My Vigilante project is a classical case of a the scratching of a minor
itch taken to excessive lengths. The problem is this: there are no decent
kits of the A-5A Vigilante. Plenty of RA-5Cs, but I want the basic plane
without the humpback. So, I started digging around for information, and
maybe even alternatives for the Airfix/Hasegawa recce birds.
After a while, if found that there is a Monogram A-5A, but that, as kits go, it stinks. Then there's the FSM article outlining a conversion from the Hasegawa RA-5C back to the A-5A, which also lists an old Microscale decal sheet that just so happens to have markings for an RA-5C that started out as an A-5A, and later got converted to RA-5C and returned to the same squadron, with almost identical markings, so I figured that if I could find that sheet, I'd be in business.
To my considerable pleasure, this decal sheet showed up on eBay within a few weeks. At this point, I decided the modelling gods were smiling on me. By this time, I'd also found out that only 3 squadrons ever flew the A-5A, and that all of those later transitioned to RA-5C. In due time, the decals arrived, and I had a look at which squadrons were represented. Not just one, but two of the A-5A squadrons were there, and as two out of three isn't that bad, I decided I might as well do both of them. At that point in time, I was also experimenting with resin casting, and in a fit of nearly terminal ambition, I decided I'd roll my own conversion set for a Vigilante reverse refit. After another long consideration of what I was getting into, and a failed attemp to talk myself out of it again, I had to conclude that I didn't read the expression of the aforementioned deities correctly, and that their sense of humour is a bit twisted.
So, a resin conversion of my own making it is to be. Before I even got started with carving up the first Hasegawa Viggie, I realised that there was no way I was ever going to do a proper job of this conversion if I couldn't get a good three dimensional image of the finished product. Enter a Monogram A-5A.
With the Monogram Viggie completed, I started looking at the Hasegawa kit that was doomed to form the basis for my initial conversion, as well as the development tool for my resin set. Now, I usually build my kits wheels down, and put them on their own wheels in a display cabinet, so I'm not overly critical about the quality on the undercarriage. Most people can't squeeze their heads in under wings to inspect it in painful detail anyway. The cockpit, on the other hand, tends to be visible, and for some reason, the folks at Hasegawa had failed to include one with the kit. All you get is a pair of hideous blobs called ejection seats. Sorry, but if I'm going to put loads of time into building and converting these birds, that's just not going to be sufficient.
At this point, my only option seemed to be scratchbuilding the seats myself, and
so the quest for decent info on the HS-1 seat began. This seat was only ever fitted
in the Vigilantes, and pictures are difficult to find. I finally found a pair on
Kevin Coyne's ejection site.
Unlike many other seats, which are basically solid blocks with loads of little external details, these seats have a tube frame with lots of holes along the sides and the front of the part the pilot actually sits on. Big freaking whoopy! I'll never get those built, I'm just not that good. So, back to the webbrowser for more help, which took a while to appear.
In the mean time, I'd started work on the de-humping part of the conversion of the first Viggie. Also during this period, I'd found out that Kangnam had cleaned up the Hasegawa Viggie a bit, and that their release had engraved panel lines, rather than the raised scribblings on the Hasegawa. Since Kangnam kits don't grow on any of the local trees, and ordering takes a bit of time, the Kangnam kit arrived shortly after I'd inflicted irrepairable damage on the first Hasegawa kit. When it did arrive, I decided it looked a lot better and much less troublesome to convert than the Hasegawa, so I decided that the Kangnam (and the second copy I bought the next day), was going to be the basis for the A-5A models.
After some time (during which I had little time for modelling) I found out there was a Airwaves photo-etch cockpit set for the Hasegawa vigilante, that seemed to include parts for the ejection seats. Obviously, I just had to buy one, and see if it was any good. Photo-etch was new to me, so I decided not put put too many experiments in a single kit, and start building a standard RA-5C with this detail set. So far, this is looking good, except for the fact that only part of the ejection seats are there. The set cheerfully refers to yet another aftermarket set by yet another company, that does supply seats that could then be adapted to take the photo etch side panels. So far, I have found the company making the seats, but they no longer seem to offer them. On the bright side, I think I should be able to scratchbuild a master for the actual seat, and then make a mould to cast the rest in resin (I'm going to need loads of seats).
The appearance of the Kangnams left me with a load of semi-obsolete Vigilantes.
By now, I'd accumulated three
Hasegawa kits (planned as two for conversion, and one for the inevitable screw up),
one Airfix kit (planned as an RA-5C) and a second very much obsolete Monogram kit.
This called for a serious revision of my plans. Currently, my plans are this:
I just found out I've been suffering from delusions. I never had a sufficiently clear image of any of the A-5B prototypes, so that final Hasegawa kit is going to become an RA-5C of RVAH-12.
I've found a good home for the spare Monogram kit, but I find I've developed the crazy desire to find out just how bad the 'new' Revell kit was. I've heard it is similar to the Kangnams, and in the box, those look rather nice. So either I've got my hopes for the A-5A pinned on a pair of totally crap kits, or the Revells are different from the Kangnams, or the Revell isn't so bad after all. I just know this is going to cost me money.
I was right, the Revell thing did cost me money. I found two of them on eBay, and I must say, I'm happy with the kits. Not only are the Kangnams identical to them, as I'd hoped, but one of them came with an extra sheet of decals, which included the third A-5A squadron which had been absent so far. Looks like I'm going to be able to do a line up of all the squadrons they ever flew with.
I stumbled accross a rather worrying review of the Revell kit somewhere on the web. As a summary, the reviewer stated that no two parts fit together. I have yet to build them, but this seems like bad news to me. Having said that, parts fitting together is not something the Hasegawa kits are interested in either. I can't help but wonder if the Airfix kit will be better.
I realised I'd been away from the Viggies for a while, but eight years? I feel like I'm getting really, really old now..
Old or not, things have changed a bit since my last visit. The Airfix kit has been purged from the stash to make room for something more interesting. That includes a brand new moulding of the RA-5C by Trumpeter. This kit is three decades newer than the Hasegawa and Airfix offerings, and it shows. Only the truly masochistic will be building the old kits from now on. Despite what this page suggests, that doesn't include me, and no new RA-5C build will be started from old stock anymore.
The old kits are still the most suited to my conversion project though. I could never hope to match the quality of the Trumpeter kit with my modifications, and a clunky conversion on a finely detailed kit would look terrible. Work has been resumed on the conversion and PE-pilot builds. I've managed to damage the fuselage of Viggie 2 to the point that I will not be able to complete making the conversion parts with it. An additional Revell kit has been obtained to take over the job once I reach the point where the damage becomes a problem.
I suspect my plans regarding the decals will have to be revised soon. VAH-1 went through quite a few changes in appearance while flying Vigilantes, and the decal sheet does not match anything they used on the A-5A. VAH-3 will need to be examined, and only the VAH-7 decals appear usable for an A-5A. I suspect I'll be printing my own decals after all.
Well, that just about wraps up the overview. Below are the links to the individual Vigilante builds.
Hasegawa A-5A conversion
Hasegawa RA-5C update and testbed
Revell RA-5C to A-5A conversion
All sorts of scratchbuild work
for the Vigilante project