Every small unit needs a good communications officer. It doesn’t matter if the team is in the middle of the Saudi desert, the Brazilian rain forest, or behind Cobra lines under heavy jamming, communication is essential for a smooth operation. For a unit like Sky Patrol, this is even more critical. When dropping behind enemy lines in a stealth insertion with minimal support and no extraneous gear, a team needs a comm. tech who can coax a signal out of two 9-volt batteries, a kids walkie-talkie, and three sheets of aluminum foil—all what under fire from a squad of SAW Vipers hell-bent on removing these “intruders” from their sights. In other words, you need an “Audible Frequency Specialist” who answers to the code name of “Airwave”.
Like all of Sky Patrol, Airwave began life as a “Motor Viper” driving COBRA Stuns. (Okay, at least his body started out that way!) The original figure body was released in shades of blue with silver and black highlights. To differentiate Airwave from his “Cobra cousins”, Hasbro took the Sky Patrol comm. tech’s color scheme 180 degrees in the opposite direction and came up with what appears to be a desert theatre uniform. The body is painted primarily in earth tones—a combination of a dark yellow-brown and brown comprise the camouflage pattern of his pants while his gloves, cod-piece (gotta protect the “family jewels”), shoulder pads, and pistol holsters are painted light tan. The composite armor panel on his chest is molded tan while the shoulder and chest straps are dark brown with silver clasps. At first glance this uniform might appear to be an odd choice for a paratrooper but closer examination shows that there really aren’t any terribly impractical details in the molding. There are no extraneous protrusions which might cause drag or extra wind resistance during a drop, nor are they any molded pieces of equipment that seem superfluous to some of Airwave’s profession. It’s a great reuse of a Cobra vehicle driver that doesn’t seem to have a huge following and really showcases the potential of what Hasbro could accomplish with a well-executed repaint. Only if the two figures were places side-by-side might a casual observer realize that Airwave and Motor Viper shop at the same uniform store. The uniform is a bit futuristic-looking when compared to other paratroopers like Ripcord and Freefall, but the entire line was moving toward a more “science fiction” look so Airwave doesn’t stick out like a Star Wars figure in the middle of a group of Joes.
Is it just me or does Airwave seem amused by something? The first feature that I noticed upon receiving Airwave in the mail is that he’s got a very affable expression on his face. Every aspect of his features—cheekbones, jaw line, eye shape and position—belies a face with an easy-going manner and a good sense of humor. He doesn’t appear to be as old as Skydive or Drop Zone, but he seems older than either Altitude or Static Line which places him in the middle of the Sky Patrol age range. At first I was a bit puzzled by his easy-going expression until I read his file card. He’s from Louisville Kentucky which suggests that he might have that friendly southern disposition possessed by so many of my college roommate’s family. (He was from Tennessee.) He’s also someone who seems to relish a challenge, as stated by the description of his activities during a simulated artillery firing exercise. Much like Altitude, Airwave is someone who just doesn’t seem to be bothered by much that is thrown his way. “His job is not defined by equipment but by problems and their solutions” states his file card and I can see this head sculpt as being accurate to that character. It’s a distinctive head sculpt that describes the character to a “T” and shows the Hasbro team at the top of their early 90’s game.
Okay, I’m not going to rant too much about how awkward his equipment choices are. Granted, Airwave is packing a pretty giant rifle/grenade launcher combo but it’s not nearly as awful as Static Line and Altitude’s gear. (Those are some of the worst pieces in the entire RAH line, in my opinion.) I’m not certain that I’d want my communications guy packing the heavy firepower during a fight but that’s just my impression. What does puzzle me is that Airwave lacks any sort of communications gear. He has no secondary backpack as did Breaker or Dial-tone, nor does he even possess a mobile phone such as the one that came with Firefly. So, either he’s that much of a MacGyver that he can improve a communications array out duct tape, chewing gum, and twigs or someone at Hasbro didn’t pay that much attention to his chosen specialty when choosing his equipment. As of now I’ve given him a communications frame that I got with a bbi Soldier Force set at Target to use once he’s on the ground. As far as his rifle is concerned, he’ll be passing it over to Drop Zone who will be able to maintain heavy fire support while Airwave is calling for extraction. Airwave also comes with the requisite parachute pack and helmet with movable visor.
Of all of the repaints seen in Sky Patrol thus far, Airwave is one of the best repaints in the set. His colors are field-practical, his uniform seems semi-logical for his specialty, and he’s got a terrific head sculpt that makes him into a real character and not just a generic figure. Like the rest of the team he’s a bit light on gear but that’s due to the inclusion of the working parachute pack that must have thrilled children in the early 90’s. As I’ve said in other team reviews, I see Sky Patrol as a separate unit from the overall Joe command structure. They’ve worked together in the past and will do so again but they’re not part of the GIJoe team. As such, Airwave is their communications officer both in the field and back at base. (What is an ‘Audible Frequency Specialist’ any way? Does this mean that he’s baffled by dog whistles?) However he’s used, he really is a terrific addition to any GIJoe collection and an essential part of the Sky Patrol team.