On we go with another build. This time two aircraft from either side of a glorious time in the history of 800NAS.
The British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS.1 was the standard fleet defence fighter from 1980, operating from “Invincible” class light aircraft carriers. All very jolly. But in 1982, Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands. British carriers were sent to the South Atlantic, including HMS Hermes which had 800NAS embarked (later with extra aircraft from 809NAS), plus No.1 Sqn RAF with Harrier GR3s and two squadrons of Sea King helicopters (826NAS and 846NAS). On the way down, some bright person must have realised that the traditional ‘penguin’ fleet colours of extra dark sea grey on top and white underneath, with a big red logo on the tail, was probably not best suited to be inconspicuous among the dark, stormy skies over the islands. So, out came more pots of extra dark sea grey and everything bright was painted over. Even the whites of the roundels were covered with blue – leaving a curious mid-blue middle ring. Anyway, the Sea Harrier force on all the ships was very effective, shooting down a total of 20 enemy aircraft with the loss of two of their own to ground fire.
So, two very different kits to make two Sea Harriers. The traditional one is from Matchbox, the post-war one from Italieri. Both have significant issues, but both ended up looking OK.
The Matchbox kit is as basic as I remember them from the old days. They were cheap and cheerful, did a job, but were not hugely accurate and economised on parts wherever possible. Italieri made a nicer kit in many respects, more accurate and of a finer mould, but also very annoying at times. For example, the pitot probe that sticks out in front of the cockpit is part of the front fuselage moulding and is really, really easy to break. In the Matchbox kit there is no apparent relationship between the stores pylons and what they are supposed to carry – the pylons designed for the fuel tanks don’t fit the holes i9n the wing for the inner stores station. The Italieri kit has a strange dent in the back of the wing box that has to be filled in.
Both of them come with decals, the Italieri ones are OK but the Matchbox ones are quite poor. I got over that by getting a set of special from Combat Decals. The fleet coloured aircraft is XZ492, which flew 57 sorties, dropped twelve 1000lb bombs and shot down an enemy A-4 Skyhawk. The other is XZ457, which notched up 56 sorties, dropped three 1000lb bombs and shot down two IAI Daggers and another A-4 Skyhawk. The pilots were Lt Cdr Neill Thomas, Lt Andy McHarg and Lt Cdr Andy Auld, all of 800NAS.