The O-2 was a military version of the Cessna 337 Skymaster. It was purchased by the U.S. Air Force beginning in 1967 in two versions. The O-2A was used in the forward air control (FAC) 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 operations.
The unique fore and aft engine layout and twin booms gave the O-2 a distinct appearance. 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 O-1!). Because of the aerodynamics of a pusher propeller, the O-2 performed better on the rear engine alone than on the front one.
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 offensive weapons, including the 7.62 mm Minigun pod (small Gatling gun), but the 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 were normally white phosphorous (WP or “Willie Pete”). The WP round exploded with a highly visible puff of white smoke which was useful for marking targets for attacking fighters, particularly in jungle canopy.
The upper wing surfaces of the O-2A were painted white so that they could be seen against the jungle canopy by other aircraft. An armament control panel and a gun sight were added to the instrument panel to complete the offensive armament suite.
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 coordinating with tactical aircraft; an FM radio to talk to troops on the ground and a VHF radio which was used to communicate with the tactical air control party (TACP) for requesting air support, clearing targets for strikes and other command and control functions.
The navigation suite consisted of TACAN, VOR and low frequency ADF sets. 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.
|Registration Number||Date of Manufacture|
|Forward Air Control||Oscar Deuce|
|Overall length:||Empty weight:|
|Gross weight:||Fuel capacity:|
|5000 lbs||125 gal|
|Oil capacity||Engine type:|
|10 Qts each engine||Continental IO-360|
|Propeller type:||Max Speed|
|2 propelles with 2 blades||170 knts|
|Rate of Climb||Cruise Speed|
|500 fpm||145 knots|
|Service Ceiling||Number of Crew|
|2-LAU 59 rocket pods holding 7- 2.75″ rockets||N/A|
|Number Built||Number Surviving|
Printable QR Codes for: O-2A “Sylvester”:
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