The U.S. military is reactivating fifty year old aircraft to enlist in the fight against the Islamic State. The OV-10 Bronco was a familiar sight in the skies over Vietnam, attacking ground troops with rockets and guns while also hovering over targets for long periods to direct fire from fast movers, streaking in for bombing runs.
It seems these capabilities are once again needed in Syria, especially against a target who does not possess an effective anti-aircraft capability. The United States, and to a greater extent, Russia, has used this live ‘war fighting laboratory’ to test out different aircraft and tactics.
The twin-engine Broncos—each flown by a pair of naval aviators—completed 134 sorties, including 120 combat missions, over a span of 82 days beginning in May 2015 or shortly thereafter, according to U.S. Central Command, which oversees America’s wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, reported the Daily Beast. Central Command would not say exactly where the OV-10s were based or where they attacked, but did specify that the diminutive attack planes with their distinctive twin tail booms flew in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led international campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The military’s goal was “to determine if properly employed turbo-prop driven aircraft… would increase synergy and improve the coordination between the aircrew and ground commander,” Air Force Capt. P. Bryant Davis, a Central Command spokesman. Davis said that the military also wanted to know if Broncos or similiar planes could take over for jet fighters such as F-15s and F/A-18s, which conduct most of America’s airstrikes in the Middle East but are much more expensive to buy and operate than a propeller-driven plane like the OV-10. An F-15 can cost as much as $40,000 per flight-hour just for fuel and maintenance. By contrast, a Bronco can cost as little as $1,000 for an hour of flying.