HAPPY VETERAN’S DAY
My next build is the 1/32 scale Trumpeter A-7E Corsair II. The scheme will be that of VA-37 “The Bulls”. This has been a project I have been planning to do for a while. Back in 1982 while serving in the U.S. Navy I checked into my new duty station at NAS Cecil Field in Jacksonville Florida and was assigned to the Attack Squadron VA-37. I spent 3 years with this squadron which included a cruise aboard the USS Carl Vinson CVN-70 during her 1983 maiden deployment and a 6-month deployment to Iwakuni, Japan where we were part of “Team Spirit” in 1985.
As a tribute to my time serving with this squadron I will be making this aircraft number 300 which was flown by my commanding officer CDR R.L. Ramsay. I will be building and detailing this aircraft to match his aircraft as well as illuminating the cockpit, wingtip, fuselage, and landing light using LED’s. It will be on a display base replicating the tarmac at NAS Cecil Field. I will be using Cutting Edge’s decal set. I should also note that this kit comes with its own photo etch, metal landing gear struts, and rubber tires. I will actually be officially starting this tonight so these first photos are setting up to start the build. I will be designing the backlit side panels and the instrument panel which will be illuminated with red LED’s. This is how the cockpit was illuminated at night.
Here is the first week of the A-7E build. Starting on the cockpit, since I am illuminating it, I needed to scratch build the side panels. Using reference photos I started on the starboard side panel. I cut a panel out of thin sheet styrene and scribed in the panel lines. I used styrene round and square rods to make the large knobs and switches. For the toggle switches I am using .25mm and .5mm fiber optic lines. The gauge was made from scrap PE. The panel was then sprayed with a thin flat black coat. I trimmed out the section where the kit panel mounted to and installed the new one. A second panel was cut out and mounted 0.3” below the new panel and I installed two red LED’s to back light the top panel.
For the port side panel I followed the same process. I cut out some holes for the levers and the hose that goes to the ejection seat. I added two PE levers and the kit lever. The panels were then detail painted the various colors like the yellow warning lines, red switch covers and the gray knobs. I mounted two more red LED’s under the panel. Just to note, while some of the panels were drying I started to look at the ejection seat. The early A-7’s used the Escapac IC-2 ejection seat. The later A-7’s used the SJU-8/A ejection seat. This kit has the IC-2 seat. The aircraft I am building requires the SJU-8/A so I ordered a resin accessory from Aires. I also ordered the resin wheels from Reskit. The kit comes with rubber tires but I need solid wheels as the wires to power the lights will travel down the landing gear struts (representing the brake lines) and thru the wheels and tires so they can be routed under the base.
With the side panels completed and illuminated I started working on the main instrument panel. I replaced the kit back panel with a thin sheet of white styrene. I also cut the top housing off the kit piece and attached it to the new piece. The kit comes with a film for the gauges. I panted the radar screens with clear yellow which should give them the more typical orange look. I need to see how the instrument panel fits inside the fuselage so I can make the light box holding the LED’s will fit into the fuselage.
Moving onto the second week I continued working on the instrument panel by building the light box. I am using a 3mm red LED mounted thru the bottom. The front was detail painted for the switches, knobs, and markings. I then assembled, detailed and painted the resin ejection seat. I also made the decals for the seat warning labels. While the instrument panel assembly and ejection seat were drying I was looking over the other areas that will be illuminated.
The recognition lights on many Navy aircraft sit on the nose landing gear. On the A-7 specifically the panel is mounted on the port nose landing gear door. The kit has this panel molded in clear. This made it easier to illuminate. I drilled a 0.25mm hole from the backside halfway into the panel. I then attached three 0.25mm fiber optic lines. On the front side the molded light locations were painted using Tamiya red, green, and yellow clear paints. The fiber optic lines will go to a light box to be mounted later. I did a quick check and the effect worked great.
Next was the belly light. The kit has the light molded into the bottom panel. I cut off the “lens” and drilled out the hole. Using a clear styrene tree I cut, trimmed and shaped a new lens. I then mounted a flashing red LED behind the lens.
Next I needed to detail the main gear bays. Using reference photos I added the lines and hoses to the port side bay. I also added the aircraft ground point and markings. The wire coiled up in the photos will be one of the power wires for the LED’s. This will travel down the strut replicating the hydraulic line and pass thru the wheel and tire to a spot under the display base. I will add the other power wire on the starboard side gear as well.
With all the cockpit assemblies completed I did a test fit into the fuselage. I needed to do some minor trimming of the cockpit tub for the instrument panel light box but everything lined up perfectly. I am now working on detailing the starboard side main gear bay then will need to get the intake and nose wheel bay built and detailed so I can start putting the fuselage together.
As I move into the third week of the A-7E Corsair II I detailed the port side main gear bay. There is a panel of nine gauges. The kit version just has them portrayed as rings so I made the panel and gauges from scratch then hooked up all the lines to them. I added a few more lines as well as the other power line that will run down the landing gear into the display base.
Next I turned my attention to the port avionics bay. Many of the avionics had lines marking the handles. I removed these and then using some small staples I cut and bent them to make the handles. I then drilled holes to fit the 32 awg wires to represent the electrical cables for the equipment. I then made some small label decals for the equipment. I used the reference photo to duplicate these. The reference photos show a green tank (Oxygen?) in the forward section. I used a fishing weight and some PE scraps to replicate the tank and then scratch built another piece of equipment.
While certain steps were drying I located the parts for the landing light that sit on one of the main gear doors. I drilled a slot on the rear side and inserted a PICO size LED and used acrylic gel to glue it into the back of the light bezel. I painted the inside with chrome silver then put the clear lens on it.
I am now starting to work on the starboard side avionics bay. I started by removing some molded in details to replace them with the equipment shown in my reference photos. Once this has been completed, I then need to start on the intake, nose gear bay, and the exhaust which is getting me closer to assembling the fuselage together.
Here is a short 2-second video of the flashing belly light:
For the fourth week I built up and detailed the starboard side avionics bay. I used 32 awg wire for cables and made some more nameplate decals for the equipment. This completes the avionics. I then started on the intake and nose gear bay. First, the intake trunk was filled with some very bad mold marks. These needed to be sanded, filled with putty, and then sanded smooth. For the nose gear bay I added some photo etch panels from my PE scrap drawer for the two ends. On the aft end I made a box to house the LED for the Angle Of Attack (AOA) lights. This is the small panel that sits on the gear bay door. These were shown in week 2 (Incorrectly named recognition lights).
The final sub-assembly that needs to be done so I can put the fuselage together is the exhaust can. Again the can was filled with large deep mold marks that require a lot of putty. Once these were filled the exhaust was assembled and painted. It was then weathered using pastel chalk. I used black, dark gray, light gray, blue and rusty brown inside and out. Next I will be detailing the fuselage around the cockpit area and the exhaust then I can start routing the wiring.
Five weeks into the build of the A-7E I have assembled the fuselage together. Before putting the fuselage halves together I needed to correct the details of the tail cone. There are ribs inside the cone. The kit had some rounded ribbing which looked to small compared to the reference photos and had some mold marks in between the ribs. I filled the mold marks with putty then sanded the inside smooth. Using .020” square styrene I added the correct ribbing. Looking over the reference photos I noticed two small formation lights on each side of the fuselage. One behind the cockpit and one near the tail. I opened these up and added lights behind. Later I will add a lens.
I built and painted the 20mm gun that sits on the port side and installed it. The avionics bays, landing gear bays, intake, and cockpit were all installed. I routed and attached all the wiring and added wires thru the top which will go the wing section lights. I then slowly joined the fuselage halves together.
I need to make a note about this kit. The intake assembly has tabs that hold it in place. If you are building this kit I would recommend only gluing the rear tabs. If you glue the front ones the intake may be too close to one side causing the front edge to not be centered in the fuselage. The mouth needs to be centered for the intake lip to fit properly which would require the intake to be a little loose to line it all up.
Once the fuselage was finally together I then looked over the wing assembly. The light on the spine was all molded in plastic. I cut off the light lens section and drilled out the center of the housing. I used some clear styrene rod and made a clear lens. Just under the lens inside the housing I added a flashing red light. I looked over the wing tips and due to the thin edges I am unable to house the wiring for the LED’s for the wing tip lights. I decided to drill a .050mm channel so I can use .050mm fiber optics for them. I need to make a light box to house the wing tip LED’s then build up the wing assembly. Once I get the wing assembly mounted I can then finish the exterior details on the fuselage and get ready to start painting.
The sixth week has all the lighting installed. Once I had the fiber optics installed for the wing tip lights I was able to locate a video of night operations on the USS John F Kennedy. While watching the video I realized the wing tips have two lights on each side. So I ran a second fiber optic line under the forward slats. These ran to a 3mm diameter tube. The fiber optics went into one end and a 3mm LED was mounted at the other end. One tube for the red side and one tube for the green side. These were then tucked into the wing assembly.
Also while I was watching the video I noted that the top of the tail had a light on each side. The kit supplies two clear lenses for these. I drilled out the back side and mounted two pico sized white LED’s inside the lenses and used acrylic gel to hold them in place. I then wired everything up and did a light check on all seventeen LED’s. All are working fine. You can see a quick video of the light check in the build log on my blog.
For those interested in everything I used for lighting I am using: 8 – white pico LED’s (fuselage lights, tail lights, landing light, and the AoA lights), 2 – red flashing pico LED’s for the fuselage, 4 – red pico LED’s for the cockpit side panels, 2 – 3mm red LED’s (one for instrument panel the other for the wing tip lights) and 1- 3mm green LED for the wing tip lights. I am also using about 38” of 0.5mm fiber optic lines for the wing tips and the AoA lights.
I then started to build up the flaps, rudder, and the fuselage details. One thing to note is the rudder does not fit the tail. I needed to sand the bottom edge and match the angle of the rudder to the tail. I also sanded the fuselage seams and nose. I still have some more detail parts to add to the fuselage and then I can get things ready for the base coat of paint. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Final light check:
Happy New Years and the final update for 2022 with week seven of the A-7E Corsair II build. With the holiday season we had family from out of town visiting and other holiday festivities going on so I did not have a lot of time on the bench. I started by working on the metal landing gear and the resin wheels and tires. The landing gear struts required a little clean up with a fine file. I trimmed and cleaned up the resin wheels and tires. The resin wheels and tires are a lot larger than the kit wheels and tires. I also installed the hard points onto the wing assembly.
Next, I sprayed the wheels as well as the avionics door, landing gear doors, and the underside of the wing assembly with a base coat of white. The tires were painted with Tamiya XF85 Rubber Black. I am now working on masking the fuselage so I can paint the white base coat. Once painted and dried I can then start masking for the gull gray topside. Wishing everyone a safe and happy new years and we will see you all in 2023! Happy Modeling.
Welcome to the first update of 2023! This is the eighth week of the A-7E Corsair II project. The main base coat of the white underside and the gull gray topside was done. I attached the wing assembly to the fuselage and completed all the internal wiring. The wing assembly required a little putty to fill in the minor seams to the fuselage. I ran the power wires down the main gear struts and thru the resin wheels. The landing light on the starboard main gear door was mounted and I routed the fiber optic lines for the AoA lights on the nose gear door to the LED. The nose gear was then installed.
The aircraft is now sitting on the landing gear. I then did a light check and all is good. I still need to add the rest of landing gear doors, flaps, and rear stabilizers. I still need to paint the base coat of the “Bull” blue nose and tail. I also made the specific aircraft decals for the correct numbers and the pilot name. After the other details are installed I will be decaling and then onto weathering the aircraft.
For the ninth week of the A-7E I completed the base coat of paint then added the decals. The decals proved to be challenging. These were made by Cutting Edge many years ago. (I obtained my set from Ebay a few years ago). The decals were very delicate. The “bull” for the tail cracked into different sections. So the decal needed to be carefully placed and aligned the sections. The rest of the decals went down well. I then added the custom numbers and pilot name. With all the decals applied I then added some light weathering to the panel lines, landing gear bays and wheels. Finally, the aircraft was sprayed with a clear coat to seal everything.
Next I built up the Head-Up Display. To add the glow of the HUD I panted the base using glow in the dark paint with a coat of Tamiya clear green paint and then the clear lens supplied with the kit. The kit provides the photo etch sides for the HUD glass. Instead of using the kit HUD glass I cut a piece of clear acetate for the HUD glass. The photos of the HUD illuminated looks much brighter than in reality. This will now illuminate the HUD when the lights are turned down and add to the other illumination already installed.
I then painted the windscreen and installed it. The canopy part had the notorious seam down the center. This was sanded and polished. The kit photo etch includes the mirrors and handle for the main canopy so these were installed as well. This basically finishes the aircraft itself. Now it is onto the ordinance and drop tanks that will be loaded on the aircraft. Once these are built, painted and detailed I can then start on the display base. Looks like I am only a few weeks away of completing this project.
Ten weeks into the Corsair project and I have completed all of the under wing stores. The aircraft will be armed with two AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles, twelve Mk-82 Snake eye bombs mounted on MER’s, and six M117 bombs mounted on TER’s. The inboard hard points will hold the drop tanks. Starting with the AIM-9B’s I cut off the nose and scratch built the IR sensor windows. These were them built up and painted. The MK-82’s required a lot of putty around the fins due to gaps. The M117’s only needed a little putty along the seams.
I then built up the MER’s and TER’s and painted them. The kit supplies decals of the placard’s for the ordinance and the mounts. However, I decided not to use them. The decals are very poor for 1/32 scale and the registry of the decal printing is off. The placards look more like blobs rather than actual placards. This was strange as I typically work with 1/48 scale aircraft and similar decals were legible at the smaller scale. I will most likely seek out better quality decals which can be applied later.
I then mounted the bombs and missiles onto the racks and painted the drop tanks. I am getting ready to install these onto the aircraft and then do some final weathering. Next I will be getting the display base detailed and wired for the lights and power.
After eleven weeks the 1/32 Trumpeter A-7E Corsair II of VA-37 project is completed! For this final week I added the fuse lines to the bombs then installed the missiles, drop tanks and bombs to the aircraft. With the aircraft completely finished I then took the base and aligned the aircraft so the holes for the wiring could be drilled. I then painted the edges black. The main surface was then painted using light, medium, and dark gray to replicate tarmac cement with some weathering where the engine exhaust would be. After the paint dried I measured and scribed the seams in the cement. The rear edge was then trimmed out to accommodate the connector for the power and two grooves were made with a dremel tool to route the wires. I then mounted the aircraft to the base and ran the wires the connector. I added four felt pads to the bottom. I had a brass nameplate made completing the project. The date on the nameplate is the first day I checked into the squadron.
As for the kit, it went together very well. Some details like the exhaust area needed better details and there were a lot of badly placed mold marks. The fit was very good. The thing I did not like a lot was the kit decals. A lot of the placards for the aircraft and weapons were just blobs instead of legible placards which was a disappointment considering the large scale of this model. The weapons decals sheet was also off register. The aftermarket decals were nice but very fragile (most likely due to age). Overall I am very happy with the final results. Thank you for following this tribute build and happy modeling!
Here is a video of the completed project showcasing the lighting that was added.