British FA 2 Sea Harrier
First: Sincere thanks to Lucky Model for sending us this most excellent kit, and thanks also to IPMS USA leadership for once again believing in my ability to deliver within a deadline….
The FRS 2, (later changed to FA 2) Sea Harrier was a logical 1990’s upgrade to the combat-proven FRS 1 SHAR (Sea Harrier). An improved SEA VIXEN Doppler radar was installed, pilot-friendly cockpit displays, and changes to avionics and defensive systems were integrated. As this is not a political forum, let’s just say governments decided to use defense funds for other things, and the SHAR fleet is no longer… I also confess to being a fan of the SHAR; it acquitted itself well over 30 years ago in the Falklands conflict, and the FA 2 was a logical follow on… the testament is how the British Defense Ministry was willing to fund new manufacture of 18 airframes in addition to upgrading existing FRS 1 airframes. On another discussion thread, survivability of the SHAR in a MANPAD-rich environment with underwing-mounted exhausts (As the U.S. Marine Harrier fleet learned to its discomfort in Desert Storm 1) was a factor, as is the thought the Harrier concept was determined to be arguably obsolete. Other, “New and Improved” weapons wait in the wings; the F-35C is supposed to be the SHAR replacement. A friend who works the F-35 program states the new aircraft is, contrary to naysayers, “a Beast”. He’s not normally prone to epitaphs, so that’s positive…
Up front, I really enjoyed this build. It was REALLY pleasant to have minimal aftermarket to deal with and have a great result (This is acknowledgement of my AMS illness). Caveat: The only aftermarket items used on this build was the excellent SAC metal landing gear… I shall address that on a separate review.
The basic kit is comprised of just over 270 parts in Gray styrene and clear. All surfaces are detailed with fine recessed lines and appropriate levels of rivet/screw holes. There is one fret of Photoetch with external detail parts.
Kit breakdown pretty well follows that of the actual aircraft; the well-appointed cockpit provides provision for early or later instrument fit; in this case I used the later version with the Multi-Function display. The tub itself consists of the lower floor with throttle/nozzle handle and panel details, to which you add rudder pedals and the control column. Careful painting results in a positive appearance. The aft bulkhead is well detailed, as is the Martin-Baker Mk 10 ejection seat. The seat is a basic, properly-shaped item, only requiring application of a harness to improve the appearance.
The instructions have you begin with the engine intake bell and fan assembly, which is then attached to the duct liner/forward wheel well box. The intake duct/bell had been previously painted flat white; the fan was painted Tamiya aluminum, which was subsequently pin-washed to bring out the depth. The previously assembled cockpit is then added to this structure; Don’t “hard glue” these together, as when you put them in the fuselage there are locating recesses for everything to fit into… and the fuselage sides will not fit together if you are not careful.
The kit includes four bearing mounts for the exhaust nozzles which are installed from the inside of the fuselage halves; these are tied to two arms and a connecting rod so they can be made to operate between hover and forward flight positions. I found this bit to be a bit tight, and as I was not planning on doing any “sky pilot” office shenanigans, I basically installed the whole assembly inside with the nozzle positions pointed in the “taxi/forward movement” position. At least, that was the intent…
The aft wheel well assembly is made up of five separate wall parts; fit is positive. This is added to one of the fuselage sides… as is the speed-brake well just aft of it. Last little details included the forward right light installed from the interior of the right nose; on the next one of these I’ll just use Microscale clear
The fun part is offering up the aforementioned assemblies between the fuselage halves. SOMEWHERE on the forward fuselage I misaligned something, and had difficulty getting it all closed. Top closed, bottom gap. Bottom closed, top open. I finally had a tight click and used tape and a clamp to hold all in place while flowing Tamiya liquid cement into the joint areas. Ah, modeling.
Installing the intakes was the next step. The kit has two types of auxiliary intake rings with partial doors open (engine not running on the ground) or all doors closed (In flight scenario). These fit positively into place; you can get the in backward, but that will be because you are not paying attention, and you will wonder why the fit stinks. Follow the pictures! Once installed, the fit is positive and tight. And it’s the first time I have not had to use aftermarket intakes or scratchbuild the open “resting” intake doors on the top half of the cowling. See the pictures…
The wing assembly was next; one-piece upper (which set the annhedral on the wing) and single lower wing sections. Simple and effective, all fits on the now-assembled fuselage. Detail such as the wing “puffer” nozzles and interior of the outrigger wheel wells was extremely well done. This was also noted on the tail “Stinger” for that pitch control jet as well…
At this time I addressed the six small leading edge fence strakes; these are provided as Photoetch on a small fret in the kit. They are thin and fragile… and I resorted to using my Scale Aircraft Modeling ruler saw to cut a slot to provide more surface for them to fit into; they would prove to fly off otherwise. The wing has scribed marking where these fences go, so it wasn’t a problem to cut the slots. Tweezers and superglue; wahoo! They look great when finished. Also at this time was installation of two external “Christmas tree” stiffeners between the exhaust nozzles on the side of the fuselage; these fit tight on the surface with just a touch of superglue.
All control surfaces are separate; flaps, ailerons, rudder, and stabilators. The latter had separate root “stiffening” plates, which have been missing in some other SHAR kits… an excellent detail touch. There were no fit issues with these surfaces; I found them to be a nice addition, as flaps are frequently down when the aircraft is configured for hover/vertical takeoff and landing.
External stores pylons options abound; the standard four pylons are two-part items with separate sway braces; small and large external tank options are provided, along with two Sea Eagle missiles… Four AIM-120 AARAAM, and Six AIM-9L/M Sidewinder missiles are provided, including lower belly mounts for the ‘120’s if you choose to use them instead of the cannon pods. The option of dual Sidewinders for the outside pylons, along with rails, are included as well. Two belly-mounted 30mm Gun pods are also provided. For the “pure, clean airframe” crowd, two strakes are provided to place where the gun pods would be installed.
At this point I snapped the nozzles into place; these are slide molded, and fit perfectly with external stiffener detail not seen on others kit’s nozzles.
Antenna fit is catered for over the entire aircraft; take your time and the kit plastic items will be durable enough to handle the stress of display and movement. By the way, this includes the Air refueling probe (which I opted not to use). One note here: on the FS 2 the long Pitot/Air data probe was moved from the extreme upper nose (on the FRS 1) to the midsection of the upper tail fin; this was due to the larger size and interference it would have provided to the larger radome on the SEA VIXEN radar. In “a great experiment” I did not remove the molded-on kit probe like I frequently do… why stab myself? I’ll use aftermarket for strength and safety of my face/hands. Although I bent it on numerous occasions, IT DID NOT BREAK OFF. I was impressed; what is on the kit now is the original kit probe.
The kit landing gear consisted of two halves for the forward gear, the aft main gear, and two outriggers with actuators and doors integrated as one item. Again, SAC gear replaced these. The kit wheels and tires consist of one-piece hubs, which are painted white and trapped between two tire halves. This actually worked well; My recommendation is to make sure all mold gate residue is removed before you attempt to put them all together.
Painting was simple; I installed the clear forward canopy section, used some Vallejo filler to blend it in, masked the clear, and sprayed the frame flat black. I then shot the whole model with Tamiya fine primer to make sure I had not missed any seams. The main canopy frame was carefully cemented to the sliding frame after it had been painted flat black, then masked. I originally painted the nose radar radome neutral gray, masked, then painted the rest of the model with Tamiya Sea gray spray. When I pulled the mask off the radome, I determined there was not enough contrast between it and the main airframe. I decided to redo it in my own mix of vallejo sea gray and black by brush… that fixed the problem. Testors gloss (boyd “Wet look”) and then… on to final finish.
The sliding portion of the canopy has the Det cord (Detonation cord) molded in relief on the inside; a decal is provided, but I used a 35-year old white prismicolor pencil to highlight the raised detail…. That worked for my requirement!
DECALS! These worked great! I had no silvering at all,and they were durable, color saturated, and stayed where I put them (but could be moved as necessary without balling up or tearing!)
This was a comprehensive sheet; included are markings for the 2008 “Satans” retirement scheme, which is on the box cover… alternately, codes for all FA 2 in the Royal navy inventory can be duplicated with what is on the sheet, to include a legacy dark blue over white scheme.
Also included are all markings for the missiles and pylons, and stencils for the airframe. I opted for a generic squadron aircraft. After applying all I felt up to doing (some are REALLY tiny) a bit of Solvaset settled the decals in; let cure/dry, then one more glosscoat and then a dullcoat final finish. I’ll do a bit of sooty weathering later. All Harriers are pretty dirty after a short time… a weathering dream!
Final verdict: 10 of 10. I liked this kit so much I bought a second one to use as a basis for backdating to FRS -1 standard using an old Airfix FRS 1 kit as a nose donor. We are in a golden age of plastic modeling! Luckymodel/Kinetic continue to deliver unexpected, exciting projects (How many predicted a 1/32 OV-10 in their lifetime?)… I anxiously await some of the more esoteric, interesting projects which are most assuredly under quiet development. Thanks once again to Lucky Model for providing this marvelous Kinetic kit!