Like Rocky coming back for another movie, the OV-10 Bronco came out of a more than 20 year retirement to continue being awesome.
A plane built for close air support and counter-insurgency operations during Vietnam, the Bronco is being called to provide those same services over Iraq and Afghanistan, as an alternative to the beloved A-10 Warthog.
To test whether the more than 50-year-old plane still had some fight in it, US Central Command (CENTCOM) sent two OV-10s to Iraq, where they flew 120 combat missions as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, with a 99% success rate. Designs are in the works to expand the program and bring more Broncos to the battlefield.
Capable of carrying 3,000 pounds of ordinance, the Bronco can carry an overwhelming assortment of firepower for it’s small size, including either four 7.62mm machine guns, four .50 caliber machine guns, or a pair of 20mm cannons in addition to a loadout of rockets, missiles, and bombs as needed for the day’s mission.
One of the big benefits from a military point of view is the Bronco’s ability to stay airborne for extended periods of time at a drastically reduced cost. An F-15 Eagle costs $40,000 per flight hour. In comparison, the Bronco costs $1,000 per flight hour.
There’s also this flying gunship model tested for Vietnam that seems ideal for the skies over Iraq and Afghanistan:
One more fun trick the OV-10 does it drop a 5-man Special Forces ODA out the back. How does such a small plane do that? By pulling up and “pooping out” the soldiers from the tail door, while they are sitting like this: