With the rise in civilian-military partnerships over the past few decades, with civilian contractors taking on many non-combatant roles more traditionally handled by military assets, it has been interesting to see the number of companies springing up to fulfill specific tasks, such as adversary training and the like. These civilian companies, requiring sophisticated machinery with well-proven capabilities to accomplish their missions, have naturally turned to the surplus military market to supply their needs. This has breathed new life into long-retired aircraft types which might otherwise be consigned to museums and boneyards, or simply turned into ‘pots and pans’.
While the aim for these civilian-military collaborations is to train the modern warfighter for present-day conflict scenarios, it has had the unintended benefit, for those of us with a passion for vintage military aviation, of seeing some of our favorite aircraft in skies once more. We have seen types such as the Hawker Hunter, Dassault Mirage, Douglas A-4 Skyhawk and even legacy McDonnell-Douglas F-18 Hornets, refurbished for flight in significant numbers. Now we can add the North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco to this list.
Blue Air Training has just announced their acquisition of seven OV-10s which they will use on contracts to help train U.S. Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC). Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, with an additional operation in Pensacola, Florida, Blue Air Training has specialized in Close Air Support mission profiles, a role in which the OV-10 Bronco will excel since it was originally designed as a counter-insurgency and forward air controller platform during the Vietnam War.
Blue Air Training has been in operation since 2011, and has a well-established reputation. They have been operating a number of other types, including the BAC Strikemaster, IAR 823 and A-90 Raider. They also recently acquired six former Royal Australian Air Force Pilatus PC-9 trainers to add to their fleet as well.
Regarding the Bronco acquisition, Blue Air Training’s founder and CEO, James “Chef” Barlow had this to say about the aircraft: “As a career A-10 Pilot, I’ve always had a tremendous respect and appreciation for the OV-10 Bronco. Its unique look and mission focused design rings true to my heart. In our configuration of 8 bombs, 7 rockets, 2000 rounds, FLIR and LINK-16 there is no wonder why this aircraft was recently selected to take the fight to ISIS. For those very reasons the seven OV-10D+ and OV-10G Broncos we are adding to the Blue Air Close Air Support fleet are undeniably the best JTAC training platform in the air, anywhere.“ – Founder and CEO, James “Chef” Barlow.
The newly acquired OV-10 fleet is known to include two currently airworthy Broncos: former USMC OV-10D+ Bu.155493, which the OV-10 Squadron recently restored to flight, and OV-10G Bu.155409, lately of the Valiant Air Command. The identities of the other five Broncos which Blue Air Training has acquired are unconfirmed at present, but based upon comments noted on the OV-10 Squadron’s Facebook page, it seems likely that they are amongst the other examples noted in that organization’s inventory. Time will tell, of course. Regardless, it will be great to see the Bronco well-represented in the air again. While they add to their legend in military history, we are bound to see some of them turn up at air shows in the coming years as well. Long may the Bronco renaissance continue!