North Wing Modelcraft 1/48 DERA VAAC Harrier conversion set

KIT: North Wing Modelcraft 1/48 DERA VAAC Harrier conversion set
KIT #: NMC 48003
PRICE:  $77.00 from
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Resin and vacuformed parts. Requires Tamiya 1/48 Sea Harrier


The VAAC (Vectored-thrust Aircraft Advanced flight Control) Harrier is intended to consider solutions to the "three hands" problem of flying the type, where the pilot must handle throttle, stick, and nozzle angle lever during takeoff and landing. The VAAC Harrier was fitted with a new cockpit and control system to allow the aircraft to be flown by pilots without special training.

The control system was installed by the Cranfield Institute of Technology, Britain's foremost academic institution for aviation research. The T.2 was delivered to Cranfield in 1983, the modified aircraft made its first flight in 1985, and Cranfield handed it back to the Royal Aircraft Establishment for tests in 1986.

The aircraft still looks like a normal T.2 externally, except for the replacement of the cannon pods with featureless pods containing test avionics. The rear seat was given the new layout, while the front seat retains the old T.2 control layout. This allows the aircraft to carry a test pilot in the back seat and a "safety pilot" in the front seat who can take over if the new control system does something disagreeable.

The VAAC Harrier was designed to be easily modified to allow testing of different cockpit layouts, control systems, and software, and it has been through many modifications. As of 1995, the program came under the jurisdiction of the new British "Defence Evaluation & Research Agency (DERA)", which absorbed the RAE, though DERA has now been disbanded into two new organizations, a commercial organization named "QineteQ" and a government organization named the "Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (DSTL)". QuinetiQ currently has custody of the Harrier.

The VAAC Harrier is strictly an experimental program and was not intended as a prototype for another Harrier update as such. However, it has proven extremely useful for evaluating technologies to be used in the Joint Strike Fighter.


Packaged in a sturdy box with no more than a few bits packed together, one goes through quite a few small bags in opening up the parts. All are very nicely molded in a whitish resin. with crisply formed panel lines. I was unable to find any molding glitches so to those companies that say it can't be done; it can.

There are replacement intakes with the blow-by doors realistically hanging open on the upper half. A new nose section included two new seats, new control sticks, new side consoles, new tub, new instrument panels and new instrument anti-glare panels. The seats have a harness molded on them. These are a bit on the soft side when compared to the rest of the parts but are still quite superior to the kit offerings. The seats are a bit different for the front and the rear so keep that in mind when building.

Also in the set are the two under-fuselage data pods and a new T-style tail. A new nose with an imbedded metal probe is also part of the package. Two vacuformed canopies are included as well as a mold to make new ones if you wish. There is a rear seat blast shield included with the canopies. These are not the best molded I've seen with some distortion and a few rough spots, but certainly not the worst.

The instructions are in both English and Japanese with construction being rather straight forward. One basically cuts off the nose and tail from the Tamiya kit, removes a few scoops and adds an antenna or two to the fuselage. The rest of the kit is used for wings, landing gear and horizontal stabs. I've not been able to find an image of this aircraft carrying anything under the wings, so the large slots for pylons will need to be filled. The box touts the aircraft as being a T.4N, but all on-line references list it as a T.2. The kit comes with the last DERA markings it carried, the popular Raspberry Ripple scheme of White, Post Office Red and Roundel Blue. A full size painting chart is provided with Gunze references. The decals are well printed and seem to have a solid clear covering, requiring one to cut out the ones needed from the sheet. . If one wanted to build this kit with the older wrap around camo, there are photos of it in this scheme, but one will have to come up with markings from another source.


Overall, a very nice conversion set and if one wanted to ignore the DERA markings, it would provide the basis for just about any early Harrier two seat trainer.


June 2008

Thanks to for the review set. Dave currently has these is stock so order yours before they go away.

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