On The Bench


AV-8B Harrier II 'Night Attack'
Scale: 1/48

Started: August 2004
Finished: 06 July 2005
Last Update: 06 July 2005

Jump to the most recent update
Build History to Date: 27 Feb 2005
I've actually been working on and off on this kit for some time, taking photos as I go and now that I have started keeping it updated on the web, I've dumped a summary of the progress thus here for the first update.

I've got a stack of Hasegawa Harriers to build (its my second favourite aircraft) and I'm taking my time with this one (being the first) so I can find out all the shortcuts and shortcomings with the kit. I've stocked up on the Aires cockpit sets and as you'll see, I've used one here.

I'll be using the markings from the TwoBobs sheet 48-075 OIF Harriers. The only N/A bird on this sheet is from VMA-231 that was loaned to VMA-223 during OIF.
Figure 1 The RCS (Reaction Control Thruster) vents on the tail boom of the Harrier are quite a distinctive and visible feature. Whilst the Hasegawas molding is OK, I decided to see if the effort involved in replacing them with wire mesh was worth it. The jury is out until I finish the model :)
Figure 2 An inside view of the tail boom following thinning of the plastic with a Dremmel tool and installation of the wire mesh.)
Figure 3 As this model will be displayed on the ground, I decided to show it with the boarding steps deployed. This involved chain drilling and then cutting the molded steps from the stb fuselage side. Following this the plastic was thinned (again with the Dremmel) and finally plastic card (ie the white) was added internally to provide a backing from the step. The actual extended steps will be added at model completion.
Figure 4 The interior of the cockpit side wall. The Aires resin section has been installed. Here you can the see the plastic card backing for the boarding step cutouts.
Figure 5 Reference photos show that when the Harrier is powered down, the main gear doors are left open. Aires makes a resin set of wheel wells for the Hasegawa Harrier. I purchased one of these sets and am planning on using it as a guide for scratchbuilding my own on my Harriers. Here you see the molded in nose wheel doors have been removed and the basic structure of the wheel well has been created from plastic card.
Figure 5a Another shot of the wheel well with the fuselage halfs joined.
Figure 6 One of the disappointing elements of the Hasegawa kit is way they handle the RCS outlet in the nose. The kit simply provides us with a hole which quite frankly is a joke for a A$50 kit. Here i have boxed in the outlet in preparation for installing later the scratchbuilt nozzle which forms part of the RCS system.
Figure 7 Aires resin seat, here with my own lead foil harness.
Figure 8 I am not sure why, but the kit has a large step in the bottom of the intake trunking as shown above. This is very visible on the Harrier as its intake is shallow and very large. Here I am filling the cutouts with 10" plastic card.
Figure 9 The Aires resin tub and kit instrument panel (with some plastic card additions). I decided not to use the Aires PE instrument panel as I felt the kit one gave a better result. Here the parts have been glossed with Future in preparation for a wash and drybrushing.
Figure 10 The completed cockpit components being test fitted.
Figure 11 My decision to use the kit instrument panel meant I would have to use the kit cockpit shroud as well. Here I have leveraged the Aires PE set as well.
Update: 07 Mar 2005
At the last IPMS club meeting I came across a book that showed several AV-8B's on the flight deck of a carrier and most of them had the rear fuselage chaff/flare packs removed. This resulted in very noticable "holes" on the spine of the aircraft. I thought this looked interesting and decided to incorporate into my model.

Luckily I had not yet joined the main wing to the fuselage. This allowed access to the interior of the rear fuselage. Good progress was also made on detailing the scratchbuilt nose wheel well.
Figure 1 First step in modeling the empty chaff packs is to cut out the molded detail. Here I have chain drilled the part so I can then easily remove the center.
Figure 2 Here the center has been cut out very easily with a sharp knife. Cutting between the holes is simple compared to trying to cut the plastic without drilling the holes !
Figure 3 Here's a comparison between kit part and the modified (ie empty/open) part.
Figure 4 Using a pencil line on the fuselage centreline as a guide, the fairing has been glued to the rear fuselage.
Figure 5 Once the fairing glue has dried to give a sturdy bound, the underlying fuselage is chain drilled.
Figure 5 The fuselage opening has been cleaned up with a sharp knife and file.
Figure 6 The starboard side has both packs removed, whilst the port side has one in place and one removed.
Figure 7 Here the interior detail has been added with 15thou plastic card cut to shape using my trusty "Chopper"
Figure 9 Another view of the finished dispensers. Some small gaps to be filled and sanded before priming.
Figure 10 Test fitting the tail and ensure it all lines up.
Figure 10a A coat of primer to reveal any issues that need fixing..
Figure 10b Looking good. A bit more interesting than the kit part for a small amount of effort.
Figure 11 With the nose section now joined, the final touches an be put into the whell well.
Figure 11 Using the Aires resin set as a rough guide (I'm not as good as the Airies master makers), plasticcard, lead and copper wire is used to make the wheel well feel "busy"
Figure 11 A coat of primer starts to bring out the detail. This should look good once its painted and weathered.
Figure 11 And the other side !
Update: 13 Apr 2005
A while since the last update. Work and other distractions have kept me away from the bench. In the last week I've made some progress in bringing the fuselage, wing and LEX together. I have to say that if you want to do it properly, this requires a bit of effort. In particular the wing to LEX join has to handled carefully requiring new panellines to be added. This trouble is as a result of Hasegawa designing the kit as very modular (so they can give us as many variants of the Harrier II as possible).

I've also decided how I want to setup the display base for this model. As a result I've started painting some figures. Please don't laugh when you see them :( I'm not a figure modeler. The other day my order of a set of PE carrier deck tie down points from White Ensign Models arrived.
Figure 1 The wing joins to the fuselage with little drama. The LEX however is the worst fitting part in the kit so far. This pic shows how the seam between the LEX and wing needs to be dealt with.
Figure 2 Once you have filled the outer part of the LEX-Wing join (whilst retaining/rescribing part of it), you'll need to rescribe the damaged panel lines (and rivets). You can also then add in the missing panel lines (see red arrows in Figure 1).
Figure 3 A similar story on the starboard LEX to Wing join..
Figure 4 The finished join after a coat of Alclad Primer.
Figure 5 If you thought all the nasty business with the Wing to LEX join was on top. think again. The worst gaps are underneath (which is in some ways a blessing as it mostly hidden). Here you see the gap as it comes from Hasegawa. Its not obvious from this angle but the is a large step between the LEX and Wing (as well as the gap) !!!!.
Figure 6 Trusty 10" plastic card comes to the rescue. To fix the step between the two parts I used brass rod to spread the LEX top and bottom (you can see a small stress fracture on the LEX due to this).
Figure 7 The gap has been filled and sanded smooth. As the panelline did not line up (yet another problem), I filled the incorrect one (you can still see it below the new one) and the scribed a line which was a continuation of the panelline on the wing leading edge. Note also the fairly large gap between the wing and fuselage.
Figure 9 The finished job. The fuselage to wing gap has been filled with Milliput and the LEX to wing gap is no longer evident. Finally the panel lines look they should.
Figure 10 Here is the back end of the LEX section. You can see the spreaders I used to try and minimise the step between this part and the wing section. Also note the white plastic card "gap fillers".
Figure 11 The interior of the windscreen has been masked to allow painting of the frame interior.
Figure 12 The main landing gear has been detailed with Milliput brake lines. This is the first time I've used this method. The jury is still out on this one.
Figure 13 Ok, now if I hear anyone laughing, you're in for it. Some more to be done on these guys. This chap is from Verlinden.
Figure 14 The pilot is from CMK. As the model will be as operated in OIF, I am painting the flight suit and boots in standard desert kit.
Figure 15 The windscreen had some noticable fit problems at the front so I fixed this by thinning down the console. This of course destroyd the paint so I have masked the area in preparation for a touch up.
Figure 16 The CMK US Navy pilot figures come with the older helmet type. During OIF the AV-8B pilots wore the newer lightweight helmets. Here I have removed the old visor mouting and replaced it with a Milliput lightweight visor.
Figure 17 The same guy from the other side.
Figure 18 and you thought that once you fixed the wing to LEX join it was all downhill. Well sorry but the joint between the front of the LEX and the forward fuselage is also a shocker. The join between the fuselage and the intakes is also not the best.
Figure 19 Starting to finally look like a Harrier.
Figure 20 Pylons are on, wheel wells are masked (with Mr Masking Sol, again the first time I have used this product).
Figure 21 Some pretty nasty gaps in and around the intake lip as well.
Figure 22 Notice the nasty step at the bottom of the intake lip. This will not be easy to sand !!.
Figure 23 The scratchbuilt nose wheel well gets a coat of white.
Update: 10 May 2005
Slow progress has been made recently. Lots of sanding, the intakes in particular have received a lot of attention. Progress also on the figures. They actually have come up better than I expected. The wheels (all 5 of them) have received their basic colour coats with appropriate masking.

After talking with one of my friends, Mark, at the last IPMS meeting about a technique he used on his AFV's to simulate the non slip surface, I thought it may work for the thermal ablative coating applied to all USN/USMC GP bombs. I intend to do a full article on this technique soon, but for now here are some progress pics of the GBU-12 that will be fitted to the port inner pylon of the AV-8B..
Figure 1 In preparation for the ablative coating, I have masked the nose and tailfin.
Figure 2 The coating has been applied and left to dry overnight.
Figure 3 Masking has been removed and a coat of Olive Drab applied. I'm pretty happy with the result. Should look good once painting and weathering are complete.
Figure 4 The aft nozzles on the AV-8B are unpainted. Here you see the shiny finish left from the Alclad. Not realsitic yet but after a coat of flat and some oil washes it should look closer to the real thing,
Figure 5 Verlindens figure coming along nicely..
Figure 6 A shot from the rear and a clearer shot of the head..
Figure 7 Here is a little contraption I use to sand intakes and other awkward places. This idea was borrowed from Zoltan "Neu" Pocza. His full article can be found here
Figure 9 The intake has taken quite a beating from the sanding and filler needed to remove the gap and step where the intake meets the fuselage..
Figure 10 The port side has faired no better than the starboard !.
Figure 11 Because I had to sand the intake interiors it became necessary to repaint them. This meant I had to re-mask the engine compressor blades. Here I am making up a custom mask for one side.
Figure 12 The final result looks a lot better than what we started with. Makes it worth all that sanding
Figure 13 The starboard side also looks good. Now all I need to do is mask it up.
Figure 14 The main wheels have received their coat of Gunze Tire Black and have been masked ready for the white.
Figure 15 Nose wheel (right) and one of the two main wheels.
Figure 16 The outrigger wheels provided a bit of a masking challenge. Here a custom mask has been made up using Tamiya tape.
Figure 17 The mask from Fig.16 has been applied to good effect.
Figure 18 Both sides of the outrigger tire have been masked and the demarcation between the tire and the frame also masked. The remaining tire will be masked using liquid masking solution (Gunze Mr Mask).
Update: 15 May 2005
Work continues on the small details. The nose wheel has been detailed and I tackled the tricky problem that Hasegawa has given us in relation to displaying the canopy in the fully open position..

I have seen several models on the internet of the Hasegawa kit with the canopy open only a fraction of its full travel. It looks odd because the canopy should be either fully open or closed. I never understood why those modellers did this until I test fitted my canopy on the model !! The canopy cannot slide completely back on the model because it hits the Heat Exchanger RAM intakes on each side. My intial thought was that Hasegawa had positioned the intakes too far inboard, but closer inspection and checking with references shown that this was not the case. So what was the problem ? If all the parts where in the right position, why would the canopy not slide back all the way ? To find out, check out todays update :)
Figure 1 The nose wheel strut benefits from some detailing with wire and metal foil..
Figure 2 Some extra details added from plastic card..
Figure 3 The main landing light will be fitted with a MV Lens when complete..
Figure 4 The big job of masking the intakes took a while. The blue stuff in the intake is actually just wet tissue paper (used to fill the large gap) which has been covered with Mr Masking Sol from Gunze.
Figure 5 This is the picture that finally tipped me off as to why the kit canopy would not slide all the way back. Notice how the canopy acually slides over the top of the intakes ! The way the model is designed, it does not do this. So some creative thinking was needed.
Figure 6 To enable the canopy to sit in the fully open position it was necessary to secure it via brass pins (to give strength and a accurate fit). In addition to hold the rear of the canopy off the fuselage as it slides back its necessary to add a taller extension to the guide rail. You can see that it took some trial and error to get the locating pin holes in the right place. Not to worry, these "extras" will be covered by the canopy itself.
Figure 7 Here is a better shot of the guide rail extension. The back of the kit canopy will rest on this extension to keep it at the correct height.
Figure 8 The 12thou brass pins have been added to the bottom of the canopy frame. These will slot into the locating holes on the canopy sills (see Figure 6)
Figure 9 Here is the finished result. You can see how the canopy frame now slides over the top of the heat exchanger intakes. Without this fairly simple modification, the canopy slides open less than half this distance before it hits the intakes. When sanding the seams around the front of the lex, the fillets under the intakes where destroyed. Here I have replaced the with 5thou card.
Figure 10 A similar result on the starboard side. Note the detailing added to he canopy frame.
Figure 11 A useful view from the rear showing the guide rail extension doing its job. There is still something not quite right with the Hasegawa shape as in real life the canopy slides over the intake quite comfortably (see Figure 5). As you can see here, the two part are just touching on the model.
Update: 21 June 2005
Despite there being no update to the website for a while, I have been slowly working away on the Harrier.
As I write this, the model has its basic paint coat on and is undergoing the initial stages of weathering. I'm keen to try a few new techniques this time around as the USMC Harriers would have to be close to the dirtiest miltary aircraft anywhere :)
Figure 1 The Aires cockpit set includes a very nice PE HUD frame. The "glass" was added from clear acetate.
Figure 2 Another angle on the HUD. Because I ended up using the kit glareshield, this resulted in the HUD sitting too high and thus the windscreen would not sit correctly (doh). This required some creative thinking to overcome !
Figure 3 The Aires PE mirrors and grab handles have been added (carefully) to the canopy.
Figure 4 A good shot of the interior of the canopy. The det cord decal from Twobobs is brilliantly thin and has almost no carrier. I sealed it with Future.
Figure 5 The canopy undergoing final masking. Only the exterior was masked due to the Det Cord decal on the interior.
Figure 6 Once I had started masking I noticed a couple of nasty mold sink marks on the root of each wing. These where quickly filled with Tamiya filler and sanded smooth. This may only be on my Harrier kit, but its something worth looking out for.
Figure 7 The USMC AV-8Bs carry a standard 3 tone color scheme. I chose to a combination of TwoBobs and Hasegawa color recommendations. Bottom: FS36375 (Lt Ghost Gray - Hum 127), Side/Upper: FS36320 (Dk Ghost Gray - Hum 128), Upper: FS36118 (Gunship Gray - Hum 125).

Here you see the bottom color has been applied and BluTac being used to provide a tight, yet feathered edge.
Figure 8 An interesting shot showing the use of several masking solution. Tape, blutac and liquid !
Figure 9 The demarcation for the Gunship Gray is being laid out using BluTac..
Figure 10 Overall shot shown just prior to the paint being applied.
Figure 11 The end result of blutac masking. If desired its quite easy to further soften the demarcation by hand..
Figure 12 A photo of the paint as it came straight from the tin. Compare this to Figure 13 below once the weathering has commenced..
Figure 13 The result of a session of fading and weathering up the finish. Compare this with Figure 12 above.
Figure 14 Detail shot of the patchwork effect often found on USN and USMC aircraft due to touchups and repair work done at sea. A bit more weathering and washing will be done to this wing before we are finished.
Update: 03 July 2005
This week has been an excellent one for modelling. I've been inspired to finish the Harrier and as I write this, I should have it done with a day or two. As a result this will probably be the last update for this model :)
The decals, weathering and small details have all been worked on and its now starting to really look like a USMC machine.
Figure 1 The TwoBobs decals (printed by Microscale) performed faultlessly as usual. There are several two- part decals. Just in this one photo, the mouth, the eye and the formation lights are all two part decals.
Figure 2 Never happy with just out of the box, I decided to distress some of the decals. This was done with very light sanding and scraping with a rounded knife blade.
Figure 3 Even the rudder decal which I was concerned may be troublesome, settled down just fine with MicroSol. Note the gloss finish applied to the entire model prior to decaling. This finish is several light coats of Future floor polish (thinned 50/50 with Tamiya Acrylic thinner).
Figure 4 The trickiest decal of the lot was the sharkmouth. This consisted of 4 decals which required careful triming once the decal was on the model (heart in mouth stuff).
Figure 5 With the decaling done a coat of flat clear (Polly S Acrylic Flat) is applied and then the artists oil weathering can commence. Here you see the results on the underside of the fuselage. This is the result of several thin washes of darkened Burnt Umber.
Figure 6 The scrathcbuilt wheel well is now looking the part.
Figure 7 Of course the upper wing surfaces have been weather as well. Oil and hydraulic fluid leaks from combat aircraft and its this grimy look that I am striving for here.
Figure 8 Here we see the result of a combination of weathering techniques. Paint fading, paint touchups, decals weathering, panel line washes and finally oil wash.
Figure 9 A quick jig being used to keep the horizontal stabs in place while the two part expoxy glue dries. The roll of tape is being used to provide weight to force the tail into place.
Figure 10 The painful process of aligning all the wheels to touch the deck at the same time is over and the pylons are filling up.
Figure 11 Construction is complete !! For detailed photos of the finished model, check out the gallery section of my website.