by: Sean Langley [ ]
This book, sub-sub-titled “Falklands Fighter”, covers the history of the Sea Harrier all the way from its development in the mid-1970s to its retirement in 2006. It does it very much from the modelling point of view, so if you want to know all about how to make an aircraft hover and stay controllable, or the finer points of overwater radar design, this won’t be the book for you. The coverage is almost literally skin-deep, since that’s what the average model kit gives you and is all the majority of us need for these purposes (but more on this later).
There are twenty short chapters in all. All carry some text to summarise the subject – it’s not completely devoid of words, after all! – but the bulk in each is high-quality illustrations that will be invaluable. Chapter subjects are:
• the original FRS.Mk.1
• the original T.Mk.4 trainer
• the Falklands (the longest chapter)
• the ski jump
• Indian Sea Harriers (nice that they include these)
• the long-wheelbase FRS.Mk.2 (unhappily renamed the F/A.Mk.2, of course, when it could easily have been the FG.Mk.2), plus a lot of details of the airframe and weapons
• AMRAAM trials for the Mk.2
• the revised T.Mk.8N
• squadron histories, including special colour schemes
• colour profiles covering all schemes from the (nice) extra dark sea grey and white to the (horrid) overall grey
• preserved and less well-preserved airframes
• technical details and close-ups, including the cockpit and seat
• modelling guides.
Then there are appendices covering the available kits, decals and accessories; potted histories of all Royal Navy airframes; a guide to the colours and markings worn by all the Sea Harriers that took part in the Falklands; and a concise bibliography if you are interested in finding out more about hovering, radars, etc.
This breakdown is a bit random – there’s no obvious reason why the Falklands colours, for instance, couldn’t have gone in the relevant chapter, and the appendix does slightly overlap with the chapter – but this doesn’t really matter so long as there’s plenty of information in there, and there does appear to be. The choice of photographs is first-rate; there’s not one from which you can’t learn something useful, and most are clear and sharp. The ones that aren’t are inevitably a little fuzzy, as they were taken under fire and the like.
Some of the technical details chapter may not be all that useful. There’s a painting diagram of the Mk.2, which you can read. There’s a stencil diagram, which to be honest you can’t read. There’s a panel reference chart, which (if you can read it) appears only to list the panels and what’s written on them. This is augmented by diagrams of some of the panels and photos of others, though I’m sure they can’t be comprehensive. And there are cut-aways of the structure of some parts of the airframe, some of which seem fairly random and don’t all help much with the exterior finish. (They also look about fifty years old in style, which I rather like.) The cockpit diagrams, on the other hand, are very good and, because we all love to go mad in our cockpits (even me!), are bound to be useful.
At the end a very nice, clean set of 1/48 plans of both Marks is folded in behind the back cover.
The modelling guides are outstanding. They cover a hyper-detailed 1/24 Mk.1, a 1/24 Mk.1 from the box, and super-detailed Mk.1 and Mk.2 in 1/48. All are from Airfix. The upgraded models show and describe clearly what needs to be done to correct or improve the kits (including the paintwork), while the OOB one shows just how nice the old 1/24 Airfix job is even with all its (small) flaws. The smaller scales are omitted, though.
The appendices covering kits etc will be familiar to anyone who’s read a SAMI Modeller’s Profile. Like the monthly versions, it avoids listing absolutely everything that’s ever been produced, confining itself to what’s “currently” available. If you’re relying on this, bear in mind that this book was published in mid-2007, so it’s valid only for a given value of “current”.
The writing is clear and concise, letting the pictures do most of the talking. Like other books from the same stable there appears to be an apostrophe shortage, but apart from that the standard is good. The Falklands material is refreshingly straightforward. It would be so easy to get bogged down in the rights and wrongs of the conflict (once memorably described as “two bald men fighting over a comb”), but this book admirably avoids it. The same goes for the Sea Harrier’s retirement.
The price from SAM Publications’ website is £18.00 plus p&p. This is on the steep side for a paperback, but it may pay for itself if you plan to tackle more than one Sea Harrier.
Details: author Andy Evans, illustrated by David Howley; models by Nick Greenall and Karl W Branson. SAM Publications, 128pp, paperback.
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