U.S. Marines AV-8A Harrier Decals
When I purchased the new Airfix Harrier GR.1 kit in 1/72 scale, I did so with the intention of building it as the USMC AV-8A Harrier. I planned to cobble together suitable decals from my collection of spares, but didn’t have to when Caracal Models released a sheet just for this very purpose.
The decal sheet is silk-screen printed by Cartograf of Italy, so you know the quality is excellent. All markings are on register and the colors are vibrant. Caracal provides an eight page booklet, printed in full color, which depicts profiles for twelve aircraft plus generic drawings with painting instructions and stencil placement. Colors are listed in FS numbers. All the aircraft choices have the same basic camouflage scheme of Dark Green, Dark Sea Gray over Light Gray. The two exceptions are a test machine that has Day-Glo orange panels and another aircraft in a winter scheme where White replaces the Dark Green. Though there are marking options for a dozen aircraft, there are only national insignia and stencils for one “low-viz" and one “hi-viz" aircraft.
I applied the decals over two coats of Alclad’s Gloss Kote. Once they were floated onto the model with the help of Micro Set, they were easy to move into position and settled nicely into the recessed panel lines. When they dried, I added Micro Sol and Mr. Mark Softer, to get them to conform to the contours of the panel lines even more. Decals responded nicely to both products. The lighter colors were opaque even over the darker camouflage colors. The only problem I had was some of the smaller decals - ID numbers and stencils - didn’t stick very well to the model when I first applied them. I cured this issue by brushing on some Pledge Floor Finish with Future Shine as soon as they dried. No problems after that. I did have some silvering, as you can see in the top view photo under the “MARINES” marking. When I saw this happening, I applied subsequent decals in a pool of “Future” and again the problem was taken care of. Make sure you have a solid coat of your favorite clear gloss finish on the model.
The kit itself is an excellent replica of the Harrier GR.1. Since the U.S. Marines essentially purchased their machines “off the shelf” from Hawker Siddeley, the external conversion from the RAF version is quite easy. Just add a couple of antennas to the fuselage and you’re done. I’m not sure when the aircraft ejection seats were switched from the Martin-Baker type to the Stencil SIIIS-3 seats, but for lack of an alternative, I left the kit seat in place. To change things up a bit from the original kit, I added different external stores from an old Hasegawa 1/72 Aircraft Weapons Set.
These are great looking decals and easy to work with. I highly recommend them to anyone wanting to add a USMC AV-8A or two to their collection. My thanks go to Caracal Models for providing this decal sheet and the to IPMS USA for the review opportunity. Also, thanks to IPMS member, Walt Fink, who took the photos.