by: kenaz raynor [ ]
A few of the Vigilante's “firsts” include:
The first production fly-by-wire control system
A one-piece, bird-proof, Mach 2 capable windshield that was made of stretched acrylic
The first operational heads-up display (HUD).
A fully retractable refuelling probe in the forward fuselage.
One-piece wing skins machined from aluminum-lithium alloy.
However, a requirements change and eventual requests by Navy procurement officials for a strategic supersonic carrier based fleet reconnaissance aircraft (for which a number of A-5B's subsequently served as developmental aircraft) shortly before the Vietnam War gave life to the aircraft we now know. The remaining production A-5A and A-5B Vigilante Bombers were converted to R/A5-C Standard and shortly afterwards the original serving aircraft were also retro-fitted to bring them up to standard.
Trumpeter has now released a kit of this aircraft for the first time ever in 1/48 scale injection moulded plastic. I recently received mine, so I decided to give my opinion on this ground breaking subject that just so happens to be one of my all time favourite Tailhookers!
OVERVIEWI heard a lot of “grape vine griping” initially with this long awaited kit, ranging from detailless undercarriage, to even the possibility of raised panel lines. One such debate early on was over the fact that Trumpeter had, supposedly, produced a late-model aircraft - but with early traits such as tail sensor inaccuracies etc... But upon opening the box one gets the feeling that Trumpeter has to have done their homework, because the panel lines are beautiful and the dimensions, shape etc. are accurate as far as I can determine.
I'm not saying it's going to be perfect because there will be inaccuracies and, above all, I'm no Vigilante expert, but I believe none of them to be so major as to warrant a scrap job. In fact, far from it - given that until now our only other alternative was the Collectaire example which, despite having a 3 figure price tag, had its own horror stories. I believe this will build into a very fine Vigilante indeed!
THE KITMoulded in grey styrene, the 237 parts are provided on eight sprues which I would like to draw your attention to individually. They are beautifully presented in true Trumpeter style and in the typical very sturdy (yet difficult to open) box including an oddly amateurish illustration of the subject on the box top. Upon opening the box, one is again confronted by a typically Trumpeter sub-package including the more delicate parts such as the clear mouldings and “canoe” photo suite. The tail exhaust section is also residing here. This part has a strangely prominent mould seam line that is slighty stepped. This will need some attention, but the linear bomb dump chute is fantastically done with an ill-fitting look so prevalent on the real aircraft.
The clear parts are amazingly crisp! Only the rear canopy has a mould seam which will need removal. This is no problem as this is mostly a painted item with only two small observation windows near the front. The main canopy is crystal clear and is distortion free on my example - so kudos to Trumpeter! Also housed on the clear sprue we find not only the rest of the glazing but also the instrument panels. These are exquisite with nice raised details and look splendidly accurate yet again, the included clear film dials will look fabulous behind these!
Finally in this box we have the “Canoe” which is a large one piece moulding that will run almost the full length of the Vigilante, again this is inflicted by a mould separation line that will need careful attention in order not to damage the panel lines - this piece is full of panel lines and all are masterfully dealt with.
The main fuselage sides are present on their own sprue and in fact are dealt with as two separate sprues A1 and A2 respectively. These again are excellent and are warp free, again full of delicate panel lines and include the correct notched hinges for the landing gear bay doors. Another annoying seam line inflicts these parts and has mishapen some of the panel lines along the nose. This confuses me because this is something I have only ever seen on Trumpeter's kits. Why they can't avoid these pesky things on the large mouldings I don't know... after all, the likes of Tamiya and Hasegawa always have!
There are 2 x Sprue Gs - these include the engines the main wheels, crew seats and optional bombs including Mk-28's and Mk-43's. The engines are quite sparsely detailed with no plumbing but should be more than adequate for filling the huge cavernous engine bay. These could easily be detailed if one wishes but, if you do, it would be a shame to hide them away... because with out modification the kits seals them in! The exhaust nozzles are elegant and sharply detailed too with no soft details or inadequacies that I can determine.
The seats look nicely rendered and are accurate from what I can ascertain with only the omission of harnesses letting them down (at this point one notices generally that Trumpeter's usually included useful photoetch is conspicuous by its absence). A plus point though is the level of surface details, with nice rivets and cables, though a slight chunky looking over head ejection face screen handle is also prevalent.
Sprue C is the holder of the tail unit - this has the option of being folded though no internal details seem to be provided for this or the wing folds. On this same sprue we see nice wing tips, separate flaps and ailerons, plus very nicely detailed main under carriage legs.
Sprue E holds the undercarriage bays these again are quite sparse, so another optional detail frenzy here. The only real notable omissions are the delicate plumbing for the hydraulics lines etc. However, had Trumpeter included these, they might have looked too clumsy anyway. The inside of the U/C doors are very well replicated and hold absolutely no ejector pin marks, and have excellently rendered details. Also here we see the internal radar Antennae. This is again a plain looking item but has what seems to be enough details - something tells me it was probably like this on the real aircraft too? The main instrument control consoles are very masterfully moulded in several parts - these will look awesome drybrushed and should require only the minimum of effort to obtain the best from them.
Sprue D has the large one-piece horizontal stabilisers these are provided in two halves and look commendably thin - again lots of fine surface details and panel lines. The rest of this sprue includes the “Flash units” as alternative inboard wing loads replacing the earlier mentioned Mk-28 bombs and very plain looking weapons pylons - but again these could be just a historical fact?
Finally, Sprue B holds the main wing assemblies. These are, again, optionally folded, but also hold no internal details for this. There are some fine sink marks on the faired over pylon location points. This can be expected but will need some attention if you decide to leave this Bird “sterile”. The nose gear is massive and, again, is nicely detailed and looks accurate according to my sources. However, another annoying heavily stepped seam line haunts this piece. Be careful here! Finally, the intake shrouds and deflector plates are masterfully accomplished and look very much to scale thickness-wise. These parts are very delicate so take care, handle them gently and they'll do the job very nicely indeed!
TEST FITUpon test fitting the main fuselage halves, I discovered quite a hair-raising gap! This is almost 1mm wide at some points! Now this isn't too much of a problem on the underside as the “canoe” will occupy most of the seam here hiding it quite well, however I think that some careful filling would be very helpful topside... be careful of those panel lines folks !
Another slight problem (though not as major as the aforementioned) is the ubiquitous tail-to-fuselage joint. There is a gap of just fractions of a millimetre here, so no major filling required. However, if you wish to display the tail fully erected rather than folded, some careful filling and re-scribing will be necessary to get the best from it. This problem however does not affect the wing joints - these sit rather well when fully extended on my example and also the wing root is a snug fit worthy of any high grade kit.
It strikes me that in some parts of this kit Trumpeter have suffered from inconsistency attacks; in some places the kit is very well engineered, while elsewhere it's really a bit sloppy. So take the rough with the smooth, test fit several times along the way and nothing too hazardous should jump out and ambush you
DECALSThe kit provides markings for two aircraft, namely BuNo 151726 from RVAH-5 aboard USS America and BuNo156624 from RVAH-6 aboard USS Nimitz in 1970. Given that the kit is a late production airplane, I believe that the RVAH-5 airplane is incorrect by its bureau number(?) unless the modeler is prepared to modify the model to an early-production RA-5C, which I think would be pointless - one could simply modify the BuNo to a late-production number perhaps..
There were much more exciting and colourful markings used by Vigilante squadrons and I have heard recently of a few aftermarket sheets now available. This would be a good option because, as I tried to illustrate by the use of flash in my decals photo, Trumpeter's decals appear quite thick.
ConclusionPROS; Rare subject - only 1/48 scale kit in injection so far. Nice cockpit details and masterfully executed accurate panel lines crystal clear canopies.
CONS; No photoetch. Annoying strangely located mould seam lines. Thick decals and not very imaginative markings. Price tag prohibitively high for some .
All in all a superb kit. Slight inaccuracies aside, this will build into a kit that is every inch the RA-5/C Vigilante. I know for a fact I will enjoy building this - built straight OOTB it will produce more than amazing results, with room to work for the super detailers out there (and no doubt providing ample opportunity for the A/M chaps) Will this kit will become an instant classic?! Remember, Trumpeter did it first! Very highly recommended for, advanced modelers and beginners alike.