1983 Airborne

It’s kind of amazing how figures can fall out of public consciousness over time. I’m not really talking about Meme-level figures, like Big Brawler, or the flavour of the month new releases, but rather the solid and well thought of figures, from the classic years of G.I. Joe. One of those figures is the 1983 Airborne. A long time ago, it seemed like Airborne would show up all the time, he was frequently featured in Dios, and would often be one of the more common custom figures. Even his 25th Anniversary appearance was actually quite anticipated. Nowadays, Airborne is seldom seen, and usually he’s mentioned based on the fact his legs (and sometimes torso) were used on Steel Brigade figures.


The Airborne figure has some interesting aspects to it’s sculpting. The figure really appears to be wearing the same 82 Commando sweater, but with a vest over it, and some elbow pads strapped on. This is a cool detail, as the change between 82 and 83 is actually fairly drastic, though less so, if you think about the fact most new characters are wearing  environmentally or pilot specific gear. I guess, the real diversion from the first series was the colouring of the figures. Airborne has a solid, yet pale tan base colour (Which is not a match to the Tan Grunt/Clutch/Duke/Doc colour), a sky blue vest, grey, green and brown highlights, and a red unit patch on his arm. It’s a far brighter and more vibrant approach to colouring than the 82 figures had, and there’s more detailing done.

The new style of colouring used in 1983 could’ve gone either way, as the blue used on Airborne and Gung-Ho wasn’t traditionally military. The quality of the two figures overcame it, and they’re figures that can pull it off, and still look good in the jungle or desert or whatever scenario you can place them in. Airborne’s tan base being a fairly unique shade didn’t forever damn him to the desert theatre.

Airborne is one of the molds that has been partially used in the Factory Custom era, so based on how the few parts from the mold that have been done in other colours, it wouldn’t be one I’d be too against seeing fully done up. It also has enough cross pollination with other characters like Scrap Iron or the Brazilian Python Patrol member, Gatilho, that it could be justified. A more militaristic green Airborne or a 2003 style Python Patrol repaint could be very interesting takes on the mold. It’s a sculpt that isn’t too married to the character, as well. That’s one of the issues with some of the Factory Customs, in that they use molds that are obviously very popular, but it can be a double edged sword, as a lot of these popular figures are popular due to the character.


Airborne is another example of G.I. Joe’s approach to visible minority characters, in that he is one, but it doesn’t change the fact that people are people. He’s a Native American, but not the typical “Keeper Of The Land” Indian, but rather a rich off the land Indian. So he did well for himself, but also gave up what could’ve been a comfortable high paying Lawyer gig, to serve his country. The fact his filecard mentioned Oil, led me to look up if Arizona had an Oil industry, turns out it did, and a lot of it was actually on Navajo land, which is where Airborne was from. Little factoids like that, help G.I. Joe be a little more than mindless entertainment. Characters like Airborne and Torpedo make up for every overly stereotypical figure like Spirit.

Still, other than his backstory, Airborne is kind of bland. He’s best remembered for being the gunner in the Dragonfly. However that is perhaps the second most iconic aircraft in the line, after the Skystriker, so an association with that is good for the figure. It gives him a role, even if nowadays the cameo of sitting in the front seat of a Helicopter is one of the few reasons people remember he exists! In a way it’s a shame a figure of such high quality has this banishment, but I guess Airborne did have quite a run as one of the more popular and often seen figures from the early years, at a time when G.I. Joe content had started to involve more and more later era figures and whatever was coming out in stores.



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13 Responses to 1983 Airborne

  1. A-Man says:

    He’s probably the pest new Joe figure of 1983, though Doc is a close second. Airborne took what was good about 1982 and upped it, colors, detail …retaining the helmet style but making a new take on it. He could hold his weapon will and it was a good weapon. That might be be a minor thing, but in later years…wasn’t always given.

    I had Airborne but not the Dragonfly (unless I borrowed my brother’s, which didn’t happen). So he was just a infantry guy. He was the only 1983 Joe that both my brother and I each had, for some reason (Well, probably because I was more into other toys at the time). I think one ours crotches broke. Was Airborne prone to that more than other figures?

    He does get sidelined. Most people probably don’t know/remember that he had a 12″ figure in the “new sculpt” era. It was similar to his 1983 uniform, but with short sleeves and no leg holster.

  2. I’m no Joe expert, but I can’t remember Airborne getting featured much in the cartoons or comic, which probably goes a long way towards his anonymity. Not to mention the fact he’s just … a guy. A solid commando type, sure, but he’s hardly on the level of some of the more identifiable Joes, like Gung Ho or even Tunnel Rat.

    (Then again, everybody loves Tunnel Rat. Or at least they should).

  3. Mike T. says:

    Airborne is the reason I collect Joes. The ’82’s couldn’t beat out the Return of the Jedi figures. But, seeing not only swivel arm battle grip, but also the improved sculpting and coloring of the 1983 Joes forever turned me to a Joe collector.

    Airborne’s one of those figures that I want to showcase more often. But, I can never seem to fit him into many photos..despite him being an excellent figure.

  4. Zach Morris says:

    I find that Airborne’s popularity comes in waves; at the first part of this century (!!) he was very popular (a fact you nailed). He’ll be rediscovered and we’ll see multiple Hasbro variants ad nauseam. I had a bunch of ’82 figure heads and made my own LBC (lazy bastard custom) airborne infantry detachment, with Airborne and Duke leading them in a assault.

    Side aspect of Gung-Ho’s blue camo: that blue is the product of discoloring in real life. The Marine pattern woodland camouflage green of the time would fade to a light blue when washed frequently or in our Marine’s case, submersion in fetid swamp water 90% of service. I wasn’t serving then, not till the 90’s, but I found that to be perfectly true.

    • That information on Gung Ho is great to learn! I once was talking to Plastic Battles, and he mentioned seeing Marine fatigues in that Gung Ho blue. Nice to know the real world explanation of it!

  5. cyko9 says:

    For me, Airborne had a look that was a little more battle ready than the Joes who looked at home in the barracks. And his CAR-15 with bayonet made him a force to be reckoned with. He’s always been one of my favorite figures, even if his character is a little bland. He was more likely to rappel out of my Dragonfly than ride in it.

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