H and M 1/72 Sea Harrier FRS2

The Sea Harrier FA2 was the later development of the Sea Harrier which proved such a successful aircraft during the Falklands War in 1982.  Famous for the ability to take-off and land vertically, it remained a favourite at airshows for many years with it's ability to show-off that feature unique to a fixed wing aircraft for so many years.  There was usually a 'bow' to the crowd and angling the exhausts fully forward, it could actually fly backwards.

The FA2 featured a number of updates over earlier the original version, including an up-rated Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine, and importantly the newer Blue Vixen Pulse Doppler radar and was the first UK aircraft to have the ability to operate with the new AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile).  Based on lessons from the Falklands War, it could also carry the Sea Eagle anti-ship missile.

The Sea Harrier served with 800, 801 and 899 Naval Air Squadrons, with the last of the type operated by 801 Sqn being decommissioned in March 2006, the end result of government budget cuts.  The plan to replace them with the new F-35 has since caused that decision to be questioned, as the F-35 has suffered from several years of delays and significant increases in purchase costs.

This rather nice model from HobbyMaster features a special scheme used on one of 800 Sqns aircraft to mark the decommissioning of the unit in March 2004, with the special markings applied to 'Satan 1'.  This particular Sea Harrier, ZD613, was originally built as an FRS 1 variant, delivered to the Royal Navy in 1986  Then in 1994 the airframe was upgraded to an FA2 variant.  It served with all three squadrons during its career, until it was finally the mount of the CO of 800 Sqn, and number 122. On March 31, 2004, wearing this special paint scheme, it led a final flypast of a 6 aircraft formation.

The model provides a choice of extra parts to have the undercarriage down or retracted, and a display stand is included in the box.  The grey colour matches the actual colour scheme very well to my eye.  There are strakes on the underside of the fuselage, on points where 30mm Aden cannon pods could be mounted.  In the case of the model there are drop tanks fitted to the inner under-wing pylons, and AMRAAM Missiles on the outer ones.  Stencils and the squadron markings are all very neatly done, even down to the smaller airframe stencils, while the red patterns of the special scheme make for a colourful and eye catching model.  Just a shame these are missing from the air show circuit today for us all to enjoy seeing in action.

Robin

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