Airfix 1/72 OS2U Kingfisher

KIT #: 02021
PRICE: A few dollars at swap meets6.98
DECALS: options vary by boxing
REVIEWER: Brian Baker
NOTES:  First issued in the 70ís, reissued in the 80ís and ď90ís.


The Vought XOS2U-1 was a fleet reconnaissance monoplane designed to operate from catapults from U.S. Navy battleships and cruisers.  Its first flight was July, 1938, and production models first reached the fleet in 1940.  Powered by a Pratt and Whitney R-985 radial engine, the OS2U could be operated with a single main float and two wingtip floats, or a conventional wheeled landing gear.  Variants included the OS2U-1, OS2U-2, and OS2U-3, which differed only in minor details.  A few experimental models were also produced.  An additional  300 OS2N-1ís, identical to the OS2U-3, were manufactured by the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadeplhia.  Export models went to the Royal Navy during the war, and also to the Royal Australian Air Force, who took over an order from the Dutch.   These were delivered in Dutch markings, and were subsequently repainted in RAAF colors.  Iíd like to see a color scheme of these planes in NEIAF markings. Additional OS2Uís were given to Chile,  Mexico, and the Dominican Republic, and a few found their way to Cuba, where they were used against the government during the Castro Revolution.

The Kingfishers were used by the Navy throughout the war for fleet spotting and air-sea rescue work, recovering numerous downed aircrew.  A few were even operated from destroyers, but not for long. The most famous action was the rescue of Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker after his plane went down in the Pacific in October 1942.  One OS2U pilot,  spotting gunfire during the Iwo Jima  operation, managed to shoot down a Japanese  Zero fighter, using his single forward firing .30 cal. machine gun.  Postwar, the Kingfisher was quickly replaced by the Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk, which in turn, was replaced by helicopters.  A few were donated to schools and other institutions postwar, but none, to my knowledge, was sold surplus or received a CAA civil registration. With a 600 hp. radial, the type would have probably made a pretty good duster or sprayer in civilian hands. They were  almost all gone by 1950.  Surviving examples in museums were obtained from Latin American countries, who continued to use them for some time after the war.


This kit has been around for a long time, and has been issued and reissued since the 1970ís by Airfix  (had to be very early 70's as I can recall building this in 1976 in the MPC box. Ed) and more recently (2002) by Octopus.  The kits I used were molded in silver  or dark blue styrene, and the molds show some wear, as there is a bit of flash to be removed, although this is not a problem.  Detail consists of raised panel lines, which should be removed, and some raised boiler plate rivets, but there is little detail inside the cockpit except for the seat and a rear decking which contains a turret ring.  The canopy is probably the worst feature of this kit, as it doesnít really fit although it is quite transparent.  The windshield has no provision for a gunsight,  something nearly all OS2Uís had. 

The wings appear to be correct in outline, although holes will need to be drilled where the wingtip floats and bomb racks should be installed.   Control surfaces, which were fabric covered, are represented by fine raised lines, and this is effective.  The engine crankcase protrudes too far ahead of the cowling, and should be trimmed back.  The prop is rather crude, and the blades need reshaping, although the forward section is good, showing the prop balancing weights used for prop pitch control.  The cowling is very basic, and the exhaust stacks slide into the rear part of the cowling, and these need trimming. 

The wheeled landing gear consists of three main struts assemblies, the wheels, and the tailwheel.  The float assemblies are rather simple, with the wingtip float struts being the correct shape.  One rather obvious problem is on the topside wing roots, where there is a corrugated wingwalk provided on each side.  I left mine on, although a purist would probably fill them in. Small details, such as the machine gun, radio mast, and pitot tube, are nicely done, as are the beaching wheels for the floatplane version.

All in all, although this is an old kit, it is certainly worth building, especially since its only  contemporary competitor was the old Lindberg kit, which is quite rare and actually has less detail than the Airfix kit. Pavla and Octopus have issued more recent kits, but I have not seen these and canít comment on them, although I have built other kits from these manufacturers, and they are good, although quite expensive.  Since I liked the airplane,  and had a number of kits on hand, I decided to build three, in addition to the two I already had. All are illustrated in this article.

There are a couple of things missing on the kit that should probably be added.  These planes had four retractable steps ahead and behind the wing, and photos show them in both extended and retracted position.  I chose the retracted position. There is a small tube that protrudes from the rear fuselage just behind the left wing root, and this can be made with sprue.  In addition, a few OS2Uís had an extra bracing strut on the wingtip floats, but most did not. Check photos before you add this detail.


I began by trimming the flash and smoothing all of the main components.   I scratch built the cockpits, using the seats but adding a floor, control stick, some side panel detail, and an instrument panel.  In the rear cockpit, I added a gunnerís seat, but decided to use the kit turret ring and gun mounting, even though they were not quite up to standard. The interiors were painted in US Navy Interior green.  I drilled out the float strut holes and bomb rack holes and then assembled the wings.  Fuselage assembly was fairly easy, and not a lot of filler was required for the seams.  The wings attached quite well, with  the correct dihedral angle built in. 

The tail unit,  the horizontals, also were easy to attach and line up, so basic assembly went fairly quickly.  I decided to only attach the windshield, which fitted quite well, although they could have included the hole for the gunsight, which was not included in the kit. I then masked the windshield for painting.  The  engine was painted before placing it inside the cowling, although the crankcase needed to be trimmed back so that the prop was in the correct position.  The exhaust stacks need to be inserted into the rear of the cowling, and these require some attention to get them placed properly.  

Since I was building the floatplane versions, I assembled the main and wing floats, and trimmed the flash off the strut fittings.  There is a small hole in the float sides for attaching the beaching gear, and I enlarged this slightly to it would fit the gear strut. The wingtip floats required quite a bit of work, both sanding off the rivet detail and filling the seams to get them to line up smoothly, and afterwards, I attached the ďNĒ struts, which are the vertical component of the units, leaving the other struts until after painting. 


 Since these kits, and their accompanying decals, were all over thirty years old, and they say you canít trust anyone or anything over thirty, I decided to use the Aeromaster decals from the sheets mentioned above.  I picked  an all-neutral grey OS2U-2 from the Inshore Patrol Scouting Squadron, VS-5D4, which operated from NAS Cape May, NJ, in 1942. This plane could be completely assembled before painting, as it was entirely one color.  This was from sheet # 72-183.  The others,  from #72-182, OS2U-1 b/n 1695, from VO-1 aboard USS Arizona during Pearl Harbor Day ( in intermediate blue over neutral grey) , and OS2U-3, bn 5733, from USS Baltimore (CA-68) (in the late war tri-color scheme) required painting before the main  and wingtip floats were attached.  The cockpit areas required masking, and some detailing of the engine was also needed.  The props all had black blades with silver hubs, but while the late war OS2U-3 had yellow tips, the others required the three color red, yellow, and blue tips more common to pre-war Navy aircraft. 

 Painting was fairly routine, with colors airbrushed on, starting with the light colors (white) and working towards the grey, and blue tones.  After the main painting was completed, I attached the floats to the multi-colored models, and gave them a coat of Glosscote to prepare them for decal application.  The Aero Master decals went on flawlessly, and they were a delight to work with. Decal instructions were very clear, and they did not require trimming.  After seriously considering vacuforming the canopies, I decided to go ahead with the kit canopies, which arenít really up to par. I masked them off, painting the interior color first, and then the exterior colors.  I attached them right after painting and decals were done. I then coated the models with Dullcote, did a little bit of weathering, and did the final detail assembly.  I then attached the beaching wheels and tailwheel.


There were two things not included in the kit that I decided to add.  In between the main floats are a couple of thick bracing wires, and I used thin rod for these.  In addition, and also not included in the kit, were some bracing wires running from the tops of the floats to the underside of the fuselage.  These are parallel flying wires, and require eight wires for each mode, not including the small mounting stubs which need to be attached to the tops of the floats.  I just whittled them out of thin plastic strips, and, after painting them,  superglued them to the float tops.   After they were in position, I cut short pieces of wire and attached them to the fuselage.  In addition, I then attached the canopies using Tenax, and also the radio mast.  With the mast in position, I cut a piece of wire for the LF wire antenna, and after it was in place, I glued on the connection wire to the left side of the fuselage.   


 Although the Airfix kit is quite old,  it still makes up into an acceptable model with a bit of work, and it is certainly bargain priced.  Even though there are a few things that youíll have to add, it is still worth building.  Now that I have finished three of them, Airfix will probably retool and reissue the kit, like they did with their Spitfires and Bf-109G.  But the oldies are fun, and your cost of entertainment will probably not exceed about 25 cents an hour.  Try one. This is what modeling is really about.


There is quite a bit of reference material available on the Kingfisher.  Probably the best source is the Squadron In- Action No. 119, although the large Profile # 251 is also useful.  The type is included in a number of Squadron publications on US Navy Color Schemes, and even William Greenís War Planes of the Second World War, Vol.  VII ďFloat PlanesĒ has a credible account of the airplanes history.  In addition, there are several good decal sheets by Aero Master, including  72-182 and 72-183 which include decals for six aircraft each, and #72-193, Fleet Air Arm Pt. II, which includes decals for one Kingfisher in Royal Navy markings. These sheets have color instructions, with accurate color schemes depicted in the instructions. These decal sheets are highly recommended if you are building one of these kits.

Brian Baker

November 2011

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