A-1H Skyraider U.S. Navy Concept Note from Zoukei-mura

A-1H Skyraider U.S. Navy
Concept Note SWS No.III
Zoukei-mura
Available from Zoukei-mura for ¥3,465 (around £30)
Language: English and Japanese
ISBN: 978-4-903596-10-5

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This is the third 'Concept Note' book release from Japanese company Zoukei-mura, to tie in with their 1:32 A-1 Skyraider kit, reviewed HERE. This is a significantly thicker volume than the previous Concept Note books, being another 40 pages thicker than the Ta 152 volume, and 56 pages thicker than the initial Shinden book. A large, separate fold out plan in 1:48 is supplied too. Unlike the others too, the A-1H Skyraider book comes with a set of decals, but we'll come onto those a little later.

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The A-1H Skyraider Concept Note book is wrapped in an attractive dust jacket, showing a composite image of the kit Skyraider in both finished and skeletal form, with an extra paper banding depicting this product and others, slipped around the book. This quite typical of Japanese publications. Slip the dust jacket off and a beautiful glossy picture of the finished Skyraider can be seen. It seems such a shame to hide that, so we've published it here.

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For those modellers who don't know the reasoning behind the SWS and Concept Note series, it goes like this: The model kits themselves are designed to be both intuitive and educational as well as being very accurate scale models. As the core construction of the SWS range is centred around the basis of that of the real aircraft, the modeller will see his/her creation come together and gain a better understanding of the design concept of the real thing. This of course also enables amazing opportunities to super-detail the model too, without the need to purchase endless streams of aftermarket products. Of course, Zoukei-mura also have their own photo-etch sets for those who wish to take their model to the 'next stage'. The Concept Note book is also structured along these lines, with both the history of the type, accompanied by period service photographs of the aircraft being given at the beginning of the book. Let's take a closer look.

This volume is split into six parts:

  • Foreword: An introduction to the brand concept of SWS.
  • Chapter 1: Explaining the Craft Itself
  • Chapter 2: investigating the Actual Airplane and Making the SWS Kit
  • Chapter 3: How Each 'Model Kit' is Enjoyed by Local and Japanese Modellers
  • Chapter 4: Expanding the World of the Skyraider, Even Wider, Even Deeper
  • Afterword: Editors Afterword

Foreword
Zoukei-mura President, Mr Hideyuki Shigeta, explains the brand concept of the SWS range of model kits. The Skyraider is an aircraft that I personally know that Mr Shigeta has a deep passion for. We have enjoyed conversations where he has shown me photos of the actual aircraft, and a model he built of this around 40 years ago, in 1:48 scale. What the Foreword explains is that passion, distilled into 4 distinct paragraphs. What Mr Shigeta explains is how he wishes to re-ignite that link that many of made in our youth, when our passion to build models encouraged us to take interest in the real aircraft, and thus push our understanding further. I think that simply sums up the reasoning behind the design of the Super Wing Series. Mr Shigeta also goes onto explain that he believes that with the release of the Skyraider, that this signals the end of this initial generation of kits, whose quality will set the standard for the next generation of SWS kits, beginning soon with the release of the P-51D Mustang. I can testify to something rather 'special' just on the horizon too, so these aren't hollow words.

Chapter 1: Explaining the Craft Itself.
Opening with some amazingly realistic images of the ZM Skyraider with accompanying prose from Mr Shigeta, this chapter then goes on to give an excellent history of the type, including the  developmental stages of both AD-6 and AD-7 variants. A fascinating explanation of the sequential stages of how the Skyraider would deliver a nuclear device is included, and the need for water injection to boost engine power in such circumstances. Water injection would normally be prohibited due to the detrimental effects on the engine, over time. The section on nuclear strike capability is extremely interesting and includes descriptions of modifications of the machine that would have been required toundertake such a strike.

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The various operational theatres of combat for the Skyraider are explained, along with many excellent period photographs of deployment. A particularly nostalgic photo shows a flight of four Skyraider's passing by Mount Fuji in Japan. It is these very machines which Mr Shigeta can count among those that inspired his interest in the Skyraider, thus ending with the development of the SWS Skyraider.

Eight colour profiles are included in this chapter depicting a variety of schemes from standard Navy Grey, through to the famous dark blue scheme for AD-6, VA-155, with its lime green wing and vertical stabiliser tips. Two camouflage machines are depicted too, with one of these seeing service during the Vietnam War, and one on deployment to Thailand in 1970. I have included one colour plate showing four schemes within this review.

Chapter 2
We now begin to see some plastic in this book, as the kit design and finishing team put together one of their own kits, with both images from their own construction, tied into images of the real machine. This is a key figure of the Concept Note books. The text itself gives some superb reference to the interior layout, colour and the reasoning for the machine using these colours. The cockpit is where this chapter begins, with large images of the interior of the real Skyraider, and notation given to specific instruments. The kits instrument panel can be constructed in a variety of ways in terms of decaling, and using either the clear or silver part as the basis for your work. The best ways to accomplish this are shown.

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The interior of the aircraft is superbly represented in this chapter, showing many angles of the cockpit and the remainder of the interior, including the large internal fuselage fuel tank. All of these reference images are in colour too, and shown alongside the teams own build work, so you may reference things even easier. The test also gives colour reference numbers so you can check these out against actual model paint codes. The best reference in the world for this is THIS site.

The developers and finishers also like to give hints and tips to various areas of construction. A few of these I can relate to, having built a test-shot of this model. In this respect, these notes can prove invaluable for the modeller of this kit.

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Interspersed among the text and photographs are a number of technical illustrations which, although aren't strictly associated with the construction of your model, they do show interesting insights into certain areas of the real aircraft construction, and possibly even give reference, should the modeller wish to go even further with their detail. The majority of the real photos show some interesting wear, tear and weathering detail which you simply couldn't find easily yourself.

The complicated radial engine of this kit needs some care and attention so that all of the exhaust system installs properly, and that the completed assembly will fit to the models airframe. Again, many images, with hints and tips are given, and the images are extremely clear in their intent.

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Modellers may know that the wing fold mechanism on the kit actually does work. Having built it, I can tell you it operates well, and when the wing is opened out, everything aligns properly. You must be very careful with this area of construction, and the notes given here show how to get the very best from assembling this area.

The kit features a separate spine, and I found that this needed a little remedial work with putty, and then the re-scribing of the joint line to represent the actual panel line. This area is tackles and explained also. The way that ZM say that you might need putty to fill any resultant gaps is quite refreshingly honest, and you can see how any issues are overcome.

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Painting is another area that is explained, from preparing the model for paint, onto how to apply colour, with reference to masking areas off. Even the finish of the specific colours is discussed. If that isn't enough, then weathering is explained, including a section on how to create those characteristic exhaust stains that you see on almost every Skyraider.

Just about every aspect of the Skyraider is explained, down to the depiction of the navigation lights. A double page is also given over to stencilling the model, with reference to the decal sheet included within.

This chapter is even a reference for the Skyraider itself, and if you aren't wanting to build the model, the book can be purchased for these reference images alone!

Chapter 3
This is the section which modellers from both Japan and also internationally, get to build the Skyraider kit, and take photos of their construction, with explanatory notes. These models are built from late test-shots, and when you see the results, you'll see that this really is an excellent kit. I had very little issue with the one I constructed. The schemes depicted by the various modellers were chosen by Mr Shigeta himself, and range from standard grey, through to the trickier dark blue finish, and there is even a Skyraider converted to a French AD-4N, with side windows in place of the traditional airbrakes.

Seeing another modeller tackle a subject is both helpful and interesting. In places, the modellers describe their own efforts and how they accomplished them.

Chapter 4
If you wanted to hear first-hand testimony of how the Skyraider handled during flight, then this is the best place to find it. Skyraider pilots Duane Kalember and Tai Tang tell of their operations and combat experience in detail, with accompanying photographs, whilst Hideki Yamauchi reminisces about the Skyraiders that he experienced at close quarters during his childhood. I bet this is a section that Mr Shigeta can relate to.

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This Chapter ends with a story called 'Able Dogs', this time told in both Japanese AND English. The story relates to a fictional (as far as I know) combat mission during the Vietnam War in 1965, with many references to occurrences on board the aircraft carrier before the mission. This story, written by Seiji Nishikawa, is illustrated throughout with colour sketch illustration, as would an action comic have. Interspersed are images of actual Skyraiders too.

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Afterword
This is where Mr Shigeta thanks those who have taken part in supplying material for the book, and his own thoughts on SWS development with the culmination of the Skyraider's release.

Now, tucked into the blank pages following the Afterword is a very impressive pull out sheet showing the Skyraider in 1:48 line drawing format. The internal technical illustrations are exemplary, with English notation, weapons detail and sectional drawings, as well as a summarised specification chart.

I think I'd better mention those decals now. A small sheet containing nothing but stencil decals in included. These are printed by Cartograf, and are beautifully thin. Printing is in perfect register, and carrier film is minimal. The writing is so crisp on these that you can read just about stencil. With my poor eyesight, that does prove something! Reference to decal placement is given within the book.

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So what do we think?
I own all three of the Concept Note books, and this is a crowning jewel!! If the other books seriously impressed me, then that goes to show how good I think this one is. Despite the extra page count in this volume, ZM have seen fit to keep the price the same as the previous releases. This is a book for both the SWS modeller and the Skyraider fan alike, and you shouldn't pass up the opportunity to place an order for one right now!

Very highly recommended.

Our sincere thanks to my good friends Zoukei-mura for supplying the review copy I used for this review. To purchase directly, click THIS link.

James H

 

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