Posted April 1, 2002
In a major announcement today, Boeing announced that due to a renewed need brought on in part by the war on terrorism, they will begin production next week on an updated version of the legendary OV-10 Bronco aircraft, expecting to produce over 1,850 aircraft by the end of 2003. The plane, which will incorporate the best features of all previous versions as well as new enhancements, will be designated QXYOF/AV-10AB[Z]CDEFSLEP+. In order to fit into today's politically-sensitive military environment, the name "Bronco" will be replaced by the new, gender-neutral program name "Horsey".
In addition to the standard FAC/CAS/COIN missions that made the plane formerly known as Bronco famous, Boeing will use advanced technologies to enhance the mission of the new aircraft. The program will incorporate non-lethal weaponry including sponson-mounted tazers. The crew will be expanded to seven, accomodated under an extended bubble canopy, but the aircraft will have the capability to fly autonomously for particularly dangerous missions. The wingspan has been extended to 41.5 feet to accomodate the extra load, while the gross takeoff weight has been raised to 117,030 lbs. A 27-tire castering landing gear, modified slightly from the system currently employed on the 747-500, has also been installed to allow for operations from unprepared fields. Boeing says that the Horsey will achieve large cost savings by sharing a 3.62% parts commonality with the Bronco. Boeing's sales brochure states, "The customer can take advantage of the existing OV-10 supply and maintenance infrastructure for all common maintenance, such as inflating the tires or changing the wiper blades. That is part of our service commitment to you!"
Another big change is that the OV-10's two Garrett AirResearch T-76 engines have been replaced with one 118hp electric/methanol hybrid engine developed by Honda for use in their Insight electric vehicle, which drives the propellers via a lightweight chain drive. While the power of this engine is significantly less than the 1040shp of the OV-10D's engines, Boeing state the eco-friendly powerplant was a necessary switch. A spokesman, speaking on condition of ambiguity, said, "You have to keep in mind, a significant market for this aircraft exists in Southern California, both as fire-spotters and urban attack aircraft. In fact, the LAPD has bought fifty-nine Horsey production spots with options on thirty-five more. With the air pollution laws in that state, this was the only way the plane could get approval to fly there. The cops are all excited about getting to ride Horseys soon, and we can't be more excited for them." The program is expected to add approximately 19 jobs to the Seattle area.
The spokesman also told OV-10Bronco.Net that the BATF has also ordered several hundred Horseys. "They will initially be used against terrorists, militia groups, religious wackos, gun-control rallies, and CNN reporters." However, the State Department is not so sure. "We have used the OV-10D for years as a very successful anti-narcotics spray aircraft," said State Dept. spokesman I. Bill McGinty. "But we really want those A-10s. I mean, we REALLY want them, like bad. Have you ever thought about what kind of impression a pair of Warthogs will have on those peasant coca farmers as they spray Roundup on their field, while they blow up their homes with the 30mm cannon at the same time? And of course we need to get set up to train for that out over the St. John's River area. Man, I'm getting aroused just thinking about it!"
The Boeing spokesman said, "We feel that we have a hell of an airplane to offer. We believe that within a few weeks, every commander coming under fire will be on the radio asking for it. The management of Boeing is convinced that 'Send me some QXYOF/AV-10AB[Z]CDEFSLEP+'s and air cover, NOW!' is set to become a defining phrase of the war on terrorism."
However, there is some discord in the Bronco community. Just two hours after Boeing announced their plans for the QXYOF/AV-10AB[Z]CDEFSLEP+, the newly-formed Seattle Lawyer's Aerospace Collective of King County, formed by displaced Boeing lawyers who lost their jobs when the company moved their corporate headquarters to Chicago, used the announcement of the program to attack Boeing and announce legal action. SLACK announced that it had patented the pod-and-boom design retroactively and have filed infringement suits against over 200 aircraft manufacturers - including Boeing (for the Bronco and Horsey) and Lockheed-Martin (who produced the P-38 Lighting), Northrop Grumman (for the P-61 Black Widow), and Cessna (for the 337/O-2). "We are asking the courts to award us $1000 per flight hour of every one of these planes produced, flown, mocked up, drawn, sketched on a napkin, or thought of, dating back to the effective date of our patent - February 29, 1817."
When asked how they arrived at the $1000 per flight hour figure, SLACK spokesman F. Bee Lailey said, "We didn't want to destroy any of the companies, only get what was ours. So we cut the asking amount down to a fraction of what we felt they really owed us. We feel that this is more than fair. In the future, we will license the design out for much, much more." In U.S. District court last week, SLACK has won a preliminary default judgment against all defendants, and a hearing for a summary award is awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Court observers expect that when the ruling comes down, probably within the next two days, it will be in favor of the lawyers. If awarded the whole amount, Boeing will owe SLACK approximately $497,399,230,290.62 plus legal fees. None of the companies named stated that they had ever heard about the suit, although Lockheed mentioned that they noticed a lot of people dressed like lawyers hanging around the Skunk Works lately with video cameras. "We thought they were just government security observers or reporters from 60 minutes looking for a story, so we didn't think much of it."