Douglas F4D Skyray in 1/72 scale 

1/72 scale Tamiya Douglas Skyray of the US MARINES
kit review / modelling report
The Douglas F4D Skyray was a single-seat carrier-based fighter of the fifties from Douglas. The famous Ed Heinemann lead the secret Douglas project and it's design was special as it had no horizontal tailplane but a delta wing shape. It started as design no "D-571" and using aeronautical data from the Germans in the second world war, a "bat like" wing was choosen with elevons. First flight was January 1951 with several dangerous characteristics but these were solved. It's envisaged J40 engine also gave a lot of problems so a switch was made to use the J57 which was OK and the production version was ready june 1954, but still without the radar. Delivery started April 1956 and the Skyray entered squadron service. Initial the Skyray had 4 canons, but these were removed in service, with external armament fitted on up to 7 pylons. But on most flights, fueltanks were carried as the standard range was limited. For air to air interception, Sidewinder missiles were used later on but these were still first generation. Hitting your target remained difficult and the radar was often not properly working. Crew of the navy called the Skyray “the Ford” because of its F4D designation. It took flying to the edge and some pilots did not like its characteristics at all as they were dangerous and killing. About 400 planes were build with production ending end 1958. The US Navy flew until the end of the sixties with the Skyrays. 

Data F4D-1 SKYRAY: wingspan 10,21 m; length 13,79 m; empty weight 7270 kg, max weight 11340 kg.
Douglas designed also an improved Skyray, called the F5D-1 Skylancer. Only four test aircraft were made, it never entered US Navy service as it was decided to use the Cutlass and Vought F-8 Crusader. NASA used the Skylancer planes later on for experiments. 

Several models were issued in the past. Lindberg came with a 1/48 a long time ago and with several box tops.

Airfix 1/72:
and same kit in a Testors box: 

The model

Tamiya issued a 1/72 kit no.60741 in 1998 of the Skyray which was a big improvement over the older Airfix model that had inaccurate dimensions. (The Tamiya model was also issued in 1/48 scale and this seems a smaller variant of that kit, but now with integrally moulded slats).

The kit is very accurate and needs no modification what so ever. The number of kit parts is not that big and hardly any filler is needed. The recessed panel lines are well done. 


The Tamiya kit decals are for three of such aircraft US NAVY VF(AW)-3 with blue trim and stars, MARINES VMF(AW)-114 and US MARINES VMF(AW)-115.  


The decals are a bit disappointing in this kit. They look very nice, but the white colour in the Stars and Bars are not opaque enough. 
I decided to use Stars and Bars from a Microscale/Superscale sheet as well as Microscale sheet 72-186 for the colourscheme of US MARINES VMF (AW) 115 (which is also in the Tamiya kit). 

The wing can not be folded, and the slats and elevons are not positionable. The gear bays look OK but a bit more details on the sidewalls can be added. 

The intakes are well done and although there is no ducting, this is not disturbing. A tailbumper and skid are also provided. 

Stores are also nicely in the kit with a navigation pod, 2 AIM-9B Sidewinders, two 300-gallon drop tanks and two rocket pods. You will need to open up the holes in the lower wing as desired for the pylons and stores. Most Skyrays flew with the fueltanks. 

Skyrays were usually painted in US Navy and Marines corps standard schemes of Fed.Standard light gull gray FS16440 on top and white on the bottom, with trim paint in other colors, such as red outlined intakes and various panels. Colourful squadron markings also were used a lot. Individual Skyrays could have differently coloured walkways, nose cones and other details, so check your references for the model you want to make. 

Building the kit

This is a straight forward build, with no headaches except for the desired schema and decals. The kit was made as per instructions with hardly any filler needed. 

The cockpit is well detailed in the kit:

cockpit drawing

The kit seat is a original Douglas seat, but very quickly operational Skyrays fitted with a radar scope as well got a Martin Baker P5 seat, which is a version of the Martin Baker Mk.P5 seat < Check out the link 

I had a spare MB5 seat which I used and kept the small cockpit simple. Also, the canopy did not slide backwards but tilted upwards. 

NOTE: later on I found out that the outboard leading edge slats for a parked Skyray always droop down (they are airflow activated). Also the tri-angled trim surfaces adjacent to the rear fuselage are usually seen on a parked aircraft "tilted" up as pilots usually used this setting when landing. On this model I was to late to make these changes; it would need cutting out these areas. 

The basic scheme is the Gull Grey FS16440 and white lower surfaces FS16875 scheme.
First a matt white coat was sprayed, the demarcation line and flying surfaces masked off with TAMIYA masking tape and the gull grey sprayed on using acrylic Gunze Sangyo no.315  for the FS16440

Next followed the metallic leading edges of the wings. These were masked off and sprayed. (the tiny red outlined intake lips and fin black edge were hand painted). 

Only slight wash was added in the elevons edges and the slats.

The decals were applied, being a mix of kit and Microscale (see notes above).
Finishing the model was done by adding the gears, stores and painted canopy.

The intakes and wingtips were given red paint and the some slight wash was added in the elevons hinge lines. The rear fuselage end was painted metallic.

The gear were added, the canopy with a elevation bar from rod and the smaller bits like retracted tailbumper and pitot on the nose. 
The overall model got a coat of protective Johnson Future / Pledge and this gave a nice gloss look as well.

  Skyray of US MARINES VMF(AW)-115. 




Voila... a bat winged US fighter in the model collection 

  • DOUGLAS F4D SKYRAY, Williams & Ginter, Naval Fighters Series no.13, 1986 
  • Scale Aircraft Modelling, magazine SAM, UK,  1998 no.4
  • Air international magazine, volume 23, pages 178-181
  • IPMS NL  Skyray Walk around
  • info here on the Martin Baker P5 ejection seat...

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Created this page August 8, 2009