BATFE Secret ‘Air Force’ Grounded Again

BATFE Secret ‘Air Force’ Grounded Again
National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)
National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)

Fairfax, VA –-( Everyone likes the song that begins “Off we go, into the wild blue yonder.” Maybe the BATFE likes it a little too much.

Days after the BATFE had its ears trimmed by Congress after trying to ban M855 ammunition, a D.O.J. Inspector General audit has revealed that over the last few years, the agency spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars trying to achieve one of its long held ambitions, a private air force, of sorts.

Long held, indeed. In 1995, a mere two years after the then-BATF’s deadly debacle in Waco, Texas, the agency acquired 22 OV-10 “Bronco” warplanes from the military. Though designed to carry machine guns, missiles, rockets, and bombs, nine of the planes in the BATF’s squadron were “being used for surveillance and photography,” while the rest were for spare parts, the agency said.

OV-10 “Bronco” Warplane
OV-10 “Bronco” Warplane

The following year, NRA learned that the military had transferred the warplanes to the BATF through a dummy salvage corporation and a fictitious outfit called American Warbirds, Inc., which had offices in an unmarked building occupied by the BATF near Washington, D.C.

Why the BATF needed the sneakily-acquired aircraft, equipped with Forward-Looking Infrared television and ground-mapping radar, was never made clear. In any case, the OV-10s, reportedly, were eventually transferred to the Department of State, ending the agency’s airborne dreams.

Or so we thought at the time.

The recent audit found that “between September 2011 and September 2012, ATF’s UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) program spent approximately $600,000 to purchase three different types of rotary-wing UAS with a total of six UAS vehicles.”

Supposedly, the BATFE never used the drones in law enforcement investigations, because they suffered “mechanical and technical problems significant enough to render them unsuitable for deployment on ATF operations.” In 2014, the BATFE’s Special Operations Division, which is responsible for undercover operations security and specialized deployments, suspended the drone program. The agency’s expensive toys were thereafter given to the Navy.

However, the audit determined, “less than a week after ATF suspended its original UAS program, an ATF unit, the National Response Team (NRT), purchased five small commercial UAS for about $15,000” to “help document fire and explosion scenes.” Those drones, too, have been grounded until the NRT receives “further guidance regarding their use.”

Additional details about the audit’s findings were reported by the Washington Examiner on Wednesday. On the heels of having its funding called into question over the M855 episode, the revelation of BATFE’s waste of Americans’ money on drones that, perhaps thankfully, didn’t work, cannot bode well for the nation’s most chronically problematic law enforcement agency.

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit:

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The aircraft in the movie “BAT-21” was an O-2 not an OV-10.


Time to rein in the alphabet soup agencies and have them quit playing top gun and super soldier at our expense.


What a waste of taxpayer money.

If they really needed aircraft, all they had to do was ask and they could have some.


Why? So the BATFE can smuggle weapons to the cartel?


Cargo area used to transport troops, supplies, and photo gear in Vietnam also could maneuver in and out of tight landing areas


Question is Why? Large Cargo Section at Rear of Plane. Great for Halo Drops and Storing Spraying Units to Spray suspected Marijuana Growing Areas…

Dr Dave

Wrong department the ATF doesn’t care about Pot that is the DEA, and FBI

TSgt B

WRONG! The OV-10 “Bronco” was a FAC (Forward Air Controller) observation aircraft tasked with observing enemy actions and calling in the tactical air support needed by ground troops. It is a “push-pull” type aircraft, with engines in the front and REAR. There is no “large cargo area” in the rear, as this space is occupied by the “pusher” engine and propeller. Watch the movie “Bat 21”. In it, Danny Glover is flying an OV-10 FAC. While the aircraft could, and did, carry light machine guns, small bombs, and rockets (mostly used for marking targets for airstrikes) there is NO WAY… Read more »


Actually, only 12. 22 were bought, 10 were cannibalized for spare parts. Grounded because of lack of “spare parts”.