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FAS Project on Intelligence Reform

O-1 Bird Dog

The O-1 Bird Dog is a two-place observation and liaison aircraft developed from the commercial Cessna Model 170 in 1949, and selected as the winner of a 1950 competition for a new two-seat liason and observation monoplane. Originally designated as L-19s, "Bird Dogs" were used by the USAF, Army, and Marines for such tasks as artillery spotting, front-line communications, medical evacuation, and pilot training. In Vietnam, O-1s were used by forward air controllers (FACS) for reconnaissance. A "FAC", often an experienced fighter pilot, was assigned to a specific geographical area, so that he could readily identify enemy activity. If a FAC observed enemy ground targets, he marked them with smoke rockets so they could be easily attacked by fighter-bombers. Bird Dogs carried four rockets under each wing and at night carried flares of 2,000,000 candlepower to provide light for outposts under attack. The FAC remained on the scene to report bombing results. The USAF ordered more than 3,200 "Bird Dogs," most of which were built as L-19As between 1950 and 1959.


Span 36 ft.
Length 25 ft. 10 in.
Height 9 ft. 2 in.
Weight 2,400 lbs. loaded
Maximum speed 150 mph.
Cruising speed 115 mph.
Range 530 miles
Service Ceiling 20,300 ft.
Armament Generally none except smoke rockets
Engine Continental O-470 of 213 hp.
Crew two

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Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood

Updated Wednesday, July 30, 1997 5:35:25 PM