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Vietnam US Airfield (DS4803) 1:48 OV-10A Bronco O-2A Skymaster & US Marine Figures


Mike
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Vietnam US Airfield (DS4803)

OV-10A Bronco O-2A Skymaster & US Marine Figures

1:48 ICM via Hannants Ltd.

 

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Vietnam was a long, drawn-out war that made use of the current forward observation aircraft of the day, which were the Cessna Skymaster that was at the latter end of its tenure, and the more modern OV-10A Bronco that had been introduced into US Marine and USAF service in the 1960s.  They were often stationed at airfields behind the front line with crews and ground crew slumming it to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the size and recency of the base’s establishment.

 

 

The Set

This is a new combination set from ICM that contains their two recent kits of the Bronco and Skymaster, which have both filled a very long-standing hole in the 1:48 modelling universe.  Now we have these two brand-new kits available to us, what could be better than having them both in the same box with the addition of a set of figures as the basis for a diorama of a Vietnam airbase from the conflict.  The two kits are a direct lift from the standard boxes, even down to the decals, so we’ve taken the liberty of copying and pasting those reviews to save you from having to click around to find what’s what.  The figures are at the bottom of the review, and there’s only one box that’s barely any larger than the largest of the three component items.  Not only is it good for your modelling spirit, it’s also a great way to slim down the impact on the size of your stash.

 

 

Rockwell OV-10A Bronco US Attack Aircraft (48300)

The Bronco was conceived as a light attack, long loiter aircraft of modest size, enabling it to operate from roads close to the combat zone. As so often seems the case, the final design turned out to be much larger and heavier due to the requirements of the avionics and ejection seats, thus limiting its use to conventional airfields. The twin boom aircraft first flew in 1965 and was destined to serve with the US Navy, Airforce and Marines as a replacement for the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog & O-2 Skymaster. The Marines were the first to take the OV-10 into service as a forward air controller platform operating both night and day missions. Whilst the Bronco is best known for its operations in Vietnam, it also served in later conflicts as late as the Gulf War before being retired from US service in 1995. The USAF received Broncos in 1968 and deployed the aircraft in the Forward Air Control (FAC) role, using smoke laying methods initially, and later using laser targeting designators. Eventually it carried its own ground attack armament including rockets, machine guns and bombs that gave it the capability of Light Attack Aircraft, and made it a daunting prospect for the enemy to see overhead.  Seven export contracts were signed with other foreign operators including Germany, Columbia and Indonesia, the very last of which will be leaving service in the near future after long service.

 

 

The Kit

This new tooling from ICM relieves us all of the ancient Testors kit with its legendarily incorrect wings and nacelle locations, which could only have been fixed with the help of a Paragon Designs set. This is a relief for this modeller, as there were also other blank areas that would have required some further work.  Back to the matter in hand.  A 100% new model from ICM, which arrives in one of their standard top opening boxes with the captive inner lid, and has ten sprues in grey styrene, one in clear, two sheets of decals and a glossy instruction booklet with spot colour inside and glossy colour profiles on the back pages.  De-bagging the sprues reveals the detail is excellent, and the booms have raised as well as engraved rivets on their surface, which is just as it should be if you check out any walk arounds that get close enough to the aircraft to see them.  The clear parts have been engineered so that they fit together as individual facets, and are crystal clear, allowing the modeller to see their hard work in the cockpit, providing they don’t put any gluey fingerprints on the glazing during the build.  Overall, it looks like it will build into an excellent replica of the aircraft.

 

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Construction begins predictably with the cockpit, starting with the crew seats, of which there are two.  The base of the seats are made from the curved lower and cushion, while the backs are formed from a shell with two cushions, one for the pilot’s back, the other for the headbox.  The two elements are brought together and a small part is added to the headbox, then different rear detail and a launch rail are added to the rear of them both.  There are colour call-outs as we go along, and two warning decals are supplied for the seats, although these are shown applied to the cushions, which seems odd, but having checked some references, that’s where they go.  Every day’s a school day!  The rear seat is glued to the cockpit floor which has a bulkhead and a shelf moulded into the rear, then side consoles are fixed onto the floor around the seat with control column on a lateral support, and a throttle quadrant that sits on top of a raised portion of the port console.  A divider between the two seats is prepared with rudder pedals and other details, then has a choice of either of two instrument panels added atop the flat section, based on your decal choice.  These are well detailed and have dial decals for each option.  The divider is glued in place, then the front cockpit is made up starting with the seat again, but with a different set of launch rail parts with “antennae” to the side of the headbox.  He too gets a control column and floor-mounted rudder pedals, after which the seat is bracketed by side consoles that have detailed tops, but no decals which is a shame.  A bulkhead for within the footwell of the front cockpit is created from a number of parts, and fixed in place with the details facing forward, forming the rear bulkhead of the nose gear bay.  The pilot gets a well-appointed instrument panel with coaming and decal, plus a number of small parts sitting on top of the coaming.  This is glued in, and more details are added to the rear shelf in the shape of equipment boxes that probably have festive twinkling lights on the real thing, especially at Christmas.

 

The cockpit is put to the side briefly while the crew nacelle is prepared with interior sidewall details, plus an internal frame that runs up the side of the canopy.  You are advised to align this with the canopy sides, which have a shallow groove running top to bottom, so it would be an idea to glue the parts, then tape the canopy sides in place and align the frame with the groove, taping it in place until the glue sets.  With the sides complete and painted internally, the cockpit can be secured inside and locked in place by bringing the two halves together.  Providing you have painted the front of the crew nacelle, the nose gear bay is already complete and just needs the main strut, a diagonal support that goes far back under the canopy, and a pair of bay doors.  The underside of the cockpit floor is then covered over by a well-detailed underside panel that has recesses ready for the stubby weapons pylons, and has a small central strake added toward the rear.  Here it will be key to align the nacelle skins before the glue sets to avoid having to make good later and risk losing any of that lovely detail.  The weapons “wings” need four holes drilling in their underside if you are going to hang weapons from them, then they are closed up around a small rectangular insert that the barrels later plug into, the wingtips are added, and each one has an insert applied to the leading edge that makes up the rest of the fairings for the weapons.  These are glued into their recesses on the underside, and are fitted with shackles on the twin pylons on their undersides if you plan on using weapons.  Another small nose gear door fits to the diagonal leg, and the four-part nose wheel with separate hub parts is first trapped between the yoke, which is then glued to the bottom of the nose strut along with the other half of the oleo scissor-link.  I suspect this could be a weak point of the nose gear, so ensure you leave this to set up for a good while before attempting to put weight on it.  The addition of the four gun barrels to the winglets and a couple of sensors completes the crew nacelle for now.

 

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The upper wing of the Bronco is a single full-width part that also has a section of the fuselage upper and the twin boom tops moulded-in, while the underside is in four sections.  Before the two surfaces are joined, two spar sections are attached to the upper wing straddling the future location of the engine nacelles, and if you plan on adding wing pylons, there are a few holes to be drilled in the outer lower panel of the wings.  All the flying surfaces are separate and the twin flap sections per side are made of three parts laminated together, while the ailerons are a single part each to which are added balances and trim actuators.  When completed, the six flying surface sections are fitted to the cut-outs at the rear of the wing unit along with a pair of actuators for the ailerons, a pair of exhaust deflectors on top of the engine nacelles, and a large sensor blister at the centre-rear.  The wing assembly is then mated to the crew gondola, and the canopy is begun.  The blown windscreen that offers the pilot a good field of view has a sight fitted to the top centre before it is glued to the front of the cockpit, then has the clear canopy roof put in place, bridging the gap between the windscreen and cockpit rear.  The two canopy sides are next, and these parts are each single pieces, which doesn’t give the modeller the opportunity to prop the front two sections in the open position without taking their life in their hands and cutting the parts with a razor saw or fine scriber and a lot of trepidation.  No doubt an aftermarket company will step-in here.

 

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Building of the two nacelles begins with the gear bays, which starts with the making of the gear legs that have two main parts and a Y-shaped insert that traps the lower section in place but leaves it movable.  Two more parts make up the suspension strut, which are also trapped in place by a V-shaped insert, and then glue is applied to the previously mobile joint, setting the correct angle for the leg permanently.  It is glued to the stepped bay forward roof with a number of small parts, after which it is joined by the detailed sidewalls, rear bulkhead and another few parts to close over the rear of the roof and add more detail.  The nacelle sides have a couple of holes drilled on each side, and these are joined around the bay assembly, capped off at the front by the intakes and propeller backing plate.  Underneath, the triangular inserts with their many raised rivets are glued in carefully to avoid damaging that lovely detail, and two optional towel-rail antennae are glued into the holes on the sides of the nacelle.  The two-part rudder is fixed to the tail, and an exhaust is made up from two halves, with baffles within.  Align these carefully to minimise the join-line and check your references to get these right.  A small intake is added to the side of the nacelle just forward of the exhaust.  This process if carried out twice of course, in mirror-image so your Bronco doesn’t fly round in circles.

 

The large horizontal elevator panel is made from top and bottom surfaces plus the elevator itself, and this is slotted into position between the nacelles as they are glued into place under the wings.  You might need to grow another hand or two to make this happen, or get yourself one of those wonderful jigs like that of EBMA to help hold everything in place for this.  Four optional shark-fin spoilers can be glued onto their corresponding slots in the top of each wing if you wish, or leave them in the box for a clean upper wing.  The twin props have the three blades moulded as one, with a front and back boss, and take care to install the correct props on the nacelles, as the blades (and the turboprop engines) are handed, spinning in opposite directions to cancel out the effect of torque steer.  A windscreen wiper and various sensor lumps are added around the fuselage, with more underneath, at which point you’ll notice that the main gear is without wheels.  Each of these are made of a two-part wheel and two-part hub, with no weighting moulded-in, although that’s easily remedied by a quick sanding of a flat-spot on the bottom, just don’t overdo it so it looks like it needs more air.

 

Fun with weapons is next, and this modeller thinks that the Bronco looks best when loaded for bear, as they say.  There are two wing pylons on long supports to add to the outer wing panels, then it’s just a case of choosing which munitions you want to hang from them.  There is a diagram showing which weapons can be fitted to which pylons, but if you’re aiming for realism, check your references to establish real-world load-outs for training and live-fire missions.  In the box you get the following:

 

2 x LAU-33 twin rocket pods

2 x LAU-069A 21 rocket pods

2 x Mk.77 Incendiary bombs

2 x LAU-68 6 rocket pods

2 x 150gal fuel tanks

2 x Mk.81 Lowdrag iron bombs with optional daisy-cutter fuse

2 x Mk.81 Snakeye iron bombs with optional daisy-cutter fuse

2 x Mk.82 Snakeye iron bombs with optional daisy-cutter fuse

2 x Mk.82 Lowdrag iron bombs with optional daisy-cutter fuse

2 x LAU-10A 4 rocket pods

 

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The detail of the individual weapons is excellent, with multiple parts for fins, fuses and rockets, and only the seamlines to clean up along the way.

 

The canopy is about as clear as can be, so it’s going to be important to mask it up before you inadvertently ruin the startling clarity.  Although masks aren’t included in the box, there is a handy template near the back of the instructions that you can place tape on and cut out masks for your use on the model.  Each section is numbered and there is another drawing showing their location on the canopy.  Very handy!

 

 

Markings

There are five options in the rear of the instructions in various shades of grey and camouflage green, and there’s also a new paint set from ICM themselves that gives you all the shades you’ll need to paint the majority of the airframe as depicted in this boxing.  You can read about that in a later review that we’ll link back once we’ve had chance to spray them out.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • OV-10A 155471 Light Attack Sqn. 4 (VAL-4), ‘Black Ponies’, Binh Thuy, 1971
  • OV-10A 155456 Marine Observation Sqn. 6 (VMO-6), Quang Tri, 1969
  • OV-10A 67-14649, 20th Tactical Air Support Sqn., Da Nang, 1972
  • OV-10A 155416 Marine Observation Sqn. 2 (VMO-2), Da Nang, 1969
  • OV-10A 155416 Marine Observation Sqn. 2 (VMO-2), Da Nang, 1970

 

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The 4th and 5th options depict the same airframe at different periods, which possibly had light grey wings earlier in its career, which was later painted green on the topside, and may have been painted a lighter or darker grey on the underside.  The profiles give you the option and leave it up to you.  Decals are printed by ICM’s usual partners, with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.

 

The weapons all have stencils to apply, which are shown next to each profile, as their colours varied over time.  There are also rear and white tip decals for the props, and the large wide T-shapes on the upper wings are also included as decals, as are the tapered exhaust gas “hiders” on some of the decal options.

 

 

Cessna O-2A Skymaster (48290)

The O-2A Skymaster replaced the equally well-loved O-1 Bird-dog in the Observation role, adding Psy-Ops and light attack by the fitting additional equipment.  It was developed from Cessna’s Type 337 Super Skymaster, and had additional windows in the pilot's side added to improve vision, the superfluous rear seats were replaced with racks of equipment including military radio gear, and hard-points were added under the wings.  The twin props at either end of the stubby airframe gave it an element of redundancy in case of enemy fire, which also necessitated the installation of foam into the fuel tanks to help reduce the likelihood of leaks and subsequent fires bringing down the aircraft.  With all the extra weight it was slower than the civilian version, but that was considered acceptable due to the crew and airframe protections it afforded.

 

Like the Bird-dog it replaced, it spent a lot of time in Vietnam where it was used extensively in the role of Forward Air Control (FAC) and designated O-2B (31 converted Type 337 airframes) with the installation of loudspeakers to attempt to psychologically batter the enemy with recorded messages and leaflet drops that clearly didn’t have much effect other than supplying them with toilet paper in hindsight.  Less than 200 were made in military form straight from the production line, and they continued service after Vietnam until the 80s, when some were sold on and others used in firefighting duties in the US, while others were flown in the nascent war against drugs in central America.

 

 

The Kit

This is a completely new tool from ICM, and I’m personally very happy to see it, as I have a soft-spot for the Skymaster after building an old Airfix Dogfight Double with a Mig-15 in 1:72 as a kid.  There have been kits in 1:48 before, but nothing that could be called truly modern for a long time, so I doubt I’m alone.  We’ve had a bigger scale kit within the last year, but this is the one for me and all those 1:48 modellers out there.  It arrives in a modest-sized top-opening box with ICM’s usual captive inner flap, with two large sprues that fit snugly within the tray in their foil bag.  Within that bag is a set of clear parts, and hidden inside the instruction booklet (which has a new more modern design) is the smallish decal sheet for the four decal options.

 

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Construction begins with the equipment racks in the aft fuselage, which are built up onto the bulkhead, then the fuselage halves are prepped with clear windows from the inside, plus an insert at the rear.  The top surface of the engine is made up with exhausts and the front fairing that supports the prop axle, which is inserted but not glued.  Under this the nose landing-gear bay is fitted with a firewall bulkhead that has the twin rudder pedals inserted before it is mounted into the starboard fuselage half.  With those assemblies out of the way, the cockpit fittings are begun.  The seats for the pilots have two U-shaped supports and a single piece back each, then the seats and instrument panel (with decals for instruments) with moulded-in centre console and control yokes added are offered up to the spartan cockpit floor, which slides under the already inserted electronics rack.  The port fuselage half is decorated with a couple of M16 rifles and an arm-rest, then is joined with the other half taking care to insert at least 10 grams of nose-weight before you do.  The aft fuselage has a complex shape that is moulded as a separate insert and is ready for a two-blade prop thanks to its axle and backstop part, and has two moulded-in exhausts under it.  The nose gear leg was trapped in the wheel bay during assembly, and the two out-rigger main legs are a single C-shaped part that is trapped in a groove in the fuselage with a set of additional panels over it, making for a strong join, although some enterprising soul will probably make a metal one.  Up front the big curved windscreen has a small instrument fitted into a hole in the middle, then is glued in place and the front prop is glued carefully to the axle if you want to leave it spinning.

 

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The wings are a single-span part on the top, and has the majority of the roof of the fuselage moulded-in, plus two top windows inserted from inside before fitting.  The engine intake is made up from three parts including a separate lip, and fits to the aft of the roof, butting up against the rest of the fairing moulded into the fuselage, with a towel-rail and a small forest of blade antennae attached to the various depressions left for them.  The wing undersides are attached after the booms are made up, and you should drill out the flashed-over holes for the pylons if you plan on fitting them.  The booms are joined by the wide elevator that is made up of three parts including a poseable flying surface.  The two booms are also two parts, and also have separate rudders, which are each single mouldings, and can be posed as you see fit.  The instructions show the elevator glued to the booms before they are attached to the wings, but this is probably best done at the same time to ensure a good fit and correct alignment, then the lower wing panels mentioned earlier are glued in, trapping the sponson ends between the surfaces.   Front gear door, ailerons and wing bracing struts with their fairings are next, then the main wheels, more antennae, and two raised trunks that run along the main fuselage underside are all fitted in place, plus the four identical pylons if you wish, along with their anti-sway braces.  You have a choice of using four rocket pods on all pylons, or rocket pods on the outer stations and SUU-11/A Minigun Pods on the inner pylons.

 

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The last page of the instructions shows the placement of the masks that you are given a printed template for on the page, so you can make masks by placing the tape over the relevant template and either marking the tape and cut it later, or cut it in situ.  It’s up to you whether you use the templates, but they’re there if you do.

 

 

Markings

There are four decal options from the box, and three of them are the more usual white/grey scheme that most people know.  The last option is an all-black airframe, which gives the aircraft a more sinister look.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

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No unit details or timescale is given on the profiles, but you get full four view pictures and can use the tail-codes if you want to find out a little more about your choice of aircraft.  The decal printers are anonymous, but they are in good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.  The instrument panel decals are also very crisp and clear.

 

 

US Marine Figures

This new set is custom designed for their new 1:48 scale Vietnam era kits, but can just as easily be used elsewhere. There are two pilots getting ready for flying, one carrying as helmet the other wearing a flat cap. There is an officer figure (possibly maintenance) in tan uniform, plus two ground crew in T-shirts, fatigues and high boots.  The uniforms and equipment are Vietnam era, and the sculpting is of course up to ICM's usual high standards. 

 

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Conclusion

I’m a happy bunny times two (and some figures).  I’ve always liked both the Bronco and the Skymaster, and these new toolings are excellent looking models that are crammed full of detail that will doubtless encourage new decal sheets into the market to cater for the many buyers.  The launch of the paint sets is a clever move, encouraging modellers to try their own new(ish) paint system.  You know you want to!

 

Very highly recommended.

 

Available in the UK from importers H G Hannants Ltd.

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