1/48 Tamiya FRS1 Sea Harrier

1/48 Tamiya FRS1 Sea Harrier

by Andrew Perren


The British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS1 entered service with the Royal Navy just in time for the 1982 war with Argentina over the disputed Falklands/Malvinas Islands in the South Atlantic.  The Sea Harrier proved itself in that conflict, downing many enemy aircraft without a single loss in aerial combat.  The overall dark grey camouflage scheme which was applied to the aircraft en route to the Falklands was so successful that it was adopted as the standard scheme on returning home. This model is depicted post Falklands.

The kit

I have searched for a highly detailed kit of this extraordinary aircraft in my chosen scale of 1/48th.  The contenders being a very early mould Tamiya kit or one each from  Airfix and Hobbycraft.   The Hobbycraft kit is a cheap knock-off of the Tamiya kit and the Airfix kit is well, Airfix.  The Tamiya kit offered the best looking kit in the box albeit without all the goodies like engraved panel lines etc so I decided just to see what I could make out of this Tamiya offering as a skill building exercise.

This kit has numerous fit issues, the engine cover doors on the upper fuselage are offered as separate items to display the engine inside. But as I did not intend using this option I had to close them which posed the problem as they bear only a passing resemblance to the openings.  Also the kit has no wheel wells at all – just a hole in the bottom of the fuselage with a mounting point for the nose gear and a similar setup for the main gear. The main gear is not really a problem as contrary to the instructions when parked the main gear bay doors are closed, but a new nose wheel well would require construction.  The jet nozzles from Tamiya were a two piece affair with nearly impossible seams to remove – the one piece solid nozzles were instead robbed from the Airfix kit.


As I was not building this model for competition scrutiny I allowed my self some Creative freedom to facilitate completion.  I was determined not to invest big bucks in aftermarket stuff to do it.   To this end there are a number of improvements I focused on to get what I wanted as a finished product:

  1. Dress up the cockpit enough for a closed canopy inspection.

  2. Scratch build a nose wheel well.

  3. Add intake guards to make up for the poorly detailed intakes and fuselage interior.

  4. Full panel line re-scribe.

  5. Auxiliary air blow in doors on intake sides to show rested position (top ones open under gravity).

  6. External antennas and nose pitot to be replaced. Upper Red anti collision beacon to be relocated and scratch built in the correct location to the port side of the aircraft centreline.

  7. Dummy AIM9 training round with seeker cover  made from scratch.

The cockpit was detailed with some styrene scraps and a spare resin seat which looked like it would fit the bill.  The control column also came from the spares box. The kit panel was in decal form so this was cut up and applied over the built up areas on the instrument panel.  A HUD/Gunsight was also made from scratch.. The nose wheel was fabricated in two sections which came together with the fuselage halves.  It is not actually deep enough to take the nose wheel but provides an adequate representation.  The intake blow in doors were next, each intake lip is a separate piece which joins the fuselage on the line of these doors.
I cheated and used my razor saw and files to “represent” the top  doors in varying degrees of droop.  Not 100% accurate but an Ok effect for this project.

The other major improvement was the intake covers, I found pictures of two different styles - solid red panels and vinyl covered foam bags. The latter looked much more interesting and proved very easy to make.  Once the intake lips were fixed to the fuselage I blocked up the interior with tissue paper.  I mixed up some milliput and filled the intakes to the front edge packing it in so that I had a solid core. Whilst it is still soft using  wet tools shape it to look like a bag in a hole. Making sure that I made a slight recess around the very edge, once this has had a dark wash around it it really looks like a removable item. Although not necessary in this case these can also add considerable weight forward of the main gear. I added some ring handles from fine wire.

The rest of the modifications were of a more mundane nature – panel line re-scribe,  pitot probe replaced with steel pin,  also the interior of the open airbrake bay was given some dressing.

The engine exhaust nozzles from the airfix kit are one piece and solid – however some clever painting enabled these to look presentable –these were added to the blanked off holes in the fuselage after some adjusting. The engine cover doors were fitted best as I could with some mountings made from scraps. The resultant gaps were filled and sanded and panel lines restored with the scriber.


As  with all my models I use enamels thinned with multi purpose thinners. For the airframe colour which in real life is Extra Dark Sea Grey ( which I would normally lighten for scale),  I used Dark Sea Grey straight from the bottle. This to my eye gave an appropriate colour when compared to reference.  Black for the radome and light aircraft grey for the wheel wells and gear. Tamiya clear enamel gloss prior to decals and weathering.


The decals were from Sky Models, which offered a fantastic number of British Harriers on the one sheet. Great value for money.  My chosen subject was aircraft 711 from 899 Sqn Fleet Air Arm with the winged fist on the tail.  What the Sky Models sheet did not include were all the stencils etc which were taken from the Tamiya  decal sheet.


The  model received an acrylic panel line wash followed by an overall coat of 90% Testors Dullcote mixed with 10% Glosscote.  To add some shading I then tinted my Dullcote mix with some drops of enamel paint and applied in areas where I wanted exhaust stains or shading.   The Roundels were very bright from sky models so they got several shots of this dirty dullcote to tone them down.


Overall this model was a lot of work and there were times when I thought that It would beat me, but I persevered and I am quite happy with the finished product and learnt a lot in the process.   I hope you like it.

© Andrew Perren


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