The North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco is a twin-turboprop light attack and observation aircraft developed for use in the Vietnam War specifically for the purposes of the COIN mission (COunter-INsurgency). It was during this time that the United States military recognized the need for a specialized light aircraft that can fight the enemy upfront, close and direct. It was because of this need of a unique warbird that the Rockwell OV-10 Bronco was conceptualized and developed.
The Rockwell OV-10 Bronco is special in that it is the link between the jet and the helicopter and that it has exclusive characteristics that both do not possess. It’s not as fast as the jet, but it exceeds its maneuverability. At the same time, it’s not as slow as the helicopter, but it beats it by far in terms of versatility. It’s in its own ballpark, truly.
The OV-10 was developed specifically for COIN-related missions, and while it was in the skies in Vietnam it handled close-in fire support, aerial reconnaissance, forward air control, target-marking, helicopter support and escort, and liaison. High-profile, up-close mission operations were where it excelled the most thanks to its unique design characteristics.
Here are 10 things the beloved OV-10 Bronco is able to do.
1. It maneuvers beautifully.
For those who have seen the OV-10 Bronco in flight, there’s no denying its maneuvering capabilities. Bob Hoover, one of America’s foremost precision aerobatic pilots has consistently displayed the flight capabilities of the aircraft at multiple air shows. The Bronco has been able to handle a wide variety of intricate missions and operations thanks to its 8g performance characteristics at speeds up to 350 knots. It has an all-mechanical, dual flight control system with a wide range of speeds and an impressively short turning radius, making it deadly-efficient at setting up attack maneuvers, as well as
breathtaking when performing at air shows.
2. It can take a hit.
The OV-10 Bronco is outfitted with over 325 pounds of armor plating, and a bullet resistant windshield that protects the sensitive cockpit area of the aircraft. Furthermore, it has five self-sealing fuel tanks filled with explosion resistant foam which has been proven to resist heavy barrages of small arms fire and some degrees of heavy duty damage.
3. It can operate in tiny and rough airfields.
OV-10 Bronco had its landing capacities tested on a specially-made washboard type of runway. These runways are developed with ridges in such a way that normal automobiles during the time period would lose function at 13 miles per hour. The washboard runway proved no issue to the Bronco, but was a major inconvenience to the pilot. Imagine driving the aircraft
quickly down a very rocky road. Yikes!
But The OV-10 stood up to these tests. It was designed with fully reversible, counter- rotating aluminum propellers as well as unique landing mechanisms that allowed it to land and take off on both limited, rough and unimproved airfields.
4. It offers great visibility.
In order to fulfill its counter-insurgence mission, and further increase effectiveness in low-flying and up-close aerial attack or support operations, pilots needed visibility. The OV-10 had a “green-house” type cockpit where tandem cockpit seating enjoyed panoramic visibility. This feature was perfect for intensive visual observation of targets and marks, as well as the
execution of demanding maneuvers.
5. It is incredibly versatile.
During the Vietnam War, the OV-10 Bronco was used by the Navy, Marine Corps, and the Air Force. Each of these branches of the US military needed the aircraft for their own specific purposes. Thus it was normal to see the OV-10 acting as helicopter escort, or in the air for ground attack, observation and light logistic duties and forward air control.
Along the Mekong Delta, OV-10s were used by the navy for light attack operations and aerial riverine assault and/or patrols.
It’s also designed towards versatility. Since it was supposed to fulfill a forward aerial assault craft, it needed to adapt to the possible situations. Thus it was developed in such a way that it could utilize automotive fuel (since it was abundant in the front lines), and that its engines and airplane parts could be disassembled, maintained and attached with common hand tools.
6. It packs a punch.
“Target-marking and light attack ordnance on target” is an understatement for the OV-10’s firepower capabilities. Here’s a quick rundown of its possible armaments, per the choice of the crew:
- (4) 7.62mm machine guns with over 2000 rounds of internal capacity
- 5 storage stations that can accommodate different kinds of firepower and ordnances up to 3600 lbs
- A center line station for a variety of uses from firepower, fuel, or storage
- 2 outboard wing stations for sidewinder rockets or Zuni missiles
- Napalm store capabilities
- Ouch, indeed.
7. It has a zero-speed, zero-altitude ejection system.
Thanks to the aircraft’s engineers, this ejection system has saved countless of pilots’ lives. When practiced correctly, it is incredibly useful and efficient—obviously, as it has the capability of saving someone’s life in the middle of a dogfight or before taxi.
8. It has both military and civil uses for its utility bay.
OV-10s are used in the state of California by CalFire for firefighting purposes. This is unsurprising, seeing that its utility bay can be used for numerous purposes. Five to six military personnel are able to fit in the utility bay for transportation or sudden surprise attacks in the heart of enemy territory. For medical purposes, the OV-10’s utility bay can carry two litter patients as well as a medical attendant.
9. It’s the workhorse it needs to be.
The OV-10 is confidently versatile and can be easily modified to fit a wide range of tasks. It can also carry up to 3200 pounds of supplies. As shown by its records during the Vietnam War, OV-10s required an average of 3.3 maintenance hours per flight hour with operational readiness close to 90%. Simply, it can be in the air for a very long time.
10. It brings people together.
The Navy Squadron VAL-4 “Black Ponies” were renown during the Vietnam War as huge successes in the piloting of the OV-10 Bronco. This warbird served the United States under the Marine Corps, the Air Force, and the Navy. Who knows how many lives it had saved or how many people felt a tremendous wave of relief to hear the roar of its engines and know
they were watched over.
The OV-10 Bronco has been a symbol of sorts for veterans and aircraft enthusiasts of ruggedness, versatility and reliability in the skies. Because of that, a team of specialists and committed individuals have come together for the sole purpose of the restoration and continued support of flying the iconic plane. That’s us from the OV-10 Bronco project.
Right now, we have the first of seven OV-10 Broncos under inspection and repair. We’re on an exciting mission of building a small squadron of OV-10 Broncos for commercial and airshow operations that will be in conjunction with the Mangic Foundation, a foundation that believes in hands-on work, giving people a hand up, and making a tangible difference in the lives of those they help. We’re in need of all the help we can get.
If you’re interested in learning more about the project and how you can help restore a piece of history while doing your part in building those communities in need, check out our website at www.ov10squadron.com.