Military Wiki
O-2 Skymaster
An O-2 Skymaster
Role Observation aircraft
Manufacturer Cessna
First flight January 1967
Introduction March 1967
Retired USA 2010, South Korea 2006
Status Limited service
Primary users Botswana Air Force
Salvadoran Air Force
Produced 1967-1975
Number built 532
Developed from Cessna Skymaster

The O-2 Skymaster (also known as the "Oscar Deuce" or "The Duck") is a military version of the Cessna 337 Super Skymaster utilized as an observation and forward air control (FAC) aircraft. The United States Air Force commissioned Cessna to build a military variant to replace the O-1 Bird Dog in 1966.

Design and development

As with the civilian version, the Skymaster was a low-cost twin-engine piston-powered aircraft, with one engine in the nose of the aircraft and a second engine in the rear of the fuselage. The push-pull configuration meant a simpler single-engine operating procedure due to centerline thrust compared to the common low-wing mounting of most twin engine light planes, and also allowed for a high wing, providing clear observation below and behind the aircraft. During the Vietnam War, the Skymaster was intended to be replaced in the forward air control (FAC) mission by the OV-10 Bronco, but the O-2A maintained a night mission role after the OV-10's introduction due to the OV-10's high level of cockpit illumination, rendering night reconnaissance impractical.[1] The O-2 was phased out completely after additional OV-10 night upgrades.[2][3]

The first O-2 flew in January 1967 and the plane went into production shortly thereafter, with the USAF taking delivery in March 1967. A total of 532 O-2s were built in two variants for the USAF by 1970. The O-2A served as a FAC aircraft with the 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron, while the O-2B was equipped with loudspeakers and a leaflet dispenser for use in the psychological operations (PSYOPS) role. Several USAF O-2 aircraft were later transferred to and operated by the former VNAF South Vietnamese Air Force.[3]

Following the Vietnam War, the O-2 continued to operate with both U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard units well into the late 1980s. Six former USAF O-2A airframes were also transferred to the U.S. Navy in 1983 for use as "range controllers" with Attack Squadron 122 (VA-122), the Pacific Fleet Replacement Squadron for the A-7 Corsair II at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. These same aircraft were later transferred to Strike Fighter Squadron 125 (VFA-125), the F/A-18 Hornet FRS at NAS Lemoore, in 1986 for use in the same range control role.[4] The six Navy O-2As remained in this role until September 1990, when they were replaced by T-34C Turbo Mentor aircraft transferred from the Naval Air Training Command. Four of the Navy O-2A aircraft were retired and two of these became civil registered in October 1991. These two aircraft were flown in U.S. airshows performing a "Viet Nam Warbird COIN/FAC" routine during the 1990s. The routine debuted at the "Wings Over Houston" (Texas) airshow in October 1991.[citation needed]

Of the six USN aircraft mentioned above, two were transferred to the U.S. Army in late 1990.[4] O-2As had originally entered the U.S. Army's inventory in 1967 from USAF stocks and were augmented by the 1990 aircraft transfer from the U.S. Navy. Several disassembled USAF O-2s remain in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.[4] Two O-2As were used at Laguna Army Airfield, Arizona as part of testing programs carried out by the Yuma Proving Ground. These were retired in October 2010 and sent to a museum.[1]

Operational history

USAF O-2 Skymaster in flight

A total of 178 USAF O-2 Skymasters were lost in the Vietnam War, to all causes.[5]

El Salvador

During the Salvadoran Civil War the Salvadoran Air Force received a total of 23 O-2As and 2 O-2Bs from the United States, the first arriving in 1981. The O-2s were employed to observe the movements of FMLN formations and direct air strikes against them, playing a major role in forcing the rebel movement to abandon large-scale operations. Near the end of the war in 1990, the rebel's acquisition of SA-7 missiles resulted in the loss of two O-2As, while another was destroyed by mortar fire, and two more were lost in crashes.[6]

Civilian use


In the mid 1970s, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, found that the contractor-owned air attack aircraft, mostly single-engine Cessna 182s and Cessna 210s, did not provide the airspeed and safety needed for the department's new air tanker program. In 1974, Senior Air Operations Officer, Cotton Mason, inspected 40 USAF O-2s at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The best 20 were selected and shipped to Fresno, California. These aircraft had been FAC aircraft in Vietnam and were shipped back to the United States in containers, and were disassembled and on pallets when they arrived at Fresno. A crew of California Conservation Corps (CCC) members under the supervision of a CDF Battalion Chief who was an FAA Certificated Mechanic with Inspection Authorization (IA), reassembled the aircraft. They were placed in service in 1976, and successfully served CALFIRE for more than 20 years, until replaced by a fleet of OV-10 Broncos.[7]


An O-2B Skymaster dropping leaflets over Vietnam

Version designed for use in forward air control missions, features ordnance hard points underneath the wings to hold rockets, gun pods or flares. 513 were delivered.[3]
Version designed for psychological warfare, and was equipped with loudspeakers and a leaflet dispenser, but otherwise carried no weapons. Thirty-one former civil 337s were converted to O-2Bs.[8]

Current Operators

  • Chilean Air Force 10 O-2A, only two in service at Easter Island, others dismantled and one to Aviation Museum at Los Cerrillos.[citation needed]
  • Chilean Navy - 10 O-2A, six operated, two to Navy Aero Club that went to the Navy, two used for spares, one crashed and due to replacement by 2013.[9]
 El Salvador
  • Salvadoran Air Force - 18 O-2A and two O-2B, delivered starting 1981.[9] Eight O-2A and one O-2B remain in service.

Former Operators

Cessna 337 Skymaster on the ground in New Jersey, 2008

 Costa Rica
 Dominican Republic
 Ivory Coast
State Flag of Iran (1964).svg
  • Namibian Air Force - Six O-2A,[9] five of which were delivered on June 26, 1994, for use in the anti-poaching and anti-smuggling rôle.[12]
 Solomon Islands
  • Solomon Islands Government - Two O-2A.[9]
 South Korea
 South Vietnam
United States

Specifications (O-2)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2 - pilot and observer
  • Length: 29.75 ft (9.07 m)
  • Wingspan: 38.17 ft (11.63 m)
  • Height: 9.17 ft (2.79 m)
  • Wing area: 202.5 ft² (18.8 m²)
  • Empty weight: 2,848 lb (1,292 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 5,400 lb (2,448 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Continental IO-360C six-cylinder flat engines, 210 hp (157 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 200 mph (322 km/h)
  • Range: 1,325 mi (2,132 km)combat
  • Service ceiling: 18,000 ft (5,490 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,180 ft/min (6 m/s)

Aircraft on display

Notable appearances in media

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 The OV-10 Bronco Association (March 2002). "What is the Pave Nail system?". Retrieved 3 May 2010.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Bronco" defined multiple times with different content
  2. Skutack, Daniel (February 2003). "COVEY's in Southeast Asia". Retrieved 3 May 2010. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Fact Sheets : Cessna O-2A Skymaster : Cessna O-2A Skymaster
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The United States Military Aviation Directory, AIRTime Publishing, Norwalk, CT, c2000, p. 231, ISBN 1-880588-29-3
  5. Hobson, Chris. Vietnam Air Losses, USAF/USN/USMC/ Fixed-Wing Southeast Asia 1961-1973. 2001. ISBN 1-85780-115-6
  6. Cooper, Tom. "El Salvador, 1980-1992". Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  7. This section contains public domain material taken from "CDF Aviation Management History", CDF official website, retrieved August 23, 2007
  8. Andrade 1979, page 140
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 "Cessna Skymasters used by non-US Air-Forces", Accessed May 10, 2010.
  10. Haiti Air Force
  11. 21st. Counter Insurgence Squadron O-2A
  12. AIR International, December 1994, page 323.
  13. US Navy O-2 Pelican
  14. United States Air Force Museum
  15. National Museum of the US Air Force - Cessna O-2A Skymaster
  16. Hulburt Field - O-2A Skymaster
  17. Shaw AFB
  18. USAF Armament Museum
  19. New York ANG - 105th AG, Newburgh
  20. USAF History and Traditions Museum
  21. Kelly Field Heritage Museum
  22. Dyess Linear Air Park
  23. Air Mobility Command Museum
  24. Travis Air Force Museum
  25. "Hill Air Force Base - Fact Sheet (Printable) : "SUPER SKYMASTER"". Retrieved 2012-09-16. 
  26. Museum of Aviation - Cessna O-2A "Skymaster"
  27. Grissom Air Museum - Cessna O-2A Super Skymaster
  28. llinois ANG - 182nd AG, Peoria
  29. Pima Air & Space Museum
  30. Castle Air Museum
  31. Chanute Display Center
  32. Valiant Air Command Museum
  33. March Field Air Museum


  • Andrade, John (1979). U.S.Military Aircraft Designations and Serials since 1909. Midland Counties Publications. ISBN 0-904597-22-9. 

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