ESCI 1/72 Sea Harrier FRS.1

KIT #: 9030
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 1983 release


The British Aerospace Sea Harrier is a naval short take-off and vertical landing/vertical take-off and landing jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft. It is the second member of the Harrier family developed. It first entered service with the Royal Navy in April 1980 as the Sea Harrier FRS1 and became informally known as the "Shar". Unusual in an era in which most naval and land-based air superiority fighters were large and supersonic, the principal role of the subsonic Sea Harrier was to provide air defence for Royal Navy task groups centred around the aircraft carriers.

The Sea Harrier served in the Falklands War and the Balkans conflicts; on all occasions it mainly operated from aircraft carriers positioned within the conflict zone. Its usage in the Falklands War was its most high profile and important success, when it was the only fixed-wing fighter available to protect the British Task Force. The Sea Harriers were credited with 20 enemy aircraft during the conflict; 2 Sea Harriers were lost to enemy ground fire. They were also used to launch ground attacks in the same manner as the Harriers operated by the Royal Air Force.


Back in the 1980s, I built a lot of 1/72 ESCI kits. They are nicely tooled, fit well, and provided interesting subjects. The Sea Harrier kits shares a lot with the standard Harrier kits, differing only in the separate nose sections. The cockpit tub uses decals for the side consoles and also for the instrument panel. A single piece seat is somewhat generic and those who want greater accuracy will want to replace it with aftermarket.

The short intake leads to a compressor stage, which can clearly be seen. The exhaust nozzles can be posed in any position the builder requires. The aft landing gear need to be installed prior to closing the fuselage halves. Fin and tailplanes are separate and attached at this time, along with the nose section. Intakes are molded with all the small doors closed; normally the upper ones would be open when on the ground.

Nose gear doors will need to be cut apart as they are molded in one piece. The kit includes wing and fuselage pylons. One is also provided with either 25mm canon pods or strakes. The latter are generally fit if the aircraft is not planning to go into combat. Windscreen and canopy are separate and the canopy can be posed open. For things under wings there are two fuel tanks for the inner pylons and Sidewinders with rails for the outer pylons. There are various small antennas that are butt fit onto various parts of the fuselage.

Instructions are well done with various paint references. Two options from 899 NAS are provided. One is the dark grey box art plane that has only nose insignia. The underside of the wings are a lighter shade of grey. The other option has full insignia and is an overall lighter shade of grey. A bit of research will give the proper name for these greys. The small decal sheet is well done, but is probably no longer usable without at least providing an extra coat of clear film to prevent them from breaking up. There are aftermarket markings out there for these aircraft.  


ESCI kits are generally a lot of fun to build and won't have the modeler getting frustrated over tiny parts. They look great on the shelf and are well worth seeking. A quick look via a search engine shows a number of these and similar Harriers available in the $15-20 range. The kit can be found in Italeri boxes as well. I've also seen these kits at lower prices from vendors at shows.


April 2023

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