1/48 Monogram AV-8B Harrier

by Percy Olson

Photos by Steve Bamford

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Father's day 1999. My wife and son arrive home after some shopping and my son presents me with my father's day gift - a Monogram AV-8B Harrier! Cool! However, things are quickly clarified when my wife informs me that this is HER model and I'm just to build it. Ahh, so that's how it's going to be! Well, I'm more than happy that she shows an interest in my hobby and I'm happy to build her anything, especially an aircraft like the Harrier.

This was my 6th model that I built since rejoining the hobby after a 15-year hiatus and I decided that I needed to challenge myself a bit. I therefore decided to do my first photo-etch job on this little beastie.

I started construction, as usual, in the cockpit. It seemed a bit radical to me, but I started by removing the combing and raised instrumentation from the kit panel to be replaced by photo-etch. Whew, I'm committed now!

I had heard that a good prepping of the photo-etch was to immerse it in vinegar for a couple of hours so that's what I did. After the two hours, I removed the fret and let it air dry. The fret was now fully prepped and ready for painting. Using a low tack scotch tape (the removable kind), I masked off the appropriate photo-etch pieces and airbrushed the panel pieces Model Master Acryl "Aircraft Interior Black". To remove the photo-etch pieces from the fret, I used a very sharp #11 blade on a special cutting mat. I found I was able to get a nice clean cut with only minor trimming needed to finish the part.

Around this time I realized that I had many questions about the Harrier but no real reference information. Enter the Hyperscale discussion list, a question by me, and an answer by Lance Braman. Thanks to Lance and his three, very detailed emails, I had more information about the Harrier and the Monogram kit than I could ever have gathered from books or magazines. Armed with this newfound source of information I ploughed forward.

The completed cockpit contains only kit parts and photo-etch with the exception of the ejection seat safety lever just to the right of the seat. The details were brought out with a dry brushing of white, followed by a wash of black and then some more subtle highlights with a silver pencil. The end result was very satisfying!

I should note that the kit seat, when assembled, has a seam running right down the middle of the cushions. What I did was file, fill and sand until the seam was completely gone. I then used my "scriber" (a calligraphy scratch knife) to scratch in a new cushion texture. After a few touch ups and some light sanding, the effect is very convincing.

The fuselage halves needed a bit of force to hold them together due to some minor warping, but otherwise went together fine. The only filling that was needed was more to do with user error than kit quality. Unfortunately in my desire to smooth the seams, I removed most of the subtle raised panel lines. This doesn't show too bad unless you look really close.

I should comment here that I failed to read one of Lance's emails closely enough where he suggests leaving the main gear off until AFTER the fuselage is put together. The reason for this is that the main gear is actually too short and won't sit down without some creative flattening of the other tires. Well, currently my main gear are floating a nice mm off the floor...

The only real problem areas that I had were the intake areas and the weapons pylons.

First problem with the intake areas was the hinged doors, which allow more air to enter the intake. The kit part as designed fits wonderfully, except it's backwards! E.g. the flaps open forward instead of backwards! I didn't catch this until after I had attached the intakes! Out comes the knife and some very careful cutting. Fortunately the final result turned out okay.

Second problem with the intake areas was a step that I had between the intake and the fuselage. The only solution to this was filling and sanding. In the process I removed the recessed lines for the bottom three intake doors. I had to rescribe these very carefully.

The problem with the weapons pylons was just poor fit. I didn't take time to dry fit them carefully and paid the price while trying to make it look clean.

I primed the model using Mr. Surfacer 1000 and found it quite helpful in showing any outstanding flaws. Once all the flaws were dealt with, I sprayed the basecoat of grey. Trying to be creative, I tried a lighter grey than was called for in the instructions, which was FS34081 - Euro 1 Grey.

After giving the basecoat a number of days to cure, I masked the camouflage pattern using rolls of blue-tack (to give me a nicely feathered edge) and using Parafilm M to fill the areas I wanted to remain grey. The spraying of the Dark Green (FS34079) went really good. After letting that coat dry for a while I took a good look at the "finished" paint job and cringed. The grey was WAY too light! There was way too much contrast between the colours and the Harrier looked like a toy sitting there.

Well, I decided to bite the bullet and I re-masked the aircraft, but this time to spray the proper colour of grey - FS36081. This went surprisingly well and I was happy with the final result.

The model was clear coated with Future and the various decals applied. I used Superscale decals (48-352) and a few of the kit decals and they went on well. Another coat of future was applied over the decals to seal them and a coat of Model Master Acryl Flat Clear was applied for the flat coat.

At this time I attached the windscreen and finished the canopy. I mistakenly applied the explosive wiring to the outside of the canopy instead of inside. Oops. The outside of the canopy framing is all photo-etch and is painted tan. On the early Harriers they painted the framing tan to match the colour of the sealant used to seal the Plexiglas to the metal canopy frame.

For weathering, I used the wet pastel slurry technique but wasn't overly happy with the results. I think the biggest problem was the fact that most of the well-defined raised detail had either been removed during sanding or had been covered too much after the umpteen coats of paint (or so it seems!). 

Once I was finished I re-read through Lance's emails and realized that I missed a bunch of the fine exterior points he had pointed out (especially the pitot tube alignments!). Sorry Lance! I'll have to catch them next time!

I was too lazy at the time to finish the armaments and external fuel tanks but I plan on adding those in the near future. Unless of course my wife decides to buy me another Harrier so I can do the current Marines all grey scheme!

This was fun build and really well worth the time of someone wanting a 1/48 Harrier. I look forward to seeing Black Boxes up-coming Harrier cockpit. Hmm, guess I do need another Harrier after all!
Percy

Photos and text by Percy Olson/Steve Bamford