Douglas A-4B/4P Skyhawk. Airfix 1:72 scale. Fuerza Aerea Argentina, Rio Gallegos, April 1982

Douglas A-4P Skyhawk as flown by the Grupo 5 de Caza, Argentinian Air Force in the Falklands Campaign 1982

It has been quite a while since I had made a modern jet, so I thought to start again with something small. And they don’t come much smaller than the diminutive A-4 Skyhawk, especially in 1:72 scale!

I rarely make models in 1/72 scale these days, mainly because of my worsening eye sight, but they do have the benefit of not taking up so much storage space!

This is a recent release by Airfix and the quality is very good with fine recessed panel lines and details. I chose the Argentinian option just to be different though I hope eventually to make an American version. Another Argentinian version should also eventually appear on my site but in gull grey camouflage.

The yellow band on the tail fin is an ID marking used in the Falklands campaign. The hoops on the tail fin were not included in the kit but are apparently a feature of Argentinian Skyhawks. I made them from fine copper wire. Not sure what they are for, perhaps something to do with radio?
A lot of detail for this scale! Note the tail hook

Here is the Airfix information about the Skyhawk:

The A4 Skyhawk was a carrier-capable light attack aircraft, developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company for a US Navy specification that called for a replacement to its versatile, but vulnerable piston-engined AD Skyraider.

‘The new Douglas aircraft was a diminutive design, with a wing so compact it did not need to be folded for stowage, thus simplifying the aircraft. The wing itself was a conventional low wing delta design, which, with its small area, gave excellent manoeuvrability. The Skyhawk also introduced the concept of buddy refuelling, able to refuel other aircraft of the type from a centrally mounted ‘Buddy Store’.

The A4B was the second variant of the Skyhawk and one of the first to see combat in the skies over Vietnam where it was involved in the early stages of the conflict, with later versions serving throughout the campaign. Due to its small size the A4 was able to operate off the smaller World War Two Essex carriers, but could still carry a useful payload to its target.

Used by other nations in conflicts across the world, such as Argentina and Israel, the A4 has proven itself to be a tough, nimble and useful attack aircraft, with later versions continuing to see service many years after the prototype flew.

Airfix would like to extend its thank to the USS Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York for their assistance with this project:’.

Speed: 673mph

Range 2,000 miles, Wingspan: 8.4m Length: 13m

Armament 2x30mm cannon. Various stores up to 9,000lb


Some of you might remember the Argentinian Skyhawks attacking Royal Navy ships in ‘bomb alley’ in the Falklands. Although the Argentinian Army and Navy were reckoned to be pretty poor in this conflict, the Air Force, or Fuerza Aerea Argentina, was a different story.

On paper at least, the Argentinians appeared to have two crucial advantages-vast superiority in numbers and land bases. However, these advantages were almost wholly negated by the fact that the nearest base, Rio Gallegos, was almost 400 miles away from the mid point of the islands, Falkland Sound. That meant that the Argentinian pilots were always operating to the extreme limits of their range and therefore had precious little ‘loiter time’ i.e. time to find a target or engage in a dogfight-rather like the Luftwaffe pilots in the Battle of Britain!

The Argentinian pilots were well trained, some of it done with France some with Israel, but the training had almost exclusively been done over land and, as the pilots were to quickly find out, over sea they were much more vulnerable to radar.

Just visible below the air intakes are the 30mm cannons. The large pods are for fuel
The Airfix scheme is very confusing as the earth colour is shown in green as well!
The box art showing the American version that can also be built

The Argentinian Skyhawks were well over 20 years old, refurbished models of one of the earliest versions of the plane; formidable in their day but now obsolete. They were sold to Argentina by the US Navy in 1966. They had since been fitted with a more modern weapon aiming sight, but that was distinctly inferior to the Head Up Display (HUD) that the Harrier pilots had to aim them in a dog fight. And, in low level flight, the Skyhawks were 100 mph slower.

The Argentinian Skyhawks also had the further disadvantage of using the old style Sidewinder air-to-air missiles which, because it seeks the heat from a jet exhaust of the target, needs to be fired from behind. The RAF, in contrast, had in great secrecy equipped their Harriers with the new generation AIM9L, which has a guidance system sensitive enough to be fired from any aspect.

Finally, the Harriers had the ability to jump, not merely off the ground but also in mid-air. The technique known as ‘viffing’ (vectoring in forward flight) is possible because the Harrier’s jet nozzles rotate downwards to give vertical thrust for take-off. Early on in the plane’s career pilots discovered that rotating the nozzles downwards in flight caused rapid deceleration but also a gain in altitude. The advantage this gives in a dog fight is not hard to imagine: a Harrier pilot who finds the enemy on his tail, simply viffs, is very rapidly overtaken-and the hunter becomes the hunted.

3 thoughts on “Douglas A-4B/4P Skyhawk. Airfix 1:72 scale. Fuerza Aerea Argentina, Rio Gallegos, April 1982”

  1. Great looking aircraft and a very nice job on the model.Interesting read on the aircraft tactics and weapons of a conflict that seems fairly recent but was 38 yrs ago !

  2. Cheers, the Skyhawk is a great looking aircraft. It is hard to believe the Falklands campaign was 38 years ago! I also found the background info interesting and if it hadn’t been for American help on the sly, we probably would have lost.

  3. Fantastic detail as usual both the model and the information. Doesn’t time “fly” (pardon the pun). Hard to believe how long it is since the Falklands campaign.

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