Cessna OA-37B Dragonfly

This is a bit off topic!

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After the jump, I’ll share a look at an Air Force Attack type that dates from the 1960s.

This type started life as the T-37 trainer.  As the Viet Nam War escalated the Pentagon was looking to add a light attack/COIN (counter insurgency) aircraft.  The T-37 was felt to be an appealing starting point, it was a capable aircraft with good flight characteristics.  Turning the trainer into the A-37 involved adding a lot of power and multiple hard points.  The A-37B was more capable yet and added more complete electronics.  The type stayed in service until it was finally replaced by the A-10 in the 1980s.

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The aircraft shown here is from the Trumpeter kit with Super Scale decals.  The inspiration for this is simple, its a Christmas present.  My brother-in-law was based at Bergstrom Air Force Base in the mid-1980s.  His job was Satellite communications, but he managed a ride on a visiting A-37 once.  So this is my attempt at modeling his ride.

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And wow what a can of worms this proved to be! First of all, the A-37 was never based at Bergstrom.  They were assigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base with 23rd TASS.  And since Bergstrom was long ago closed, and the A-37 retired 30 years ago, there is just painfully little documentation on the internet. I actually did find reference to this deployment happening, and I found two (yes, TWO!) photos of 23rd TASS A-37s from about this time.

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That’s a re-fueling probe sticking out of the nose and a variety of lights and sensors are also visible.  Armament is a GAU-2B mini-gun just under the nose.  External stores are on eight hard points, this aircraft, like many stateside photos I’ve seen, has a rocket launcher pod on the outer station, extra fuel on the two middle stations and the inner station is empty.

My brother-in-law does have a drawing from the base news letter article about the Dragonfly’s based there for a few months.  But this kind of made things worse.  The drawing shows the big “DM” code on the tail indicating their Davis-Monthan origin.  But every mention I saw of these aircraft says they carried “NF” on the tail for “Nail FAC”.  That’s Nail Forward Air Control, their call sign and mission type. One of the photos I had showed an A-37 and A-10 side by side during the squadron’s transition period, both with the “NF” code.  As near as I can tell the Squadron switched to “DM”, like all the other squadrons based at Davis-Monthan, several months after they re-equipped with Warthogs.

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I tried to find photos, drawings, profiles, anything that might help; but this does not seem to be well documented era or aircraft type!  I’m used to finding far more images for my World War II posts.  There were two things I would have liked to find but couldn’t; a clear indication of what camouflage scheme these planes used, and a decal sheet with appropriate serial numbers and codes in the correct font.  What I finally did was use a Super Scale decal sheet with an aircraft from the 1980s assigned to the Illinois Air National Guard.  So the color scheme and stencils should be more or less correct. Then I found an old decal sheet for an F3F that included the “Marine Fighter” code of “MF” in a similar font and did some X-Acto surgery to make it into the “NF” code you see here.

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So this was an adventure!  I worked a little outside of my comfort zone and had to over work my “Google” keys.  Now the really fun part will be spending the day with family and celebrating Our Savior’s birth.  I hope all you readers have a great Christmas, and I’ll be back with something more period appropriate in a few days!

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Well you know I had to include a little World War II.  The A-20 at left would do much of the same work as the A-37 at right. The most telling comparison is payload: this early A-20 carries 2000 lbs internally at 339 mph while the smaller A-37 carries 8000 lbs on eight hard points at 500 mph.

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This was kind of an important photo I neglected to get when I first took pictures! The all important tail code indicating the 23rd TASS in the mid-1980s.

This photo shows the 23rd TASS A-37 with an A-10 that will be replacing it in the background. The shadowed style here is a bit beyond my improvisation skills. But my markings look like the A-10! (from vermontel.net)

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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11 Responses to Cessna OA-37B Dragonfly

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Always interesting reading Dave.
    Joyeux Noël my friend.

  2. It a stunning model, how you folks produce such brilliant examples never fails to amaze me. Have a great Christmas.

  3. jfwknifton says:

    A-20 v A-37. That’s the power of jet engines for you, because nobody ever said that the A-20 was a poor performer in its role.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah the jet engine has a LOT more power. It also generates less drag, so it’s powerful AND slippery.
      So as my wife said “wow that little guy carries a lot more stuff!”

  4. Another terrific kit Dave! I love counter-insurgency aircraft. The Dragonfly looks so cool ;tooled-up!’ I hope you had a great Christmas, best wishes for the New Year, Rich.

  5. The Dragonfly is such an interesting bird. It looks like it should never be able to get off the ground when loaded up. Great job!

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