Anigrand 1/144 P.1185 Supersonic Harrier

KIT #: AA4036
PRICE: $88.00 SRP
DECALS: One option
NOTES:  Kit also includes a Nimrod, Merling and Islander. Resin


As defence budgets tightened through the 1970s, the Royal Navy realised it was not going to get a replacement for its carriers like Ark Royal and Victorious. The RAF's Harrier was being converted into a carrier version to fly off the so-called "through deck cruisers", but they were still subsonic aircraft with no BVR capability, and the ships were too small to fly big jets like Phantoms. Together with the Americans, the British looked at ways to get more out of the Harrier, while maintaining its excellent VSTOL capabilities which made small carriers practical for their needs. The design was the P.1185, known also as the AV-16.* 

The Super Harrier won the contract for the next stage of the Sea Harrier, defeating the subsonic FA.2 proposal. It entered British service too late for the Falklands war but served in the first Gulf War, primarily in the close support role. It was well-liked for its dash speed and decent payload, acceptable range with drop tanks, and ability to defend itself in a pinch with four AIM-9s but no cannon. The capability to self-designate smart weapons was never integrated into the aircraft, mainly for cost reasons but also because the distinctive under-fuselage inlet door, which allowed VTOL and supersonic performance in the same airframe, meant that the underbelly was not available to carry stores (and for the same reason, it had no cannon). As a result, the aircraft began to be of limited use in close air support after the Gulf War, because of increasing concerns about the risk of civilian casualties. For this reason, it only flew "No Fly Zone" missions during operations over the former Yugoslavia in the late 1990s. Super Harriers shot down two Serbian fighters; one was hit by a SAM. A flight of Super Harriers was detached to support UK operations in Afghanistan in 2002, but the inability to self-designate smart weapons and the lack of a gun quickly saw the type's withdrawal from that theatre.
The Supersonic Harriers were abruptly phased out of Royal Navy service in 2006 despite the airframes being sound. Rather than upgrade its radar and systems, the planes were retired pending the arrival of the F-35 at some increasingly unclear point in the future. As a result, the Royal Navy had no fixed wing aircraft on its carriers and made no further air contribution to UK military operations over Syria, Iraq, Libya and, in 2016, the South China Sea. 

This aircraft is depicted in its Gulf War era close-support fit. In 1991, Supers flown by No. 810 NAS were given the Z tail code as a subtle recognition to the 1956 Suez operations flown by No. 810 Squadron. Because of the need for cross-decking with US carriers, the warning labels for the jet intakes were required to be added. The Royal Navy crewmen who applied them put them on backwards, as there was no room in the customary space aft of the intakes. As a result, the US crew zapped this aircraft on the rear fuselage.

Generally, Super Harriers flying close support carried four normal bombs on the inner pylons, line abreast because there was insufficient clearance from the side-mounted exhausts, a pair of fuel tanks and then, if needed, twin launchers for AIM-9s on the outboard pylons.
*Everything after this is not true. The P.1185 was a paper study only. The Sea Harrier FRS.1 was upgraded to the FA.2 which could fire AMRAAMs, served over Yugoslavia, but remained subsonic. 
Don't freak out about the $88 price tag - this is a bonus kit which comes with Anigrand's 1/144 Nimrod MR2. You also get a Merlin HC.3 and a Britten Norman Islander Defender. See my preview right here on MM: .
This is moulded very cleanly in yellow resin with engraved panel lines similar to what you'd find in a recent Airfix kit - a bit much for some but ok by me. The small details are nicely done, especially the underwing stores. The twin Sidewinder rails are really a work of art, very delicate with nice thin fins. There are also two fuel tanks and two so-called Red Top missiles, one for each inboard pylon. Just why there are Red Tops is a bit of mystery, as these were already pretty ancient by the 1980s when the P.1185 study was underway. Postscript: later I realised that it was only the instructions that call these Red Tops. I think they are maybe meant to be Harpoons, though they are way too short. Or something else, perhaps?
 I was a bit disappointed when I put this together because it wasn't nearly as neatly fitting as the Defender I built first from this combo set (you can see that review here on MM or the Merlin (review here). The resin itself was okay, with no obvious blemishes, but the fit was poor. I had to use a fair bit of filler on the top fuselage seam, and some below too. There were also gaps in the wing root, and the nose cone needed quite a bit of sanding to deal with the poor alignment. Tamiya filler worked ok, though I need two applications to really fill the gap.

It's a small aircraft with minimal parts. 
The underwing pylons were a bit troublesome and if you look carefully you can see the fuel tanks aren't aligned as well as they might be. The two twin-launcher Sidewinder rails and missiles are single-piece items that come with the kit. The bomb pylons inboard are scratchbuilt, using bombs from some other 1/144 kit I had.

The canopy is reasonably clear, considering it's resin, but the fit isn't perfect. I used a bit (a lot) of filler here, too. Please remember this is very small and close-up photos are very unforgiving. The undercarriage is surprisingly easy to manage. One tricky bit with Harrier builds, or any other plane with outrigger undercarriage, is to get everything aligned so the plane doesn't sit lopsided. To do this I added the outriggers and nose wheel first, and then very carefully trimmed the centerline main gear to sit at precisely the correct length. It was easier than it sounds.
Well, this is a whiffer, really, so I had to make up my own scheme. Actually I had more suitable decals for an American version, but to me the Harrier is a British plane, and therefore I wanted to try for a Fleet Air Arm look. What colours to use? Extra dark sea grey looks cooler to me than the grey the RN used on its FA.2 Harriers so I went with that, using enamels from Gunze. It stuck happily to the resin. For a bit of colour I painted the tail semi-gloss black and added the Z decal which came from the HobbyBoss 1/72 Seahawk FGA.6 kit (I made mine in Indian markings). 
I have left space on the tail for ROYAL NAVY if I can find suitable lettering some day to make it. 

A neat little resin kit. Obviously the price tag is a massive disincentive if you only want this plane, but as a bonus kit that comes with the Nimrod and two other smaller kits, it's been a great side project.
Now I've built all three of the little kits, I must finish the Nimrod! I'm not aware of any other kit of this aircraft in any scale.


Richard F

2 June 2016


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