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A-4K Skyhawk
Royal New Zealand Air Force

by Brett Green


Douglas A-4K Skyhawk
NZ6205, 75 Sqn RNZAF, Ohakea Air Force Base, 1987


Hasegawa's 1/48 scale A-4E/F may be ordered online from Squadron.com




The Douglas Skyhawk was New Zealand's sole strike aircraft type for more than 30 years until its retirement from service in 2002.

The New Zealand Government purchased ten A-4F and four TA-4F Skyhawks from the United States in 1970. These aircraft were redesignated A-4K and TA-4K in New Zealand service. New Zealand also purchased ten of Australia's A-4G and TA-4G Skyhawks in 1984, two years after Australia's last remaining aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne was retired.



New Zealand's Skyhawks were upgraded from 1985 onward. They were fitted with glass cockpits (per the F-16), Head Up Displays, new radar and navigation systems, reinforced structural elements and the distinctive avionics "hump" was removed.

A-4Ks were operated by Nos. 2 and 75 Squadrons RNZAF. They were based in Ohakea in New Zealand, and Nowra on the south-eastern coast of Australia - the old home of the Royal Australian Navy's A-4Gs.

The Skyhawk has not been replaced in New Zealand service.





Hasegawa’s 1/48 scale A-4E/F Skyhawk kit is one of the most popular recent modelling subjects on HyperScale. The model is accurate, well detailed and features first-rate surface features including finely engraved panel lines and raised vortex generators.

I decided to make a few enhancements to my kit.


Getting Started – The Intakes

Jet intakes can be frustrating to modellers.

Due to the limitations of the injection moulding process, most kit intakes are supplied in multiple parts. This results in a seam on the inside of the intakes. Because intakes are large, located in a prominent position, and often painted white, these seams are pretty obvious even to the casual observer. However, they are difficult to eliminate due to their relatively inaccessible position.

Fortunately, several after-market companies now produce “seamless” resin intakes.

Cutting Edge makes a set of seamless 1/48 scale intakes for the A-4E/F/G/K. These intakes are supplied in one part each, with no internal seam at all. Casting is up to Cutting Edge's usual high standards.

I was a little worried about removal of the intake from an imposing looking casting block. I girded my loins, braced the part securely, took a deep breath and carefully cut the part away using a Tamiya razor saw. To my delight the part almost fell away - very little effort was required to remove the intake. A few swipes with a sanding stick finished the preparation. This operation took about 2 minutes.


The fit of the intakes to the kit fuselage halves looked reasonably good, but I added two scraps 12 thou scrap styrene to the lower intake braces on each fuselage half to achieve totally gap-free alignment.



I also decided to use Cutting Edge’s Cockpit Detail Set.

Hasegawa’s kit cockpit is quite nice. The plastic side consoles, quilted upper sidewalls and cockpit tub are all very well detailed. Cutting Edge has resisted the temptation to simply duplicate these items, instead focusing on the areas that will benefit from further improvement.

The cockpit upgrade comprises only five parts in Cutting Edge's familiar grey resin, and a small acetate sheet with instruments printed in black over clear. The resin parts are the rear bulkhead, the canopy hinge base, the seat and instrument panel.

Preparation of these parts was very simple, and the only modification to the kit was the removal of a small bump on the cockpit floor. Test fitting proved that there would be no problems in this area.

The parts look good in resin, but they really came to life under a coat of paint. I sprayed the seat and cockpit  in grey, then picked out details by brush. When the basic paintjob was dry, I added a generous wash of thinned oil paint to the seat, side consoles and quilted sidewalls. After a few hours, the excess wash was wiped off the high-lying points of the cockpit with a dry fingertip. To finish the job, buckles were painted silver and the parts were assembled.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The fit of the Cutting Edge intakes is perfect after the addition of the spacers on the fuselage side.

Dry-fitting the fuselage halves and cockpit components proves trouble free (and gap free!)


Assembling the Fuselage

Three small tasks were required before joining the fuselage halves.

First, the ducting and engine fan had to be painted. The ducting and fan is moulded as a single part. This looks good, but complicates painting. I first brush-painted the engine fan area at the back of the ducting, then used my Olfa Circle Cutter (a very handy modeling tool) to cut a mask for the fan from Post-It Note self-adhesive paper. The mask was laid in place and the remainder of the ducting was sprayed white. I used low air pressure and thin coats of paint to prevent seepage under the mask. The results were quite pleasing when the mask was removed.

I also decided to paint the interior of the intake green while the fuselage was still separate. This would eliminate the very real possibility of overspraying the pristine white finish of the ducting if the intakes were painted after assembly.

The second job was to assemble and install the exhaust ducting. This is a simple task, but extreme care must be taken when fitting the tabs on Part D1 to the fuselage sides. It is very easy to get the alignment wrong, and this will cause complications later in assembly.

This model needs plenty of nose weight. I first glued the cockpit to one of the fuselage halves, then added small lead fishing sinkers mounted in Blue-Tack inside each half of the nose. The advantage of using Blu-Tack to mount the noseweight is that it permits the modeler to test-fit the fuselage halves and add, remove, or relocate the weights as required. Try doing that with super glue!


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The engine turbine is painted Testor Metalizer Steel and masked with a Post-It Note cut with the aid of a Olfa Circle Cutter.

The intake ducting is then sprayed white and the paper disk removed to reveal a perfect demarcation for an otherwise tricky paint job.

The assembled intake ducting and cockpit are fitted. Nose weight is essential - in this case lead sinkers mounted in Blu-Tack

Taking no chances! The fuselage is taped and clamped while the glue dries.


With the intake duct, cockpit, noseweight and exhaust pipe in place, the fuselage halves were brought together and secured with Testor Liquid Cement. The assembled fuselage was taped and clamped until thoroughly set.


Building a Pre-Kahu A-4K – Step by Step

Hasegawa’s 1/48 scale A-4E/F kit supplies all the parts necessary to build a New Zealand A-4K Skyhawk prior to the “Kahu” upgrade programme.

Richard Chafer from Gekko Graphics supplied me with the following instructions for the simple conversion:

  • Fit the dorsal hump (D14 and D15).

  • Part E5 is used for the blade antenna on the hump, replacing Part E11.

  • The squared-off fin tip (Part A-14) is used.

  • Add the cranked refuelling probe Part E7, instead of the straight probe (E8).

  • Modify ECM receivers Parts F22 and F21 (two parts each) by shortening and rounding off the “spikes”.

  • Two of Parts F21 are fitted to the tail under the rudder.

  • Parts E12 and E13 are fitted to the rear of the fin for ECM.

  • Parts A3 and A4 are used under the rear fuselage as Chaff/Flare packs were not used at this time.

  • Parts D17 and D18 are fitted to the A-4K.

  • Do not fit Part E19

Apart from these substitutions and additions, assembly was per instructions.


Wing to Fuselage Fit

The only area where alignment problems was the wing to fuselage fit. Despite repeated dry-fitting, trimming and firm joining of parts, I still wound up with a narrow but tricky gap for most of the length of the wing root.



In the end, this gap was eliminated with the application of Mr Surfacer 500



Painting and Decals


I was fortunate to have access to RNZAF four-view drawings of the camouflage scheme for NZ6205, my chosen subject. However, the colours proved more challenging than the European I pattern.



The paint job commenced with an overall coat of Tamiya XF63 German Grey acrylic. This colour was quite close to the actual camouflage grey used on the A-4K, and also served as a dark base coat for pre-shading the lighter colours.

The contrast between the dark grey and the dark green is very low. After experimenting with a few paints, I used Gunze H420 RLM 80 Olive Green as a fair match.

The most elusive colour was the light green shade. In theory, this is FS.34102. However, this standard colour does not seem to match any of the fairly wild variations observed in photographs. In the end, I settled on a mix of Gunze H303 FS.34102 and Gunze H422 RLM 82 Bright Green, plus a few spots of Flat Yellow.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The model receives an overall coat of dark grey. This camouflage colour also acts as an undercoat for pre-shading the paler colours.

The two greens are added freehand with the Aztek airbrush.

The painted surface is buffed before the Gekko Graphics decals are applied.

Panel lines have been subtly highlighted and the model has received an overall coat of Aeromaster Flat.

After the three basic colours were applied, I added a low-contrast, random mottled layer of a slightly paler grey (Gunze H68 RLM 74 Dark Grey) over the dark grey. I also added a few mottled patches of different shades over the green colours. This subtly uneven finish is noticeable in many photographs of A-4Ks in the European I scheme.

All paints were acrylic, and sprayed freehand using my trusty Aztek A470 airbrush.


Markings were sourced from Gekko Graphics sheet no. GG48-001. This debut release from Gekko Graphics really is excellent. The instructions, printing and overall presentation are superb.

Gekko Graphics supply copious instructions and placement diagrams. I needed to spread out to take advantage of all these resources while applying the decals. Take your time and really read these instructions, as they contain important information about the configuration of different aircraft. Also note that there are variations in stencil detail for particular aircraft.

The decals adhered beautifully to the glossy surface of the Skyhawk. The only problems I had were reading some of the tiny reference numbers on the sheet, and running short of red walkway decals. The A-4K needs almost double the length of walkway decal supplied in the set. Gekko Graphics are aware of this issue and will be addressing it in later releases.

I used the kit decal for the tailhook stripes. The decal is quite wide, and would have wrapped around the arm of the tailhook several times. I sliced the decal in half lengthways to ease the application of the decal on the assembled tailhook.




I applied a thinned oil wash which, for some reason, seemed to have no effect whatsoever. The oil paint beaded on the surface and would not settle in panel lines. I tried again with the same result. I have no idea why I had this problem – the technique has always worked for me on acrylic paints before.


As an alternative, I applied localised washes of thinned black acrylic paint. At last, this had the desired effect.

After the semi-gloss black nose cone was masked with Tamiya tape, the paint job was now sealed with Aermaster Flat acrylic.



Finishing Touches


Although I was not looking forward to assembling and painting the undercarriage, it proved to be completely trouble free except that the forward actuator strut was broken on the sprue.

I decided to add some ordnance. Wing tanks and missile pylons were added to the kit, and AIM-9L Sidewinder missiles were sourced from Hasegawa’s 1/48 scale Aircraft Weapons Set C. I painted the Sidewinders to represent captive training missiles.


The jet nozzle was left off until this stage too. It was painted Testor Burnt Metal Metalizer and glued to the jet pipe.

When the gear doors and ordnance received their final coat of Aeromaster Flat, they were glued in place to complete the model.

The undercarriage legs almost clicked into place. They immediately bestowed the characteristically defiant snout-up attitude displayed by the Scooter in real life.





This is the most modern aircraft that I have ever built. I enjoyed the experience.

Gekko Graphics' decals lived up to their promise of quality in their application, and the Hasegawa Skyhawk was a sheer joy to build.




As a relative novice to jet aircraft modelling, I would like to thank the following for their help in this project:

  • Richard Chafer from Gekko Graphics (and, way before that, one of HyperScale's earliest contributors) for his assistance with information for the conversion, feedback during the project and the sample decals.

  • Paul Gillan for first-hand information and feedback.

  • Dave Aungst for his involvement in the project to build several Scooters from the new Gekko sheet, and ample inspiration via his many Skyhawk projects on HyperScale.

  • Dave Klaus and Scotty Battistoni from Meteor Productions for the review sample cockpit and intakes.

  • Darren Mottram for his wonderful resource, "Motty's Aircraft Picture Pages", which include four detail-packed web pages of Kiwi Skyhawk photographs.

Thanks guys. This might be my first "modern" jet, but it will not be my last!



Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Article Copyright © 2002 by Brett Green
Page Created 03 July 2002
Last updated 04 June 2007

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