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The O-2 Skymaster (also known as the “Oscar Deuce” or “The Duck”) is a military version of the Cessna 337 Super Skymaster utilized as an observation and forward air control (FAC) aircraft. The United States Air Force commissioned Cessna to build a military variant to replace the O-1 Bird Dog in 1966.

As with the civilian version, the Skymaster was a low-cost twin-engine piston-powered aircraft, with one engine in the nose of the aircraft and a second engine in the rear of the fuselage. The push-pull configuration meant a simpler single-engine operating procedure due to centerline thrust compared to the common low-wing mounting of most twin engine light planes, and also allowed for a high wing, providing clear observation below and behind the aircraft.

1967 Somewhere in South East Asia – Cessna O-2A, observation and forward air control (FAC) aircraft, s/n 67-21318 – Photo USAF.

Modifications made for the military configuration included installation of single seating fore and aft (i.e. two tandem seats available for pilot and observer, vs. 6 seats available in the civilian version); installation of view panels in the doors (for improved ground observation); installation of flame-retardant foam in the wing-mounted fuel tanks (slight increase in empty vehicle weight; 3% reduction in available fuel capacity); installation of military communication and navigation equipment in lieu of available civilian equipment and antennas; deletion of propeller spinners; increased gross weight (5,400 lb vs. 4,400 lb in civilian version), with component strengthening as required to support the increase; and deletion of interior upholstery.


The first O-2 flew in January 1967 and the plane went into production shortly thereafter. Performance (especially at cruising altitudes) was degraded due to the added antennas and significant weight increase, but was considered sufficient for the anticipated low-level operation.

Our aircraft started life with the USAF. Her service history started in South East Asia. She is a Vietnam Veteran. Her proper designation is O-2A, s/n 67-21318

  • Manufactured by Cessna Aircraft, Wichita KS and gained by the USAF on 16 Jun 1967.

  • Jun 1967 To 504th Tactical Air Support Group (Pacific Air Forces), Da Nang AB Vietnam

  • Jun 1971 To Cam Ranh Bay AB Vietnam

  • Jul 1971 To 71st Tactical Air Support Group (Tactical Air Command), Bergstrom AFB TX (deployment to Cam Ranh Bay AB)

  • Jun 1974 To 602nd Tactical Air Control Group (TAC), Bergstrom AFB

  • Jul 1974 To 110th Tactical Air Support Group (Air National Guard), Kellogg Field MI

  • Jan 1975 To 163rd Tactical Air Support Group (ANG), Ontario MAP CA

  • Aug 1982 Dropped from inventory by transfer to US Navy (6221.4 hrs)

  • With the US Navy she served simply as Beau# 721318.

Six former USAF O-2A air-frames were also transferred to the U.S. Navy in 1983 for use as “range controllers” with Attack Squadron 122 (VA-122), the Pacific Fleet Replacement Squadron for the A-7 Corsair II at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. They were used to prevent any attack jets from going below 5000 feet during training runs.


These same aircraft were later transferred to Strike Fighter Squadron 125 (VFA-125), the F/A-18 Hornet FRS at NAS Lemoore, in 1986 for use in the same range control role. She also served with VA-122 out of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada for range duties and as Forward Air Controllers.


This Cessna O-2A was transported to the Curtiss Hangar on April 2, 2023. On June 3rd, it was reassembled for the first time in over 20 years.


Photo by: Jerry O'Neill

O2-A - 3389L-1.jpg

Photo by: Jerry O'Neill


Photo by: Jerry O'Neill

This Aircraft is on loan from: The National Museum of the Marine Corps.

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