Virtual Museum of the Vietnam War

North American RA-5C "Vigilante"

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Author: Jacek Minich, Warszawa

Trumpeter 01616 RA-5C Vigilante 1:72

To build my model of the RA-5C I used the Trumpeter kit number 01616, Eduard color photoetched detail set number 73231, Montex masks and a set of two exhaust nozzles from Aires/Quckboost number 7145. After opening the box, the Trumpeter kit looks impressive. Unfortunately, after taking a closer look at it, it becomes apparent, that there are many “funny” mould partition lines and sink marks – a rather big problem because of the rich surface detail which would get lost while the mentioned defects are rectified. Recreating those surface details took a whole lot of time and caused many “good words” being addressed to Trumpeter.

As usual before starting to build I took some time to plan. I decided to show the aircraft on a carrier deck, undergoing a pre-flight check. I also investigated the kit-supplied paint schemes to check if the aircraft shown participated in the Vietnam War. Another disappointment – none of the kit-supplied paint schemes shows a Vietnam war machine. That’s why I had to fabricate my own decals. I chose the paint scheme of the RVAH-9 “Hoot Owls” operating from USS Ranger, modex 600, which I confirmed with photos found on the Internet.

A new problem appeared here – the Trumpeter kit shows the late Variant of the aircraft, while the machine I’m planning to build was an early variant. The difference between them was subtle but visible – the air intake edges had a different shape (straight on the late variant, curved on the early variant), the exhaust nozzles were also different. While the exhaust nozzles were easily replaced by the resin parts from Aires/Quickboost, I had to tackle the air intakes personally. I just glued in a piece of styrene and sanded its shape to match the plans. By the way I also built the compressor faces with their tunnels, that are missing in the Trumpeter kit.

The flaps and ailerons also required fixing. The surface detail was irregular, so the control surfaces were puttied, sanded and I cast their duplicates in resin, in which new rivets were marked by drilling with a 0.2mm drill bit. The interior of the aircraft came next. Although it looks good out of the box, I decided to use the Eduard photoetched details here. I dumped the kit’s instrument panels and side panels – the color photoetched parts gave them a new quality and a very realistic look. The ejection seats got new belts, handles and footrests. New sight is finer and looks better in the cockpit than the kit supplied one. I also fabricated the RBF (Remove Before Flight) tags by printing clear decals and putting them on strips of aluminum foil painted red.

After gluing the interior between the fuselage halves and attaching the wings (the tail was left off to be painted different color), the time came for filling and sanding the seams. Unfortunately lots of surface detail got lost in process – detail that had to be re-created later. New panel lines were scribed and rivets drilled out with 0.2 mm drill bit. I also refined the landing gear and its doors with photoetched parts. I’ve also built the electric and hydraulic lines on the undercarriage.

Then the painting time came. The machine I was trying to show wore the standard grey over white Navy paint scheme. I started with painting the lower surfaces and the landing gear white. After the paint dried, I applied a mask consisting of UHU plastic putty, Maskol and masking tape. Next I applied the grey paint, after which the details were painted, such as wing leading edges (metallic grey), hatch edges (red), titanium plates around the exhaust, radar dome and such. After the basic colors were there, I highlighted the panel lines with artist’s oil paint (darker than the top color) and prepared the model for decals by applying a coat of acrylic gloss clear.

After labor-intensive processing in various computer graphics programs I managed to print quite acceptable decals on my laser printer. I used some of the kit’s stenciling and the stars&bars, I only printed markings specific to the particular aircraft I’m modeling which is the squadron badge, BuNo, Modex and air intake warning markings. I applied the decals using Sol&Set solutions. After highlighting the panel lines on the decals I alternately applied clear gloss and sanded it to blend the thickness of the decal film into the model’s surface.

After finishing that process I applied a coat of matt clear to the model and begun the weathering. First I made some rain marks and streaks, using fluids from the AK company. Next came the slight discolorations around the jet nozzles, fuel spills next to the fuel port caps and so on. I finished it off with a coat of matt clear and at the end installed parts like the vertical stabilizer, undercarriage struts, covers, flaps, ailerons and the canopy.

Now I could tackle the base. For this I used a piece of 5mm plywood with a layer of cardboard glued on top. The sides were finished with styrene sheet strips. In the base so prepared, I drilled the holes for the tie down points. Those were made from electric wire terminals detailed with copper wire. The whole base was primed with acrylic cardboard primer and then painted with black primer. Then I sprayed it with grey to imitate the carrier deck surface. After masking I painted the white stripes and the tie down point edges. To simulate the wear on the carrier deck I sanded it lightly, exposing the primer underneath. Locally I applied some dry pastels and sealed everything with matt clear.

Next came the deck details, like the tow bar, wheel chocks (pieces of styrene) and ladders (soldered copper wire). After painting them yellow and chipping done with grey paint, I went on with the deck crew. They come from Fujimi ground crew set. The figured were mixed and modified in many ways. The pilots com from a CMK resin set “US Pilots – Vietnam era”.


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