The OV-10A is a twin-turboprop short takeoff and landing aircraft conceived by the U.S. Marine Corps and developed under a U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps tri-service program for a Light Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (LARA). The North American Rockwell aircraft first flew on July 16, 1965. The first production OV-10A was ordered in 1966, and its initial flight took place in August 1967.
The Broncos US military missions included observation, forward air control, helicopter escort, armed reconnaissance, gunfire spotting, utility and limited ground attack. The USAF acquired the Bronco primarily as a forward air control (FAC) aircraft. Adding to its versatility is a rear fuselage compartment with a capacity of 3,200 pounds of cargo or five combat-equipped troops or two litter patients and a medical attendant.
On July 6, 1968, the Marines first OV-10s arrived at Marble Mountain, Vietnam, and flew its first mission that day. The first Air Force OV-10s also arrived shortly thereafter. The nearly 300 aircraft were all produced at Air Force Plant Number 85 at Port Columbus Airport in Ohio. The last one was built in 1976.
The only OV-10 Medal of Honor recipient was from Palestine, Texas. USAF Capt. Steve Bennett (“Covey 87”) was awarded this honor posthumously after heroism while flying the Bronco in Vietnam. The Air Force has only awarded 18 Medals of Honor since 1947. Only two have been awarded since Capt. Bennett’s in 1974 (Etchberger and Pitsenbarger). Bennett's daughter and her family are volunteers and active members of VMAP.
The Air Force retired their last OV-10 in 1991, but the Marines continued to operate theirs until July 1994. Foreign governments and other US Government agencies – Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire (CDF) – continued to operate OV-10s.
Four M-60C 7.62mm machine guns in fuselage, plus 3,600 pounds of external stores. Rack mounted armament in the Vietnam War was usually seven-shot 2.75-inch rocket pods with white phosphorus marker rounds or high-explosive rockets, or 5-inch four-shot Zuni rocket pods. Bombs, air-delivered seismic sensors (ADSIDS), Mk-6 battlefield illumination flares, and other stores were carried as well.
The Fort Worth Aviation Museum has three OV-10s – this USAF aircraft, a USMC aircraft, and the production mockup. This OV-10A Bronco, is Air Force serial number 68-03825 (or 68-3825), c/n 321-15. Following manufacture by North American Aviation in Columbus, Ohio, it was accepted by the Air Force on April 10, 1969. At that time, it was taken to the Sacramento Air Logistics Area, McClellan AFB, California, to prepare for shipment overseas.
In May 1969, the aircraft was assigned to the 504th Tactical Air Support Group, Pacific Air Forces, Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base (RTAFB), Thailand. In March 1972, it was assigned to the 56th Special Operations Wing at the same base. In June 1975, it was assigned to the 656th Special Operations Wing at U Tapao RTAFB, Thailand. We know the aircraft was operated by the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron (TASS) in Vietnam.
Following the war in Southeast Asia, the aircraft was relocated to Europe, and was assigned to the 601st Tactical Air Control Wing, US Air Forces Europe, Wiesbaden Air Base, Germany, in August 1975. In January 1976, the aircraft moved to Sembach Air Base, Germany. While in Germany, we know the aircraft was operated by the 704th TASS. Although this was its last European assignment, the aircraft would go overseas once more time. In August 1984, the OV-10 was assigned to the 602nd Tactical Air Control Wing, Tactical Air Command, George AFB, California. There it was operated by the 27th TASS. In May 1985, the aircraft joined the 51st Tactical Fighter Wing, Pacific Air Force, at Osan Air Base, Korea, and was deployed to Suwon Air Base. We know the aircraft was operated by the 19th TASS while there.
The Bronco returned home a final time in 1988. In November 1988, the aircraft was assigned to the 27th TASS, 602nd Tactical Air Control Wing, George AFB. In December 1988, the last Air Force assignment was with the 21st TASS, 507th Tactical Air Control Wing, Shaw AFB, North Carolina. In November 1991, the aircraft was dropped from the USAF inventory, but its government service was not done.
Following military service, this OV-10 was operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), FAA registration N646, and was nicknamed “City of Fairbanks.” The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) acquired the aircraft to direct their firefighting missions. The aircraft arrived at the museum from California by truck in January of 2006.
Locally: Raytheon in Fort Worth used the OV-10 to develop laser targeting.