Cessna O-2A (Super Skymaster 337M)

Cessna O-2A (Super Skymaster 337M)

     

This aircraft is an all-metal, twin-engined, strut-braced, high-wing monoplane designed and manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Company. Distinguishable features are two engines placed in tandem on the fuselage centerline, a twin-boom-supported empenage, and a retractable tricycle landing gear. Two horizontally opposed, six-cylinder, 210 hp fuel-injected engines, constant speed, full feathering-propellers power the aircraft. The front propeller is a conventional tractor type; the rear propeller is a less traditional pusher. The aircraft seats two, and was primarily used for forward combat air control (CAP).

NASM's aircraft was used primarily for FAC missions. It flew hundreds of sorties and suffered damage from enemy ground fire on at least four occasions. On one, a bullet punctured the left wing and in another incident an engine cylinder was hit. On April 16, 1972, shells inflicted damage to the right aileron, right wing, right tip, and the fuel overflow line in the right wing. Every time, the aircraft was repaired and returned to combat.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Physical Description:
Painted on the right and left sides of the front engine cowling in Japanese kanji script is the phrase "Bu-un Choku" meaning, "May the heavens watch over you, and be successful in combat," a traditional wish expressed to departing young warriors.

Country of Origin
United States of America

Manufacturer
Cessna Aircraft Company, Inc.

Date
1967

Type
CRAFT-Aircraft

Materials
All-metal
Dimensions
Overall: 9ft 4in., 2648lb., 38ft 2in. x 29ft 9in. (284.48cm, 1201.1kg, 1163.32 x 906.78cm)

This aircraft is an all-metal, twin-engined, strut-braced, high-wing monoplane designed and manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Company. Distinguishable features are two engines placed in tandem on the fuselage centerline, a twin-boom-supported empenage, and a retractable tricycle landing gear. Two horizontally opposed, six-cylinder, 210 hp fuel-injected engines, constant speed, full feathering-propellers power the aircraft. The front propeller is a conventional tractor type; the rear propeller is a less traditional pusher. The aircraft seats two, and was primarily used for forward combat air control (CAP).

The German Dornier Do 335 fighter demonstrated the push-pull centerline thrust idea during the Second World War. In America, Cessna was the first to use the idea for a production light aircraft. Initially, the aircraft was designed as a lightweight, low cost, easy-to-fly twin-engined civil aircraft. The tandem engine arrangement eliminated the need for a twin-engine, non-center-line-thrust pilot rating but provided twin-engine safety and performance capability. The push-pull configuration reduced drag--compared to two-engine wing-mounted arrangements. The wings, clear of large engine cowlings, and the centerline thrust configuration, reduced drag and simplified the problem of aircraft control during engine failure.

The O-2A clearly demonstrated the ability of typical civil aircraft to perform military missions. This aircraft was selected by the USAF for use in Vietnam for the Forward Air Controller (FAC) mission in the most remote and hazardous areas of the combat zone where twin-engine reliability was desired. For this role, it was fitted with four under-wing pylons for rockets, flares, and other light armament such as the 7.62-mm mini-gun pack.

In response to the needs expressed by the DoD, the Cessna Aircraft Company immediately suggested its 1965 Model 337 Super Skymaster. Its single-engine performance was excellent: an obvious advantage over a normal non-centerline thrust twin-engine configuration. This proved crucial to the military pilot who often had his attention directed to ground activities. The side-by-side seating arrangement in the civil version limited the pilot's ground visibility to the right side. To correct this deficiency, it was suggested that the fuselage be made narrower and with a tandem rather than side-by-side seating--similar to that of the 0-1 Bird Dog. A complete redesign of the fuselage caused an 18-month delay. In the interim, transparent fuselage and door panels were added to the civilian production model to improve visibility.

To comply with military operational needs, other changes were made, including heavier skin for the wings, provisions for attaching rocket tubes, and appropriate military cockpit instrumentation. As the military version of the Model 337 Super Skymaster moved toward production, a gun-sight was installed for sighting rockets, and a smoke generator was fixed to the rear engine (but never serviced or used in Vietnam). This was to show the aircraft's position to its teamed fighter aircraft while the rockets were being fired to mark the location of enemy ground forces to be attacked by the fighters. The rear two seats of the four-place cabin were removed for placement of three radio systems that were needed for multiple communication needs. The aircraft was officially designated the O-2A. In 1967, 223 aircraft were delivered to the U.S. Air Force, and many more followed as the Vietnam war continued.

The Super Skymaster filled a unique role during the air war in Vietnam. It was modified in small numbers to wage psychological warfare. Cessna recalled many factory demonstrator aircraft, and equipped them to carry leaflet dispensers and a loud speaker system for broadcasting propaganda to enemy forces below. A large speaker system was installed in the luggage door with a battery-powered tape recorder providing the broadcast message. A slot with a chute was installed in the floor for dropping propaganda leaflets. Thirty aircraft modified in this fashion for psychological operations missions were delivered and designated as the O-2B.

The O-2A proved to be a rugged aircraft when it came to surviving battle damage--a feature that was not considered in the civil model. As their missions were necessarily at low-level, they were vulnerable to small-arms fire during their lengthy sorties. Skin damage from rifles and pistols was common, and the resultant damage ranged from neat and clean .30 caliber bullet holes to large, jagged anti-aircraft shells. While a few O-2s were shot down, many returned with severe damage, requiring complete replacement of major components. In some cases, portions of wings and tails were shot away; in one instance the left tail boom was completely severed, but the pilot was able to land at a friendly airfield.

The O-2, an airplane designed for civil air operations and modified to meet military combat needs, was a tribute to American civil aeronautical engineering.

Aircraft O-2A, serial number 67-21396, was delivered to the U.S. Air Force on September 30, 1967, and assigned to the 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron (TASS) at Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam. The squadron was responsible for providing and supporting Tactical Air Control Parties and impeding the infiltration of the enemy and its supplies from North Vietnam.

NASM's aircraft was used primarily for FAC missions. It flew hundreds of sorties and suffered damage from enemy ground fire on at least four occasions. On one, a bullet punctured the left wing and in another incident an engine cylinder was hit. On April 16, 1972, shells inflicted damage to the right aileron, right wing, right tip, and the fuel overflow line in the right wing. Every time, the aircraft was repaired and returned to combat.

After having flown 4,851 hours, the aircraft was shipped to the U.S. during October 1972. From November 1975 until September 1982, it was used at Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas, as a reciprocating engine ground trainer for maintenance technician's courses. On March 3, 1983, it was disassembled for shipment to NASM and was received by the National Air & Space Museum on March 16, 1983.

Painted on the right and left sides of the front engine cowling in Japanese kanji script is the phrase "Bu-un Choku" meaning, "May the heavens watch over you, and be successful in combat," a traditional wish expressed to departing young warriors.

This aircraft is an all-metal, twin-engined, strut-braced, high-wing monoplane designed and manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Company. Distinguishable features are two engines placed in tandem on the fuselage centerline, a twin-boom-supported empenage, and a retractable tricycle landing gear. Two horizontally opposed, six-cylinder, 210 hp fuel-injected engines, constant speed, full feathering-propellers power the aircraft. The front propeller is a conventional tractor type; the rear propeller is a less traditional pusher. The aircraft seats two, and was primarily used for forward combat air control (CAP).

NASM's aircraft was used primarily for FAC missions. It flew hundreds of sorties and suffered damage from enemy ground fire on at least four occasions. On one, a bullet punctured the left wing and in another incident an engine cylinder was hit. On April 16, 1972, shells inflicted damage to the right aileron, right wing, right tip, and the fuel overflow line in the right wing. Every time, the aircraft was repaired and returned to combat.

Transferred from the United States Air Force.

Physical Description:
Painted on the right and left sides of the front engine cowling in Japanese kanji script is the phrase "Bu-un Choku" meaning, "May the heavens watch over you, and be successful in combat," a traditional wish expressed to departing young warriors.

Country of Origin
United States of America

Manufacturer
Cessna Aircraft Company, Inc.

Date
1967

Type
CRAFT-Aircraft

Materials
All-metal
Dimensions
Overall: 9ft 4in., 2648lb., 38ft 2in. x 29ft 9in. (284.48cm, 1201.1kg, 1163.32 x 906.78cm)

This aircraft is an all-metal, twin-engined, strut-braced, high-wing monoplane designed and manufactured by the Cessna Aircraft Company. Distinguishable features are two engines placed in tandem on the fuselage centerline, a twin-boom-supported empenage, and a retractable tricycle landing gear. Two horizontally opposed, six-cylinder, 210 hp fuel-injected engines, constant speed, full feathering-propellers power the aircraft. The front propeller is a conventional tractor type; the rear propeller is a less traditional pusher. The aircraft seats two, and was primarily used for forward combat air control (CAP).

The German Dornier Do 335 fighter demonstrated the push-pull centerline thrust idea during the Second World War. In America, Cessna was the first to use the idea for a production light aircraft. Initially, the aircraft was designed as a lightweight, low cost, easy-to-fly twin-engined civil aircraft. The tandem engine arrangement eliminated the need for a twin-engine, non-center-line-thrust pilot rating but provided twin-engine safety and performance capability. The push-pull configuration reduced drag--compared to two-engine wing-mounted arrangements. The wings, clear of large engine cowlings, and the centerline thrust configuration, reduced drag and simplified the problem of aircraft control during engine failure.

The O-2A clearly demonstrated the ability of typical civil aircraft to perform military missions. This aircraft was selected by the USAF for use in Vietnam for the Forward Air Controller (FAC) mission in the most remote and hazardous areas of the combat zone where twin-engine reliability was desired. For this role, it was fitted with four under-wing pylons for rockets, flares, and other light armament such as the 7.62-mm mini-gun pack.

In response to the needs expressed by the DoD, the Cessna Aircraft Company immediately suggested its 1965 Model 337 Super Skymaster. Its single-engine performance was excellent: an obvious advantage over a normal non-centerline thrust twin-engine configuration. This proved crucial to the military pilot who often had his attention directed to ground activities. The side-by-side seating arrangement in the civil version limited the pilot's ground visibility to the right side. To correct this deficiency, it was suggested that the fuselage be made narrower and with a tandem rather than side-by-side seating--similar to that of the 0-1 Bird Dog. A complete redesign of the fuselage caused an 18-month delay. In the interim, transparent fuselage and door panels were added to the civilian production model to improve visibility.

To comply with military operational needs, other changes were made, including heavier skin for the wings, provisions for attaching rocket tubes, and appropriate military cockpit instrumentation. As the military version of the Model 337 Super Skymaster moved toward production, a gun-sight was installed for sighting rockets, and a smoke generator was fixed to the rear engine (but never serviced or used in Vietnam). This was to show the aircraft's position to its teamed fighter aircraft while the rockets were being fired to mark the location of enemy ground forces to be attacked by the fighters. The rear two seats of the four-place cabin were removed for placement of three radio systems that were needed for multiple communication needs. The aircraft was officially designated the O-2A. In 1967, 223 aircraft were delivered to the U.S. Air Force, and many more followed as the Vietnam war continued.

The Super Skymaster filled a unique role during the air war in Vietnam. It was modified in small numbers to wage psychological warfare. Cessna recalled many factory demonstrator aircraft, and equipped them to carry leaflet dispensers and a loud speaker system for broadcasting propaganda to enemy forces below. A large speaker system was installed in the luggage door with a battery-powered tape recorder providing the broadcast message. A slot with a chute was installed in the floor for dropping propaganda leaflets. Thirty aircraft modified in this fashion for psychological operations missions were delivered and designated as the O-2B.

The O-2A proved to be a rugged aircraft when it came to surviving battle damage--a feature that was not considered in the civil model. As their missions were necessarily at low-level, they were vulnerable to small-arms fire during their lengthy sorties. Skin damage from rifles and pistols was common, and the resultant damage ranged from neat and clean .30 caliber bullet holes to large, jagged anti-aircraft shells. While a few O-2s were shot down, many returned with severe damage, requiring complete replacement of major components. In some cases, portions of wings and tails were shot away; in one instance the left tail boom was completely severed, but the pilot was able to land at a friendly airfield.

The O-2, an airplane designed for civil air operations and modified to meet military combat needs, was a tribute to American civil aeronautical engineering.

Aircraft O-2A, serial number 67-21396, was delivered to the U.S. Air Force on September 30, 1967, and assigned to the 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron (TASS) at Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam. The squadron was responsible for providing and supporting Tactical Air Control Parties and impeding the infiltration of the enemy and its supplies from North Vietnam.

NASM's aircraft was used primarily for FAC missions. It flew hundreds of sorties and suffered damage from enemy ground fire on at least four occasions. On one, a bullet punctured the left wing and in another incident an engine cylinder was hit. On April 16, 1972, shells inflicted damage to the right aileron, right wing, right tip, and the fuel overflow line in the right wing. Every time, the aircraft was repaired and returned to combat.

After having flown 4,851 hours, the aircraft was shipped to the U.S. during October 1972. From November 1975 until September 1982, it was used at Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas, as a reciprocating engine ground trainer for maintenance technician's courses. On March 3, 1983, it was disassembled for shipment to NASM and was received by the National Air & Space Museum on March 16, 1983.

Painted on the right and left sides of the front engine cowling in Japanese kanji script is the phrase "Bu-un Choku" meaning, "May the heavens watch over you, and be successful in combat," a traditional wish expressed to departing young warriors.

ID: A19830089000