The OV-10 Bronco is a rugged, twin-turboprop multi-mission aircraft that served the US Air Force and the Marine Corps. The Navy squadron VAL-4 Black Ponies successfully used them throughout the Vietnam War.
1. It was one of the most versatile aircraft the US produced
It measures 42 feet long, with 40 feet wing span. It’s one of the lightest attack aircraft in the US arsenal.
2. Its bug-eyed canopy offers a perfect view of the battlefield below
Since the windows are bowed out from the sides, all the pilot has to do is nudge the stick a little bit, stick his head over the sides, and look straight down.
3. Its turboprop engines allow the Bronco to hang over the battlefield for as long as it needs
The turboprop gives the aircraft 5 ½ hours of flying time.
4. Its go-to weapon is its rockets
The rockets are modified for a new feature- an advanced precision kill weapon system wherein laser-guided rockets explode with surgical accuracy.
5. It has a unique night observation and target marking system
The aircraft is equipped with a night observation system (NOS) with a forward-looking infrared and laser designator or ranger.
6. It was the perfect close support aircraft, saving a lot of lives.
During military operations, the plane’s ability to find and hit battlefield targets close to friendly troops made it highly effective against conventional and guerilla forces
7. The aircraft was developed in a garage of two marine corps aviators
Major W.H. Beckett and Lt. Col K.P. Rice both realized that counterinsurgency warfare would be the next big thing. Thus, they developed an aircraft that they can operate from short straps, easy to maintain, easy to fly, can carry good payloads, and is formidable in air combat.
8. In 1971, the Air Force modified 15 OV-10s with new equipment
This is to increase their precision strike capabilities. The project is called “Pave Nail.” When a modified OV-10 teams up with an F4 fighter bomber, the result is a highly accurate air attack.
9. OV-10 Pilots soon discover that the Pave Nail System is uniquely equipped for another key mission
In April 1972, the North Vietnamese Army launched an offensive against the South Vietnamese and their US allies. Two Pave Nail OV-10 pilots took part in a massive search and rescue operation, saving downed airmen stuck in the Vietnamese offensive thrust 30,000 men strong.
Ten days after being shot down, the Navigator is finally rescued by US forces. The rescue of Bat 21 was the largest air rescue mission of the Vietnam war. The other two down aircrew were also rescued, although one was captured, remaining a POW throughout the war.
Throughout the war, the Broncos were crucial to search and rescue operations and destroyed numerous enemy convoys.
10. It exceeded expectations racking up 134 sorties and 120 combat missions in over 82 days
In 2015, the OV-10 came out from retirement as the Special Operations commanders sent it to Iraq. Inspired by its success, the US Air Force is considering a permanent light attack aircraft to its arsenal.
Over 50 years of existence, the OV-10 has proven to be a tough and reliable fighter. It’s a legendary aircraft, versatile, brave, and flown by America’s toughest pilots.