Hasegawa continues its 1/48 scale Skyhawk family with the much-anticipated TA-4J. Molded in light gray styrene, it shares wing and landing gear sprues with the other releases. But the fuselage is newly tooled, as is the canopy. Eight sprues are packaged together with only the clear parts in a separate bag, cushioned by a protective molding (a thoughtful touch). Delicate slat-mounting rails on the main wing are similarly protected.
Surface detail comprises finely engraved panel lines and appropriate raised details. The cockpit has raised details for the side consoles and instrument panels, as well as quilted sidewalls. Detail on the multipiece ejection seats is OK, but the molded seat belts are unconvincing. You can pose the canopy open or closed, flaps raised or lowered, and speed brakes open or closed. The only underwing stores are a pair of 300-gallon drop tanks.
Decals for two aircraft, Training Squadron VT-7 high-visibility or Navy Composite Squadron VC-1, are in perfect register and include front- and rear-seat instrument panels and side consoles.
There are TA-4J-specific details, such as the different air intakes, straight refueling probe, and no flare or chaff dispensers on the lower aft fuselage. Unused parts indicate Hasegawa may release other two-seat Skyhawks in the future. (Blue Angels?)
I found the eight-page, 13-step instruction sheet a little busy at times, with painting callouts, decal placement, and parts placement all vying for space. Hasegawa includes paint callouts for Gunze colors, but also Federal Standard numbers when possible, making it easier to use the paint brand you prefer. Pay careful attention to steps 4, 5, and 6: Holes must be drilled for certain details, and missing them can make placing those parts a problem.
The instrument-panel decals settled perfectly with a little Mr. Mark Softer; I brushed them with a flat clear, then used drops of Micro Gloss clear for instrument faces. However, the side-console decals did not even come close to matching the raised details - so, I painted them.
Be careful of Part D12 (fan compressor face): Ensure it is centered within both fuselage halves before gluing to prevent alignment issues later with the intake ducts. I also found the nose slightly out of joint; test-fitting can save lots of filling and sanding. Don't forget to add nose weight, or your model will be a tail sitter for sure!
For painting the overall white, I decanted Tamiya white from a spray can. Next, I painted the high-visibility orange. Instructions specify a mix of Gunze paints, but Model Master international orange closely matched the orange of the decals.
I chose to paint the tail orange and use the squadron-letter decals. But when the white decal proved translucent, I cut out the squadron letters from the optional orange-backed markings and doubled them up. I had trouble getting the national insignia to conform to the vortex generators on the wing, and it was similarly translucent on the international orange. I doubled that up, too. To get the drop-tank stripes to conform, I used a fine nail-filing stick to remove the wrinkles, then airbrushed the nose sections international orange.
A coat of Floquil clear flat turned out more as a semiflat and completed an eye-catching scheme for my "Scooter."
I spent about 25 hours building the kit, and I'm pleased with the results. I'd recommend it to modelers who have some experience working with lots of delicate pieces and test-fitting to correct parts.
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