1/48 A-10 Thunderbolt II (DCS)

For this next build I will be using the Tamiya 1/48 A-10A Thunderbolt II and doing a custom scheme as well as illuminating the aircraft. This is a commissioned work for a friend that flies this A-10 in the online flight simulator at the Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) website. The build will be detailed with Eduard photo etch, Eduard Brassin weapons (CBU-97’s, CBU-105’s, and Mk.84’s) and a Master Model gun for the nose. I will also be adding a M32A-60A Generator Unit which is part of the Hasegawa 1/48 US Ground Crew A set (currently on order) this will be used to hold a battery to power the LED’s used in the aircraft. Since I will be illuminating this it will not follow the instructions order of build so that the wiring and fiber optic lines can be installed as needed.

I started with the instrument panel. The photo etch set provides an instrument panel as well as a clear plastic with the gauges printed on them. I cut out the center of the kit panel then using Tamiya clear green and blue I colored the certain gauges and sprayed the back side with flat white to reduce the brightness of the LED. I built a light box on the backside and installed a white PICO sized LED.  Looking at reference photos there is a large landing light on the inside of the nose gear door. This is not included in the kit. I took a piece of 0.1” styrene rod and drilled into the end to make the back reflector and then cut the bottom lip to run the wires. I used a clear lens from my spare parts bin to cover the front and finally sanded the light case with a tapered back.  I am starting to work on the taxi and formation lighting next.

This week on the A-10 Thunderbolt II I detailed and assembled the cockpit. I completed the details on the instrument panel and the side panels. I decided used an ARES  resin ejection seat as the kit seat was very incorrect. I then dug thru my 1/48 figures and found a very good detailed pilot. The pilot was painted to match the pilot used in the simulator. I made the squadron arm patch and helmet logo decals using the artwork from the simulator and painted the helmet red with tiger stripes to match as well. While the pilot was drying, I added some photo etch details to the nose wheel strut.

The pilot was then placed in the seat and I used the photo etch seat belts to strap the pilot in. The cockpit was assembled and I ran the wiring down the one side of the cockpit. I am now starting work on the navigation lights. There are five white lights and the red/green of the wingtips.  The white lights will all be fiber optic lines from a single LED source. Check in next week to see the results!

Let there be light! This week’s work on the Thunderbolt II is installing the aircraft lights. Starting with the navigation lights there are five locations. The locations are the aft of the fuselage, each side of the tails, the dorsal light and the belly light. The kit provides a clear lens for the tail which is 1mm in diameter. So to start I drilled a 1mm hole all the way into the fuselage cavity.  The clear lens was placed and then a 1mm fiber optic line was placed against it. For the belly light a 1mm hole was drilled and a piece of styrene stock was added to provide strain relief. I then used a lighter and slightly melted the end of the 1 mm fiber optic line to create a “lens” and installed it. The tails and the dorsal spots were drilled with a .5mm drill and like the belly I used a lighter to slightly melt the end of each .5mm fiber optic line. I then made a light box out of styrene and installed a 3mm LED on one end and then drilled two 1mm holes and three .5mm holes for the fiber optic lines. All the fiber optic lines were then routed and attached using acrylic gel to hold them in place.

To power the lighting I took the 1/48 Hasegawa cart and built it up. The problem I had was the interior of the cart held the battery but there was not enough room for the connector to the battery. To correct the fit I added some .2” thick styrene to the one end and some thin stock styrene to extend the edge of the top cover.  A 3.5mm hole for the power cable was drilled out on the aircraft power spot. I used a coax wire sleeved with black shrink tubing as the power cable. One end was routed to the battery connector and the other side I installed a female coaxial pin. On the aircraft next to the nose gear bay is the aircraft ground power port. I cut out the panel (will make one later in the open position) and installed a male coaxial connector on a thick styrene sheet with epoxy and glued it into place. The cover of the cart will not be glued down which will allow access to change the battery if needed.

I used the photo etch detail parts to build up the nose gear bay and then started work on the nose gear strut. The A-10 has two lights on the strut. There is a lower light for taxi and the upper light for landing. Using styrene rod I made both light housings. I installed a white PICO sized LED in each one and made the lens using acrylic gel. So not only does it create the lens it holds the LED’s in place.  I am now starting on the red and green wing tip lights which will use individual LED’s and fiber optic lines.

This week the wing tip lights were placed. I made an optic coupler to go from a PICO sized LED into a .5mm fiber optic line. One wing has a red LED and one has a green LED. Then the fun part, the wings and tail assembly need to be installed before the fuselage halves so the wiring and optic lines could be routed properly.  I added weight to the node area so it will sit on the landing gear correctly then carefully put the fuselage together. The main gear was then detailed and installed and the engine assembly was built up, painted, detailed and exhaust was weathered. Once installed on the fuselage I checked that there is enough weight in the nose. There is, it sits on the gear without and need to prop the tail. I then added all the photo etch details to the fuselage.

I then set up the model with the power cable and performed a light check. Below is also a video that was taken with my cell phone to get an idea how the lights look from various angles. The photo etch HUD was then assembled, detailed and painted. Need to do some more cleanup work on the fuselage then start the base coat of the paint scheme. I am currently working on scaling and making the custom decals. The client wants a specific weapons load so I had to order some resin weapons that should arrive on Monday. The GPU cart will then be finished after the aircraft is completed.

Here is the video walk around for the light check:

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is heading into the final stages of the build. The aircraft was painted and the custom decals to match the combat simulator scheme were added. The Master Model was then assembled and installed. This accessory set also comes with a brass pitot tube for the wing. The hole in the wing was too large for the brass one so I filled the hole and re-drilled it the correct size.

I was searching around the internet and stumbled upon a fellow modeler who used a glow-in-the-dark paint that he used for the formation lights (nicknamed “Slime Lights”). I looked up paints and found a brand called Spacebeams. They make a line of glow-in-the-dark paint called Aquaris. I purchased the Bright Aqua color. The paint is very thick. Almost as thick as the acrylic gel. Since the photo etch set came with the formation light frames, I used a toothpick to fill in the areas where the lights go then used the edge of the hobby knife blade to level it out. The paint itself has a leveling property itself so it dried to a smooth level. In normal light the paint has an ivory color to it. Once you place it in the sunlight or “charge: it with a UV flash light it glows brightly and is a match to what they look like on the real aircraft. The effect is amazing!

The boarding ladder and the canopy were detailed and installed. At this point the basic aircraft itself is finished. So I am now working on all the weapons and pods. The weapons load-out will consist of two AIM-9 missiles, two AGM-65 Mavericks, two GBU-54’s, one mk.84 bomb,  six APKWS rocket pods, the AAQ28 Litening pod, and the ALQ-184 pod. The missiles and bombs are Eduard Brassin, the APKWS rockets are from Phase Hangar, the ALQ-184 is from GT resin and the Litening pod is 3-D printed. Once the weapons load is completed all that will be left to do is finish building and detailing the Aircraft Test Cart.

This weekly update for the A-10 Thunderbolt II covers the power cart and most of the weapons.  So the Hasegawa accessory kit came with two carts. The A/M32A-60A generator and a TTU-228/E Hydraulic test stand. I used the TTU-228 as it was large enough to hold the 9V battery. The cart was detailed with the wires and hoses that came with the kit. The top panel of the cart sits in between the side rails so it kind of clips in. I had to extend it to match the modification I did to the cart. It was then painted and decals added. Then a final coat of matte clear coat was sprayed. I then assembled the wheel chocks and painted them yellow.

Moving onto the weapons and pods, I started with the AGM-65 Mavericks. The inside of the window was painted with chrome paint and the outside with 3 coats of Tamiya smoke. This give the head a tinted lens look but reflects the chrome when the light hits it. The ALQ-184 was painted. The resin pod did not come with ant decals so I made the decals as they were in the game skins. The CBU-54’s were assembled and painted then moved on to the mk. 84. The game skins have a shark mouth and some graffiti on the side. I made the decals from the game skin sheets.  Finally comes the 3-D printed Litening Pod which was detailed and painted. All of these were then paced onto their stations to match the game skin. The only thing left is the APKWS rocket pods. These were ordered from Phase Hangar and arrived earlier this week. The other thing that was on the skins was FOD covers for the engines. These cover match the same style as the ones used on a YouTube video titled “A-10 Thunderbolt II Maintenance in HD” which is the same squadron. For the FOD covers I cut out two circles from a styrene sheet and used red wire to make the handles. I made a decal of the squadron logo and put one on each cover. The covers were then glued to a small piece of black foam. This gives them the black seal for the edges and holds them in place. These can be removed to show the intake vanes.

All that is left to do now is to scratch build the triple rack to hold all six rocket pods (3 on each side) mount them, then take the final photos, and pack it up for its trip out to the west coast.

The Thunderbolt is now complete! This build has been a tedious but fun build. The numerous accessories that were added and lighting work well together to bring the aircraft from the Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) into an awesome display piece. The Tamiya kit itself was nice the way it was designed to be built. It made adding the LED’s and fiber optic lines a little easier. While many of the decals for the particular scheme were homemade, the kit decals I used were very good. They went down nicely.

I then carefully packed up the aircraft, test cart, and a CD filled with over 250 high resolution build photos into a box using foam supports, bubble wrap, and plenty of tape to keep everything held in place. The box was sealed and then placed in a larger box surrounded by foam peanuts to keep it all safe and secure for its trip to the northwestern United States. It is scheduled to be delivered today. The client purchased a hangar display base for this. Once he has it unpacked and on display he will take a couple of photo and I will update this log later with them. Thanks for following along.

It arrived and is in it’s new home! There was a minor issue as the gun barrel was knocked off. But it is being repaired. No other issues. Here are some photos in its new display.

10 thoughts on “1/48 A-10 Thunderbolt II (DCS)

  1. Curious why you chose the Tamiya kit instead of the Monogram kit which seems to be the favorite in 1/48 or one of the Italeri kits.

    1. I have built the Monogram/Revell and Italeri kit previously so I went with the Tamiya this time which I was able to get at a very good discount.

  2. anthony dagostino September 29, 2020 — 6:52 am

    Any thoughts on the Hobby Boss kit?

    By the way, the lighting is spectacular, as always!



    1. I cannot compare it to the Hobby Boss as I have not built that. The Italeri is a nice kit though.

  3. Hi. Im doing the same model now and wondered if you have any details on the resin seat. I cant seam to find one for the tamiya kit. Thanks.

  4. anthony dagostino October 25, 2020 — 6:26 am

    Once again, another jaw dropping build that is very inspiring. I have to recommend the use of lights into the future, it is an incredible addition to the realism you always achieve.

    Now for the bad……… (not really,just a challeng) it looks like the aviation lights for flying in non-combat conditions, remain lit constantly. Is there a way to install something to allow them to flash, as they would on the real aircraft? I know it’s nit picking, but just wanted to push you a bit to maybe make that extra step into realism!

    Cheers, and congratulations on another spectacular build!


    1. Yes, you can buy flashing LED’s. This is built for a client who will be displaying the aircraft in a hangar scene so flashing is not required.

  5. I am interested in the shark-mouth on the Mk. 84. You refer to “game skin”. I have a “SPAD” in the works and a photo of its gun pod with the shark mouth. Please explain

    1. For the online simulator to create the aircraft you generate a “skin” file which is the graphic the program uses to render the aircraft digitally. I was sent the raw graphic files and used these to make the decals. If you are looking to have decals made and you have a graphic or photo of the shark mouth I can make you decals.

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