ESCI 1/72 AV-8A Harrier
KIT #: 9036
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Initial 1983 Release


The Hawker Siddeley Harrier is a British military aircraft. It was the first of the Harrier series of aircraft and was developed in the 1960s as the first operational ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft with vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) capabilities and the only truly successful V/STOL design of that era. The Harrier was developed directly from the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel prototype aircraft, following the cancellation of a more advanced supersonic aircraft, the Hawker Siddeley P.1154. In the late 1960s, the Harrier GR.1 and GR.3 variants were ordered by the British government for the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was exported to the United States as the AV-8A, for use by the US Marine Corps (USMC), in the 1970s.

During the Harrier's service the RAF positioned the bulk of the aircraft in West Germany to defend against a potential invasion of Western Europe by the Warsaw Pact forces; the unique abilities of the Harrier allowed the RAF to disperse their forces away from vulnerable airbases. The USMC used their Harriers primarily for close air support, operating from amphibious assault ships, and, if needed, forward operating bases. Harrier squadrons saw several deployments overseas. The Harrier's ability to operate with minimal ground facilities and very short runways allowed it to be used at locations unavailable to other fixed-wing aircraft. The Harrier received criticism for having a high accident rate and for a time-consuming maintenance process.


When ESCI was a going concern, they produced some of the best 1/72 kits available at the time. These were kits with nicely engraved panel lines and they were generally accurate. Like this kit, they had fairly Spartan cockpits with somewhat generic seats and used decals for the instrument panels and side consoles.

The kits also had fairly shallow intakes and exhausts, though that doesn't really apply to the Harrier kit. Holes for the wing pylons are already opened up for you and the nose gear has the wheel molded in place. Same for the outrigger struts. Intakes have all the blow-by doors closed, which is standard for the lower ones, but the uppers should be drooping down when the aircraft is at rest with the engine off.

You are provided with a pair of 25mm guns for the lower fuselage. Conversely, you can install the strakes that were there when the guns were not mounted. Most the the time the guns were not installed. The kit also provided fuel tanks and Sidewinders for the wing pylons. Other options are for the exhaust to be posed down or back, and you have the option of having the speed brake lowered. Finally, a separate windscreen and canopy are provided so the canopy can be posed open

Instructions are well done with generic and FS 595 paint references. Two options are provided. One is a USMC AV-8A with VMA-542 in an RAF style camouflage. The other is a Spanish Navy plane with 8 Squadron in light gull grey and white. Decals are nicely printed, but their viability is in question due to their age. Fortunately, there are aftermarket if you choose not to use the kit versions.


While it has been several years since I've built an ESCI kit, I did built a lot of them in the day and found them not only fairly troublefree to build, but made very nice models for my display shelf. I believe this kit has been reboxed by Italeri, and before that AMT.

December 2022

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