Kit No. BO11
Decals: Two versions – both U.S. Marines
Comments: Simple construction, nice kit of Vietnam era counter-insurgency aircraft, older mold
The North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco is a twin turboprop attack and observation aircraft specifically developed for counter-insurgency operations in Vietnam. It took its first flight on July 16, 1965. One of its primary functions is as a forward air control (FAC) aircraft. It can carry up to three tons of external munitions, and can loiter for three or more hours. The Bronco began with a specification approved by the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Army, a “tri-service” specification called “LARA” (the Light Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft), issued at the end of 1963. Retired Marine Corps aviators K.P. Rice and William H. Beckett originated the LARA concept as an aircraft with a very small wingspan of around 20 feet that could land in nearly any small clearing and use the same ammunition and fuel as ground troops used. Their “L2 VMA” concept also would have the aircraft ground-mobile so it could be co-located with ground units and not require runways and air bases. The LARA specification was based on a perceived need for a new type of “jungle fighting” versatile light attack and observation aircraft. Existing aircraft (the O-1 Bird Dog and O-2 Skymaster) were perceived as obsolescent, with too small a cargo capacity for this flexible role (Editor’s Note: Ironically, the O-1 was employed throughout the war in Southeast Asia, particularly in Laos, where the U.S. had engaged in covert warfare since 1961 in an effort to stem North Vietnamese incursion).
The specification called for a twin-engined, two-man aircraft that could carry at least 2,400 lb (1,100 kg) of cargo, six paratroops or stretchers, and be stressed for +8 and -3 Gs (basic aerobatic ability). It also had to be launchable from an aircraft carrier, fly at least 350 mph (560 km/h), take off in 800 feet (240 m) and convert to an amphibian. Various armament had to be carried, including four 7.62 mm machine guns with 2,000 rounds, and external weapons including a 20 mm gun pod and Sidewinder missiles. The OV-10 could also carry rocket pods containing up to 19 2.75-inch folding fin aerial rockets.
Once complete, the OV-10 prototype failed to live up to Rice’s L2 VMA concept because the Department of Defense insisted on a 40 ft long wing, which made it dependent on airbases. It was not deployed directly with infantry units, and never operated from roads as envisioned under the LARA specification, but it did have four 7.62mm machine guns as its main armament, the same ammunition used by ground troops. The Bronco performed observation, forward air control, helicopter escort, armed reconnaissance, gunfire spotting, utility light air transport and limited ground attack. The Bronco has also performed aerial radiological reconnaissance, tactical air observation, artillery and naval gunfire spotting and airborne control of tactical air support operations, and front line, low-level aerial photography. A prototype in Vietnam designed to lay smoke was extremely successful, kept in service by evaluators for several months, and only reluctantly released, but was not purchased due to a perceived lack of mission.
The OV-10A Bronco was a slow mover with a maximum speed of 281 mph, ideal for counter-insurgency and FAC work, but making it potentially easy prey for anti-aircraft fire or more rarely, MiG fighters. While versatile, pilots felt it was underpowered, and trolling for enemy ground units could be dangerous work. The OV-10 had a range of 576 miles and a service ceiling of 24,000 feet.
Hasegawa’s OV-10A is a 1980 re-issue of a kit jointly release by AMT-Hasegawa in 1968. It is molded in dark green and consists of 58 injection molded parts. It has mostly raised panel lines (there are engraved lines for the ailerons and rudder), with two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and four 500-lb. bombs as armament, in addition to the four 7.62mm machine guns molded directly onto a single piece that forms the two sponsons protruding from either side of the belly of the fuselage. In addition, there is a drop tank in the 300-gallon range mounted on a center-line hardpoint between the four bombs.The two aircrew figures are fairly detailed but the cockpit is spartan, with two plain seats and a decal for the instrument panel. Fortunately Eduard makes at least two detail sets for this kit, so it will be possible to dress up the cockpit and the exterior.
The decal sheet provides a choice of an aircraft of the 6th Marine Corps Observation Squadron, tail serial no. 55409; and a Bronco of the Marine Corps’ 267th Light Helicopter Squadron. Both call for a paint scheme of overall field green with light gull grey undersides, although the OV-10 also sported a jungle camouflage scheme while on active service in Southeast Asia.