Build Date: September 10, 2017, Finished Jan 22, 2018.
A-6E of VA-115 (Eagles), Atsugi Naval Air Station, 1996.
I saw the movie, Flight of the Intruder, in 1991 and I was immediately hooked on the A-6. Yeah, it was a cheesy movie with over the top lines but the real history underlining the movie is compelling as it illustrated the harrowing missions those night ground attack A-6 pilots endured in Vietnam, in addition, there were great flight scenes of A-6s.
This is a build of the venerable Revell/Monogram A-6E kit # 4578, from 1988. This was an impressive kit from Monogram, which was merged with Revell to become one company, due to the impressive size of the model and excellent details on the cockpit and external surfaces. As typical with Revell/Monogram, the research was excellent resulting in an accurately shaped model well representing the real aircraft. Of course, the panel lines are of the raised type but I won’t deduct points for this minor issue. It took another twenty-four years (2012) until Kinetic offered a recessed panel line version of it.
I bought this kit a long time ago and it lingered on my shelf waiting for its day in the Sun. Now is the time. To upgrade this kit and give it justice, I will be using a few aftermarket resin sets to embellish it:
- Paragon wing fold or the flaps set.
- Black Box A-6E cockpit set
The first step in model building is to test fit the major parts to assess the challenges ahead. This is a particularly important step to undertake when introducing resin replacement parts. Using a model saw, I cut out and sanded the Black Box resin cockpit parts and trial fit them into the kit. I prepared a few styrene support bars and glued them to one side of the fuselage to support the resin tub in the fuselage. Then I insert the resin parts and confirmed the fit up. Boy, the Black Box cockpit set sure looks good. I can’t wait to paint it.
For the next step, I wet sanded the raised panel lines in preparation for rescribing.
The most challenging aspect of this project is the installation of the Paragon wing folds. Paragon Design discontinued business around 2011, but Neil Burkhill’s excellent products continue to live on in many modeller’s stashes and show up on completed Monogram models. The quality of Neil’s work is evident in this wing folds set: The resin details are clear without flash and the matchup of the fold joints are perfectly matched. However, mating each piece to the Monogram wing is not so precise and requires a lot of cutting, sanding, and filling. Installation of this resin set is not recommended for the beginner.
The instruction sheet for this resin set is fairly clear. However, I still required reference photos to understand why a panel from each outer wings to be cut. As you read on, I will illustrate why this is necessary.
I start by cutting 8mm segments of the wing on each side of the wing fold. At the same time, I cut the panel from the top surface of each outer wings.
I glued the top and bottom wing panels together. A piece of styrene is glued between the wing panels to ensure the mid-wing thickness matches that of the mating resin piece. I did this for all four wing panels. The mating edges of each panel were square off by sanding them on a flat sanding block.
When all the edges and resin pieces are sanded and squared off, the resin wing folds were glued to each wing panel with thin quick-setting cyanoacrylate glue.
It must be my mistake but I found that this wing panel does not line up well with the resin wing fold. I corrected that by glueing styrene sheets to build up the wing length until everything lines up. Unavoidably, during sanding of the butt joints, some surfaces of the wing details such as the leading edge wing slat and groove were sand off.
The missing slat groove was replaced by scraping the surface with a Xacto knife until the detail was restored. I used a piece of Dymo tape as a guide for the knife.
The leading edge slat groove detail is restored.
After letting the cyanoacrylate glue dried for few hours, I sanded the resin/styrene joints flush as best I can. Then, a layer of Tamiya putty was applied to fill up the gaps and level the two mating surfaces.
The process of filling with putty, sand, and the check is repeated six times until there’s no more gaps, cracks, and surfaces are flat and level. During the last two checks, I spray the joints with a light coat of primer to help with the visual inspection.
FS36231 dark gull grey should be the colour of the cockpit. However, it looks too dark when compared to many reference photos. Hence, I choose Gunze H334, Barley Gray, as the matching colour to use. The seat frame and cockpit console were painted with Tamiya X-1, Black, with a couple of drops of white paint. Seat cushions were painted with Vallejo FS34127, Russian Uniform and Tamiya XF-78, Wooden Deck Tan. The stencils on the seats were cut from leftover decals with small text on it just to give it busy look.
The fit of the wings to the fuselage is very difficult, to say the least. Gaps are everywhere. Below photo shows the amount of gap filling putty I had to use to blend all the parts together.
The fuselage speed brake panels were bolted shut starting from the A-6A version due to loss of thrust when they were deployed open. The new production A-6E starting from BuNo 154170 had them removed completely. Anyone who has ever tried to close the speed brake on any Monogram kits knows how difficult the fit up is. This kit is no exceptions. Note the photo below showing the number of gaps between the speed brake with the fuselage. The only way to properly fill this kind of gaps and still be able to rescribe the joints is to completely fill the gaps with cyanoacrylate glue and then sand it flush.
After filling in the gaps, sanding and rescribing, the new speed brake panel looks pretty good.
I’m using my new found trick again to tackle those difficult joints inside the air intakes. I painted the inside of the intakes and glue the assembly together. To cover up the highly visible joint gaps inside, I simply fill the gaps with household white caulking. I smooth out the caulking with a Q-tip wet with water.
I spray the model with a thin coat of primer to help check all the joint filling and rescribing work. I noticed there are still some minor rescribing and putty work still left to do in order to achieve the best looking surface finish.
Time to tackle the clear parts. The windshield fit to the fuselage with some very noticeable gaps. The only way to resolve this problem is to glue the windshield to the fuselage before painting and fill the gaps with putty.
The front panels of the windshield on an A-6 were normally green tinted glass. I achieved the green tinting effect on the model’s clear windshield by painting it with Tamiya Clear Green, X-25. I diluted the X-25 paint with acrylic paint thinner at a 10:1 thinner to paint ratio. The mixture is lightly sprayed onto the clear part at low pressure to avoid puddling effect. To avoid over darkening of the tinting effect, I only made two swift passes with the airbrush and that was enough.
The windshield is then dipped in Future to seal the tint and enhance the clarity of the clear part.
I glued the windshield to the fuselage with liquid cement prior to painting. My piece of the windshield did not fit so well and the corners needed to be spread out to match the contour of the fuselage.
Once the windshield is securely attached, I filled the gaps with Tamiya putty and sand it to blend it into the fuselage.
Finally, the model is void of scratches, noticeable ghost seams and other surface imperfection, and I am able to paint the model.
This model will depict the CAG aircraft of VA-115, Call Sign “Eagle”. The decals came from the AeroMaster sheet No. 48-537, Colorful A-6 Intruders. This marking depicts the CAG aircraft in 1995/1996 period when it was based in Atsugi Naval Air Station. Sadly, this aircraft was shot down by friendly fire by a Japanese destroyer during the REMPAC naval exercise. A summary of the incident is described on Aviation Safety Network website as:
Tuesday, 4 June 1996: About 16:15, during Exercise “RIMPAC 96”, USN A-6E, BuNo 155704/NF-500, shot down by JMSDF Asagiri Class destroyer DD-153 JDS Yuugiri, about 1,541 miles west of Hawaii, USA. First non-Japanese aircraft shot down by the JMSDF since 1945.
When the A-6E, at altitude 700 feet (200 m) and speed 340 knots, was towing a target drone (diameter 18 cm, length 2 m) about 5.5 to 6 km behind it and approaching the Yuugiri from her left side, her left-side mounted Mk 15 Phalanx 20 mm CIWS fired and hit the A-6E. The A-6E crashed into the ocean on the ships right side.
VA-115 has a long and proud history dating all the way back to 1942 when they were flying Avengers. The marking, “EFR”, atop of the tail fin has various meaning depending on political correctness. One source I read says it was proclaimed by an inebriated Officer as he was running through the Barack yelling “Eagles Fucking Rules”. Another source has it defined as “Eagles Forever Rules”. Now, you tell me what a good standing Navy man would say? I’m sure political correctness is not foremost on his mind.
For a light grey paint scheme, I prefer to use the pre-shading technique to enhance panel lines. I sprayed all the panel lines and any significant rivet lines with a mixture of dark grey enamel paint. The verticle tail fin was painted with Model Master gloss black enamel.
For the usual all grey Navy paint scheme for A-6E in the 80s and 90s, I painted the model with Model Master Light Ghost Grey (FS36375) and Dark Ghost Grey (FS36320). The tonal difference between these two greys are fairly light and so I darken the Dark Ghost Grey with a bit of black paint. I took me about five days to paint most of the parts for this model. Painting the wing folds and touch up painting was tedious. Finally, the model is good enough to be coated with two coats of Future in preparation for the panel wash.
The model is starting to take shape and is looking very impressive with the pylons all full of bombs and fuel tank. I wanted to model the load-out flexibility and load carrying capability of the A-6, hence, I loaded it out with various ground moving payload suitable for a mission to take out armours and buildings. I used the stock weapons provided in the kit as well as a single Mk 84, 2000 lbs bomb from the Hasegawa Weapons Set A. I rescribed the Mk. 20 Rockeye cluster bombs to improve their appearance after a highlighting wash.
The fit up of the resin canopy hood with the clear canopy is not so good. I ended up with filling the large gaps with a lot of putties, but the end result is good.
Squadron/Signal A-6 Intruder Walk Around Number 2, ISBN 0-89747-327-2
Tailhook Topics Website on the modification differences between A-6A to A-6E