Douglas A-1D, (AD-4) Skyraider
The Douglas A-1 Skyraider (formerly AD) was an American single-seat attack aircraft that saw service between the late 1940s and early 1980s. It became a piston-powered, propeller-driven anachronism in the jet age, and was nicknamed "Spad", after the French World War I fighter. The Skyraider had a remarkably long and successful career, even inspiring its straight-winged, slow-flying, jet-powered successor, the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
It was operated by the United States Navy (USN), the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and the United States Air Force (USAF), and also saw service with the Royal Navy, the French Air Force, the Air Force of the Republic of Vietnam (VNAF), and others.
The piston-engined Skyraider was designed during World War II to meet U.S. Naval requirements for a carrier-based, single-seat, long-range, high performance dive/torpedo bomber, to follow-on from earlier types such as the Helldiver and Avenger. Designed by Ed Heinemann of the Douglas Aircraft Company, prototypes were ordered on 6 July 1944 as the XBT2D-1. The XBT2D-1 made its first flight on 18 March 1945 and in April 1945, the USN began evaluation of the aircraft at the Naval Air Test Center (NATC). In December 1946, after a designation change to AD-1, delivery of the first production aircraft to a fleet squadron was made to VA-19A.
The low-wing monoplane design started with a Wright R-3350 radial engine, later upgraded several times. Its distinctive feature was large straight wings with seven hard points apiece. These gave the aircraft excellent low-speed manoeuvrability, and enabled it to carry a large amount of ordnance over a considerable combat radius and loiter time for its size, comparable to much heavier subsonic or supersonic jets. The aircraft was optimized for the ground-attack mission and was armoured against ground fire in key locations unlike faster fighters adapted to carry bombs, such as the Vought F4U Corsair or North American P-51 Mustang, which would be retired by U.S. forces before the 1960s.
Shortly after Heinemann began design of the XBT2D-1 a study was issued that showed for every 100 lbs of weight reduction the take-off run was decreased by 8 feet, the combat radius increased by 22 miles and the rate of climb increased by 18 feet. Heinemann immediately had his design engineers begin a program of finding weight saving on the XBT2D-1 design no matter how small. 270 lbs was found by simplifying the fuel system; 200 lbs by eliminating an internal bomb bay and hanging the bombs, drop tanks and rockets from the wings or fuselage; 70 lbs by using a fuselage dive brake; and 100 lbs by using an older tail wheel design. In the end Heinemann and his design engineers found over 1800 lbs of weight savings on the original XBT2D-1 design.
Navy AD series were initially painted in ANA 623 Glossy Sea Blue, but during the 1950s following the Korean War, the colour scheme was changed to light gull grey (FS26440) and white (FS27875). Initially using the gray and white Navy pattern, by 1967 the USAF began to paint its Skyraiders in a camouflaged pattern using two shades of green, and one of tan.
Used by the USN over Korea and Vietnam, the A-1 was a primary close air support aircraft for the USAF and VNAF during the Vietnam War. The A-1 was famous for being able to take hits and keep flying. There was added armour plating around the cockpit area for added pilot protection. It was replaced beginning in the mid-1960s by the Grumman A-6 Intruder as the Navy's primary medium attack plane in super carrier-based air wings; however Skyraiders continued to operate from the smaller Essex class carriers.
The Skyraider went through seven versions, starting with the AD-1, then AD-2 and AD-3 with various minor improvements, then the AD-4, (the subject of this kit), with a more powerful R-3350-26WA engine. The AD-5 was significantly widened, (allowing the two crew to sit side-by-side), it also came in a four-seat night-attack version, the AD-5N. The AD-6 was an improved AD-4B with improved low-level bombing equipment, and the final production version AD-7 was upgraded to an R-3350-26WB engine.
Skyraider production ended in 1957 with a total of 3,180 built. In 1962, the existing Skyraiders were redesignated A-1D through A-1J and later used by both the USAF and the Navy in the Vietnam War.
It is great to see another 1:32 Skyraider on the market giving the modeller a choice of either a complex or relatively simple build, even though the marks are different. This kit is of an earlier version, as used in the Korean War and is certainly the most accessible kit of this aircraft available, and I’m sure Trumpeter will be releasing later versions in the future, certainly going by the number of parts that aren’t used in this kit. The kit comes in quite a large box with an artists representation of the aircraft in flight over a target in Korea. Even with the size of the box, on opening it is stuff full with eighteen sprues of medium grey styrene, one sprue of clear styrene, rubber tyres, a small sheet of etched brass, and two quite large sheets of decals, one for the aircraft and one for the weaponry. All the parts appear very well moulded with no sign of flash and not too many moulding pips. Surface detail is a mixture of engraved and raised lines where appropriate such as strengthening straps and rivets. The instructions, on twenty four pages of landscape A4 are very clear and easy to follow. Despite the size of the kit, construction appears to be fairly simple, yet there is plenty of scope for additional detail to be added as has been seen on this site already. Once good thing about building a carrier borne aircraft in this scale is the useful feature of having the wings folded, thus taking up less space in the display cabinet.
Construction starts with the engine build. The front and rear banks of cylinders are in two halves, each bank is then attached to each other and the push rods are fitted, as is the rear engine mounting plate. The crankcase is then built up with the addition of the magnetos and other ancillary parts before fitting to the front of the engine. The air intake manifold is the assembled and fitted to the rear of the engine followed by the complex arrangement of exhaust pipes which look quite fun to assemble and fit to each cylinder. The planetary gear case with the oil tank and sump moulded integrally is fitted with the two part battery and attached to the rear of the engine as are the very sturdy looking engine mounts.
With the engine complete, the cockpit is then assembled. To the basic cockpit floor, with the side console shapes pre-moulded, the side console inners and tops are added, along with the seat, joystick, rudder pedals and instrument panel. The panel consists of a backing plate and clear front portion, onto the back of which the instrument decal is positioned. The instrument faces then need to be masked off before painting. When the masking is removed if should give the effect that the dials are behind glass. With the panel in place the rear bulkhead, having had the headrest attached can be fitted to the floor. Etched belts are provided for the lap and over-shoulder positions. To the completed cockpit assembly the main fuselage bulkheads fore and aft are attached. The foreward bulkhead also has the main engine oil tank, oil pump and fire bottle fixed to the front face, whilst the rear bulkhead has the fuselage fuel tank fitted to the rear face. The engine assembly is then attached to the front bulkhead and the whole assembly fitted to one side of the fuselage. The tailwheel bay is made up of the roof, sides and small front bulkhead to which the fuselage tail bulkhead is attached. The tailwheel itself is made up of the oleo, three part wheel support structure and the three part wheel including the rubber tyre. The tailwheel is then fitted into the well and the whole assembly fitted to its position in the fuselage. There are six further bulkheads fitted within the fuselage two of which are attached to the separate lower air brake well. With everything fitted into one half of the fuselage, the other half can be attached closing the fuselage up.
With the fuselage closed up work still continues on the nose area. Firstly the two intakes are attached above and below the nose, aft of the engine; the lower intake is fitted with a PE grille. The two side panels aft of the engine are moulded in clear styrene, presumably so that the internal can be seen if one or both panels are left unpainted. The four nose strakes are attached to their respective positions, two per side whilst the cowling mounting ring is fitted over the engine and attached to the fuselage. In the cockpit the two canopy rails are fitted, whilst behind the cockpit two air scopes are attached. The engine cowling has the option of being posed open or closed as do the front and rear cowl flaps. If posed closed there is a very nicely moulded single piece outer cowl, into which parts representing the internal structure and front cowl flaps are fitted. Whilst this is a nice feature, it would be a shame to hide all the great engine detail. For the open cowling there is a separate nose structure into which the front cooling flaps are fitted, the support beam, two hinged panels and their gas struts. Moving back to the cockpit opening the coaming is fitted with a switch box and glued into place. There is a panel fitted behind the headrest and fitted with a support posts. The canopy slide rail is then fitted along with a blade aerial and the windscreen. The single piece canopy, moulded in clear styrene is a very complicated moulding and due to this does suffering from a mould seam which will need some careful sanding and polishing with something like the micromesh system before sealing in Kleer or Alclad aqua gloss before fitting to the fuselage.
With the fuselage now complete work moves to the tail with the assembly of the horizontal tailplanes, elevators and rudder, each of which is in two halves. For the elevators to be posed drooped two small tags need to be removed first. The lower wing centre section is then fitted out with the main undercarriage bays box structures with cross bracing between the inboard and outboard sides. The inner wing cannon ammunition boxes are also fitted, as are the fold join ribs. The inner cannon are made up of the breech, with ammunition belt feed and ejector detail and a three part barrel and barrel bracket. The cannon are then attached to the inner wing between the inner and outer fold join ribs. If the wing is to be modelled unfolded then the three piece barrel can be replaced by a single, less detailed one. With the cannon fitted the upper wing parts can be attached. Turning the wing over, the flaps are assembled and attached to the wings by four actuators the choice of parts will depend on whether the flaps are to be modelled up or down. At this point the instructions call for the main undercarriage to be fitted, but it may be prudent to leave this until after the inner wing section is attached to the fuselage to prevent any breakages. As it is, the main undercarriage is each made up of the main oleo, retraction frame, gas strut, and front bay door. The wheels consist of the inner hub with separate brake piston detail, internal axle mount, a choice of spoked or solid outer hub and the rubber tyre. Once fitted to the wing the inner and outer bay doors can be attached. With the inner wing attached to the fuselage the side air brakes are fitted, again with the option of posing them open or closed. If closed then the internal panel and retraction jack can be omitted. The same goes for the underside air brake, just forward of which, on both sides a footstep is fitted. Right aft the two piece arrestor hook is attached, presumably in either retracted or extended position, but it’s not clear just going by the instructions. The propeller is then constructed out of a two part boss and four individual propeller blades. The completed propeller can be fitted once painting and decaling has been finished.
The outer wings are now assembled with the wing cannon constructed in the same way as the inner wings guns and fitted into the gun bays built using the front, rear and side bulkheads with the ammunition boxes outboard of the guns. The wing lights, just inboard of the tip is fitted along with the wing join rib which has had the fold mechanisms attached, the type used will depend on whether the model is to be built with wings spread or folded. With the internal parts fitted the upper wing panels are attached, followed by the clear light covers and the ailerons. If the wings are spread then the outer cannon and ammunition bays can be shown with their access panels open. The completed assemblies can then be attached to the inner wings. Again, these can be left off until after painting and decaling, particularly if the wings are to be folded. Final attachments to the wings and fuselage are the various pylons. Alternative pylons are provided for the inner wing, dependent on whether the 2000lb bombs are to be mounted. Each pylon is detailed with separate crutch plates which is an item normally missed on kits, even in this scale. There have been some concerns over the type of pylons fitted to the outer wings, but having done a fair amount of research the kit pylons seem to match those fitted to the AD-4 during Korea.
The kit has plenty of weaponry provided, including:-
• Four M64 500lb bombs
• Eight Mk82 500lb bombs, (not used in Korea)
• Two M66 2000lb bombs
• Eight Mk81 250lb bombs, (not used in Korea)
• Two M-117 750lb bombs,
• Eight M-57 250lb bombs
• Four LAU-3 rocket pods, (not used in Korea)
• Four SUU-14A/A cluster bomb units, (not used in Korea)
• Sixteen 5” rockets
• Two wing drop tanks
• One centreline drop tank
• Two toilet bombs, (not used on this model, but another sign of what is to come)
So, whilst there is a large stock of weaponry in the box, very little of it can actually be used on an AD-4 in Korea. Still, the modeller should be able to attach a pretty unhealthy load.
Of all the parts on the small sheet of etched brass only five are actually used, the two lap straps, two shoulder straps and the intake grille. Although quite a thick sheet, it appears to be malleable enough to use without the need to anneal beforehand.
The two large decal sheets, one for the aircraft and one for the weaponry are both very nicely printed, in good register and opacity. They are quite glossy and thin, but some of the backing sheet is quite noticeable, although with a good gloss coat beforehand they should bed down well without silvering. The only real concern is the mottling on the surface, particularly noticeable on the Stars N Bars. Two aircraft schemes are provided, these are for:-
• US Navy, VA-95, AD-4NA 515, BuNo127003
• US Marines, VMA-324, AD-4B 2, BuNo132364
The weapon sheet provides the yellow live weapon rings and placards for the M-64, M-66, Mk-82 and M-117 bombs, even though the latter two are not relevant for this era. The rest of the sheet covers the placards for each of the pylons.
I’ve always like the Skyraider and have been several in 1:72 and 1:48, but never thought I’d see one in 1:32, now we have two. This kit provides excellent value for money in my view, with some lovely moulding on the acres of styrene. The detail is great and should cater for all but the most fastidious of modellers, who can add detail to their hearts content as the basics are definitely here. It’s nice to see an early mark being released but it will be a challenge to weather the aircrafts overall dark blue realistically. Having got the ZM A-1H I think this kit complements the more complex product and as mentioned above is certainly more accessible to casual modellers, yet good enough for the more hardcore brigade. Highly recommended
Walkround photos available HERE
Review sample courtesy of