Roden 1/48 L-19/0-1 'Bird Dog'

KIT #: 409
PRICE: $37.00 delivered from Ukraine
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


The United States Department of Defense (DOD) ordered 3,200 L-19s that were built between 1950 and 1959, entering both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps inventories, initially designated as OE-1s in the Marine Corps until all US military aircraft designations were standardized in 1962. The aircraft were used in various utility roles such as artillery spotting, front line communications, medevac and training.

In 1962, the Army L-19 and Marine Corps OE-1 was redesignated the O-1 (Observation) Bird Dog and entered the war in Vietnam. During the early 1960s, the Bird Dog was flown by South Vietnamese (ARVN-Army Republic Vietnam/SVAF South Vietnamese Air Force), U.S. Army, and U.S. Marines in South Vietnam and later by clandestine forward air controllers (e.g., Ravens) in Laos and Cambodia. Because of its short takeoff and landing (STOL) and low altitude/low airspeed capabilities, the O-1 also later found its way into U.S. Air Force service as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) aircraft for vectoring faster fighter and attack aircraft and supporting combat search-and-rescue operations recovering downed aircrews.

During the Vietnam War the Bird Dog was used primarily for reconnaissance, target acquisition, artillery adjustment, radio relay, convoy escort and the forward air control of tactical aircraft, to include bombers operating in a tactical role.

Supplementing the O-1, then gradually replacing it, the USAF switched to the Cessna O-2 Skymaster and North American OV-10 Bronco, while the U.S. Marine Corps took delivery of the OV-10 to replace their aging O-1s. Both were faster twin-engined aircraft, with the OV-10 being a turboprop aircraft, but the U.S. Army retained the Bird Dog throughout the war with up to 11 Reconnaissance Airplane Companies (RACs) deployed to cover all of South Vietnam, the DMZ and the southern edge of North Vietnam. Its quieter noise footprint, lower speed, tighter maneuverability, short runway ability and better visibility (even to the rear) kept it highly valued by the ground units it supported and highly feared by enemy units it flew over. The last U.S. Army O-1 Bird Dog was officially retired in 1974.

During the course of the Vietnam War, 469 O-1 Bird Dogs were lost to all causes. The USAF lost 178, the USMC lost 7, and 284 were lost from the U.S. Army, South Vietnamese Forces, and clandestine operators. Three Bird Dogs were lost to enemy hand-held surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).

Two O-1 Bird Dogs were loaned to the Australian Army's 161 Reconnaissance Flight operating out of Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy province. One was lost to ground fire in May 1968, killing 161's commanding officer. Another Bird Dog was built by this unit's maintenance crew, using aircraft sections salvaged from dumps around Vietnam. It was test-flown and later smuggled back to Australia in pieces, contained in crates marked as "aircraft spares". This aircraft now resides in the Museum of Army Flying at the Army Aviation Center at Oakey, Queensland.

As the USAF phased out the O-1 in favor of the O-2 and OV-10, many O-1s in the United States were sold as surplus. During the 1970s and 1980s, Ector Aircraft remanufactured many as the Ector Mountaineer with their original powerplants, and as the Ector Super Mountaineer with the Lycoming O-540-A4B5.

When Roden brought out their 1/32 O-1 kit, it was felt it would be only a matter of time before the 1/48 version would be released. So here it is and it would be nice if they went to 1/72 with it as well. If you have seen or built the larger scale version, then this will seem fairly familiar. The kit has a complete engine which you'll need to built up to a certain level as it is needed for the exhausts and the prop. Like the Minicraft Super Cub, the engine cowling is a lot of parts if you want to display the airplane with panels open. However, Roden makes no special bits to allow this so it is up to you to devise hinges and such.

The interior is nicely appointed, though probably a bit Spartan for some. Then again, it is a Spartan aircraft. I'm not sure if there should be any interior framework, but there isn't any with the kit. All of the clear bits will, for the most part, need to be fitted prior closing the fuselage halves. There are a lot of windows for the wing center section as well and the windscreen is a single part. May want to search out a masking set if you are not comfortable doing your own window masking.

The wing is a single upper section with separate lower halves. There are separate ailerons, flaps, elevators and rudder. It appears that all of these are to be posed in the neutral position. For weapons of sorts are marker rocket racks. I should add that the landing gear seem fairly robust so should hold up well. An addition to the kit that is not shown are sections of wire. These are for the the central upper wing and those that attach to the bullet fairings on the stabs. A small variety of other antennas fit on the upper fuselage. A note on these. Not all options carry all the antennas. You need to determine which you will build fairly early as there are holes in the upper fuselage halves to open depending on the antennas you will be using.

Instructions are well done with color references using Vallejo paint. Three options are provided. One is the box art plane which is allegedly in overall steel. This is incorrect as the color used was ADC grey, FS 16473. Note that there is a supplemental sheet included that includes the proper stencils for the USAF on this plane. In the main sheet and the 1/32 kit, the A in USAF had the stencil reversed. A very colorful overall orange plane based in Alaska with the Army is included as well. The third option is a Canadian version in overall olive drab. I would guess the OD on this is gloss. The decal sheet is nicely printed with the addendum sheet taking care of any glitches. An instrument panel decal is also included. My last Roden kit (which was several years back) had decals that refused to work with setting solutions and silvered rather badly. Hopefully, these are not the same. Fortunately there are aftermarket.


I know that quite a few folks were pleased to see this kit released. I would caution the buyer that you'll need to clean the sprues as my kit had quite a bit of mold release agent over the plastic. One thing I can pretty well guarantee, it will be a much nicer build that the previous Model USA kit in this scale, which was a real struggle. Generally available to your door for under $40.00


July 2019

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