Wednesday, February 6, 2008

AV-8 Harrier In Action

The Squadron In Action series is almost an iconic modeler's reference. They get many good reviews from modelers and the modeling press, but I've found the series uneven. There are some good books, and some lacking books. Being a closet Harrier fan, I was intrigued to hear that a new Harrier In Action was due. Squadron had done an In Action book on the Harrier back in the 80s when the Sea Harrier had found fame in the Falklands and the AV-8B was just a colourful prototype. Much has happened since then.

I got a copy of the new book and was suitably impressed by the cover art. Sadly, that is about the best part of the book. Apparently this In Action is part of a new color series and a good portion of the book is in colour. As expected, the book starts off with a cursory introduction and some photos of early VTOL types. Next up are the typical development drawings and then on page summaries of the P.1127 and Kestrel. The Gr. 1 gets two pages, the GR.3, Gr.5, Gr.7, and Gr.9 each get one page, but the British twin seat harriers get two pages. The Sea Harrier FRS.1 gets two pages and Sea Harrier FA.2 gets a whole three pages. The British Harrier section of the book ends with one page on the T.4N and T.8. Early AV-8 Harriers don't fair much better with the AV-8A and AV-8C each getting two pages and the TAV-8A and TAV-8B sharing one page. As you might expect by now, a major portion of the book is dedicated to the AV-8B. To end there is a three page section on Indian Navy Harriers, two pages on Spanish Harriers, two pages on Italian Harriers and a page on the Royal Thai Navy Harrier. Inexplicable the last two pages of the book are dedicated to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Hum, is that an AV-8 Harrier now? The four page center section of the book has usual colour profiles of various Harriers.

So now that we know the breakdown of the book, what about the content? Well first off the whole book is not colour. Most of the photos are in colour, but for some reason not all are. I can understand that the author needed to use black and white P.1127 photos, but black and white Sea Harrier and AV-8B photos? Photo reproduction is also very poor at times. Some of the photos are crystal clear, but many are very very muddy and dark. What went wrong here? Additionally the content itself leaves you scratching your head. For example there is a photo on page 35 of two VMA-214 Harriers captioned as "These two AV-8B(NA) Harrier..." but one is a AV-8B(NA) and one is a AV-8B Harrier II Plus. An incorrect basic identification doesn't bode well for other facts in the book. Other bad choices have been made as well. For example, one of the three GR.5 photos is a pictures of ZD412 after is ran off the runway. How is this photo helpful to anyone? The Sea Harrier combat in the Falklands is only mentioned in passing. Some of the drawings included are quite poor as well. On page 16 of my copy the drawings illustrating the T.2 second seat installation fade in and one. I can't tell if this is on purpose or poor reproduction. In addition, the drawing for the AV-8B noses on page 41 illustrates the AV-8B and AV-8B (NA) with the dual row blow in doors of the AV-8B prototype and FSD aircraft but correctly shows the AV-8B Harrier II Plus with the standard AV-8B doors. Did some not pay attention to the photos when creating the drawings? (This same mistake is also on the page with the Development drawings.)

Was there anything in the book I liked? While as I said the cover art is nice, and I didn't realize that the Indian Navy had purchased a couple of surplus RAF T.4s for their fleet, but that was about it. I do not recommend this book for anyone. The incorrect facts, poor drawings, and poor photo reproduction mean this isn't even a good primer or introduction to the Harrier. In fact it isn't even as good a Harrier book as the original Harrier In Action published over 20 years ago. Stay away.


Craig said...

Thanks for the insightful review. Was wondering about this book and will definitely stay away now.

Anonymous said...

Great Site. Was added to mybookmarks. Greetings From USA.