ICM 1/48 O-2A Skymaster

KIT #: 48-290
PRICE: $50.00 or so
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2020 release


In 1966 the United States Air Force (USAF) commissioned Cessna to build a military variant of the Skymaster to replace the O-1 Bird Dog.

As with the civilian version, the Skymaster was a low-cost twin-engine piston-powered aircraft, with one engine in the nose of the aircraft and a second engine in the rear of the fuselage. The push-pull configuration meant a simpler single-engine operating procedure due to centerline thrust compared to the common low-wing mounting of most twin engine light planes, and also allowed for a high wing, providing clear observation below and behind the aircraft.

Modifications made for the military configuration included installation of single seating fore and aft (i.e. two tandem seats available for pilot and observer, vs. 6 seats available in the civilian version); installation of view panels in the doors (for improved ground observation); installation of flame-retardant foam in the wing-mounted fuel tanks (slight increase in empty vehicle weight; 3% reduction in available fuel capacity); installation of military communication and navigation equipment in lieu of available civilian equipment and antennas; deletion of propeller spinners; increased gross weight (5,400 lb vs. 4,400 lb in civilian version), with component strengthening as required to support the increase; and deletion of interior upholstery.

The first O-2 flew in January 1967 and the plane went into production shortly thereafter. Performance (especially at cruising altitudes) was degraded due to the added antennas and significant weight increase, but was considered sufficient for the anticipated low-level operation.

After their use in Vietnam, many of these aircraft were issued to ANG squadrons which flew them until replaced by the OA-37. Other standard USAF squadrons transitioned to the OV-10. Surplus aircraft were sold to some friendly nations and the US Forest Service.


This isn't the only kit in this scale (or close to it) as Heller released a Reims-Cessna 337 kit in 1/50 scale back when they were doing civilian aircraft in this scale. With a bit of effort, these could be done as an O-2, but it took until now for a proper version to be done in 1/48 scale. This kit makes an O-2A as it doesn't include the psy-ops equipment that was part of the O-2B.

Not surprising, the instructions have you start by building all the radio equipment that was carried by the O-2A, and there is a considerable amount. Then the clear side windows are inserted from the inside so it may be wise to prepaint the outside of the fuselage before installing these to prevent having to mask them. The kit has the windows in the right lower fuselage. If modeling a version that didn't have these windows, install the windows then fill the gaps around them and sand the area smooth.

The engine is only the upper portion of the cylinders, which is nice as you'll need a lot of nose weight to keep this from tail sitting. ICM provides a requirement for 10 grams. I'd recommend the SAC metal gear set 48-390 as it includes a metal nose gear well, which will very much help. Once the nose gear/engine assembly has been built, it and the radio rack assembly are installed in a fuselage half. Then the rest of the cockpit is built up and glued in place.

Attaching the forward  and aft engine cowlings and props along with the main landing gear legs and the windscreen completes the main fuselage. The next several steps builds up the upper wing and the rear engine intake. This is then attached to the lower fuselage. The tail booms and horizontal stab are the next items. ICM has you assembling these together before attaching to the upper wing. One then opens holes for the pylons in the lower wing halves and attaches them.

This is followed by several pages of attaching nose gear door, wing tips, ailerons, wing struts and caps, wheels and pylons. You have rocket pods and what appears to be gun pods that you can attach to the pylons.

Instructions are very nicely done with Revell and Tamiya paint references. A set of paper window mask templates is provided which is nice. Three of the markings options are in ADC grey with a white upper wing section and black nose anti-glare panel. No unit information is provided, but each of the three has different portions of the fin in different colors. The fourth option is one that is overall black with no insignia. The decal sheet is nicely printed and should work well. AOA Decals has an excellent new sheet for this aircraft that you may well want to use. As a note, don't use the box art as a painting guide for the upper wing. The wing tips and forward part of the wing were not white.


Of course it is nice to see kits like this released. While not on everyone's bucket list, it will undoubtedly make into an excellent model. As a final note, ICM has taken a page from Zvezda's playbook in terms of boxes. We get a cardboard 'lunchbox' box with a thinner color box top.



October 2020

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