Started: Aug 2004
Finished: Aug 2005
Link to Gallery
The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) AV-8B Harrier II is a single-engine ground-attack aircraft that constitutes the second generation of the Harrier family, capable of vertical or short takeoff and landing (V/STOL). The aircraft is primarily employed on light attack or multi-role missions, ranging from close air support of ground troops to armed reconnaissance. The AV-8B is used by the United States Marine Corps (USMC), the Spanish Navy, and the Italian Navy. A variant of the AV-8B, the British Aerospace Harrier II, was developed for the British military, while another, the TAV-8B, is a dedicated two-seat trainer.
Typically operated from small aircraft carriers, large amphibious assault ships and simple forward operating bases, AV-8Bs have participated in numerous military and humanitarian operations, proving themselves versatile assets. U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf named the USMC Harrier II as one of several important weapons in the Gulf War. It has also served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan since 2001, the Iraq War since 2003, and was used in Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya in 2011.
Italian and Spanish Harrier IIs have taken part in overseas conflicts in conjunction with NATO coalitions. During its service history, the AV-8B has had a high accident rate, related to the percentage of time spent in critical take-off and landing phases. USMC and Italian Navy AV-8Bs are being replaced by the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II, with the former expected to operate its Harriers until 2025.
This is the third boxing in the 1/48 Hasegawa AV-8B Harrier II family. In addition to a load of custom enhancements, the model was built with an Aires cockpit and TwoBobs decal sheet (48-075).
The RCS (Reaction Control Thruster) vents on the tail boom of the Harrier are quite a distinctive and visible feature. Whilst the Hasegawa 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 :)
An inside view of the tail boom following thinning of the plastic with a Dremmel tool and installation of the wire mesh.)
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.
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.
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.
Another shot of the wheel well with the fuselage halfs joined.
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.
Aires resin seat, here with my own lead foil harness
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 have filled the cutouts with 0.25mm plastic card.
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.
The completed cockpit components being test fitted.
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.
When researching my build 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 noticeable empty slots on the spine of the aircraft which I thought 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.
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.
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
Here's a comparison between kit part and the modified (ie empty/open) part.
Using a pencil line on the fuselage centreline as a guide, the fairing has been glued to the rear fuselage.
Once the fairing glue has dried to give a sturdy bound, the underlying fuselage is chain drilled.
The fuselage opening has been cleaned up with a sharp knife and file.
The starboard side has both packs removed, whilst the port side has one in place and one removed.
Here the interior detail has been added with 15thou plastic card cut to shape using my trusty "Chopper"
Another view of the finished dispensers. Some small gaps to be filled and sanded before priming.
Test fitting the tail to ensure everything aligns correctly.
A coat of primer to reveal any issues that need fixing.
Looking good. A bit more interesting than the kit part for a small amount of effort
With the nose section now joined, the final touches an be put into the wheel well.
Using the Aires resin set as a rough guide (I'm not as good as the Aires master makers), plasticcard, lead and copper wire is used to make the wheel well feel "busy"
A coat of primer starts to bring out the detail. This should look good once its painted and weathered.
And the other side
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.
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.
A similar story on the starboard LEX to Wing join
The finished join after a coat of Alclad Primer
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)
Trusty 0.25mm 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)
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.
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.
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"
The interior of the windscreen has been masked to allow painting of the frame interior
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
Some initial painting on the Verlinden deck crew. My vignette will be during the OIF time period so the camo on the pants needs to match (as best as I can)
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.
The windscreen had some noticeable fit problems at the front so I fixed this by thinning down the console. This of course destroyed the paint so I have masked the area in preparation for a touch up.
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 mounting and replaced it with a Milliput lightweight visor
The same guy from the other side
If you thought that once you fixed the wing to LEX join it was all downhill, well I'm sorry but the join between the front of the LEX and the forward fuselage is also a shocker. Likewise the join between the fuselage and the intakes is also not the best. Out with the sanding sticks.
Finally starting to look like a Harrier
Pylons are on, wheel wells are masked (with Mr Masking Sol, again the first time I have used this product)
Some pretty nasty gaps in and around the intake lip as well
Notice the nasty step at the bottom of the intake lip. This will not be easy to sand
The scratchbuilt nose wheel well gets a coat of white
Turning now to the weapons loadout, in preparation for the ablative coating, I have masked the nose and tailfin on the laser guided bomb (from the Hasegawa weapons set).
The coating has been applied and left to dry overnight. I have put together a short tutorial on this technique if you are interested. Modeling USN/USMC Weapon Thermal Ablative Coatings
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.
The aft nozzles on the AV-8B are unpainted. Here you see the shiny finish left from the Alclad. Not realistic yet but after a coat of flat and some oil washes it should look closer to the real thing
The figures are progressing as well.
The figure from the rear and a clearer shot of the head
Here is a little contraption I use to sand intakes and other awkward places. This idea was borrowed from Zoltan Pocza. His full article can be found here
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.
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
The final result looks a lot better than what we started with. Makes it worth all that sanding
The starboard side also looks good. Now all I need to do is mask it up
The main wheels have received their coat of Gunze Tire Black and have been masked ready for the white
Nose wheel (right) and one of the two main wheels
The outrigger wheels provided a bit of a masking challenge. Here a custom mask has been made up using Tamiya tape
The mask has now been applied to good effect.
The nose wheel strut benefits from some detailing with wire and metal foil
Some extra details added from plastic card
The main landing light will be fitted with a MV Lens when complete
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
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 actually slides over the top of the intakes ! The way the model is designed, it does not do this. So some creative thinking was needed
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
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
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
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
A similar result on the starboard side. Note the detailing added to the canopy frame
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. As you can see here, the two part are just touching on the model
The Aires cockpit set includes a very nice PE HUD frame. The "glass" was added from clear acetate
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
The Aires PE mirrors and grab handles have been added (carefully) to the canopy
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
The canopy undergoing final masking. Only the exterior was masked due to the Det Cord decal on the interior
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
The USMC AV-8Bs carry a standard 3 tone color scheme. I chose to a combination of TwoBobs and Hasegawa color recommendations.
An interesting shot showing the use of several masking solution. Tape, blutac and liquid
The demarcation for the Gunship Gray is being laid out using BluTac
Overall shot shown just prior to the paint being applied
The end result of blutac masking. If desired its quite easy to further soften the demarcation by hand
A photo of the paint as it came straight from the tin. Compare this to the later photos once the weathering has commenced
The result of a session of fading and weathering up the finish. Quite a difference to the base coats.
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
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
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
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)
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)
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
Here we see the result of a combination of weathering techniques. Paint fading, paint touchups, decals weathering, panel line washes and finally oil wash
A makeshift jig being used to keep the horizontal stabs in place while the two part epoxy glue dries. The roll of tape is being used to provide weight to force the tail into place
The painful process of aligning all the wheels to touch the deck at the same time is over and the pylons are filling up