North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco
Operational History

The OV-10 served in the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, as well as in the service of a number of other countries. A total of 81 0V-10 Broncos were ultimately lost during the course of the Vietnam War, to all causes: USAF - 64, USN - seven, and the USMC - ten.


It was first acquired by the U.S. Marine Corps. Each of the Marine Corps' two observation squadrons had 18 aircraft, nine OV-10As and nine OV-10Ds night observation aircraft. There was also a Marine Air Reserve squadron. The OV-10 was phased out of the Marine Corps in 1995.

The U.S. Marine Corps OV-10 Night Observation Gunship (NOGS) program modified four OV-10As to include a turreted forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor and turreted M197 20 mm gun slaved to the FLIR aimpoint. NOGS succeeded in Vietnam, but funds to convert more aircraft were not approved. NOGS evolved into the NOS OV-10D, which included a laser designator, but no gun. The U.S. Marine Corps lost ten OV-10's during the war, to all causes.

Operation as forward air controllers in the U.S. Marines continued through July 1994, when the Broncos were decommissioned in large part to two Broncos being shot down during Operation Desert Storm due to a lack of effective infrared countermeasures equipment. Forward air control passed mostly to ground units with laser designators and digital radios (GFACs) and the F/A-18D (two-seat) Hornet. Most operational U.S. Broncos were reassigned to civil governments in the U.S. Some were sold to other countries.


The USAF acquired the Bronco primarily as a FAC aircraft. The first USAF OV-10As for combat arrived in Vietnam on 31 July 1968. At least 157 OV-10As were delivered to the USAF before production ended in April 1969. The USAF lost 64 OV-10 Broncos during the war, to all causes.

In 1971, the 23d Tactical Air Support Squadron's Broncos at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base received PAVE NAIL modifications. NAIL was the radio handle of this squadron. PAVE was a pod manufactured by Loral Aerospace, mounted under the fuselage, containing a gyro-stabilized optics system. In the back of the aircraft was a Loran-C navigational radio with integrated electronics. PAVE NAIL illuminated targets for laser-guided precision bombs and used the laser/loran system to find downed aircrews. The program was very successful, but all this equipment was removed before the aircraft left South East Asia.


The U.S. Navy formed VAL-4 on 3 January 1969, and operated in Vietnam from April 1969 through April 1972. The Navy used the Bronco OV-10A as a light ground attack aircraft, for interdiction of enemy logistics, and fire-support of Marines, SEALs and river boats. It succeeded in this role. The US Navy lost seven OV-10s during the Vietnam War, to all causes.

International Use


In 1991, the USAF provided the Colombian Air Force with 12 OV-10A aircraft. Later, three ex-USMC -A models were also acquired to provide parts support. Colombia still operates the aircraft in a COIN role against an active insurgency, and at least one aircraft has been lost in combat. Currently the U.S.State Dept. in conjunction with the Colombian government operates at least 4 OV-10's. One has been outfitted with spray equipment to spray poppy fields, one has munitions, and two are used for observation.

Indonesia Indonesia purchased 12 OV-10F aircraft and operates them in COIN operations similar to the US Navy's Vietnam missions with their Broncos, but have retrofitted .50-calibre (12.7 mm) Browning heavy machine guns in place of the light 7.62 mm (.30 calibre) machine guns. These aircraft were vital in the invasion of East Timor and ensuing COIN operations.

Philippines The Philippine Air Force (PAF) flies Broncos on search-and-rescue and COIN operations in various parts of the Philippines. Some of the aircraft were acquired from Thailand when that country phased out their OV-10Cs. The PAF Broncos are operated by the 16th and the 25th attack squadrons the 15th Strike Wing based in Sangley Point, Cavite. The first two women combat pilots in the PAF flew OV-10s with the 16th. This squadron flew anti-terrorist operations in the Jolo Islands.

Recent modifications by the PAF included upgrades in the engine and propeller (now sporting a four-bladed propeller), and flight controls and sensors.


The Royal Thai Air Force purchased 32 new OV-10C aircraft in the early 1970s for COIN usage. Reportedly Broncos won most Thai bombing competitions until heavily automated F-5s became available. At one time Thailand even flew OV-10 Broncos as air-defense aircraft. In 2004, the RTAF transferred most of the OV-10s to the Philippines. The remaining aircraft are in the Tango Squadron Wing 41 Museum in Chiang Mai and the RTAF Museum in Bangkok.


The Venezuelan Air Force has operated a number of OV-10Es over the years. On 27 November 1992, the aircraft were widely used by mutinied officers who staged a Coup d'Etat against former President Carlos Andrés Pérez. The rebels dropped bombs and launched rockets against Police and government buildings in Caracas. Several planes were shot down during the uprising.

Civilian use


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acquired seven OV-10As for use as air attack aircraft, including the YOV-10A prototype. In this role, they would lead firefighting air tankers through their intended flight path over their target area. The aircraft were operated in their basic military configurations, but with their ejection seats disabled. The aircraft's existing smoke system was used to mark the path for the following air tankers. With the age of the aircraft, spare parts were difficult to obtain, and the BLM retired their fleet in 1999.


The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF or CALFIRE) has acquired a number of OV-10As, including the six surviving aircraft from the BLM and 13 U.S. Navy in 1993 to replace their existing Cessna O-2 Skymasters as air attack aircraft. The CAL FIRE Broncos fly with a crew of two, a pilot and the Air Attack Officer, whose job it is to coordinate all aerial assets on a fire with the Incident Commander on the ground. Thus, besides serving as a tanker lead-in aircraft, the OV-10A is also the aerial platform from which the entire air operation is coordinated.

CDF Bronco.

Wikipedia: OV-10 Bronco