North American Rockwell OV-10A Bronco
The North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco is an American twin-turboprop light attack and observation aircraft. It was developed in the 1960s as a special aircraft for counter-insurgency (COIN) combat, and one of its primary missions was as a forward air control (FAC) aircraft. It could carry up to three tons of external munitions, internal loads such as paratroopers or stretchers, and could loiter for three or more hours.
NASA has used a number of Broncos for various research programs, including studies of low speed flight carried out with the third prototype in the 1970s, and studies on noise and wake turbulence. One OV-10 remained in use at NASA's Langley base in 2009 with three additional aircraft obtained from the Department of State formerly used in drug eradication efforts.
The Department of State (DoS) aircraft are former Air Force OV-10A and Marine Corps OV-10D aircraft operated under contract by DynCorp International in support of U.S. drug interdiction and eradication efforts in South America. The aircraft carry civilian U.S. aircraft registration numbers and, when not forward deployed, are home based at a DoS/DynCorp facility at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acquired seven OV-10As for use as fire-fighting aircraft, including the YOV-10A prototype. In this role, they lead firefighting air tankers through their intended flight paths over their target areas. 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. Given 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 former U.S. Marine Corps aircraft 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 contract pilot and the CAL FIRE ATGS or Air Tactical Group Supervisor, 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.