Former OV-10 Bronco pilot reminisces about aircraft

  • Published
  • By Krista Starker
  • Hilltop Times Correspondent
I don't think he was any more Navy than the man on the moon. But as long as we got the gas, that's all that counted," said Randy Roberts as he recalled the risky task of refueling in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

"There was a little strip with no tower and the procedure was to fly down the runway at 200 feet and pull up. Then go back down again at 50 feet and if no one shot at you, you were safe to land. And there would be a Navy guy who'd give you the gas," he said.

A retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, Roberts spoke about the history and his experiences flying OV-10 Broncos at a recent Plane Talk held at the Hill Aerospace Museum on Feb. 19.

Used mainly as an observation aircraft, the OV-10 was developed in the 1960s for counter insurgency (COIN) combat.

"The OV-1 just didn't have enough range or rockets so they changed it and went with a multi-engine," Roberts said. "It had an engine in the back and front, but it just didn't have single engine capabilities."

It was then that Navy engineers in a private garage in China Lake, a weapons testing facility in California developed the OV-10. With a 6 foot shorter wingspan than the production model, the Navy and Air Force jumped on board.

"The Navy used them as hunter killers called the Black Ponies (Light Attack Squadron Four, VAL-4). And the Air Force used them for forward air control," he said.

"In our planes we had four M60s," he said. "And if we got down in the dirt far enough to be doing some good on the bad guys, you can bet the bad guys were doing some good on you."

Roberts also talked about the last four months of the war when the guns were removed from the planes and were replaced with white phosphorus rockets or "Willie Petes."

"They figured it just wasn't worth it," Roberts said. "But for a pack of cigarettes you could have a Cambodian guy make a turbo mistake and load you up with high explosive rockets instead of Willie Petes."

Plane Talks are held at the museum Saturdays at 1 p.m., and are an opportunity to hear veterans and former Department of Defense and military personnel share their experiences.