Thursday, May 30, 2013

Navwar / Heroics & Ros 1/300 scale aircraft reviews: BAC TSR.2, SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1, Hawker-Siddeley Harrier GR.3, and Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S.2

It's Review Time!

Back (L to R): 1/72 Hasegawa Jaguar GR.1 and Airfix TSR.2
Front:  Harrier GR3, Jaguar, Buccaneer, TSR.2

I decided to grab a couple of Heroics & Ros / Navwar modern airplanes from The Last Square, both to satisfy my own curiosity, and to have at hand for... eventualities. I picked three British Cold War classics (Harrier GR.3, Buccaneer, and Jaguar) and one almost-ran (the TSR.2).

In truth, only the Harrier and Jaguar are really usable in a normal game of FFT3; they were both common front-line strike aircraft with RAF Germany in 1985, and would have attacked Soviet ground targets with BL.755 cluster bombs, 68mm SNEB rockets, and 30mm Aden cannon. I can easily envision either type of aircraft screaming in low and (hopefully not getting blotted out of the sky by SAMs or ZSU-23-4 SPAAGs) shattering columns of T-80s with well-aimed cluster bomb drops.

The Buccaneer is a little more problematic, because by 1985 most of them had been retasked to the maritime strike role in the United Kingdom, with only 237 Operational Conversion Unit -- not even a line squadron -- earmarked to support SACEUR in the event of a general war. And even then, well, the primary job of the Buccaneer would likely have been delivery of the nine WE.177A tactical nuclear bombs allocated to the OCU; each weapon would have likely had a yield in the land attack mode of about 10 kilotons (or rather less powerful than the 12-18 kt "Little Boy" dropped on Hiroshima, although I rather doubt anyone in the blast radius would have fully appreciated this). However, it's not inconceivable that they could be used in the conventional land attack role, either with 1,000 pound iron bombs, Martel missiles, or more of the ubiquitous SNEB rockets.

As for the TSR.2, then...well. What can I say about this beautiful beast? It's been one of my favorite airplanes ever since I saw a photo of one in an old Air and Space magazine as a boy. On the absolute cutting edge of British aerospace design when it was conceived and built in the early-to-mid-1960s, it was doomed by ballooning costs and declining British economic fortunes, first to be replaced by an ephemeral order of US-built F-111s, and then latterly, by the Buccaneer -- which had been TSR.2's cheaper, less sophisticated rival since its conception. The TSR.2 was to have been a long-range, low altitude, high-speed nuclear attack jet (carrying two 10-kiloton WE.177B weapons in an internal bay) with the added bonus of being capable of Mach 2 at 30,000 feet or hauling about 10 1,000 pound bombs. Some drawings in Damien Burke's excellent book TSR.2 - Britain's Lost Bomber (which I highly recommend) show them with a possible underwing armament of -- you guessed it -- SNEB rockets and chaff/flare packs in addition to any stores carried in the bomb bay.

Anyway, on to the miniatures!


I was motivated not only for my fondness for the TSR.2, but also because I couldn't, for the life of me, find any photos of this mini anywhere on the internet.


As you can see, there's not a ton of surface detail, although the shape, nosecone excepted, is more or less pretty good for a TSR.2. The navigator's cockpit seems to be nonexistent, but as it had rather small windows anyway, this is perhaps forgivable. The underside is almost completely featureless aside from some rather unsightly pitting. There's the vaguest hint of the bomb bay doors, but it really is only a hint.

Of course, this is pretty much the only game in town for a TSR.2, and at under $5 USD for a single example as of time of writing, there's not too much to complain about. With a little filler and some paint, it should look appropriately menacing as it swoops in low over the table at Mach 1.12 to dramatically escalate the Third World War. For FFT3, I'd probably just hedge and use Jaguar stats, since the Jaguar ultimately handled the tactical side of TSR.2's mission, and had an identical payload (although the Jaguar also had two 30mm cannon, which the TSR.2 lacked.)

Buccaneer S.1(? probably)
This mini appears to have the circular (vice ovoid on the later S.2) intakes of the Buccaneer S.1, powered by anemic Gyron Junior turbojets rather than the later mark's Rolls-Royce Spey engines. But at 1/300 scale, it's difficult to be certain. In any case, the Buccaneer was a lumpy jet, and even much larger models have a good deal of difficulty in capturing its peculiar shape; not for nothing was it known as the "banana jet". In general, and especially from overheard, I think it more or less looks the part, but the nose is once again off, and this is especially noticeable in profile view, where the tail also looks a bit like a pile of dirty laundry. The tailplane (which is a separate piece) is also quite thick, though were it not, it would have likely been bent to oblivion and beyond long before it came into my hands.

There were two largish burrs on the tail's mating surface (heyo!) that needed to be filed off before it would fit properly atop the miniature, and once those were removed, the tailplane still showed a slight inclination to list.
Once again, the underbelly was virtually featureless aside from many pits and scratches. 

Jaguar GR.1
This is actually a pretty nice-looking little model, and my favorite of the bunch. It certainly captures the look of the Jaguar to me, chisel-like LRMTS nose and pylons included (incidentally, the overwing fences could, from Operation Desert Storm onward, carry AIM-9L Sidewinders), although some kind sculptor helpfully etched the sculpting date, the line name, and the aircraft type under the wings. Ah well. 
Harrier GR.3
I was very hopeful when I ordered this one that it would capture the peculiarly hedgehog-like nose of the real-life Harrier GR.3, which housed its laser ranger and marked target seeker, but to my disappointment, this miniature bore a pronounced resemblance to the earlier GR.1, which had a more aerodynamic and conventional-looking nosecone, without the LRMTS. This is particularly unfortunate, as most microarmor-scale Harrier minis are of the later AV-8B Harrier II/Harrier GR.7/GR.9 variety, which are very different aircraft in comparison with the Cold War-era AV-8A/GR.1/GR.3.

The miniature also looked a little husky, especially around the tail, and slightly flatter than a Harrier ought to look in my opinion. I thought I might be able to do a little damage control with a file, so I tried my hand at it.

Reprofiled nose.
It's far from perfect, and it certainly doesn't look amazing, but I think it will serve.

Anyhow, those are my reviews. Hopefully my terrible cell phone pictures will enable you to make some judgement for yourself as to whether or not any of these will work for you.


  1. This game is going to escalate quickly...
    Frogfoots and Floggers incoming!

    1. I'm sure it's nothing that the mighty Blowpipe MANPADS can't handle.

  2. Geez, can you imagine trying to make rocket attack runs in that hulking behemoth?

    1. Much as I love the TSR.2, I can't imagine it would have fared well against ZSU-24-4s in a shooting war. Cutting edge (and beautiful) as it was, it's kind of telling that the Jaguar could do virtually everything the TSR.2 was meant to do (albeit with only two-thirds the range, and a top speed of only Mach 1.6), despite being a third of the weight and a little more than half as long. TSR.2 was just straining against the bounds of capability for its era; it came too soon.

  3. Just a quick comment on the Buccaneer as assigned to Saceur. As a former Squadron member our war role was to deploy forward to Laarbruch with a small number of Bucc's whose role was to Laser designate for aircraft attacking the Elbe river bridges. The bomb bay normally housed an extra fuel tank and the four wing pylons contained one slipper tank, one Aim9B, one Pavespike pod and one ALQ101 Jammer pod. Bit of a one way mission into the teeth of the Warsaw Pact forces. Remaining ground crew would then be dispersed as base extras and reinforcements.

    1. Colin, thanks for commenting! Did you serve with a UK or RAFG Buccaneer squadron, if you don't mind my prying? The Cold War RAF is a subject of immense interest to me.

  4. Edward, sorry lost this Blog for a while. I was the Stacker (Sqdn Supplier) on 237 OCU so it was my job to get all the spares, kit and Golf Clubs packed for transit to Laarbruch about roughly every 4-6 months. My main job for the return was to get as much Beer and contraband back to Lossiemouth! But the deployments were based around actual exercises the were ongoing in Germany at the time. We would travel out with 2 Bucc's in the pavespike configuration I listed above and take a Hunter along with us. We would setup in a HAS on the II(AC) Sqdn site at Laarbruch. When not working on the aircraft the groundcrews would be deployed as local guards/defence force. The expectation is with a decreasing number of aircraft would lead to a lot of spare bodies that could be used as low quality infantry and supplement or replace casualties. I guess specialists would be recalled tot he UK in order to re-use their skills. Most of the time we were expected to operate in full NBC gear as the base would probably be hit with a persistent agent and contaminate the whole site. Hope that helps.