Mohawk Memories

Mohawk Memories

Mohawk Memories

In the mid-1950s, the U.S. Army contracted with Grumman Aircraft to develop a light turboprop observation and support airplane, one capable of operating out of rough forward airstrips yet fast and agile enough to evade the enemy’s countermeasures. The outcome was called the OV-1A Mohawk, in keeping with the Army’s use of native names for its aircraft. The Mohawk’s first flight was on April 14, 1959, entering service in early 1961; production ended in December of 1970, after about 375 were built. It continued in service as late as 1992. Originally the AO-1, for its planned dual attack and observation role, it became the OV-1 after the Air Force took over what it considered to be its missions of fixed-wing ground attack support and transport.
The Mohawk served in Southeast Asia, Europe, Korea and the Middle East, living with the troops and bringing back vital intelligence for battlefield commanders. In talking with veterans who flew the Mohawks, we gained a lot of respect for the little turbine twin. Citation jet owner Joe Masessa, a Florida-based dermatologist, flies a restored OV-1D in airshows and kindly shared his experiences.
The Mohawk was initially designed with a T-tail empennage, using 960 or 1,005-hp Lycoming T-53-L-3 free-turbine powerplants. Early redesign brought a change to a three-rudder tail in the 1959 YO-1A service-test version. The aircraft’s 42-foot wingspan, leading-edge slats (in A models) and large flaps enabled a 59-knot stalling speed. The crew was housed in a side-by-side cockpit, normally with a technical operator sitting beside the pilot to run the onboard equipment.Photo Nov 07, 10 27 15 AM
Originally, the A-model had panoramic film cameras, plus capability for carrying underwing armament consisting of rocket and machine gun pods, or even 5-inch Zuni rockets, at considerable annoyance to the Air Force; in 1965, the Pentagon directed that the U.S. Army would not operate armed fixed-wing aircraft.
The unarmed OV-1B had SLAR (side-looking airborne radar) in a long pod under the right side of the fuselage, and the wingspan was lengthened to 48 feet, without slats or dive brakes. The OV-1C had infrared sensing and two cameras, a 70mm-format fixed nose camera and a 180-degree panning camera located aft. The final version, the OV-1D, was convertible from SLAR to camera configurations. SLAR missions were commonly flown at 7,000 feet AGL, while the infrared cameras were utilized at 1,500 feet or so. In its final form, the OV-1’s engines were upgraded to 1,450-hp T-53-701 versions. Initially, maximum weight was 15,031 pounds, increasing to 18,109 pounds in the OV-1D. Fuel was carried in a 297-gallon centerline tank in the fuselage; added tanks of 150 gallon capacity could be mounted under the wings.
Veteran’s Recollections
According to retired Major George Davis, who flew a tour in Vietnam in 1972, then spent three years at Ft. Hood, Texas before assignment to Korea to command a Mohawk company near the DMZ, the OV-1 was great airplane, once it had achieved 120 knots after takeoff, where single-engine flight was survivable. The ejection seats were not quite capable of ground-level/zero-speed extraction. Normal cruise was 240 knots, and Vne in a dive was a blistering 385 knots; in the models equipped with dive brakes, the Mohawk could stabilize at Vne and evade hostile action by heading for the deck.
Davis’ runway in Vietnam was 3,500 feet long. However, Wayne Klotz, a technical operator based at Phu Heip AAF on the coast at Tuy Hoa, said his unit often operated out of a 2,000 x 80-foot strip, where takeoffs were quite marginal. For proficiency, Klotz’s pilots would perform five continuous barrel rolls and attempt to recover at the entry altitude. Such maneuvering was only done if the Mohawk was dry of photo-developing chemicals; radar and IR pictures were recorded on a filmstrip and the film was automatically developed in-flight on the recon missions, ready for study as soon as the plane landed.
Max Corrineau flew Mohawks in the 1980s, initially in Germany during the cold-war era, involving 99% SLAR missions. He then flew the aircraft in Desert Storm, the 1991 Gulf War that drove Saddim Hussein’s forces from Kuwait back to Baghdad along the “highway of death.” Afterward, he flew out of Camp Humphreys in Korea, monitoring movements along the DMZ. In Corrineau’s experience, the Army’s Mohawk units coordinated very well with Joint Air Operations, integrating their intelligence with the AWACS aircraft overhead. LTC Corrineau retired in 2009 after 24 years of service.
Captain Brenda Curkendall and her husband both flew OV-1Ds in the 1970’s at Fort Hood, Texas, where they were attached to the Army’s military intelligence units. Her aircraft was equipped with dive brakes, and the escape and evasion technique they were taught was to go on the deck at 200 knots, because the sound of the aircraft was behind it, evading small-arms fire. In her experience, the SLAR information was downloaded to the ground via datalink, as real-time actionable intelligence. The –D model was reconfigurable, so the ground crew could swap out components in short order. For night photography, a massive photoflash pod could be attached to light up the area, far superior to the flares used in Vietnam. For IP checks, some of the Mohawks had dual controls, but Curkendall enjoyed the single-pilot aspects of flying the little “Grumman Iron Works” airplane. Later in her career, she flew U-21 intelligence-gathering King Airs in Korea.
All of the vets we spoke with loved the OV-1, stressing its ability to deliver information gleaned up to 100 kilometers away from its flight path. It could change speed, altitude and attitude simultaneously to get out of harm’s way, capability that Dr. Masessa employs to great advantage in his low-level airshow demonstrations.•T&T-

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    Siegfried Macie October 18, 2019 at 5:28 am

    My Father CW4 Melville E Macie (ret) flew the OV-1 in Vietnam on of his aircraft with his name on it is on display at the Ft Hood avn museum, he love flying the OV-1, said it was his favoritehe was a dual rated master Aviator when he retired, unfortunately we lost him Sept. 11, 2014, he was my hero he was my dad!

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