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Desert Storm Harrier

Simon Geliot builds Monogram's


1:48th scale AV-8B
THE Gulf War of 1991 provided
a dramatic demonstration of the
effectiveness o f airpower.
Coalition aircraft were in action
providing, between them, the
total package from fighter
combat air patrols to strategic
bombing by B-52's
plus
everything in between. During
the weeks of the air offensive,
television news bulletins were
filled daily with film of sleek US
fast jets taking to the air against
the Iraqi Air Force and, in the
UK at least, pink painted Jaguars
and Tornados returning from
dangerous ground attack sorties.
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There were a tremendous


variety o f other aircraft and
helicopter types i n v o l v e d
throughout this period including
the AV-8B Harriers of the US
Marines who were i n action
from day one. The Harrier was
used mainly for battlefield
interdiction, destroying many
tanks p r i o r to the ground
invasion, and despite operating
in
such
a
dangerous
environment, only four aircraft
were lost.
I would be the first to admit
that the Harrier is not the most
glamorous looking of aircraft,

but it has a sense of purpose


that I have always found quite
attractive. The new light grey
camouflage scheme and the
advent o f Superscale decal
sheets featuring machines from
the G u l f conflict proved too
much of a temptation, so I
resolved to build my first A V 8B.
THE KIT
Monogram's 1:48th scale kit is
of recent enough origin to be
of excellent q u a l i t y . The
components are moulded in a
dark blue-grey colour which is
fine for the dark scheme that
AV-8B's first appeared in, but
may prove a problem i f brush

Although n o t in a Desert
Storm environment this
AV-8B Harrier belongs t o
US Marine Corps V M A - 2 3 1
and backs up the author's
use o f fine detail o n h i s
completed model. (McDonnell Douglas photo).

painting light greys. Cockpit


detail is good although the seat,
which is partly moulded with the
floor, does not correctly
resemble the Stencil lOB fitted
to the Harrier. Instrument and
console panels carry raised
detail which is very convincing
if carefully painted.
External stores are included in
the kit but are limited. A choice
of strakes or gun pack are
provided for under the fuselage,
the inner wing pylons have long
range ferry tanks moulded in
place, while Sidewinder missiles
and Snakeye bombs are provided
for the remaining hard points.

As already mentioned the seat is incorrect and I wanted to


replace it, however after much searching I was unable to find a
suitable white metal or resin alternative, since I did not want to
invest the time and trouble scratch building one I had to settle for
the kit parts after all. The sides of the seat are attached to a base
which is moulded as part of the cockpit bathtub, such a design
would have made replacing the seat very difficult in any case.
Also in this photo are the parts forming the intake trunking which
include a fully detailed nose wheel well, even though the nose
doors are moulded shut!

straight edge as it will conform to some of the fuselage contours


making the task much easier.

Stage 4
Before the fuselage halves are joined together it is necessary to
repaint and attach the air brake and air dam interiors as well as
the main landing gear leg. This is a most aggravating aspect of
the kit design in that it is very difficult to achieve a strong joint,
and the parts are very likely to be damaged during cleaning up of
the fuselage seam. No positive location is provided for the
undercarriage leg making it all too easy to fit it at the wrong
height, the only way of avoiding this is a very complicated dry
run to make sure that all the wheels will be in contact with the
ground once the outriggers are in place. As with the nose wheel
the main doors should be open on a parked aircraft, but the lack
of interior detail caused me to stop short of opening them up and
scratch building all the well detail.

Stage 2
Since Harriers of all types are invariably seen parked with the
main undercarriage doors open, I decided to open up the
fuselage mouldings and make replacement doors from plastic
card later on. I can only think that there must have been some
last minute design stage at Monogram, as no attempt has been
made to make this job easier, such as moulding the closed doors
with a reduced thickness of plastic at their margins. The detail
provided in the wheel well interior is adequate without addition,
although some work will be required later to tidy up the inside
lip of the opening.

Exterior panel detail is represented by raised lines. I chose to


replace these with engravings which I feel to be more realistic.
To do this I use an Olfa P-cutter which gouges out a groove as it
is pulled across the surface of the plastic. The kit's raised lines are
used as a positioning guide for this work, remains of these being
removed by later sanding. A strip of flexible plastic makes a good

Stage 5
With the fuselage cemented together it is still possible to gain
access to the interior components through the large hole where
the wing will eventually fit. This is most useful as it allows plenty
of extra adhesive to be applied making sure of a good joint, since
should these parts come loose later they will be difficult to
relocate. Monogram have resisted the temptation to include any
engineering to connect the four exhaust nozzles so that they
move in unison, these are instead fitted later from the outside.

B
The wings are formed from just two parts, upper and lower. This
method ensures that the correct anhedral angle is built in.
Thankfully this Harrier kit has the auxiliary blow-in doors
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correctly moulded to show an aircraft at rest, with the top ones


hanging open while the lower ones remain shut, a little filler was
required around the wing joint to fare this in with the fuselage
contours.

have been carried out after the airframe had been painted. Flats
were sanded on the wheels and a dry run carried out to make
sure that all the wheels touched the ground. It was at this point
that all my worst fears were confirmed, I had mounted the main
gear leg too high leaving a gap of some 2mm under the twin
wheels. The only way to rectify this was to cut the leg in two and
insert a section of rod to make up the length. Once this had been
done the unit was re-assembled, re-sprayed white and masked.

Stage?
Each tail plane is a single moulding, complete with central
connecting pin, again ensuring the correct angles. I did not realise
that this pin has a catch moulded on so that no glue was
necessary round the moving parts, this meant that my first dry
run test turned out to be rather permanent!

Stage 10
The cockpit was going to be completed partially open, so the
rear section would not be attached until all painting had been
completed. Prior to fitting the windscreen the instrument panel
and HUD needed to be added, some sanding was required to
blend in the top edge of the panel. The HUD came from a 1:72nd
PP Aeroparts set in which some of the frames are over size and
consequently work reasonably well in 1:48th scale. The rear
cockpit was attached to its separate frame prior to painting along
with everything else.

Stage 8
Once all the basic construction was completed, attention could be
turned to the stores. Gun pods were used straight from the box,
but I wanted to hang Snakeye bombs from both the sets of wing
pylons, so I had to remove the tank halves that were moulded in
place. This is not at all difficult providing that care is taken and
the temptation to use one heavy cut rather than repeated gentle
cuts, is resisted. There are only three Snakeyes provided in the
kit, the remaining one was to be taken f r o m a Hasegawa
weapons set, in the event the kit bombs appeared undersize so all
were taken from the accessory set.

Stage 11
Painting began with an undercoat of dark grey to the canopy
frames, though this shows through to the interior giving the
correct effect on the finished model. Xtracolour paints were used
for the main camouflage colours the numbers being X126 and
X136. This paint covers well when sprayed leaving a gloss
surface ideal for decal application. Normally I would have masked
a hard line between the colours, even in 1:48th scale, but on this
model I attempted to paint the demarcation line freehand with the
airbrush. This worked reasonably well although it was difficult to
do given the wrap around nature of the scheme and the
inaccessible fuselage contours around the exhaust/gun pod area.

Stage 12

Stages
The undercarriage outriggers were added next since these parts
were moulded complete with the associated door and well
components and some filling was necessary which could not
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The decals came from Super Scale sheet 48-410 which provided
for AV-8B's from VMA-203, 211, 214 and 231, these aircraft
appear in a variety of colour schemes, full details of which are
given on the instructions. I had chosen VMA-231 not just for the
colour scheme but also for the nose markings which consist of
the famous Ace of Spades emblem and in the case of the
commander's machine, a sharks mouth. The decals do not

provide m u c h stencilling, not that m u c h is visible on the Harrier,


but in m o d e l f o r m this never seems to be subtle e n o u g h to be
realistic even in larger scales.

as it became clear that t h i s w a s not the case, load d r o p p e d to


one missile under the left w i n g only a n d later to none at all.

Stage 14
T h e f i n i s h e d m o d e l w a s g i v e n a c o a t of m a t t v a r n i s h in
preparation for w e a t h e r i n g , this was done for most part w i t h
p o w d e r e d artists pastel in a variety of colours. The m a i n areas
for attention are the t o p of the w i n g , w h e r e there are often stains
streaking back, especially across the flaps, and the rear fuselage
w h i c h is s t a i n e d aft of t h e rear e x h a u s t nozzles. It s h o u l d be
r e m e m b e r e d that the f r o n t nozzles expel ' c o l d ' air and do not
therefore scorch and discolour in the same w a y . Since m y m o d e l
w a s carrying t w o S i d e w i n d e r s it represented an aircraft early in
the w a r , I had therefore, to be careful not to get carried a w a y and
make the w e a t h e r i n g t o o heavy. A final coat of varnish w a s used
to seal e v e r y t h i n g in place, before r e m o v i n g the m a s k i n g f r o m
c a n o p y and c o c k p i t . Lastly the pale y e l l o w sealant a r o u n d the
canopy f r a m e w a s added using t h i n strips of pre-painted decal
f i l m , and the sliding canopy w a s fixed in p o s i t i o n .

In conclusion
Stage 13
After h a v i n g a p p l i e d all the decals, f i n a l a s s e m b l y w a s c a r r i e d
out. This involves a d d i n g the undercarriage d o o r s , the airbrake
and air d a m as w e l l as the p y l o n s and stores. D u r i n g the Gulf
W a r , H a r r i e r s c a r r i e d a v a r i e t y o f w e a p o n s in d i f f e r i n g
c o n f i g u r a t i o n s . T r i p l e ejector racks w e r e o c c a s i o n a l l y used f o r
Snakeye's especially at the start of the offensive, h o w e v e r a m o r e
c o m m o n load w a s f o u r or six b o m b s , one to a p y l o n . This
c o n f i g u r a t i o n did not require extensive use of additional w e a p o n
sets and w a s therefore chosen for the m o d e l . S i d e w i n d e r missiles
are p r o v i d e d in the kit and can be used on a Desert S t o r m aircraft.
These w e r e carried in pairs d u r i n g the early days w h e n it w a s
considered that there w a s a real threat f r o m the Iraqi A i r Force,

T h e f i n i s h e d m o d e l c e r t a i n l y c a p t u r e s the feel of t h e f u l l size


m a c h i n e , and the light grey scheme makes a w e l c o m e change to
the dark d r a b c o l o u r s of earlier Harrier v a r i a n t s . This is q u i t e a
s m a l l a i r c r a f t e v e n in 1:48th s c a l e , a n d s e v e r a l Desert S t o r m
d i o r a m a scenes spring to m i n d (if only I had the patience!). A s it
is, m y m o d e l is d i s p l a y e d next to an A i r f i x Sea H a r r i e r in an
e q u a l l y w a r w e a r y Falklands s c h e m e , a r e m i n d e r of the t y p e ' s
d i s t i n g u i s h e d service career.

References

Gulf A i r P o w e r Debrief (Aerospace)


Detail & Scale v o l u m e 28 (Airlife)

The
author's completed model of the Monogram AV-8B
Harrier in the markings of VMA_231.

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