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North American OV-10 Bronco

posted by Jiri Wagner

The OV-10 Bronco, a rugged, maneuverable, twin-turboprop, multimission aircraft, served with the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps (OV-10A), and internationally with the military services of West Germany (OV-10B), Thailand (OV-10C), Venezuela (OV-10E), and Indonesia (OV-10F). Designed and built by North American at Columbus, Ohio, the Bronco complemented the performance requirements between jets and helicopters.

Faster and more tactically versatile than helicopters, yet slower and more maneuverable than jets, the Bronco utilized tactics not possible with either. The OV-10D night observation system (NOS) featured a unique night observation and target marking system that included forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and laser designator/ranger. With uprated 1040 SHP turboprop engines and fiberglass propellers, NOS provides greater range, improved performance and greater survivability. In military operations, the Bronco's outstanding capability to find and hit battlefield targets close to friendly troops made this an aircraft effective against conventional and guerrilla forces.

The effective application of the Bronco's versatility did not end with purely military functions, however. Civil action applications added significantly to the cost-effectiveness of this economical aircraft. Military applications for which the Bronco was particularly suited include anti-guerrilla operations, helicopter escort, close air support, armed reconnaissance, and forward air control. In addition, it could be used for utility missions such as cargo paradrop, delivery of up to six paratroops, medical evacuation, smoke screening, and psychological warfare with leaflets and loudspeakers. For peacetime operations, the guns, bomb racks, and armor could be removed quickly, and the aircraft became a high-performance STOL utility vehicle.

Potential applications included aerial mapping, geological survey, spraying, disaster relief, and patrol work. Ruggedness and simplicity of operation were emphasized in the design of the Bronco. The fuselage was mounted under the wing and provides tandem seating for pilot and observer. The canopy design afforded better visibility than that of most helicopters. Each crewman was equipped with an LW-3B ejection seat system, also designed and built at Columbus, which was capable of zero-speed, zero-altitude ejections. Armor protection, a bullet-resistant windshield, and self-sealing fuel cells were provided for operations in a hostile environment. Twin engines, dual manual flight controls, and rugged and simple construction also contributed to survivability and safety. Removal of the armament sponsons and the back seat with its associated armor enabled a quick and simple conversion to a civil action configuration, which permitted the carrying of 3,200 pounds (1,452 kilograms) of cargo in the aft fuselage. For operation in remote areas, the Bronco had a specially designed rough field landing gear, required no ground equipment for starting, and could be maintained with simple handtools. In the event of an emergency, the Bronco could use high-octane or automotive fuel in place of jet fuel with only a slight degradation of power.

The Marines were the impetus behind the development of the OV-10D model, eventually concluding the Bronco's combat career by sending it (both A and D models) into action in operation Desert Storm in January 1991. (The Air Force kept their remaining Broncos at home.) OV-10Ds were preferred due to their greater speed and capabilities while the OV-10As were restricted to operating mostly in daylight. Two OV-10As were shot down by heat-seeking ground-launched missiles during the war, with one crew member killed and three captured by Iraqis troops. The OV-10A remained in service with the Air Force until 1993, with the USMC until 1994, U.S.Navy after the Vietnam war withdrew it from front-line service but continued to use it for weapons testing and development.  

General characteristics OV-10A

Primary function Multipurpose COIN (COunter-INsurgency); NOS (Night Observation System)
Contractor North American (later Rockwell International, now Boeing)
Power plant Two Garrett-AiResearch T76-G-416/417 turboprop engines
Thrust 2x 715 HP 2x 533 kW
Length 41 ft 7 in 12.67 m
Height 15 ft 1 in 4.62 m
Wingspan 40 ft 12.19 m
Wingarea 291 sq ft 27.03 sq m
Weight empty 6,894 lb 3,127 kg
max. takeoff 14,444 lb 6,552 kg
Speed max. 281 mph 452 km/h
cruising 223 mph 359 km/h
Initial climb rate 43.3 ft/s 13.2 m/s
Range 1,240 miles 1,996 km
Combat radius 228 miles 367 km
Ceiling 26,000 ft 7,925 m
Armament Four M60C 7.62mm machine guns (500 rounds each) in fuselage sponsons,  plus 3,600 lb of mixed ordnance or gun pods carried externally.
Crew Two
First flight July 16, 1965
Date deployed 1967
Unit cost $480,000

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