So, the first one off the shelf in the 800 Squadron project is the British Aerospace Sea Harrier FA2 from Airfix.
The FA2 was a significant upgrade from the Sea Harrier FRS1 that saw service in the Falklands war. The FA2 featured the new Blue Vixen radar allowing integration with the AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided missile, plus greater capacity for AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missiles.
This is a re-box of an existing kit, so isn’t a new tooling. Still, the components are pretty crisp and clean. There are three sprues, plus a small sprue for the two canopy parts and a sheet of decals. I’m not sure if the FA2 ever carried the Sea Eagle anti-ship missiles that take up half of one sprue, but if it did then they are there even if not referenced in the instructions.
So, decision time. I’m going to ramp up the weapons to the short-range air defence layout, with two AIM-120 and four AIM-9. Normally you’d have fuel tanks, but here I am departing from operational norms. The plane will be a ‘closed cockpit’ model as if the plane had been parked, so won’t bother with super-detailing the instrument panel, etc. I won’t put the pilot in either. And here’s why…
This chap looks distinctly propeller era – note the leather flying helmet with built-in headphones, flying goggles resting nattily on his forehead, the Mae west lifejacket and the big sheepskin flying boots. There should be a modern ‘bone dome’ helmet with integral visor and face mask and a snazzy modern lifejacket. The pilot in the Harrier GR9 I did before has the ejection seat straps over the lifejacket as well. This fellow belongs in the 1940s.
Maybe it was someone at Airfix having a little joke. Or a disgruntled employee on their last day. Maybe when they create the master moulds they use stock figures and the wrong one was chosen.
UPDATE: Airfix agree they used the wrong one!
Finally, the decal set comes with markings for ZD608, an aircraft of 800NAS based on HMS Invincible during Operation Deliberate Force in July 1995 (top half of the sheet). These are low-visibility markings with pastel shades. The only bright bits are to markings for the missiles.
So, all the bits get a wash in slightly soapy water to get rid of any release oil from the moulds, then a light coat of grey primer and off we go…