The Black Ponies (Jul 1969)

VAL-4, the US Navy’s Black Ponies, was formed at North Island NAS, California in January 1969 to fly the OV-10A in the light attack role in Southeast Asia. A total of 18 OV-10As were transferred from the Marine Corps to the Navy for use by VAL-4. The Squadron deployed to South Vietnam in late March and took up residence at Binh Thuy from where it flew its first combat missions on 19 April. Squadron Headquarters and Detachment A with five aircraft were based at Binh Thuy in the Mekong Delta while Detachment B and its five aircraft was based 80 miles away at Vung Tau on the coast southeast of Saigon. The Squadron’s mission was to provide close air support to naval riverine forces in III and IV Corps, especially in the Mekong Delta and the waterways around Saigon. It was the only OV-10 squadron based in Southeast Asia with an attack role as opposed to forward air control and artillery observation in which the Air Force and Marine Corps squadrons specialised. The Navy aircraft were equipped with Zuni rockets, 2.75-inch rocket pods and the 20mm gun pod. The operations consisted of air patrols, overhead air cover and escort, close air support, scramble alert, reconnaissance and artillery spotting. The Vung Tau detachment was closed down on 1 July 1970 and moved to Binh Thuy to join the rest of the Squadron.