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Based on the four-seat Cessna 170, the Cessna 305A was propose dot satisfy a US Army requirement for a liaison and observation aircraft. The 305A differed from the 170 by having just two seats, angled windows for better visibility below, a revised rear fuselage and a window above the pilot. The prototype first flew on 14th December 1949 and deliveries began in 1949 as the L-19A Bird Dog, the name Bird Dog being chosen via a naming competition at the Cessna factory. The type was eventually replaced by the O-2 Skymaster and OV-10 Bronco in US service but the Bird Dog was also used by 24 other nations.
The US Army initially ordered 418 aircraft and the type first saw combat in the Korean War. In total 3,200 L-19's were ordered by the US military where it was known as the L-19 in US Army service and OE-1 with the Marine Corps. At the beginning of the Vietnam War, the type was given a common designation as the O-1 Bird Dog regardless of which branch of the military flew the aircraft. Until replaced by more powerful aircraft, the US Army, Marines Corps and USAF used the Bird Dog for FAC (Forward Air Controller) duties to vector attack aircraft or artillery on to targets.
The example attending RIAT 2023 in the static display is G-VNAM which originally began life with the US Air Force before being transferred to the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force.
Photo Credit: Duncan Chase