Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The PAF OV-10 Bronco: A Short History (1st of 2 parts)

With the recent loss of a Philippine Air Force (PAF) OV-10A Bronco with tail number 630 on the night of June 23, 2013 in Palawan, it has come to the attention of the public that the PAF has been using relatively old air assets that are, according to many media reports, are "literally falling from the sky", "flying coffins", and all other not so encouraging remarks. If MaxDefense counting is right, this has been the 13th crash involving the OV-10s. 


An old newspaper cartoon depicting the sad state of the Philippine Air Force, using the OV-10 as a "model" of  crashing PAF assets.
Photo taken from The Philippine Star / Philstar.com

As the PAF embarks on a modernization program that includes replacing their older assets like the OV-10 Bronco with newer ones, let us get to know the aircraft that have been supporting our ground troops with their timely bombing runs, and keeping our territorial and EEZ waters in check every now and then for the past 22 years.

The ill-fated OV-10A #630, which crashed during a night training sortie on June 23, 2013.
Photo taken from Timawa.net forum c/o huey384.

The American made Rockwell OV-10 Bronco has been in service with the Philippine Air Force since 1991 and has been the main attack aircraft of the PAF's 15th Strike Wing based in Danilo Atienza Air Base, Cavite City. It replaced the elderly North American AT-28D Trojans (known locally as the "Tora-Tora") which in the late 1980s to early 1990s were starting to dwindle in numbers due to accidents, air-frame fatigue, and lack of spare parts.


PAF OV-10A Broncos in formation during a maritime patrol sortie in the 1990s.
Photo taken from Timawa.net forum c/o huey384.

The PAF initially received 24 used and refurbished OV-10A Bronco from former US military stocks as part of wider Foreign Military Sales (FMS) deal between the Philippines and the United States governments, and the first 5 units were handed over to the 15th SW on November 1991. All 24 were delivered to the PAF by July 1992, with some 15th SW pilots completing their 4-month transition training in Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. There were some reports that the PAF received some additional aircraft from US stocks in the late 1990s although these are unconfirmed and may not have materialized.




PAF OV-10s in formation flight.
Photo taken from PAF website.


In the 15th Strike Wing, the OV-10s were assigned under the 16th Attack Squadron "Eagles", although initially the 17th Attack Squadron "Jaguars" also operated the type upon decommissioning the AT-28 Trojans. Due to limited numbers, presently only the 16th Attack Squadron currently operates the type although they are also attached to Task Forces when necessary.


The PAF's 16th Attack Squadron of the 15th Strike Wing, based in Danilo Atienza Air Base
Photo taken from Wikimedia.


In 2003, the PAF received 4 units of OV-10C Bronco as a donation from the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), and also conducted a planes for parts swap program in 2008, wherein the PAF provided the RTAF with F-5A/B spare parts and hulks, in return the RTAF provided the PAF with OV-10 spare parts. The Thai government again donated a few OV-10C plus spares in 2011. OV-10C's can be distinguished by a "White Stallion" marking on the nose, which were actually markings made by the RTAF and were retained by the PAF.


One of the ex-RTAF OV-10C still with its "White Stallion" markings of  its previous RTAF unit,  taken at the Danilo Atienza Air Base's apron. Several ex-RTAF units were given to the PAF.


In 2004, Marsh Aviation was contracted by the PAF to conduct a Service Life Extension Program for the OV-10s, which originally was to be done to the remaining aircraft in service. 

It involved overhauling and modernizing the airframes and systems, replacement of the original 3-bladed propellers with new 4-bladed ones made by , replacing the gearboxes with new ones, overhauling the aircraft's systems and zero-timing the airframe. In addition, a new locally made 20mm gun pod was equipped on the aircraft. SLEP'ed aircraft can be distinguished from other OV-10s in the fleet by its grey color scheme with the usual shark nose paint, and the 4-bladed propellers. A separate in-house SLEP program was also made in 2010 by the PAF's 410th Maintenance Wing. The ill-fated tail number 630 was of those aircraft the underwent the in-house SLEP program.


One of the OV-10A that underwent the SLEP.
Photo taken from Samuel Forston.

The OV-10 has been used extensively in several military operations against the Islamist rebels Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the communist terrorist New People's Army (NPA) and the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG) terrorists. It has also been used in territorial defense missions as a maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft in the West Philippine Sea, the Kalayaan Islands Group (Spratly Islands), and southern borders with Malaysia and Indonesia. There were also instances that the planes were used for aerial photography and cloud seeding operations.


An OV-10C preparing for a bombing sortie against BIFF rebels in Mindanao.
Photo taken from Timawa.net forum c/o huey384.

The OV-10s were also modernized by making it night flying capable and equipped with up-to-date navigational equipment. Some PAF OV-10s were modified to carry precision guided munitions (PGM) in the form of GBU-12 Paveway II 500lb laser-guided bombs, and these modifications, training of pilots and crew and delivery of the munitions were made between 2010 and 2012. Reportedly 2 live-fire tests were made by the PAF in cooperation with the US military. In Feburary 2012 the 15th SW OV-10s made history as the first PAF aircraft to drop PGMs in anger when 2 aircraft bombed a suspected Abu Sayaff terrorist camp in a dawn bombing raid, killing several gunmen.



A PAF OV-10AS dropping a Paveway II PGM during one of the live-fire tests.
Photo taken from Alert5.com.

After the June 23 incident, it was reported that the PAF still has between 8 to 12 operational Broncos in service with the 15th SW. This is far from the more than 28 units received by the PAF since 1991, and with the continued losses of the type due to accidents and aircraft issues, the PAF has been looking for a replacement    to finally retire and replace the ageing OV-10s. Although the search for a replacement has been going on for several years now, it is only during the mid-term of the current Aquino administration that the PAF was given a confident go-signal to start the OV-10 replacement project.



PAF 15th Strike Wing OV-10 Broncos at Danilo Atienza Air Base, Cavite City.
Photo taken from Timawa.net forum c/o Huey384.

MaxDefense will discuss the OV-10 replacement program in a separate blog, including reported candidates that the PAF may purchase in the next few years. 





17 comments:

  1. Ya should have followed the Brazilian and let them upgraded your F-5s and even sell you some Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano for CAS/COIN and flight training. They would have given ya at least a COIN/CAS/training aircraft in one.

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  2. PH to should try to convince the US to give them its excess A-10 Thunderbolt II by way of its Excess Defense Articles Program.

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    1. A-10 is a "war pride" of US. there's no way they will allow other countries to have it. It's rotary-cannon is to powerful to be given away.

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    2. A-10 is undeniably a good aircraft. but is the PAF has the money to operate this type of aircraft? even if have, the US did not put this aircraft for export.

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    3. Reportedly the Americans don't sell them, even to allies. Besides, the Avenger cannon is expensive to operate and arm, this is a very complicated gun system. The ammunition itself is said to be very expensive.

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    4. The A-10 is overkill for the Philippines. Even the USAF found them unsuited for small scale close support. The A-10 is a product of the cold war designed to take out tanks hence the 30mm gun as its main weapon. It's expensive to operate and maintain. The Embraer Super Tucano from Brazil is a better platform for the PAF. Cheaper to operate and maintenance is low compared to any other aircraft that performs the same mission.

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  3. Fat chance, the A-10's Gatling gun is way too powerful to fall into enemy hands. Which is why the US is keeping the A-10. The only thing PH should look at is the Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano.

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    1. Super Tucanos need to seriously replace OV-10s. I wonder what happened to that deal

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    2. I know, the Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano should have been flying in the Philippines along time ago. Who ever didn't make the deal, should have been fired. The Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano would of give PAF a COIN Bird, CAS Bird and a flight training Aircraft in one aircraft. Even South American Air forces use the Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano as a COIN/CAS and training aircraft.

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  4. OV 10s are flying coffins. and should be just displayed in military museaums and bases.

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  5. Someday we will have strike eagles and super hornets...

    ...the day the Philippines graduate from political science and theology and move into more advance sciences..

    -frustrated realist

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    Replies
    1. ..that day is maybe far far away.. thanks to corrupt officials in our government..

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  6. Boeing has developed an improved version called ov-10g for a special forces program it's worth looking into instead of buying the super Tucano which is a single engine aircraft and carries a smaller payload

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  7. how about reviving the hummingbird project.

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    1. ..oo nga.. but d cla gumawa ng indigent na chopper.. yung hummingbird project.. maganda yun sana pra sa ating afp..

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  8. I hope the PAF dont scrap all the broncos in the future, the US was experimenting on their old existing bronco for CAS role in afghanistan. They gave it remote gun turrets with advanced optics like thermal imaging, and to their surprise it was effective than their f35 or f18. There could be hope for our broncos for parts in the future.

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