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Grumman OV-1 Mohawk

The OV-1 Mohawk, manufactured by Grumman Aerospace (Old Bethpage, Long Island, NY), was one of the first U.S. Army aircraft procured in support of the air assault division concept. In March 1957, Grumman was awarded the development contract under Grumman designation G-134. Nine prototype and evaluation aircraft were produced under a joint services agreement, designated YAO-1AF. The Navy and Marines pulled out of the program in September 1957, leaving the program to the Army. The YAO-1AF first flew on 14 April 1959 and production orders were placed for delivery in 1960 as the OV-1.

The OV-1 Mohawk is a short take-off and landing (STOL) battlefield reconnaissance aircraft, designed to operate from small unimproved fields in the forward battle area. It could take off with a run of only 1,175 feet. The pilot and one observer are seated side by side in a bubble canopy at the front of the aircraft, providing excellent visibility in all directions. The Mohawks enjoyed a very positive reputation as an agile aircraft, with sturdy reliability and flexibility for a variety of intelligence and support missions.

Grumman OV-1 Mohawk with side-looking airborne radar (SLAR) module
Grumman OV-1 Mohawk with side-looking airborne radar (SLAR) module.

Today in WW II: 20 Sep 1943 Italy bisected as U.S and British forces meet at Eboli.   

Grumman OV-1 Mohawk Combat History

Grumman OV-1 Mohawk
Grumman OV-1 Mohawk.

The first OV-1 Mohawks were delivered to a U.S. Army unit in Germany in 1961 but its most significant service was in Southeast Asia. The first unit of six OV-1 Mohawks was deployed to Vietnam in September 1962. For the duration of the war, they supplied overhead imagery and electronic observation along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos as well as electronic surveillance missions throughout Vietnam. OV-1s were used as target seeker spotters that pinpointed enemy bunker complexes, rocket sites, river movements, and supply routes. Based on reports from OV-1s, helicopter gun ships, naval fire, or heavier aircraft would be directed to the most lucrative targets.

Surveillance OV-1 Mohawks in Vietnam were armed with self-defense .50 caliber machine guns. Ground commanders requested and obtained an expansion of the Mohawk's role to include ground support to take advantage of their capability for long loiter time and ability to carry a wider variety of weapons. The OV-1s quiet Lycoming turboprops inspired the Viet Cong nickname: "Whispering Death."

By 1964, OV-1 Mohawk aircraft were deployed to South Korea to provide intelligence in support of the fragile peace. After the Vietnam War, OV-1 Mohawks operated with the U.S. Army in Germany and continued their role in South Korea. During the civil war in El Salvador (1980-1992) U.S. Army OV-1 Mohawks conducted regular reconnaissance flights over El Salvador to support the government against Marxist-oriented insurgents.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, a small number of OV-1C and OV-1D aircraft were equipped with electronic intelligence modifications and redesignated RV-1C Quicklook and RV-1D Quicklook II respectively. These Mohawks were used in Cold War operations against the Soviet Union.

The OV-1 Mohawk continued to serve in the U.S. Army through Operation Desert Storm. Its final official flight took place on 21 September 1996 when the last OV-1D was retired by a unit in Korea.

Although some were lost to enemy fire or accidents, the OV-1 Mohawk was a very successful combat aircraft in its designated role. Approximately 380 OV-1 Mohawk planes were manufactured during its production lifetime from 1957 through 1970.

OV-1 Mohawk Models and Missions

There were four models of the OV-1 Mohawk, configured for specific missions:

  • OV-1A: day/night photographic reconnaissance
  • OV-1B: side-looking airborne radar (SLAR)
  • OV-1C: infrared (IR) reconnaissance
  • OV-1D: multi-mission, rapid configuration

The OV-1B and C models were produced in parallel during the 1960s to meet differing mission requirements. The OV-1D Mohawk (introduced in 1968) incorporates the functionality of the OV-1B and C models, with rapid configuration capability for SLAR or IR operations. The OV-1D has an improved inertial navigation system, infrared and radar performance with automatic data annotation of imagery, three photographic systems that include a vertical and oblique firing camera and two panoramic cameras that provide vertical and horizontal terrain coverage horizon to horizon, a radiological monitoring system, and ECM equipment to assure mission success. A total of 37 OV-1Ds were built, and 108 older Mohawk variants were upgraded to the OV-1D standard, including four OV-1Cs rebuilt as YOV-1D pre-production prototypes.

OV-1 Mohawk Specifications and Performance

Wing span48 feet (OV-1B, D), 42 feet (OV-1A, C)
Length41 feet w/o SLAR, 44 feet, 11 in w/SLAR
Height12 feet, 8 in
Weight11,760 lbs. empty. Add for fuel 1,930 Ibs. Add for two drop tanks (150-gal.) 2,368 lbs. Payload: 341 lbs. (OV-1A, B); 741 lbs. (OV-1C) Max 18,110 lbs. (OV-1D)
ArmamentNone. Hardpoints provided.
EngineOV-1A: two 960 hp Lycoming T-53-L3 turboprop engines
OV-1B/C early: two 1,005 hp Lycoming T-53-L7 turboprop engines
OV-1B/C late: two 1,150 hp Lycoming T-53-L15 turboprop engines
OV-1D: two 1,400 hp Lycoming T53-L-701 turboprop engines
PropellersHamilton-Standard three-bladed reversing & feathering, 10 ft. diam.
Maximum speed265 knots (OV-1D)
Range822 nm w/drop tanks
Service ceiling25,000 ft. (80% fuel)

OV-1 Mohawk take off
OV-1 Mohawk take off.

Lt. Gen. Richard F. Timmons, Commanding General, 8th US Army, takes the last OV-1D Mohawk Surveillance Aircraft on its final flight, 3rd MI Battalion, 501st MI Brigade, INSCOM, Camp Humphreys, Korea, 21 September 1996. AH-64 Apache helicopters are above
Lt. Gen. Richard F. Timmons, Commanding General, 8th US Army, takes the last OV-1D Mohawk Surveillance Aircraft on its final flight, 3rd MI Battalion, 501st MI Brigade, INSCOM, Camp Humphreys, Korea, 21 September 1996. AH-64 Apache helicopters are above.

Grumman OV-1C Mohawk, Commemorative Air Force Highland Lakes Squadron Air Show, Burnet, TX, 12 April 2008.  Photo: Courtesy Bob Pettit
Grumman OV-1C Mohawk, Commemorative Air Force Highland Lakes Squadron Air Show, Burnet, TX, 12 April 2008. Photo: Courtesy Bob Pettit.

Grumman OV-1C Mohawk, Commemorative Air Force Highland Lakes Squadron Air Show, Burnet, TX, 12 April 2008.  Photo: Courtesy Bob Pettit
Grumman OV-1C Mohawk, Commemorative Air Force Highland Lakes Squadron Air Show, Burnet, TX, 12 April 2008. Photo: Courtesy Bob Pettit.

Grumman OV-1C Mohawk, Commemorative Air Force Highland Lakes Squadron Air Show, Burnet, TX, 12 April 2008.  Photo: Courtesy Bob Pettit
Grumman OV-1C Mohawk, Commemorative Air Force Highland Lakes Squadron Air Show, Burnet, TX, 12 April 2008. Photo: Courtesy Bob Pettit.

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