Academy’s OV-10 Bronco in 1/72
By Chris Bucholtz
The OV-10 was developed as military planners learned that future wars were more likely to be guerilla-style, unconventional "brushfire" conflicts and that the weaponry designed to fight an all-out war with the Soviets was not suited to this style of warfare. As a result of U.S. experience in Vietnam and the experience of other allies in colonial wars, a set of specifications emerged. The new plane need not be terribly fast, but it must provide excellent visibility to the crew; it must be rugged enough to function from forward positions; it must have a secondary role of light transport and medical evacuation aircraft; and it must be able to fight back when required to do so.
The OV-10, instead of functioning as a dedicated counter-insurgency aircraft, became the U.S. Air Force’s premiere Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft, supplanting the O-1 Birddog and O-2 Skymaster within a year of arriving in Vietnam. The original customer, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the USAF ordered 271 Broncos, which went on to do yeoman service over Vietnam. OV-10s are still in use by Germany for target towing, for the California Department of Forestry for leading fire-bombing runs by larger aircraft, and by the armed forces of Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea. The OV-10A and the later OV-10D saw action in Desert Storm.
Academy’s new kit of the OV-10A is a fine tribute to this versatile aircraft. A major step up from the misshapen Hasegawa kit, although it shares a similar parts breakdown, the kit features better proportions and very well-rendered recessed panel line detail. The cockpit includes two multiple-piece ejection seats, a control panel for each position and a control column on a floor with molded-in side consoles for the pilot. The cockpit rear bulkhead has rib detail, but between this are two large ejector pin marks. While these will be obscured by the seats, they could have been of no concern to the modeler had the part been rotated on the sprue during the engineering process. All this detail is a major improvement, but the broad bubble canopy of the Bronco just screams for a detailed interior to go under it. Hopefully, a resin provider can help us out in this area.
The cockpit is sandwiched between two fuselage halves, with a separate nose section. This indicates that Academy is thinking about releasing an OV-10D, and perhaps a later A-model is in the cards, since the instructions tell the modeler to remove the two squared-off sensors on the sides of the nose.
The weapons pylon is a vast improvement over the old Hasegawa unit. It’s scaled correctly and includes four intricately-molded .30-caliber machine gun barrels. Each pylon has a cutout to accept a mounting point with sway brace detail, ala Hasegawa’s A-1 Skyraider kit. The wing is molded in two pieced, with the wing-top antenna housing as a separate piece. This is thoughtful, since this rounded fairing straddles a seam and could be put out of round by sanding a seam. The instructions call for two holes to be opened in the wings for pylons for Sidewinder missiles; it seems unlikely these were used in Vietnam.
The booms include boxed-off landing gear wells and exhaust vents that are very well molded. The horizontal stabilizer has the vortex generators well represented and includes an anti-collision light.
The propellers and forward part of the spinner mount to a backplate, which slides into the engine face and mounts to close off the boom. Detail maniacs may want to cut the blades and replace them in flat pitch, since this is the way they were set when the aircraft was parked and chocked.
If the kit has a weak point, it’s the main wheels. They’re the same cartoonish balloon-style tires over an undersized hub that Hasegawa used in their kits, and they’re wholly inaccurate. The two-parts struts and the single-piece nose wheel are adequate, but not up to the standard of the rest of the kit. The gear doors are quite nice, with interior detail not marred by ejector pin marks.
The transparent parts are exceptionally clear, although the four-piece layout may frustrate some modelers. My suggestion is that the windshield go in place first, followed by the overhead center panel; then, mount the side windows in the raised position. This will dodge any problems with fit.
As with their A-37B, the ordnance supplied is complete and very nicely rendered. The centerline drop tank is too pointy, but the four LAU-10 5-inch rocket pods and four LAU-3 2.75-inch rocket pods are quite nice. The AIM-9 Sidewinders represent an early version of the missile and may not be appropriate for the time frame. The four Mk. 82 500-pound bombs are also nice, though not as good as the ones in the A-37B kit. Thoughtfully, Academy includes a chart showing the appropriate locations for all these ordnance items.
The decals give the modeler a choice of paint schemes—either the overall gray of a USAF OV-10A from the 20th Tactical Support Squadron, 504th Tactical Air Support Group flying out of Danang in 1969 or a green over gull gray USMC OV-10 of HML-267 based in California in 1970. Both aircraft have white upper wings, although the two have different colors of wing walk stripes, both of which are provided on the decal sheet. The decals are nicely printed and the markings are more colorful than the color schemes might suggest.
Academy’s kit is a major step up from past kits, and has room for improvement should the resin industry deem it a worthy subject for improvement (it seems like natural Cobra Company territory!). Modelers who don’t sweat the small stuff will have a blast being able to create a lovely replica of an unusual and often overlooked aircraft.
For an overview of Bronco operations, check out this site. VAL-4 was the Navy’s in-country OV-10A unit, and they used the plane as an attack aircraft in support of Brown Water operations. Their fine website is located at http://www.blackpony.org.
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1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
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