The Skymaster with its high wing was well suited to observation and forward air control (FAC) roles in Vietnam. Day or night, O-2s located enemy targets and called in artillery or attack aircraft and located downed pilots behind enemy lines—as was depicted in the movie Bat 21. This aircraft has a unique push-pull configuration of engines in front and behind the cockpit, so it was easier to handle than a regular twin when an engine failed or had to be shut down.
The O-2 is the military version of the Cessna 337 Super Skymaster. The Air Force commissioned it to replace the O-1 Bird Dog, which was originally called the L-19 and was re-designated O-1 (for Observation) in 1962. The Bird Dog was a single engine all-metal aircraft developed after WWII to be sturdier than fabric covered planes.
The “Bird Dog” found the enemy and called in an attack, like a bird dog does with hunters. The O-2 also excelled in this role. Flying low and close to the battlefield, the pilot observed exploding shells and adjusted artillery fire via radio. In fact, there are lots of radios in the O-2 to communicate with many people on the ground, in the air, and at base camp. The seats are armored to protect the crew.
The O-2B was equipped with loudspeakers and a leaflet dispenser for psychological operations (PSYOPS). These aircraft played a vital supporting role on the battlefield.