Airfix 1/48 Sea Harrier FA.2 Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||May 2007||Manufacturer||Airfix|
|Subject||Sea Harrier FA.2||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||6100||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$29.95|
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.
In 1984, development started on an upgrade to the Sea Harrier based upon the combat experience gained in the South Atlantic. The improved Harrier would receive the advanced Blue Vixen radar, AIM-120 AMRAAM cabability, greater range, and an updated cockpit. The resulting aircraft was designated as FA.2, and 34 FRS.1 airframes were converted along with 18 brand new airframes. It wasn't long before the first FA.2s saw action, as these were assigned to support the UN forces in Bosnia in 1994.
After the Sea Harrier was upgraded to the FA.2 configuration, Airfix upgraded their Sea Harrier kit as well. This is the Sea Harrier FRS.1 tooling (reviewed here) with one notable exception - the fuselage halves normally attached to the sprues in images 2 and 3 are gone and a new tree is added. This new tree contains the new FA.2 fuselage, new radome, an in-flight refueling boom, and a pair of AMRAAMS.
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
- Optional air refueling boom
- Positionable landing gear
- Positional ventral speed brake
- Choice of external fuel or Sea Eagle missiles on the inboard pylons
- Choice of gun pods or AIM-120s on the fuselage stations
- Choice of AIM-9L Sidewinders (you might want to find some replacements for these) or AIM-120s on the outboard stations
Markings are provided for five examples:
- FA.2, ZD615, 723/OEU, 899 Sqn, RNAS Yeovilton, 1994
- FA.2, ZD612, 719/VL, 899 Sqn, RNAS Yeovilton,1997
- FA.2, ZH796, 715/VL, 899 Sqn, RNAS Yeovilton, 1997
- FA.2, ZH800, 124, 800 Sqn, RNAS Yeovilton, 1997
- FA.2, ZD610, 000, 801 Sqn, HMS Illustrious, 1997
The decals are very nicely done and feature a nice array of airframe maintenance stencils as well..
The Sea Harrier FA.2 is definitely an interesting subject that has surprisingly received little attention in the hobby industry. At present, the only otion in 1/48 scale for the FA.2 is this kit. For an AMS project, you'll also want to consider some aftermarket options from Neomega, Eduard, and Flightpath.