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Above sunlit hay fields between forested uplands, a tubby yet pointed jet fighter with stubby wings, all in the RAF dull green and grey camouflage that had hardly changed since World War 2, dives at low level:
There was a sudden realisation that I was going to die… I noticed that the field in front of me had been recently ploughed and as I got closer I could see short pieces of stubble sticking out of the furrows. Looking ahead, I saw a fence with several hawthorn bushes dotted along it…
— from Hostile Skies by David Morgan, 2006, describing his close call in an RAF Harrier in 1970s Germany. (See South Atlantic Star, my review of that book.)
Enigmatic 1970s attack fighter
Airfix 1/72nd scale Hawker Siddely/British Aerospace Harrier GR.3 built and painted by Everard Cunion in 2018 and 2019
I regard the Harrier as enigmatic because a vertical take-off attack jet seems to me such a bad idea, yet the Harrier — and especially the Sea Harrier and its AV-8B derivative — enjoyed a long and successful service life.
The first thing to point out about this kit is how small it is. The gentleman’s scale (1/72nd) is too small for fighters, in my opinion, but given that, this kit is of a standard unsurpassed in my experience. In addition to the basic kit, which is perfectly good without any additions, I used the Eduard self-adhesive GR.3 interior details, Airwaves ‘Remove before flight’ streamers, Freight Dog GR3 tail fin, and Eduard canopy paint mask. These additions were at least partly wasted on me because my modelling skills fall short. (See the Britmodeller forum for the spectacular models some people make using the same kit.)
I am a comparatively rough-and-ready plastic modeller. I use a brush (several brushes really) not an airbrush. Maybe it is my computer programming background, but I have a heightened sense of doing too much work for too little gain, which is something I try to avoid in plastic modelling. In a nutshell, my models often don’t stand scrutiny with a magnifying glass or even, sometimes, a close examination with the mark one eyeball.
Standard Airfix kit
The kit comes with a pilot and the interior details are more than adequate if you build it with a pilot in the cockpit and the canopy closed – with perhaps the exception of the absence of the Harrier’s prominent canopy detonation chord. However, I built mine without a pilot (for a change) and I used the Eduard self-adhesive details set, which includes a canopy detonation chord.
See the sub-page Eduard photo-etched cockpit details for more.
The tyres are flattened – where they rest on the ground – and bulged at that point also. Most realistic. And if you build it wheels up for an ‘in flight’ model, the kit comes with separate closed undercarriage doors and stowed wing-tip wheels. (The more expensive and expansive Kinetic 1/48th scale Sea Harrier FRS.1 does not provide them.)
The all-moving tailplane, in this jewel of a kit, moves within the prescribed 19 degree limits of the real thing.
The Eduard canopy mask, which is another extra item I bought separately, is just a yellow rectangle. To see the edges of the cut-outs, which enabled me to follow the instructions, I highlighted the edges by painting a wash of dilute black paint over it and wiping it off while it was still wet. The discs are for the wheel hubs. (I did not use them.)
It is better to get the canopy parts off the sprue before this stage, I now realise.
The photo shows that some paint had leaked under the masks. I used a cocktail stick dipped in thinners to remove it.
The kit comes with an awesome set of high-precision decals, which I added last, then realised that it would be easier to add the pylon and drop tank decals before attaching those parts to the model. I added the most visible first and stopped adding them when I felt that the risk involved in handling the nearly finished model did not justified by the minimum improvement afforded by yet another barely visible black marking on dark grey or dark green.
To impart a semi-gloss but worn look, I finished the whole model with a thinned coat of satin varnish mixed with a small amount of silver.
I feel that 1/72nd scale is too small for aircraft of this size, but given that opinion, this kit is of a standard unsurpassed in my experience.
Are the extras worthwhile? For me, no. Really, only the canopy detonation chord is a worthwhile enhancement. The other add-ons are hardly noticeable. The kit comes with everything the modeller needs and more. The Freight Dog GR3 tail fin is more accurate in that it is a tad taller and thinner, but the kit fin is adequate in my opinion. The paint mask helps, but for a simple canopy like this, plain masking tape might be just as effective.
The strength of this kit, in my view, is that it can be built by a comparative novice, who will obtain a good result, yet an expert will achieve a model of ‘museum’ quality — even without any of the extra additions available.
La muerte negra, my Kinetic 1/48th scale Falklands War Sea Harrier