Airfix 1/48 Sea Harrier FRS.1 Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||May 2007||Manufacturer||Airfix|
|Subject||Sea Harrier FRS.1||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||5101||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$21.95|
The Hawker Siddeley Harrier was the first successful VSTOL fighter to enter production. Based upon the Kestral VSTOL prototype, the Harrier GR.1 entered RAF service around 1969. At the time, the aircraft's limited range and payload failed to create much interest within the RAF.
The US Marine Corps saw some potential in the type and borrowed a few for evaluation, which led to a sizable order for the AV-8A Harrier. In the hands of the Marines, the aircraft realized its potential of staying close to the ground forces it supports by being able to employ forward operating locations using short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL). More importantly, the Harrier by definition has a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than 1:1 (or else it couldn't take-off vertically) and could out-climb anything in US service, and by using the thrust vectoring nozzles in aerial combat, the Harrier could usually beat (or at least evade) US fighters of the time as well. The RAF quickly regained interest in the aircraft and the rest, as they say, is history.
As Britain's military budget continued to decline, her last aircraft carrier, the Ark Royal was due to be retired. In its place, a new class of 'through-deck' carriers was developed in the Invincible class. These carriers would embark a variety of helicopters and a new version of the Harrier - the Sea Harrier FRS.1. This new Harrier would optimize the aircraft in the fighter role by raising the cockpit for better all-round visibility, adding the Blue Fox radar for all-weather intercept capability, and produced from materials better suited for extended salt-air exposure.
During the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas conflict, the HMS Invincible and HMS Hermes were dispatched to the South Atlantic along with all available surface combatants and support vessels. The FRS.1 provided air defense support to the fleet and to the troops ashore and did a credible job against the Argentine Air Force and Naval air forces operating from their home bases on the mainland. With the help of the last-minute upgrade to employ the all-aspect AIM-9L Sidewinder, the Harrier FRS.1 was able to achieve 21 kills without any air-to-air losses.
Airfix naturally produced the Harrier family in 1/48 scale (as well as other scales). The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on three parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. The detailing on the surfaces is raised. If you're looking for a contemporary tooling of this kit, you won't find one. These molds are several generations old, and the only other choice, Tamiya's 1/48 Sea Harrier, was developed around the same time.
The kit was designed as a simple quick-build project. Those modelers that wanted into the super-detailed aspects of the aircraft could tackle the far-more-complex 1/24 scale kit.
The cockpit is a simple representation with a basic tub, instrument panel, ejection seat, and control stick. Instrument panel and side console details are rendered as decals. If you'd like to have a more contemporary detailed cockpit, Neomega makes a nice resin cockpit set for this kit, and Eduard also has a photo-etch set as well.
The kit replicates the huge compressor face of the Pegasus engine, though you might want to rob the face out of the Monogram AV-8A if you're doing an AMS build-up. The blow-in doors around the intakes will need some attention as the the upper doors drooped in whilst the aircraft was shut down (check your photos to see what I mean).
The wheel wells are fine as-is, though again an AMS modeler will want to add plumbing and details. The flight controls are all molded in the up/neutral position. If you want to position the flaps or stabilitors, you'll need to do some surgery.
The kit has the following options/features:
- Positionable canopy
- Optional pilot figure
- Positionable landing gear
- Positional ventral speed brake
- Choice of external fuel or Sea Eagle missiles on the inboard pylons
- AIM-9L Sidewinders on the outboards (you might want to find some replacements for these)
Markings are provided for three examples:
- FRS.1, ZE691, 713, 899 Sqn, RNAS Yeovilton, 1992, 50th Anniversary scheme
- FRS.1, XZ454, N/250, 800 Sqn, RNAS Yeovilton, 1980
- FRS.1, XZ455, 000, 801 Sqn, HMS Invincible, 1982, 'Operation Corporate'
The decals are very nicely done and feature a nice array of airframe maintenance stencils as well..
The Sea Harrier FRS.1 is definitely an interesting subject that has surprisingly received little attention in the hobby industry. Aside from the Airfix offering in 1/48, the only other kit out there is the Tamiya kit. For a weekend project, this kit will be great straight out of the box. For an AMS project, you'll also want to consider some aftermarket options from Neomega, Eduard, and Flightpath.