News breaks on Patriots Day – Boeing pushes OV-10X for USAF Light Attack Aircraft

By Mike Whaley

Zoomed-in detail of the recently-released OV-10X graphic released by Boeing. Click here to view hi-res, un-cropped version. Credit: Boeing via

On September 11, 2009, Stephen Trimble’s DEW Line blog at posted news that Boeing has confirmed that they’re pitching an upgraded and modernized OV-10 Bronco to the US Air Force for use in the light attack role as part of the Light Attack and Armed Reconnaissance (LAAR) program, which is expected to be part of the FY 2010 budget. They have also released a computer-generated graphic of what the new aircraft might look like (the image is essentially that of an OV-10D with 5-bladed props and a few minor external differences, the image appears to have been generated by a standard PC flight simulator). Reflecting what most of our readers already know well, Trimble wrote “Boeing provided the photo above, providing a glimpse of the new OV-10 concept. The image will surely be embraced by the Bronco’s devoted following, who remember the aircraft’s notably effective service in the Vietnam War.” (As proof of that, well… here it is! -Ed)Interestingly, Trimble reports that some of the OV-10X’s main competition are other updated planes from the past, as well as several aircraft originating outside the USA. Mentioned is the Piper Aircraft PA-48 Enforcer (an aborted project from the 1980’s that married a turboprop to a P-51 Mustang airframe), newer turboprop fighter-trainers, such as the Raytheon AT-6 Texan II (a derivative of the T-6 trainer currently fielded by the USAF and Navy), the Embraer Super Tucano (which has combat history with various countries worldwide), and Alenia’s transonic twin-jet M 346 trainer (which is based upon a join venture between Alenia and Russia’s Yakovlev as the Yak-130). It certainly appears, however, that the OV-10 has by far the strongest combat record in the COIN/CAS role, and many feel it’s certainly the most flexible aircraft of the group.

To be fair, other factors may help other competitors in other ways. Some others are in current production; the T-6/AT-6 is in current front-line service with two branches of the US military and thus may have a significant advantage in the important area of logistics and support. Right or wrong, as exemplified by the ongoing mess with the KC-X tanker contract, the current political climate often favors outsourcing military projects to other countries in order to pander to worldwide interests over supporting domestic procurement, either in full or in part. Furthermore, the USAF is infamous for favoring “sexy”, exotic, and expensive weapons systems over those which are simpler, less expensive, but not as “glamorous” while getting the same job done. Hopefully the famous object lesson of the A-10 (which sadly, is still viewed with distain by some in the USAF leadership chain who apparently remain more focused on glamor than effectiveness and results) will carry forth regardless of the winner of this competition, and bring us the most effective aircraft possible. Fortunately for the OV-10X, providing brutal effectiveness in it’s roles, at a relatively low cost, is one area in which the Bronco always shined more brightly than most of it’s contemporaries! Boeing is a force to be reckoned with, and the Bronco’s proven history over 4 decades of service in a wide variety of roles and environments will ensure that it is a very serious competitor.

We’ll keep you updated as more info becomes available!