Douglas O-38F at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in 2005
Role Observation plane
Manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company
Primary user United States Army Air Corps
Produced 1931–1934
Number built 156

The Douglas O-38 was an observation airplane used by the United States Army Air Corps.

Between 1931 and 1934, Douglas built 156 O-38s for the Air Corps, eight of which were O-38Fs. Some were still in service at the time of the Pearl Harbor Attack in 1941.

The O-38 is a modernized derivative of the O-25, itself a re-engined variant of the earlier Douglas O-2.


O-38Bs from the 112th Observation Squadron, Ohio National Guard, in 1936.
derivative of the Curtiss Conqueror-engined O-25 but with a 525-hp (391-kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1690-3 radial engine and Townend ring cowling; the National Guard received all 44 production aircraft
single unarmed O-38 staff liaison machine for the National Guard
O-38B for the Maryland National Guard
derivative of the O-38 with an R-1690-5 engine; total production was 63, comprising 30 for USAAC observation squadrons and 33 for the National Guard
single aircraft similar to the O-38B for use by US Coast Guard
model with a wider and deeper fuselage on the lines of the private-venture O-38S, with a sliding canopy over the cockpits and a 625-hp (466-kW) R-1690-13 radial engine driving a metal propeller; could be operated on twin Edo floats; the National Guard took delivery of 37 such aircraft
eight unarmed staff liaison aircraft delivered to the National Guard in 1933 with an R-1690-9 engine and a revised, fully enclosed canopy
Almost identical to the E/F series. Six aircraft delivered to Perú in February 1933, fitted with Edo floats; Three took part in the conflict against Colombia, and took part in air combats against Colombian Curtiss Hawk IIs, one being lost as consequence of damage received during those clashes. Survivors were converted to wheels, and served as trainers until 1940.
private-venture development of the O-38 with a wider and deeper fuselage, crew canopy and a smooth-cowled 575 hp (429 kW) Wright R-1820-E Cyclone radial engine; in effect was the prototype of the O-38E
proposed use of the O-38 as a radio-controlled target drone (cancelled)


 United States

Surviving aircraft

O-38F on display at the National Museum of the USAF

Specifications (O-38B)

Data from McDonnell Douglas aircraft since 1920 : Volume I,[4] United States military aircraft since 1908[5]

General characteristics




  1. ^ "Douglas O-38F". National Museum of the United States Air Force (NMUSAF). 7 April 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2017.
  2. ^ Miller, Ed Mack (February 1969). "Operation O-38: A Salvage Adventure in Alaska's 'Deep Freeze'". Air Force and Space Digest. Vol. 52, no. 2. pp. 56–60. Retrieved 11 July 2022.
  3. ^ Informational film playing in museum to accompany display
  4. ^ Francillon, René J. (1988). McDonnell Douglas aircraft since 1920 : Volume I. London: Naval Institute Press. pp. 62–81. ISBN 0870214284.
  5. ^ Swanborough, F. G.; Bowers, Peter M. (1971). United States military aircraft since 1908 (Rev. ed.). London: Putnam. pp. 223–228. ISBN 0370000943.
  6. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". m-selig.ae.illinois.edu. Retrieved 16 April 2019.

Further reading