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VNAF Skyraider

A-1H Skyraider, VNAF 518th FS, 23rd TacWing, Bien Hoa, RSVN 1967

1/48 Monogram, with CMK Resin Cockpit, and True Detail
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Text & Photos by TRIET CAM


   This is my attempt to build a full detail model of a VNAF Skyraider using the old Monogram kit. The kit molding is over 30 years old now, and suffered some deteriorating details. There were some warping on the wing and rudder which can be bent back into position. The panel lines thickness are not consistent, some thin and some overly thick. However, the outline shape of the model is still accurate, and with some work and careful planning, it can still be built into a very nice model. In my opinion, the Monogram kit has some features that are more accurate over the modern Tamiya kit. The wing dihedral angle and the tail wheel have the correct look over the Tamiya kit. But it also has some bad problems, the under size inner wing pylons, and the more serious small cowl problem. It looked more obvious when comparing to the original photo from the side view.

The build:

   The first task was to replace the kit's cockpit with the CMK resin kit. The CMK pit molding quality is exceptional, and will add lots of details to the model, especially the seat. The fitting of the CMK was perfect without any modifications. I also added some additional instruments gauges that were omitted. Note that the CMK resin seat is the standard bucket seat and not the Yankee Extraction Seat that was changed late in the war.

The lower radiator scoop at the fuselage bottom gets a brass photo etch grill from K&S. In reality, the grill should have a lot finer mesh pattern, but K&S offered only one size, so I used what was on hand. I painted the plate background black and the mesh light gray. Once dried, the mesh was glued onto the plate. The cockpit is glued onto the fuselage before the fuselage halves are closed. (Note: resin plastic only works with CA or super glue). At this time, I sanded all panel lines off and re-scribed over with a thin scriber. I also drilled out the opening slot for the orange light positioned above the fuselage dive brake. After the burrs were smooth, a piece of clear orange color plastic was inserted into the opening. The wing tips also had one similar light on each side. At this time I cut a base for the tall antenna blade and attached it on top of the rear spine, just above the rear dive brake door. The antenna blade, made from brass, was attached to the base. This antenna can be seen on almost all of VNAF Skyraiders. I also replaced the two smoke deflectors just behind the engine cowl with brass sheets. In general, all the protruded thin details were replaced with .05 inch brass. This looked more realistic in 1/48 scale.

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Next task was the landing gear. First, the anti sway braces were sanded off the leg. The real pictures showed they were at an angle. Incidentally, Tamiya also made the same mistake. A thin stainless steel was inserted into a slightly larger diameter plastic rod and attached at and angle. Onto the tires, I replaced the spoke rim with a more accurate spare Tamiya Skyraider's rim. The rims were smaller than the Monogram tire opening, and required shimming of the inner tires to make them fit. I used styrene 0.1 inch thick stock sheet and glued them along the radial inner wheel. It also made the tire thicker than originally, and I think this is more appropriate scaled than before. The fitting of the rim to tire was very tight and did not required gluing. To get the 3 dimensional look of the spokes, I sanded the back of the rim until it was thin enough to poke out the backing; then a thin file was used to clean the burr around the spoke edges. The rear wheel was modified next. I replaced the US Navy solid rubber tire type with a spare tire to represent the pneumatic inflated wheel. The fork in front of the gear was carved out from the original square piece. Note the two small rods were in the gear and not the single rod; both Monogram and Tamiya missed this detail.

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The engine cowl problem mentioned before was more of a challenge. The only thing to do here was to add a thin layer of styrene sheet around the circumference to make it appear larger in diameter, and sanded down to blend in with the fuselage later. I replaced the exhaust pipes with 1/16 aluminum rods and test fitted to make sure they are long enough when attached in place. The real pictures showed they extend just beyond the cowl flaps. The exhausts were painted with Tamiya brown and dry brushed with black and gray. At this time, the cowl and the fuselage were painted the appropriate SEA camo color in the exhaust area before the cowl assembly is glued on. This way I wouldn't risk over spraying paint on the exhaust pipes later.

Next tasks were the wings and control surfaces. I planned to display the models with separate control surfaces by repositioned the rudders and flaps. Adding all these features this would enhance the overall look of the model. First, the wing flaps were cut off and posed in the full down position. I added styrene sheets around the cut out flaps and reshaped into a round profile. Next, the horizontal stabilizers and the rudder were cut off and repositioned. I added the hinges back at the appropriate places with styrene sheets. The two lights on the tail were replaced with clear lights made from the kit's clear sprue branches. First, I made the mold by pressing modeling clay onto the tail lights. Once the indentations are captured, the mold was baked in an oven for a few minutes to harden. A clear sprue was heated over a candle light until the melting point, and then quickly pressed into the mold while still hot; then waited for a few second and removed the new clear set of lights. The two lights for the wing tips and one above the fuselage spine were created the same way. I also attempted to simulate stressed skin on the fuselage spine. To do this, I marked the area I wanted to depress, and used a rat tail file to create wavy surfaces vertically along the spine. Remember to do this lightly and don't try to remove all materials at one time, as it is easier to take out more material if needed than to add it back.

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For under wing carriage, I used the resin pylons from True Detail. Be warned, this set is borderline from being useless; it had terrible molding quality and a totally wrong inner pylons with the molding stamp written on the pylon "F-4C' The kit's inner pylons were used instead. I added stock plastic to the rear to get it to the right size. Note the large distance between the second and third, and the fifth and sixth pylon from the outer, this is not a mistake. Also, the pylons should be mounted perpendicular with respect to the wing surface, not the ground.


   A coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000 was sprayed on to check for surface imperfection. The paints used were enamels Model Master. I never liked how the medium green FS34102 looked straight from the bottle. It was added with about 50% Testors olive green and about 5% light grey FS36222. The tan FS30219 was lightened about 25% white. The dark green FS34079 was darkened slightly with a few drops of black into the bottle. I should also mention that the black and yellow checker band, the fin flags and the national insignias were masked and painted first, as did the serial numbers and tail code. The only decals in this model were the homemade decal insignias.

After the paint had dried, a coat Tamiya gloss went on to protect the surface as well as providing glossy surfaces for panel line washing. I used a water color sludge wash of dark gray brown mix along the panel lines and control surfaces to bring out the details. Once dry a coat of lacquer Testors flat went on to protect the final finish. The faded paint effect is done by re-spray the same color, but heavily diluted, on top of the final finish. Because the gloss coat changed the tone of the original color, usually a little darker, spraying another thin coat on top of the final finish created an illusion of faded paint look. This is my preferred weathering technique.

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The final construction was adding on all the miscellaneous pieces, like the aerial antenna wires. For this, I used the thinnest fishing line available. The 2 lbs grade is 0.005 inch diameter and had a smoke tinted color which I think is perfect for the job. The top wire hanged from the tail top down to just behind the ARC-27A antenna blade. The other ran along the lower right fuselage spine from the rear wheel well to just in front of the dive brake door. The cannon barrels were made from steel tubes from a company called Minimeca. They were heated over a candle flame until the tube is red hot and discolored into gun metal.

The True Detail BLU-23 500lb napalm canisters were added in last using fine brass rods. Again, the parts were closed to being useless, with very bad quality molding. Also, the package labeled BLU-10, which is a 250 lb. bomb, but I think the shape is quite too large, and should be BLU-23 instead. After lots of sanding, I spray on various shades of Model Master metalizers, aluminum, steel, burnt metal, and magnesium.

That concluded the build, and I hoped that this article will help VNAF modelers to build a detailed VNAF Skyraiders. Obviously, you can start with either the Tamiya kit, which is easier to build, or the Monogram kit. I chose this kit because I bought it for cheap at a contest show. The kit was partially started, but all pieces were there. Plus, a Squadron vacuform canopy was included. This model represented a scaled A-1H Skyraider of the 518th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Tac Wing of Bien Hoa in 1967.

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