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AV-8B

Trumpeter 1/32 AV-8B Harrier II Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2009 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject AV-8B Harrier II Scale 1/32
Kit Number 2229 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice exterior and interior details, superdetailed engine Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $169.95

 

 

First Look

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The AV-8B series was the second generation of US Marine Corps VSTOL close air support attack aircraft. Where the first generation of Harriers were developed by Hawker Siddeley, this second generation was led by McDonnell Douglas to apply improvements in engine performance and aerodynamic advances to create an more versatile airframe. Still powered by the Rolls Royce Pegasus engine, the Harrier II's engine produces more than 4000 pounds of additional thrust over the engines of the first generation Harriers.

You'll recall that while much ado was made over the advanced thrust-to-weight ratios of the F-15 and F-16, by definition the Harrier had a greater than 1:1 thrust-to-weight ratio a decade before the F-15. While the Harrier and Harrier II are not designed for supersonic operations, their unique ability to vector their thrust via four exit nozzles below the wings give them the ability to vertically take-off and land (VTOL) or perform short take-offs and vertical land (STOVL) to carry greater payloads.

The first AV-8Bs entered service in the mid-1980s to replace the AV-8A and slightly improved AV-8C airframes. These aircraft saw combat in Operation Desert Storm as well as other combat operations in support of US Marines on the ground. The first AV-8Bs were equipped with the Angle Rate Bomb System (ARBS) that was first introduced on late-model USMC A-4 Skyhawks which made them ideal for daytime operations. These AV-8Bs were replaced by the AV-8B+ Night Attack Harriers starting in 1993 and these AV-8B+ aircraft remain in service until (hopefully) replaced by the F-35 Lightning II.

The Hawker Siddeley Harrier and McDonnell Douglas Harrier II (and even the Sea Harriers) have been available in scales from 1/24th to 1/72nd. There have been a wide variety of kits from Airfix, Monogram, Revell, Tamiya, Hasegawa, and others, so which one is the best? Up until now, my vote went to the Airfix 1/24 Harrier GR.3 kit. This kit not only updated the original AV-8A/Harrier GR.1 release, but it also updated several shortfals in the kit that were previously left to the aftermarket to correct. While I haven't had the pleasure of seeing the 1/24th Sea Harrier kit, I assume that Airfix advanced the kit even further.

As I recall, the only kit of the Harrier produced in 1/32nd scale was the Revell and being an older tooling, this was of course a model of the AV-8A. This new release from Trumpeter is the first offering of the Harrier II in this scale and according to the release schedule, definitely will not be the last. This release is to be followed by the AV-8B+ Night Attack variant and a Harrier GR.7.

The kit is molded in the usual Trumpeter light gray styrene and presented on 19 parts trees plus one tree of clear parts, a small fret of photo-etched details, and a set of rubber tires. This kit consists of 432 parts and you can see from the images that there are lots of details in there.

The kit has the following features and options:

  • Nicely detailed SJU-4 ejection seat
  • Nice cockpit with most of the glass cockpit features rendered as decals
  • Photo-etched HUD frame
  • Beautiful detailing on the Pegasus engine if you leave the wing loose to display the engine. If you're going to permanently attach the wing, you can skip many of the details on the engine and engine bay
  • Detailed main landing gear and outriggers
  • Detailed wheel wells
  • Positionable auxiliary inlet doors
  • Positionable ailerons
  • Positionable stabilators
  • Positionable rudder
  • Positionable flaps
  • Postionable speed brake
  • Positionable forward air dam
  • Choice of gun pods or longitudinal air dams/strakes
  • Postionable engine nozzles
  • Air refueling probe is not positionable - stowed only

Of course the kit doesn't stop here. This release also has a nice array of external stores options. These include:

  • 2 x external tanks
  • 2 x AGM-65E Laser Mavericks
  • 2 x AIM-9L Sidewinders
  • 4 x Mk.82 Snakeyes
  • 4 x Mk.82 Slicks
  • 2 x Mk.117
  • 6 x GBU-12
  • 2 x TERs

The kit goes together in classic fashion starting with the Stencil ejection seat and cockpit followed by the other complete kit in this box, the Rolls Royce Pegasus engine. Check your references on the seat cushion details on the Stencil seat as the ribbed rear cushion will be easy to replicate with a hobby knife. The seatbelts and shoulder harness are provided as photo-etched parts. The rear deck behind the ejection seat is also a photo-etched part. The HUD frame mentioned above as well as a pair of canopy frame mirrors round out the extent of the photo-etched parts which will make this kit an easier build.

The fuselage is separated at the intake with the nose section provided separately. This makes the rendering of the other Harrier variants a simple swap of trees.

With that beautifully rendered engine it would be a shame not to be able to show that off. The inlet duct is molded integral to the compressor face, so the engine won't be convenient to display on its own without a little surgery, but you need the engine in the fuselage in any case to mount the nozzles. I don't know how this will work out in execution, but it looks like the Trumpeter engineers provided enough 'bite' on the wing/fuselage joint to safely pose the aircraft on its gear withot glueing the wing in place. You may have to tweak the strut lengths to keep the wing from riding high or with one outrigger off the ground. We'll see how that works out...

The kit provides markings for two examples:

  • AV-8B, BuNo 162972, VMA-231, CG/01, USMC
  • AV-8B, BuNo 162962, VMA-223, WP/17, USMC

There are two sheets of decals in this release, one for the two airframe options and the other for the stenciling and weapons color bands for all of the stores options in this release.

This is another impressive release from Trumpeter and if this kit builds as nicely as it looks, I think we have a new candidate for best Harrier in any scale. Nice work Trumpeter!

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!

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