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AV-8A Harrier USMC (K48072) 1:48 Kinetic via Lucky Model


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AV-8A Harrier USMC (K48072)

1:48 Kinetic via Lucky Model

 

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The Harrier is an iconic (in the truest sense) example of what was possible when British Aviation was at its prime.  It was a revolutionary design back in the 60s, and has seen many improvements and even a complete re-design in the shape of the Harrier II, which saw McDonnell Douglas get more heavily involved, giving the US Marines their much beloved AV-8B, and the British the Gr.5/7/9, all of which had new carbon-composite wings, massively upgraded avionics and improved versions of the doughty Pegasus engine, which was always at the heart of this legendary design.

 

The Harrier is a difficult aircraft to fly due to the high pilot workload, and requires the best pilots to do it justice in the hovering flight mode especially, where the pilot has to control the throttle, direction of the airflow, and also make minor adjustments to its attitude and altitude with the use of puffer jets, even before having to do anything like fight or land.  The original Harrier to reach service at the very end of the 1960s was the GR.1, which still bore a quite striking familial resemblance to the prototype and the earlier Kestrel, having a pointed nose and relatively confined canopy that hadn't yet been ‘blown’ to improve the pilot’s ability to move his head around to gain better situational awareness.  The GR.3 had a more powerful engine, the peculiar looking laser tracker in an extended nose fairing, as well as many sensor, avionics upgrades and Electronic Counter Measures (ECM).  When the GR.3 was transported to the Falklands in 1982 to back up the new Sea Harriers, they were refitted with new pylons that could carry Sidewinder missiles with all the necessary cabling and avionics changes, so that it would be able to replace any SHAR losses if they were to occur, as until that point the Harrier was mainly used in the Ground Attack/Support role in the RAF.  With the re-development of the aircraft into the Harrier II, the anteater nose was phased out and the new composite winged GR.5 with massively improved avionics, engine and other systems took over the mantle. The US in the form of the US Marine Corps overcame some obstacles at home to purchase the Harrier as they saw its potential for close air support, and also later for close in air defence. The main noticeable difference from RAF machines being the large aerial on the spine. The early Harriers suffered a high loss rate for the USMC as the aircraft was unlike any other to operate. MC continue to operate their next generation Harriers even buying up the UK Harrier fleet to provide a source of spares in a controversial move once those aircraft were retired. 

 

 

The Kit

For many years modellers of the Harrier were crying out for a good quality new tooling in this scale, and Kinetic have put a lot of effort and research into making our dreams a reality, firstly with the two Sea Harriers, then the two-seat trainer Harriers in ‘tin-wing’ and later composite winged versions, all of which we have reviewed here in the past year or two.  Once the original metal wing had been tooled, the natural progression was to tool the early Harriers, which was always Kinetic’s stated intention, although we weren’t too sure on the order in which they would arrive.  Kinetic's new kit is a thoroughly modern tooling, benefitting from a lot of extra detail that just wasn't possible back when the older toolings were made. It arrives in the Kinetic Gold box with a rather nice painting of a GR.3 on the front with seven sprues inside in a mid-grey styrene, plus one in clear, a fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, and a large decal sheet. The instruction booklet is in portrait A4, and the painting and markings diagrams are at the rear in greyscale.  Some of the sprues date back to the Sea Harrier FRS.1, with others coming from the trainer Harriers, plus a couple of new sprues including a new fuselage with optional LRMTS (Laser Rangefinder and Marked Target Spotter) nose parts, and of course the early single-seat fuselage Though the USMC Boxing all the parts for the RAF Harriers are in the box. 

 

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Construction begins with the cockpit, and there is plenty of detail packed into this small space. The tub has moulded in side consoles with plenty of raised details, instrument panel, side consoles, rudder pedals and control column also present, along with a two-part HUD that is made completely from clear parts. The instructions have different seats for different decal options; The MB seat is well detailed, with two side parts with raised rivets, two seat cushions, a head-box topper, and pull-handle between the pilot's knees for emergency exits, plus the tube housing the rocket motor in the rear. The Stencel Seat has its top pull handle seat cushions and PE belts The pilot sits right in front of the engine, and the rear bulkhead with moulded-in detail attaches to the combined intake trunking/nose gear bay. The intake narrows to a circular profile via a short lip, into which the engine front face is inserted, which has the prototypical ring toward the outer edge of the blades. The single main gear bay is built up from two sides to maximise the moulded-in detail, and the rear air-brake bay is a combination of four parts with the thick ribbing moulded in to allow the brake to be posed open or closed, with the aid of a separate jack. These are placed inside the fuselage, which can be closed up after the stubs for the four vectoring nozzles are built up, along a linkage that ensures all nozzles move in unison. You'll need to be frugal with the glue here if you want to be able to VIFF your Harrier after building, or simply glue it at the desired angle.

 

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The exhaust nozzles are very nicely done, with lots of moulded in detail thanks to some slide moulding, leaving only a fine seam down the centreline to scrape away before they can be installed on the previously mentioned stubs, with the ribbed heat-resistant panel behind the aft "hot" nozzles.  At this point the intake lips with their blow-in doors are built up from an inner and outer skin, and a choice of closed doors for flight, or "drooped" upper doors when the engine is inactive. There are some slight sink marks present in the door parts, so check yours and fill the depressions where necessary before you install them.  The wing upper surface is full width, with the top surface of the fuselage moulded in, with the detail well done that captures the curve nicely - there are two in the box, so ensure that you choose the right one.  The lower wings are added before the assembly is placed on the fuselage, as are the flaps and ailerons with their actuator fairings, PE wing fences in the leading edge, and clear wingtip lights.  The tail is completely separate, with single parts making up the elevators with separate swash-plates, and a two-part fin with separate rudder, all of which fit into the fuselage in the usual slot and tab manner, taking care to get the correct anhedral to the elevators.

 

The bicycle landing gear has tyres made from two halves that enclose a single piece hub, with one wheel at the front, and a twin set at the rear, with a couple of clear landing lights on the nose leg.  The bay doors are supplied with moulded in hinges, so should have a good solid attachment to the bay sides, and detail is again good.  The two outriggers are each single parts, and have detailed painting instructions next to them, which seems to be the case throughout the instructions, happily.  The nose has the tapered cone nose with clear lights and pitot probe fitted. At the rear the tail faring is fitted with an insert on the underside, and a choice or curved or contoured tip, depending on your decal option.  There are a host of antennae and sensors around the airframe, some of which are optional depending on the decal variant, so take care when applying them.  Finally the large spine aerial prominent on the AV-8A needs adding. The end result is a Harrier that fairly bristles with antennae! 

 

The canopy has been moulded without slide-moulding, as it doesn't have the characteristic blown-style of later marks, so there's no annoying seam on the centreline.  It fits on a separate rail part that some people seem to loathe, but as long as you're careful of your choice as well as quantity of glue, it should go together just fine, and don’t forget to apply the decal for the det-cord canopy breaker early on. The windscreen is similarly well moulded with a raised windscreen wiper, and also has some nice delicate rivets, plus the asymmetric fairing at the front that houses the wiper gear.  On the lower boat-tail fairing, there is a part in PE that can be applied if you are going to use your own decals, but it isn’t used with the supplied airframes.  Nice of Kinetic to think of us, and do check your references.

 

No Harrier (or modern fast jet, for that matter) is complete without some additional tanks to extend its range, and/or some kind of war load, and Kinetic have been their usual generous selves as far as this kit is concerned. A full set of pylons are included, with additional detail in the shape of separate shackles that fit into the bottom of each one, plus the 30mm Aden cannon pods that are synonymous with the mighty Harrier slung under the belly, and a pair of strakes (D22) on the sprues just in case. As has been mentioned the rocket pods included with the kit (Not for the USMC options anyway) represent something of an airshow fit with the rockets protruding from the tubes, something not seen operationally. In addition are the following weapons for you to choose from:

 

6 x AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles (However these would seem to be later model ones)

2 x Drop Tanks (Large)

2 x Drop Tanks (Small)

          4 x AIM120 AMRAAM Beyond Visual Range (BVR) A2A missiles

2 x Sea Eagle Anti-Ship Missile (ASM)

Most of this it would seem for this boxing will end up in the spare bins, and the question to be asked is why no US Specific weapons were included?

 

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A full complement of stencils is included for the supplied munitions, with their placement given on the markings section at the rear of the booklet.

 

Markings

Kinetic have included a generous seven sets of markings in the kit, they show all the Harriers the same colour, however they were delivered in British Standard colours to the USMC. The first ones being gloss while the later ones were matt. When the USMC went to toned down markings the aircraft were re-painted in FS colors. From the box you can depict one of the following:

 

  • Harrier 158975 - VMA-513 Det B 1982
  • Harrier 158976 - VMA-513 1974
  • Harrier  159259 - VMA-542 Det B 1977
  • Harrier 158710 - VMA-542 Det B 1977
  • Harrier 158962 - VMA-542 Det B 1981
  • Harrier 158955 - VMA-231 Det H 1980
  • Harrier 159240 - VMA 231 CV-42 USS Franklin D Roosevelt 1977

 

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The decals have been designed by Crossdelta for Kinetic and printed by Cartograf, so quality isn't an issue. Register, sharpness and colour density are excellent, with all but the smallest weapons stencils legible with the aid of magnification. Unfortunately the profiles in the instructions are black & white with low contrast and not very clear. There are no colour profiles available as there were for the GR.1/GR.3 I would say Kinetic really need to improve in this area.

 

Conclusion

A thoroughly modern tooling of the first generation of this aircraft.  There are a couple of sink marks, some ejector pin marks to fill, and some seam lines to scrape, but we're modellers so we shouldn't be too shy of exercising our skills. Plus, Kinetic's designers have kept these to a pleasant minimum to keep us happy. It is a shame a bit more thought was not put into the USMC boxing, and the lack of colour profiles is a disappointment. Still highly recommended though..

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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