Editor’s Note: The North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco was developed back in the 1960s specifically for counter-insurgency (COIN) operations, and another one of its primary missions was flying Forward Air Control-Airborne (FAC-A). The airplane can carry up to three tons of external munitions and is able to stay on station for over three hours. A pair of Broncos have been brought out of retirement for Operation Inherent Resolve as part of an experiment.

War was just an experiment for two of the U.S. military’s oldest and most unusual warplanes. A pair of OV-10 Broncos—small, Vietnam War-vintage, propeller-driven attack planes—recently spent three months flying top cover for ground troops battling [Daesh] militants in the Middle East.

The Broncos’ deployment is one of the latest examples of a remarkable phenomenon. The United States—and, to a lesser extent, Russia—has seized the opportunity afforded it by the aerial free-for-all over Iraq and Syria and other war zones to conduct live combat trials with new and upgraded warplanes, testing the aircraft in potentially deadly conditions before committing to expensive manufacturing programs.

That’s right. America’s aerial bombing campaigns are also laboratories for the military and the arms industry. After all, how better to pinpoint an experimental warplane’s strengths and weaknesses than to send it into an actual war?

The twin-engine Broncos—each flown by a pair of naval aviators—completed 134 sorties, including 120 combat missions, over a span of 82 days beginning in May 2015 or shortly thereafter, according to U.S. Central Command, which oversees America’s wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Central Command would not say exactly where the OV-10s were based or where they attacked, but did specify that the diminutive attack planes with their distinctive twin tail booms flew in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led international campaign against [Daesh] in Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon has deployed warplanes to Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, among other countries.

The original article at the Daily Beast can be viewed here.

(Featured photo courtesy of Flickr.com)