canopy particularly, and the intake areas- both the intake lips and inner ramp parts. The rest of the kit is pretty good with engraved panel lines and some very nice weapons provided- an "improved" Monogram A-4E kit. I plan to make use of the nose section of this particular HC A-4C kit to convert an ESCI A-4E kit into a TA-4S- there will be more about that in another future post.
Way back before Classic Airframes released their TA-4J, I was looking into available conversions so I could eventually build a Blue Angels TA-4J. I got hold of a War Eagle TA-4J conversion- which is essentially a Vacuformed Monogram OA-4M fuselage modified to be a TA-4J/F. I also eventually got hold of a Kiwi models TA-4K conversion, which was a modified Hasegawa A-4E fuselage with Vacuformed two seat canopy. There also was a Red Roo conversion that was released to enable you to make a TA-4J out of a Monogram OA-4M. The Kiwi conversion had inconsistencies in both halves of the fuselage parts (shrinkage and rough casting) so I did not like the idea of using it in its entirety. In the end, I used the War Eagle fuselage forward of the fuselage break on the HC kit, some Kiwi cockpit parts and canopy, and Hobbycraft A-4E nose section. I also used one of my resin canopy fairing and spine correction parts I used in the CA USN TA-4J posted earlier.
I saw this TA-4F on a decal sheet- MAW Decals 48-MAW018, and after finding photographs of the aircraft online- I decided to use it on this conversion. In the pictures below, you can see I made use of KMC intakes (as well as the interior fan section) meant for the Monogram A-4E/OA-4M, but the shape is not quite what it should be for the exterior parts, so I later used resin copies of the Hasegawa kit intake lips to correct them.
After deciding to close the canopy, I had to adjust the Kiwi resin canopy brace section and rear instrument shroud. I added interior details to the canopy in the same manner as for the Classic Airframes TA-4J build. I used KMC resin seats as they fit the width of the fuselage better.
KMC produced very nice sway braces in their A-4 detail set for the Monogram A-4E. They faithfully replicate what the braces look like when A-4 pylons do not have anything loaded. The TA-4F is essentially a TA-4J wired for weapons with 5 hard points- The TA-4J has only three hard points like the early skyhawks; A-C.
The drop tanks in the photos I found are actually white, but for the kit, I painted them the same as the light grey lower camouflage colour. The online photos of the aircraft later in its service life also show some damage to the fuselage paint that has been touched up- I am guessing chipped paint from flying through debris from exploded ordnance?
After completing the build, I feel that the Hobbycraft A-4E nose I used is a bit too long, and I may rework the kit a little more with a better shaped ESCI A-4E nose I happen to have in the spares box. The Hobbycraft nose is a bit chunky in outline anyway, so that is more likely what the problem is. I am not sure how I didn't catch that earlier on in this build, but it may be that the HC kit follows the dimensions of the Monogram kit, and I was trying to match the War Eagle fuselage better with the HC parts.
The light grey and sand was airbrushed, but the green and brown of the camouflage was hand painted. The VMAT-102 markings are partly from the MAW "Hard Corps Scooters" decal sheet, and the SC code on the tail (which showed up later in its service life is taken from the old Monogram A-4E VMAT-102 kit markings with the white drop shadows trimmed off.
I still ended up with decal silvering after prepping with three coats of Future- so I will need to see if I can eliminate it by coaxing them with more Future. I am glad it is way easier to build 1/48 TA-4J's nowadays! You have the option of Classic Airframes (reboxed by AZ Model) or Hasegawa. I just couldn't let a couple of old conversion sets and partial A-4 kit go to waste- I am glad I put them to use.
Thanks for watching!
16 additional images. Click to enlarge.