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"The Oscar Deuce"
The O-2 Skymaster was a military version of the Cessna 337 Super
Skymaster 4-6 passenger general aviation aircraft.
purchased by the U.S. Air Force beginning in 1967 in two versions.
The O-2A was used in the forward air control mission.
It was equipped with additional radios and ordnance hard points under
the wings for rocket and machine gun pods. The
O-2B was the 337 civilian version modified to carry a large loud
speaker on the right side of the fuselage and a leaflet chute in the
belly for psychological warfare
Click here for the development history & specifications of the O-2.
The following photos show details of the O-2A FAC version.
The unique fore and aft engine layout and twin tail booms gave
the O-2 a distinctive appearance.
|The upper wing
surfaces of the O-2A were painted white so that they could be seen
against the jungle canopy by other aircraft.
Two engines provided a definite advantage over the single
engine O-1, but at heavy operating weights and high temperature
conditions, O-2 performance with an engine out could be a dicey
proposition (but still better than engine-out performance in the
Because of the aerodynamics of a pusher propeller, the O-2 performed
better on the rear engine alone than on the front one.
(More information on single engine characteristics can be
found in the O-2A pilot's manual, the
The most significant modification of the civilian
Model 337 to the O-2A was the addition of armament.
The O-2A could carry a selection of
including the 7.62 mm Minigun pod (small Gatling gun), but our normal
load was two LAU-59/A
rocket pods with seven 2.75" FFAR (Folding Fin Aircraft Rockets)
each. These rockets could be armed with a variety of
explosive warheads, but we usually carried white phosphorus (WP or
"Willie Pete") heads. The WP round exploded with a highly
visible puff of white smoke which made it useful for marking targets
for attacking fighters, particularly in jungle canopy.
Click image for larger view.
armament control panel and a
were added to the
to complete the offensive armament suite. I never had much
success with the gun sight. Like most FACs, I learned that a
grease pencil mark on the windshield was just as accurate for aiming
a WP marking rocket.
Another change from the civilian model was the additional of an
enhanced communications and navigation suite on the O-2A.
The aircraft carried three radios: a UHF set for coordination
with tactical aircraft; an FM radio to talk to the troops on the
group and a VHF radio which we used to communicate with our tactical
air control party (TACP) for requesting air support, clearing targets
for strikes and other command and control functions.
Successfully working all three of these radios while conducting close
air support missions was the mark of a good FAC
The navigation suite consisted of TACAN, VOR and low frequency ADF
All this plus a transponder and other black boxes whose function I
did not know were mounted on a rack occupying a large portion of the
passenger compartment behind the pilot.
The accompanying photo shows the bulk of this Mil-spec equipment.
It also was heavy which contributed to the less than stellar
performance of the O-2A.
Most pilots who had flown the O-1 prior to the O-2 felt that the only
drawback of the "Oscar Deuce" was the arrangement of the windows.
Having the pilot seat on the left side of the aircraft rather than
the centerline as in the O-1 tended to reduce the visibility from the
cockpit of the O-2. The extra glazing on the right door and
forward fuselage was an attempt to improve visibility to the right,
but it was not very
effective, particularly when carrying someone in the right seat.
As a result, O-2 FACs tended to prefer left turns for better
visibility, a dangerous habit to develop in combat. Also, the
main window on the left (pilot's) side of the aircraft did not open.
This did not help ventilation in the cockpit and made it
harder to hear ground fire. The Air Force made an attempt to
develop a tandem seat O-2 with a narrower fuselage, but the effort
never proceeded beyond the mockup stage.
Click image for larger view. (Treweek)*
The small size of the pilot's side window on the original (1967-68
models) made it difficult to keep fighters in sight while working a
target in the preferred left turn. Later versions of the O-2
(1969 and subsequent) featured an enlarged window on the left side to
improve visibility above and in a turn, but it still did not open.
Pilot's Side Window
Pilot's Side Window
* These photos are by Phillip Treweek,
Kiwi Aircraft Images.
His permission to use these excellent images is gratefully acknowledged.
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