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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

OV-10G+ Combat Dragon II Broncos & Spare Parts for Transfer to the Philippine Air Force

As early as 04 February 2018, MaxDefense made a photo post that left many of our readers puzzled. It was of a black horse-like illustration with several stars underneath it. Many were able to guess what it was although majority were not able to identify it, even until now. For those who are long time MaxDefense readers or followers, it is known that we usually leave clues, meanings, or ideas in almost if not all the posts that we made. And many back then speculated that the PAF was to acquire something very soon there is no reason for MaxDefense to post the illustration considering they are not something from the Philippine military.

To answer the question what the illustration was, it was simply a "bronco",  a type of feral horse that habitually bucks, according to dictionary. The bronco is also the name of Rockwell International's OV-10 aircraft, which is in service with the Philippine Air Force (PAF). Aside from the PAF, there are a few flying units that remain in the United States. And the illustration of the bronco came from the OV-10G+ Bronco, which were made as part of the Combat Dragon II program of the US Special Operations Command (US SOCOM).

One of the OV-10G+ Combat Dragon II Bronco operated by the US Special Operations Command. Two of the aircraft plus two unmodified OV-10As will be transferred to the Philippine Air Force.
Photo taken from Defense Media Network's website.

Come July 2018, and the website "The Drive" posted an article by Joseph Trevithick discussing the possible transfer of  these OV-10G+ Combat Dragon II Broncos to an unspecified US partner, which the author believes is the Philippines, being the only remaining user of the type.

It turns out, the author's guess is right if MaxDefense is to say it. Here's why:

To those following our page regularly, you may have remembered when we changed our Facebook page's profile picture to this one last February 2018. Now its out.
Credits to Defense Media Network for the cropped photo.
By the way, yes, it came from this picture.
Photo taken from Defense Media Network's website.

OV-10s in the Philippine Air Force:
The Philippine Air Force is said to be the last and only operator of the Rockwell International OV-10 Bronco, which it has been operating since the early 1990s when it replaced the T-28B/D Trojans used by the 15th Strike Wing. Depending on sources, the PAF currently has around 8 to 10 operational OV-10s, composed of OV-10As acquired from the US in the 1990s, an OV-10M upgraded from OV-10A, and OV-10Cs provided by the Thai government under a PAF-RTAF swap agreement for F-5A/B spare parts and previously operated by the Royal Thai Air Force.

Some, if not all of the remaining OV-10s in PAF service are upgraded with the capability to deliver Paveway II laser guided bombs via the Wireless Paveway Avionics Kit (WiPAK).

More information on PAF OV-10s can be found on our old blog entry, which can be found on the link below:

"The PAF OV-10 Bronco: A Short Story (1st of 2 parts)" - first posted in June 2013.

OV-10G+ for the Philippine Air Force:

MaxDefense was informed about the negotiations to acquire the OV-10G+ Combat Dragon II Broncos as early as February 2018. The acquisition was really focused not on the aircraft itself, but for the transfer of OV-10 Bronco spare parts in possession of the US government.

The Philippine Air Force was originally after the OV-10 spare parts pool, which is said to be worth several millions of dollars. With nothing to use them for, the US government offered them to the PAF for far less, by just paying the transfer and shipping costs, which MaxDefense believes to be at just over US$2 million for everything. And as part of the deal, the US government is gracefully including 4 air-worthy airframes with it, plus some new equipment to replace some of those they removed. The spare parts are said to be enough for the Philippine Air Force to allow them to operate whatever flying OV-10s they have in their fleet up to year 2024, and might even be enough to revive at least 2 more cannibalised units that can also continue operating for several years more.

The Philippine Air Force currently has a rapidly ageing and depleting fleet of OV-10A/C/M Broncos, which are expected to continue service until the Super Tucano which will replace them becomes fully operational and in sufficient numbers. The spare parts included in the deal with the US government will allow the PAF to extend the life of these OV-10s until 2024, and might be even able to resurrect a couple of cannibalised aircraft in its yard. Here it is seen dropping Mk.82 dumb bombs on hard targets during the Battle of Marawi last year.
Credits to owner of photo.

Due to the urgency of the deal, the Philippine Air Force was said to have been forced to use its own annual operating funds to pay for the package, instead requesting for funding from the national government, which would take several months. Case in point: the Jordanian AH-1Fs which are unpaid until now despite the transfer funds requested almost a year ago, and the Pohang-class corvette transfer which took almost 2 years to fund.

As for the airworthy airframes, it was mentioned to MaxDefense that it would be two of the OV-10G+ Combat Dragon II Broncos, and 2 unmodified OV-10A Broncos. All four aircraft are currently with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), are will be disposed off if by scrapping if nobody is interested in taking it from them. Naturally being the only user of the type in the world, the Philippines was informed of such plan, and the PAF immediately started negotiations for the transfer.

A few months ago, some Philippine Air Force officers went to the US to inspect the aircraft and the spare parts. They found that all are in acceptable condition, in correct content and are indeed what the PAF needed. MaxDefense got confirmation that inspection was not only made once but at least twice.

OV-10A and G+ Details:

According to our sources, the OV-10A Broncos included will be standard models, no modifications made, and have acceptable airframe life left in them compared to the OV-10s still in service with the Philippine Air Force. The PAF's 15th Strike Wing won't have any problem accepting them into service, as they are very similar to the standard OV-10A they have been using since for almost 30 years.

But the OV-10G+ would be something else. These aircraft were heavily upgraded and modified by the US military for use with the US Special Operations Command. They were equipped with a L3 Wescam MX-15D Electro-Optical Infra-Red (EO/IR) turret and cameras with full motion Vortex and ROVER capability and connected to a helmet-mounted targeting system, chaff/flare dispensers for defensive purposes, a partially glass cockpit, a Line of Sight / Satellite Communications (SATCOM) system, a Link 16 tactical data link, and Harris Falcon III tactical radios.

The OV-10G+ Combat Dragon II Bronco are equipped with an L3 Wescam MX-15D electro-optical infra-red (EO/IR) turret. Although removed by the US military prior to transfer to NASA, the PAF intends to acquire them immediately and install the turrets once the aircraft are assembled in the Philippines.
Photo taken from L3 Wescam's website

The OV-10G+ are also capable of carrying and firing the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) which is essentially a guided rocket that is linked with the aircraft's EO/IR turret. This is in addition to the smart bombs (Paveway) that it could deliver.

Aside from that, the OV-10G+ also uses a four-bladed propeller from Hartzell, similar to those used by OV-10Ms of the PAF.

With the US SOCOM, the OV-10G+ was used as a test bed for capabilities while also used as  a terrorist hunter. It was flown as a test platform for the US Air Force's Light Air Support Aircraft program.

The OV-10G+'s purpose is seen in this illustration from the US SOCOM. It was an observation aircraft capable of directing forces to terrorist targets, and have its own capability to attack targets if necessary.
Photo taken from US SOCOM c/o The Drive.

Transfer Package to the Philippines:

As already mentioned by The Drive's article, the OV-10s were previously with the US military and were transferred back to NASA in demilitarized mode, meaning all its military capabilities were removed prior to the transfer. The photos from NASA already show that the EO/IR turret is missing.

MaxDefense was also told that the TDL Link 16, the Helmet Mounted Targeting System, and chaff/flare dispensers were all removed too. So essentially, the OV-10G+ only has its 4-bladed propeller and the partial glass cockpit as the most obvious upgrade at the moment.

But based on the US Air Force's own solicitation as seen below, the US will retain the wirings installed during the upgrade, once it's transferred. The contractor was asked to reinstall the wirings once its assembled upon delivery, which is good news for the PAF.

The solicitation made by the USAF for the disassembly, crating, shipment and reassembly of OV-10A and OV-10G+ aircraft. Take note the special requirement on the wirings for the OV-10G+.
Photo cropped from FedBizOps (FBO) website of the US Government.

Now that the aircraft were demilitarized, then what?

The Philippine Air Force actually plans to reinstall some of the upgrades made by the US military, but it would be paid for by them. Among the items to be immediately acquired by the PAF for installation upon delivery is the L3 Wescam MX-15D EO/IR turret. It also appears that the PAF is negotiating if the US can provide some of its used helmet mounted targeting system, although the possibility is slim. The PAF could acquire brand news ones separately later on though.

All other upgrades will be made later on after the acquisition, as this deal is being rushed by the US government before the end of the year. Since the PAF paid for the deal in cash using its annual funds, it wull need to request for a separate funding for them to be able to upgrade the OV-10G+ with its desired capabilities.

The Philippine Air Force may already have some of the Harris Falcon III tactical radios available considering this is the standard tactical radio of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Equipping the aircraft with this allows it to communicate with ground and other forces seamlessly, as PAF Forward Air Controllers also use Harris Falcon III radios.

The PAF is also seeking for the acquisition of the APKWS, which is long in their plans and might also be acquired for the upcoming fleet of Embraer A-29B Super Tucanos which will start delivery by 2019. MaxDefense has yet to confirm if the TDL Link 16 will also be included in the re-upgrade plan. Plans to install chaff/flare dispensers and ROVER capabilities are highly likely to happen later on as well.

Like the upgraded OV-10Ms and OV-10A/C in the PAF, the OV-10G+ is expected also to be able to use the GBU-12 Paveway II and the GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II, both of which are in PAF's inventory.

These additions will make the OV-10G+ Combat Dragon II Broncos still the most modern Bronco in PAF service once they join the fleet, and would be a good stop-gap measure and training platform for the upcoming Super Tucanos which will have the same capabilities as the Combat Dragon II Bronco.

Unlike its useage with the US SOCOM which is to observe targets at a safe distance, the PAF may not use this primarily as an observation aircraft, but will likely be used  primarily for day/night attack aircraft, capable of carrying out precision strike against hard or mobile targets, and as a close air support aircraft for ground troops. It could made to be linked to data from surveillance unmanned and manned aerieal vehicles like the Cessna 208 Grand Cavaran ISR aircraft, Scaneagle UAVs, C-130T ISR aircraft, future Long Range Patrol Aircraft, or other future UAVs of the Philippine Air Force.

Having the MX-15D EO/IR turret also allows the Combat Dragon II Bronco to use laser-guided bombs without the support of ground-based forward air controllers (FAC) which are usually PAF ground combatants embedded with other AFP ground troops to provide target acquisition or lacing to attack aircraft like the OV-10. Current PAF OV-10s and other attack aircraft were dependent on FACs during the Battle of Marawi, and the new capability to use the EO/IR turret for target lacing allows the aircraft to conduct its own precision bombing run without the need for eyes on the ground even or targets where collateral damage is highly likely to happen. This is something new for the PAF and the AFP in general.

Like the OV-10 Bronco fleet used by the PAF, the OV-10G+ is expected to be able to carry and fire the GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II smart bombs which are in PAF's inventory. The 2 upcoming OV-10A Broncos may also be upgraded to be capable of firing them by installing the WiPAK system found on PAF OV-10s.
Photo taken from PAF's website years ago.

The newest capability the OV-10G+ can provide the PAF is the ability to launch the APKWS guided rocket system, which is currently unavailable with the PAF. The PAF is also interested in arming its AW109E armed helicopter fleet with this weapon system, as well as the upcoming A-29B Super Tucano which will start to arrive in 2019.
Credits to owner of the photo.

Delivery Date:

Now the big question, when is the aircraft expected to be delivered?

MaxDefense was informed while we were writing this blog entry that it is expected to arrive on or before December 2018, since the US government wanted the aircraft and parts to be shipped ASAP, as they need the space it currently occupies in NASA's storeyard, If these aircraft and parts are not removed, the US government will be forced to scrap them all.

Therefore, it is also expected that the 2 OV-10G+ and 2 OV-10As will be operational with the PAF's 15th Strike Wing by early 2019, and will be operated by the 16th Attack Squadron.

More updates will be provided by MaxDefense later on, as the deal is still being ironed out as of the moment. But one thing is certain according to our sources - this deal will push through urgently and the PAF does not have any plans of not pursuing this acquisition.


1. Acquisition and Shipment of OV-10 Bronco Aircraft and Spare Parts

End User: Philippine Air Force (15th Strike Wing)
Modernization Phase: PAF General Appropriations Fund (not under any Horizon phase)
ABC: ~US$2,000,000.00
SARO Release: N/A
Proponent: US Government, Still Unknown contractor for shipping and assembly
Bid Price: Negotiated Procurement, unknown value
First post by MaxDefense: 24 February 2018


  1. What a tremendous blessing. 4 Broncos + abundance of parts for $2M delivered. Manong should just be quiet and be thankful.

  2. Good news for PAF, OV-10 Broncos may be old but I've read that the upgraded OV-10G+ performed very well during their missions to fight ISIS in Iraq and US SOCOM was very impressed. Hopefully the government will be able to find funds to restore/buy some of the items incorporated during the upgrade and were removed before transfer to NASA. Thank you for the update Sir Max . . .

  3. More power, PAF... Yes, we are still ill equipped.. But I appreciate all these improvements. No way but up! :) Fly high!

  4. I would love to go be a part of the maint crew for these beloved birds. I was a plane captain and ord tech back in the 90's on the OV-10 and loved working on this warrior.


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