TechFrom garage to global. The unlikely journey of Rockwell OV-10, a versatile aircraft born in a California garage

From garage to global. The unlikely journey of Rockwell OV‑10, a versatile aircraft born in a California garage

OV-10 Bronco - illustrative picture
OV-10 Bronco - illustrative picture
Images source: © Getty Images | USAF
9:07 AM EST, December 27, 2023

History is replete with examples of garages birthing life-altering ideas. Familiar examples include Apple, Disney, Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, Harley-Davidson, and Microsoft. The versatile OV-10 plane was born under makeshift conditions like these companies. Its creators were American soldiers W.H. Beckett and K.P. Rice.

About the OV-10: an airplane crafted in a garage

Smithsonian Magazine reports that Beckett and Rice were neighbors in Santa Ana in 1961. During one of their discussions, they debated the weaponry and aircraft Americans were endorsing at the time. They concurred that authorities overlooked the importance of conventional weapons required for land forces' close air support. They argued the military required a humble observation plane that would assist in identifying the enemy and launching attacks.

Beckett and Rice believed a simplistic twin-engine turboprop could fulfill such requirements—easy to operate and maintain, faster than helicopters, yet slower and more spacious than jets. This aircraft would be capable of quick take-offs and landings. Since the American army lacked this sort of aircraft, the duo decided to create it themselves. The outcome of their garage labor was a fiberglass prototype - a groundbreaking concept for a versatile airplane they intended to sell. However, their idea was not instantly well-received.

Eventually, North American Aviation purchased and sold the project to the military. The project met the criteria defined in the Light Armoured Reconnaissance Aircraft (LARA) program from 1963 and was selected by the army from 11 candidates. The inaugural test flights took place in the summer of 1965. Over the years, the plane was refined, and its mass production commenced in 1968. The aircraft served in the Air Force, Marine Corps, and the US Navy and was exported to other nations. The OV-10 found buyers in Germany, Morocco, Thailand, and the Philippines.

While the final product was bulkier than Beckett and Rice's initial proposition, the OV-10 maintained its basic form. The plane spanned over 42.65 feet in length, had a wingspan of approximately 39.37 feet, and stood 15.09 feet tall. Powered by two Garret turboprop engines, the aircraft could carry a load of 3527.4 pounds (including various bombs and rockets) and cruise at 287.72 mph. The OV-10's standard arsenal comprised four 7.62 mm machine guns.

Related content