The OV-10 Squadron project is an organization committed to the restoration and continued support of flying the OV-10 Bronco, an iconic twin-turboprop light attack and observation aircraft heavily used in forward, escort and support operations during the Vietnam War and current major military endeavors. The OV-10 Bronco has served under the US Marine Corps, the US Air Force, and the US Navy, as well as the armed forces of many other countries. With its unique and effective structure, performance and armament capabilities, the OV-10 Bronco has proven itself as both an incredible aircraft and a piece of treasured American aviation history and innovation. If you’re an aviation enthusiast, an Armed Forces vet, or even an extraordinarily passionate civilian finding themselves interested in military history, this restoration project is a story several decades in the making.
Target spotters, known as FAC (Forward Air Control), play an critical role in guiding CAS (Close Air Support) against hostiles, which includes air strikes and aerial ordnance delivered in close proximity to friendly forces. FAC had its first operations in the 1960s and has undergone multiple innovations and changes ever since. FAC primarily served as air strike controllers, while also proving vital as intelligence sources, munitions experts, communications specialists and on-scene commanders of strike forces. During the Vietnam War, FACs helped troops maneuver through unfamiliar and difficult terrain, assisted logistic supply lines reach detached units deep into enemy territory, as well as evacuate and escort injured personnel. The OV-10 Bronco was a notable forward air controller during its time.
The Vietnam War was truly a highly-demanding and arduous military operation. In order to understand how truly taxing the conflict was, it’s important for a little historical context.
The Vietnam War shaped the world during the years of 1955 to 1975. It was a war between Communist North Vietnam led by Ho Chi Minh and South Vietnam with its principal ally, the United States. In 1954, the Geneva Convention established the 17th parallel effectively dividing the nation of Vietnam into two. Since North Vietnam was pledged to Communism, USA president Dwight Eisenhower gave his support to South Vietnam in 1955, just shy of military intervention. In 1957, suspected communist supporters in South Vietnam were labelled as “Viet Cong.” This further widened the chasm between the North and the South. Attritions eventually culminated in the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, the USS Maddox was attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats while on international waters. President Kennedy was assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson took office and controversially decided to send US troops to South Vietnam in 1965, thus marking the start of complete military participation of America in the war.
Vietnam is geographically diverse, with tropical flatlands, rolling hills and densely forested mountain ranges. The Viet Cong are locals of Vietnam and highly adept in maneuvering through these different terrains. They came to be known as hardy jungle-fighting guerrilla warriors that struck fear in the hearts of American soldiers. It was only natural since American troops found themselves in a difficult position trying to adapt to the complexities of the Vietnam landscape.
One particular hurdle that proved even more difficult than average was the controlling of the Ho Chi Minh trail. This “trial” actually wasn’t a single, homogenous trail at all—it was a logistics route with a vast winding network of roads and tunnels that snaked from North to South Vietnam, even reaching all the way into neighboring Laos and Cambodia. Traversing the Ho Chi Minh trail had to be done on foot, and this is a challenge made more difficult by the constant threat of communist guerrillas lurking behind every bush and tree cover.
That’s a quick view at the context of the Vietnam War. The US armed forces were deployed in Vietnam which contained difficult landscapes for them to maneuver in, faced with guerrilla soldiers that were highly-adept with jungle and mountainous terrain. This is exactly why Forward Air Control had such a vital part to play in the Vietnam War. Forward Air Control provided ground troops and command centers a much needed birds-eye view of the field, giving the US forces the intelligence required to properly plan military operations.
The OV-10 Bronco was an outstanding forward air control platform. It had more maneuverability than jets of the era, and more speed and versatility than helicopters. Developed to handle Counter-Insurgency operations in particularly rough settings, the OV-10 Bronco was developed with outstanding versatility, armament capabilities and maneuverability. It provided forward air control, close-in fire support, aerial reconnaissance, target-marking, helicopter escort and liaison. It’s panoramic “greenhouse-style” two-person cockpit gave its pilots vision over a large area of their surroundings.
With the help of the OV-10 Bronco and other aircrafts used in FAC, close air support operations were conducted successfully even in tight areas like the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The OV-10 was also multi-faceted in its use, with evacuation made possible with its roomy utility bay.
The OV-10 was the “terror on the trail,” because it proved to answer the challenge posed by hostile guerrilla operations with its many capabilities and characteristics suited specifically for jungle warfare and forward air control. Help us restore and support this piece of American aviation.