The OV-10 Bronco was an innovation in aviation that reflected the needs and demands of the time when it was developed. Manufactured during the middle-late 20th century, this twin turbo-propeller aircraft had a blend of characteristics from both jet and helicopter.

Throughout the years, the OV-10 underwent a handful of different upgrades and modifications. These modifications produced the different models we know today.

Some notable models were: the original production version OV-10A; then the OV-10B, a “target tug” variant of the plane for Germany; the OV-10D, the second generation Bronco outfitted with night observation laser capabilities and strengthened structural features; and the more recent OV-10G+ under the Combat Dragon II program.

What is the Combat Dragon II program?

Combat Dragon II is a “limited objective experiment/joint combat validation” built upon the Imminent Fury research program of 2007. Simply put, the Combat Dragon II was carried out to determine whether a turbo propeller-driven light attack aircraft could improve “synergy and coordination” between air and ground forces. You can read more about this here.

Why the OV-10 for Combat Dragon II?

During its briefing, the project was stated to be “aircraft agnostic” right from the very beginning. What this meant is that there was no special reason as to why the OV-10 was chosen, aside from immediate availability. To quote, “the chosen platform was not as important as testing the associated doctrine, tactics and other procedures.”

We can’t deny though that the OV-10 did offer numerous capabilities right off the bat for the purposes of the project. Being developed as a light attack and forward air control with versatility and ruggedness in mind, the OV-10 proved more than capable to carry out close air support and reconnaissance, factors which were vital for the Combat Dragon II program.

The OV-10G+

The current Combat Dragon II effort is kept low-profile but with basic facts available to the public through effective searching. One fact that is out and about is that a couple of OV-10G+ planes were deployed to Iraq in 2016 to combat the ISIS with outstanding results.

What sets apart the OV-10G+ from the rest of the models?

The OV-10G+ is a direct result of the Combat Dragon II program, built from OV-10D+ planes handed over by NASA. The OV-10G+ is outfitted with different armaments and enhanced capabilities such as “sensors, weapons and self-defense systems such as missile approach warning sensors and decoy flares.”

Under the management of the Naval Air Systems Command and with a budget of 20 million USD, here are a few things the OV-10G+ has:

  • Garrett T76G-420/421 turboprops, the original turbo propellers for the OV-10D+ model, but with four-bladed Hartzell propellers. Hartzell composite propellers reduce weight, noise produced, vibration while enjoying durability and longevity of material
  • L3 Wescam MX-15HD sensor turrets, used for medium-altitude covert intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. MX-15 sensor turrets have different features and benefits such as multi-sensor imaging, image blending, enhanced local area processing, stabilization and weight-sensitivity
  • 70mm APKWS II (Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System) rockets, heightening the aircraft’s target acquisition and precision striking capabilities.
  • Protracted and versatile operational capability. Although the OV-10 was already a rugged player from the start, the Combat Dragon II sought to enhance those capabilities with added systems in order to reach its goal of developing a “simple, nimble combat aircraft capable of long loiter and on-call reconnaissance and attack duty, able to operate from austere airfields and under primitive conditions.”

“Flying snipers”

The final product of all these modifications under the program resulted in what aviation expert Tyler Rogoway called, “flying snipers for special operations hunting ISIS in Iraq.” Everything considered, the OV-10G+ Broncos “could observe with great clarity from on high, collection intelligence and stalk the enemy. They could also kill that enemy with incredibly accuracy.”

What does this mean for the Bronco?

Essentially, the term “light support aircraft” is being revitalized in the eyes of military aviation. The OV-10G+ Broncos are showing the brass that not everything has to be fast jets, and that the cost-effective light support aircraft has something significant to offer in all military endeavors and efforts.

Learn more about our effort in restoring this venerable piece of military aviation history by contacting us through our contact page or by browsing the “Project” page of our website.