CENTCOM dusts off Vietnam-era aircraft to fight ISIS

Don’t call it a comeback. Last year, CENTCOM deployed two Vietnam-era aircraft in a three-month trial run against ISIS. Based on that success, the U.S. military is considering reviving the dual-propeller OV-10 Bronco’s combat role.

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The aged airframe flew 132 sorties in 2015, 120 of those were combat missions, with a 99 percent completion rate. Its counterinsurgency role would be a bridge between fighters and helicopters. Its slower speed makes it more maneuverable than fast-moving jets while its short takeoff and landing needs allowed it to operate from remote or unprepared airstrips. It can carry troops, wounded, and up to 3,200 pounds of supplies.

Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss what the OV-10 Bronco means in the fight against ISIS. 

It’s a battle-tested, inexpensive, and reliable platform for moving small teams and for reconnaissance. It also provides a cheap close air support option with a 20mm cannon or its four internal 7.62mm machine guns to give Iraqis the same support U.S. troops have in ground combat. The Bronco has seven hardpoints that could be updated and adapted for GPS and laser-guided munitions and Griffon or Hellfire missiles.

And it takes off from carriers too.

And it takes off from carriers too.

The planes deployed “to a location in Southwest Asia,” according to Capt. Bryant Davis, a CENTCOM spokesman. CENTCOM was trying to determine if the Broncos “increased effectiveness of airpower in a counterinsurgency… while reducing cost and preserving high-end special aviation resources performing similar missions.”

The OV-10 first served in Vietnam, deploying in 1968 with U.S. Marines. It provided forward air control (FAC), helicopter escort, ground attack, observation,light logistics duties, and waterway patrols in the Mekong Delta. The last OV-10 was retired by the Marine Corps in 1995, after serving in Operation Desert Storm.

Catch the Bronco in action:

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