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AV-8A Harrier Kit

Kinetic 1/48 AV-8A Harrier Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2020 Manufacturer Kinetic
Subject AV-8A Harrier Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48072 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice kit and decals Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $43.99

First Look

AV-8A Harrier Kit
AV-8A Harrier Kit
AV-8A Harrier Kit
AV-8A Harrier Kit
AV-8A Harrier Kit
AV-8A Harrier Kit
AV-8A Harrier Kit

The U.S. Marine Corps followed the development of the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel, including the examples that were brought over to the U.S. for test and evaluation. While the Army and Air Force would eventually drop out of the program, the Navy saw the potential for forward-based tactical aircraft both on land and at sea. When the program shifted to production as the Harrier, the Navy acquired the AV-8A with U.S. avionics and support systems which began arriving in the 1970s. The Navy's flight test center is located at NAS Patuxent River, south of Washington DC. As is the tradition for the Army-Navy football game, the Navy would fly one of every type of aircraft available at Pax, and a few weeks before my arrival to my first assignment near Washington DC, the Harrier had its public debut. An F-4 Phantom II swooped down over the stands at one end of the stadium, lit its afterburners and roared out the open end of the stadium. An F-8 Crusader followed as did several other types. Then a tiny jet zoomed into the stadium, stopped over mid-field, yawed 360 degrees, then pitched up and flew away vertically. Jaws dropped throughout the stadium as the audience met the Harrier. Amazed attendees were still talking about the little jet when I arrived on station.

As the Harrier was entering squadron service, several aircraft continued through flight test including several that ventured west to Edwards AFB. The Harrier was subjected to dissimilar air combat evaluations and while initially its dogfighting skills were lackluster (which were the findings of the RAF several years earlier), an aggressive Marine test pilot wanted to gun the F-100 Super Sabre he was currently evading. During a turn, the Marine pilot moved the thrust vectoring control a little at a time to see what would happen and he soon got a kill on the F-100. This technique of moving the thrust controls during aerial combat became known as VIFFing (Vector In Forward Flight) and when the RAF learned of this technique, they fell back in love with their own Harriers.

While the AV-8A would never see combat, the aircraft would transform Marine Corps Aviation by providing fixed-wing close air support to the troops and then refueling and rearming a short distance away before reentering the fight. The Navy also saw the potential and created new classes of ships that could embark helicopters, Harriers, and Marines, all without the use of a larger aircraft carrier. While the Marines were gaining proficiency with the AV-8A, they took the lead on an improved Harrier that would become the AV-8B which would have more fuel/payload, improved avionics, and better pilot visibility. Development of the AV-8B took longer than originally planned, so the Marines applied an update to the AV-8A using some aerodynamic improvements under the aircraft for better hover performance as well as improved avionics, etc. This interim aircraft would become the AV-8C.

Over the years, there have been a variety of 1/48 kits of the AV-8A and GR3, and most were copies/derivatives of Tamiya's venerable GR1 kit. The only one I can recall that built into a decent model was the Monogram AV-8A Harrier Kit, though you needed to go aftermarket for the RAF Harrier markings. Earlier this year, Kinetic began showing CAD drawings of the GR1/AV-8A as a follow-on to the two-seat trainers produced earlier and they showed promise of a really nice kit. Well a box from Kinetic arrived a few days ago and we have the GR1 and the AV-8A Harrier kits for review. We examined the Harrier GR1/GR3 here and now we turn our attention to the AV-8A. The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on seven parts trees plus one tree of clear parts and one small fret of photo-etched details. Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Choice of Martin-Baker Mk.9 or Stencil SEU-3 ejection seats
  • Nicely detailed ejection seats with photo-etched pilot restraints
  • Cockpit has potential though no instrument face decals provided
  • Positionable canopy
  • Canopy has nice det chord details molded
  • Nozzles are slide-molded one-piece with nice details'
  • Nozzles are movable with a similar system as the old Tamiya kits
  • Choice of open or closed aux intake doors
  • Detailed landing gear and wheel wells
  • Positionable rudder
  • Positionable stabilator
  • Positionable ailerons
  • Positionable trailing edge flaps
  • Positionable speed brake

External stores options include:

  • See text

The kit includes one sheet of decals which provide the following options:

  • AV-8A, 158975, VMA-513 Det.B, WF/-, 1982
  • AV-8A, 158976, VMA-513, WF/14, 1974
  • AV-8A, 158710, VMA-542 Det.B, WH/23, 1977
  • AV-8A, 159259, VMA-542 Det.B, WH/25, 1977
  • AV-8A, 158962, VMA-542 Det.B, WH/05, 1981
  • AV-8A, 158955, VMA-231 Det.H, CG/05, 1980
  • AV-8A, 159240, VMA-231, NM/01, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1977

The decals provide a nice set of airframe stencils and these are printed by Cartograf.

A few notes worth considering:

  • The instructions provide color information using Mig equivalents (again) though a cross-reference table is provided
  • The color profiles are printed in black and white, so good luck sorting out colors unless you have other references. Please print color profiles in color!
  • This kit has the same identical sprue trees and photo-etch as the Harrier GR1/GR3 kit, but it doesn't address the weapons loads other than external tanks and empty missile pylons. You'll have to check your references and raid the spares if you want to load up your AV-8A with something not already in the box
  • While the RAF Harrier kit has the parts to render the GR1 or GR3 in the box, this kit does not have the air dams, strakes, and other small details to render the AV-8C

Kinetic has really come a long way since their first kits and even their Sea Harriers, and this kit could easily be the best Harrier kit in any scale. Stay tuned for a quick-build review. The kit is available from Lucky Model at $43 USD (plus shipping).

My sincere thanks to Lucky Model for this review sample!