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Completed : Hasegawa 1/72 Boeing AV-8B Harrier II



Kit Info
Completed : Hasegawa 1/72 Boeing AV-8B Harrier IIKit Info
Brand: Hasegawa 00449
Scale: 1/72
Media: Styrene
Markings: Kit

The Subject
The Boeing (previously McDonnell Douglas) AV-8B Harrier II, the second generation of the Harrier Jump Jet family,  is a single-engine ground attack aircraft capable of vertical or short takeoff and landing (V/STOL). It’s a further development in the 1970s of the original Hawker Siddeley Harrier. The AV-8B is currently used by the United States Marine Corps (USMC), the Spanish Navy and the Italian Navy.

The AV-8B is equipped with one centerline, six wing hardpoints (two more than the original Harrier), along with two fuselage stations for the 25mm GAU-12 cannon and ammunition pack. It has the ability to carry a total of 9,200 lb (4,200kg) of air-to-air, air-to surface, anti-ship missiles as well as both guided and unguided bombs. It also has 50% more fuel capacity than the original Harrier.

Since being introduced in the mid-1980s, the AV-8B was upgraded to the ‘Night Attack’ Harrier and Harrier II Plus standards and a total of 337 units have been built. The USMC and Italian Navy have started replacing their AV-8Bs with the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II, with the former expecting to operate its Harriers until at least 2025.

Our subject here is the initial ‘day attack’ AV-8B Harrier II before any upgrades. She carries markings for WP-03 from VMA-233 ‘Bulldogs’. The odd loadout is as how WP-03 appeared in the film True Lies.

References
McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II

The Kit
This kit was initially released in 2000. As usual, the kit is designed to be modular and Hasegawa would, with additional parts, follow up with releases of the other variants in the coming years. Features on this include:

  • Sharp and very fine recessed panel lines
  • A nose that’s separate to account for other versions down the road
  • Ejection seat is basic and consoles are decals only
  • Canopy is a 2 piece affair and designed to be closed. The detonator cord is molded on. There are mold lines on both canopy parts
  • Intakes are molded with upper inlet doors open
  • Engine nozzles are attached via polycaps (nice!) and are movable
  • Wheels down option only
  • Slots for the pylons are already opened up
  • The horizontal stabilizers are designed to traverse together via a linked rod
  • Option for either 25mm gunpod system or strakes
  • Stores include 2x external tanks and 2x AIM-9L Sidewinders
  • Marking options for WP-03 from VMA-223 ‘Bulldogs’ and WH-22 from VMS-452 ‘Flying Tigers’. Both in 3-tone gray camouflage.

There’s a mistake in the color callouts with the darkest gray listed as FS35327 when it should be FS36118 aka Gunship Gray.  The parts (besides the canopy) came in a single bag and consequently some parts came out scratched. Nothing serious, just annoying. Otherwise though, the kit looks good out of the box.

The Build
As mentioned in the build log, I started on this kit after finding out that the Hasegawa kit includes markings for WP-03, one of the Harriers that appeared in the film True Lies. I was hoping I could finish it by the end of December 2020 so I’d have an even dozen completed kits. Alas I didn’t make it as the kit wasn’t a straightforward build as I was expecting (what else is new really?).

To reduce the chance of steps in the joints, I attached each half of the nose to each fuselage half first. The instructions didn’t call for any weights but I added some just in case. The seat and cockpit sidewalls were detailed with tape and plastic plates but not much can really be seen once the canopy was closed up.

There were a few areas that gave me fitting problems:

  • The inside of the upper and lower wings needed to be sanded down for a better fit
  • There’s a huge gap where the refueling probe joins the fuselage
  • I added a spreader inside the fuselage for a tighter fit to the wings
  • The intakes fit alright although there’s a step on the starboard side
  • There are big gaps where the LERX meets the wing
  • There are seamlines on top where the LERX meets the wing which also required re-scribing
  • There’s a bladed antenna on the starboard side near the forward nozzle that broke off multiple times. I finally replaced this with plastic card
  • The gunpod assembly doesn’t fit positively to the belly and some time was spent to fair the whole assembly in properly
  • The pylons require some work to fit right without gaps to the wings
  • The main canopy fits just slightly narrower than the cockpit wall. There’s no easy way to spread the canopy before fitting

On this last point, looking back, I would have tried adding some plastic plates inside the cockpit as tabs to help widen the canopy when fitted on. Unfortunately when I found out about this issue I’d already painted everything so I’ll live with the bad fit. I usually dryfit most components before committing cement but don’t do it as often for canopies. Oh well.

The Harriers in True Lies were armed with a pair of AIM-9Ls, rocket pods and AGM-65 Mavericks each. The rocket pods and Mavericks were taken from the Hasegawa weapon sets. The single LAU-117 rails for the Mavericks were not included in the weapons sets. These were modified from the triple launcher rails that were included instead.

Colors & Markings
USMC Harriers in the 1990s were painted in a very attractive 3-tone gray camouflage. I went through my usual steps of basing in black then marble coating in white. The 3 grays were from different brands: Vallejo, Lifecolor and Mig AMMO. Out of the three, I’ve found Mig AMMO to be hardest to use. It seems that I need to get the thinning just right otherwise it runs very easily. It was also the only one to dry into a glossy finish (ADD: after watching Mig’s video I think I might have been using the paints wrongly) even though it’s supposed to be a flat color (FS36375 Compass Ghost Gray). Painting was straightforward by going from light to dark and using blutack for masking the demarcation lines.

The decals went on without a problem except the ‘MARINES’ marking on the left side of the tail. I manage to tear a part of it while brushing on Mark Softer. Since I didn’t have a spare in my stash, I went ahead and replaced the torn section using one from the 2nd scheme. It’s a different color but I’ll live with it. The Harrier has remarkably few stencils so I added all of them. Once cured I thought the markings look quite stark against the camouflage so I looked to see if I could knock the contrast down. I tested with Mig AMMO Light Grey Shader which works somewhat like washes but seems to be even more transparent. The Shader was carefully sprayed neat over the markings. The effect I got was very subtle but I thought would serve as a good base for more fading with oil paints later. I’ll experiment with Shaders more with other builds.

Finishing
During the panel washing stage, I managed to strip some of the parts that were painted in Mig AMMO. Patches came off from the fins on the gunpod and one of the Sidewinders. It has happened with previous Mig AMMO paints too. In any case, I re-sprayed and re-washed without issues, which is also odd: why did it happen before but not the repaint?

Last minute work on the intakes

Last minute work on the intakes

Looking at reference photos Harriers got quite weathered especially on the bottom. Looking at screenshots of the AV-8Bs in the film show that they weren’t quite so dirty so I went easier with the staining. The weathering was done over several sessions: I’d let the oil paints cure first, look at the result and see if I needed to add more. I took the opportunity to weather around the canopy area to try to hide some of the poor workmanship there. I also faded the markings some more using buff and white oils.

A usual problem of Harrier kit is the difficulty of having all 4 pieces of landing gear touch the ground. I decided to fit the nose gear and outriggers first, get them to sit properly, attached the main gear, then adjusted the outriggers. Thankfully, this worked without much fuss. After this was attaching the stores one at a time and last on was the clear nose aperture and antenna on the nose.

Adding the yaw vane indicator

Adding the yaw vane indicator

So the result is… decent. I really don’t like how the canopy doesn’t quite fit right and because of fussing over it, the whole area wasn’t finished all that well. I also found out while doing this write-up that I used the straight antenna blade on the spine when it should be the raked one. But I’m calling it done. Moving on.

Addendum
While looking at photos of the real AV-8B I noted that I missed out on painting parts of the intakes that should be white. Since I couldn’t unsee it, I went back in and carefully masked and painted the areas. These were also washed to somewhat match the rest of the intakes. At this point I also noted that the kit didn’t include the prominent yaw vane indicator that’s forward of the front canopy so I went ahead and used 0.3mm plastic plate to fashion one and stuck it to the kit. Again, it’s something I couldn’t unsee.

Now the kit is done and I can move on.

Build Log
Part 1 : Construction
Part 2 : Construction, Painting & Finishing

Number 01 of 2021

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Tags: , , , , , , , , , Last modified: 9 February, 2021
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