The mighty OV-10 Bronco has seen its fair share of conflicts, from the jungles of Vietnam to the Deserts of the Middle East; the United States military used these warbirds to fight the good fight. These planes were capable of reconnaissance missions to light air and ground support. They were even, at one point, provided as a transport plane for paratroopers. They were so versatile and reliable that the OV-10 Bronco has practically become one of the all-time greatest observation and light attack planes to have ever been made. Their success was so well-known that it sparked the interest of other countries who also wanted to have a warbird watching over their own military from above, providing the same reliability and versatility as it did for the US military.
During the years following the Vietnam War, Thailand was significantly one of the countries who first requested to have OV-10s in their air force arsenal. Contrary to popular belief, the Royal Thai Air Force was only able to order 32 OV-10s instead of 38 (as written by most accounts). Sources indicate that they initially ordered 32 and opted to order another 6 but were subsequently cancelled. The planes they ordered weren’t from the United States Marine Corps as some would think; rather, they actually had original models made by the North American Rockwell in Columbus, OH officially called the OV-10C. The purpose for buying the planes was initially for counterinsurgency (COIN) operations but was practically used for various purposes such as air defense. The OV-10s of the Royal Thai Air Force is basically the same as the OV-10A of the United States Air Force but was installed with a 50 caliber gun instead of the standard 7.62mm machine guns on the sponsons. Thailand had 10-15 OV-10Cs in operation before being retired by the more modern F-16 aircraft. The OV-10s of Thailand were eventually donated to the Philippines Air Force.
The Fuerza Aérea Venezolana or FAV of Venezuela was the next significant country to buy OV-10 Broncos. 16 models of the Bronco known as the OV-10E was developed and supplied to the Venezuelan Air Force. The most interesting story rooted from that of the 1992 coup d’état wherein rebel troops lead by Commander Hugo Chavez tried to overthrow the governments. This coupe was an attempt at developing a new order within Venezuela as a solution to reforms made by President Carlos Andres Perez. These reforms were aimed to stabilize the economy by opening the country to foreign competitors. This resulted in a lot of Venezuelans losing their jobs. On November 27th, 1992, a rogue OV-10 Bronco piloted by Lt. Domador was shot down by Lt. Beltran Vielma who was piloting an F-16. The video of that dogfight can still be viewed across the Web. Some argue that the encounter was considered to be a handicap as the F-16 was more technologically advanced than the OV-10.
The Moroccan Air Force was able to acquire 6 former United States Marine Corps OV-10As in 1981. Two were delivered in February and another two followed by March, then in April. Fifteen marines of both the VMO-1 and VMO-2 (Virginia Marine Observation) squadron were deployed at Kenitra airbase for six months to train the Moroccan Air Force on how to fly and maintain the plane. The initial amount of planes was supposed to be 24 units, but due to political unrest and the United Nations intervention regarding the war in the Sahara, it was reduced to 6. These planes were intended for the west Sahara war wherein after Spain agreed to decolonize the phosphorus-rich land, Polisario Morocco decided to annex the area and this eventually led to a low-intensity war between Polisario guerillas and Morocco. One of the initial six OV-10As was shot down by Polisario guerillas using a SAM-7 or surface-to-air missile on January 21st, 1985 while conducting COIN operations near the Algerian border. Another plane did a wheels-up landing and was scrapped because repairs were considered to be too much at the time. The remaining Moroccan OV-10 Broncos were used for border and coast patrol by the end of the war. They were then put in storage after their last flight to Meknes airbase in June of 1991. Because of their lack of service up until 1991, they are said to be in relatively good condition. One of the most notable appearances of the Moroccan OV-10 was that of the James Bond film “The Living Daylights”. The escape plane was painted black and a Soviet red star was painted on its tail.
One of the most well-known countries to still use the OV-10 Bronco for military operations is the Philippines. The Philippine Air Force acquired the warbirds in 1992. Throughout the years that followed, around 24-27 planes were delivered. The Philippine government tried to make a deal with Thailand back in 2003 regarding the donation of 15 OV-10 Broncos although it was later reduced to 5 aircraft. The PAF recognized how critical the OV-10 Bronco is with regards to maintaining the peace and stability in the country and with that, has opened the bidding for the overhauling of the said planes. Marsh Aviation won the bidding in 2004 and took on the challenge of improving the integrity of the Philippine OV-10As. In 2008, The Philippine government once again was able to make a deal with Thailand to transfer additional parts for the Bronco.
Among all other countries featured in this blog, Germany has the most radical OV-10 manufacturing request. The OV-10B was manufactured for West Germany as a target tug aircraft. The rear door present in the OV-10A was replaced with a glass greenhouse dome for a tow operator to see the towed target. The OV-10B did not have any weapons and sponsons as it wasn’t meant for military purposes. Another version of the OV-10B was made using two GE J-85-GE-4 turbojet engines mounted on the wings on struts above the centerline of the aircraft. The OV-10B[Z] did not see much service due to development problems. The OV-10B saw service from 1970 to the early 1990s.
The United States has given the Colombian Air Force (FAC) 12 OV-10s in 1991 and another 3 Marine Corps OV-10s in the succeeding years. The FAC was later permitted to cannibalize the 3 OV-10s because of difficulty to support the configuration of the planes. In 2000, the remaining OV-10 Broncos were modified to be able to drop pesticide, a feature that aided in the eradication of guerilla farming of poppy plants in the region and weed out illegal drugs from their source. Though they proved to be successful, they have since stopped their crop dusting operations due to concerned citizens complaining about the adverse effects of such pesticides in the air.
The OV-10 Bronco’s name precedes it and has proven its worth in various theaters in all parts of the globe. From South America to South East Asia, the Bronco has shown to be of great use during its time of service and is still contributing to peace and stability in some countries up until today. If you want to know more about the OV-10 Bronco and maybe even want to pitch in with the restoration of these planes, you can drop by the OV-10 Squadron Headquarters at 19300 Ike Jones Road, Santa Ana, CA 92707. Our restoration hangar is located at Chino Airport, California. You can also leave a message on our website on our contacts page.