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1/72 Italeri A-6E Intruder
by Mark Dice

 

Background:
The A-6 Intruder was designed by Grumman Aircraft Corporation in answer to the US Navy's 1956 request for proposal for an aircraft that could attack ground targets in any weather, at any time, day or night. Out of twelve design proposals submitted by eight companies, Grumman's was the winner and awarded a contract in 1959. Originally designated the A2F-1, it's first flight took place in 1960 and when it was publicly rolled out in 1962 the Navy had standardized designations and the Intruder's was changed to
A-6A.

The A-6A entered service in 1963 and the A-6E was retired in 1997. Through three decades it was the US Navy and Marine Corps' medium attack mainstay, a testament to its ruggedness and capability! Over those thirty years of service it underwent a number of upgrades and enhancements, which enabled it to remain the world's premier long range, all-weather attack aircraft. It carried an impressive payload of ordnance, which only could be surpassed by aircraft such as the B-52 and B-1 bomber.

The A-6E and A-6E TRAM (Target Recognition and Attack Multisensor), which are the subject of this kit, was an improved attack version of the A-6A aircraft and was much upgraded in it's radar systems, computers, and weapons release. Well over half of the A-6Es built were converted from A-6A airframes. It entered service in 1971. A sensor turret beneath the radome just forward of the nose gear identifies a TRAM configured aircraft.

The Kit:
There are two large trees of light gray parts and one small tree with the clear parts. The parts have recessed panel lines and details (some of which appear too heavy for this scale) with little flash. There are seam lines and ejector pin marks on most of the parts that will need to be fixed and some parts where the pin marks eliminate some of the details (landing gear doors in particular).

There was also a "wave" flaw molded into the clear forward windscreen that doesn't appear to be correctable by polishing, so I just left it be; the larger part of the canopy looks just fine.

The instruction sheet is a typical Italeri fold out exploded view that is printed in several languages. Painting instructions and decals are provided for two aircraft. Both are "lo-vis" gray TPS (Tactical Paint Scheme) schemes, one for VA-36 US Navy 1993 and one VMA (AW)-332 USMC 1993.

Construction:
I chose to build this kit "out of box" with no major changes to the kit. You are offered the option of building it with wings folded (which I did), boarding ladders open or closed (I chose open), and canopy open or closed (I chose open). You can also position the tail hook down if you want (I didn't) and this does open up possibilities for a carrier landing diorama…. HMMMM the future possibilities. No figures are provided in the kit.

Ordnance provided in the kit is limited to a centerline droptank, HARM (high speed anti-radiation missile) missiles on the outboard pylons, and MERs (multiple ejector racks) with four CBU (cluster bomb units) bombs each for the inboard pylons. Sounds like this aircraft is going hunting for SAM (surface to air missile) sites!!

Assembly was by the numbers with only a few problems. First of all, the engine faces attach to the insides of the fuselage halves and after the intakes are installed there is an obvious gap, when you look down the intakes, between the bottom of the engine face and the bottom of the intake. I left it be but next time I'll install intake plugs or correct the gap. Fit between the fuselage halves and fuselage bottom was fairly poor and much of the underside detail was eliminated when sanding the seam out (this is a common problem for all A-6/EA-6B models, all scales, in my opinion). This detail had to be scribed again (to the best of my limited abilities in this area of modeling; I'm still learning how to do this). Fit between the fuselage halves and rear edge of the cockpit required filling and sanding. The control column in the cockpit is too tall and when the cockpit is installed it will touch the edge of the glare shield. Fit of the inboard wings to the fuselage was okay but there will be some filling and sanding needed at the joining seams forward of the forward landing gear doors and the aft edge of the wing where it meets the upper part of the engine exhaust. The kit provides two jury struts to help hold the wings at the folded position (which is nice) but take care in removing them from the trees. I broke one of mine and used the other to guide the cutting of two replacements out of evergreen scraps. Also handle the wings themselves with care, they have little interlocking tangs at the fold point, which can break off pretty easily. Loss of these tangs will make the joining of the wings a bit more difficult (believe me, I know).

Painting was done using Model Master enamels and Tamiya acrylics. Several light coats of Future Floor Wax (another item I'm still learning to use…) were used for the gloss coat.

The kit decals depicting a USMC VMA (AW)-332 A-6E TRAM were used. For the most part, they behaved well but I did use generous amounts of Solvaset to ensure adhesion, particularly on the wingtip formation lights. Another coat of future to seal the decals and after let dry for 48 hours, I did a wash of thinned watercolor paints to bring out the panel lines (Crayola "washable" watercolors). Results here were average to poor… When I went to do the clean up with Q-tips wet with water, some of the wash wouldn't lift very easily or at all and the aircraft has a more dirty appearance than what I was going for. This is probably due to my failure to get enough Future to provide a smooth gloss surface. I need more practice in this area!!

A flat coat of Testors Dullcoat Lacquer was applied to the aircraft and canopies, with only some very slight silvering of a couple of the decals showing up. The canopies were unmasked and installed along with the refueling probe with white glue. Fit was okay, with some filling in along the front seam with white glue needed. After this, I added some touchup paint and then called this model completed.

All in all, this was an okay kit! It has a couple of problems but they're easily fixed and you're provided with a pretty nice looking A-6E Intruder. What I've learned here will definitely help when I start Italeri's 1/72nd EA-6A kit (which is almost an identical kit) in the near future.