Cessna O-1 Bird Dog

The Cessna L-19/O-1 Bird Dog was a liaison and observation aircraft. It was the first all-metal fixed-wing aircraft ordered for and by the United States Army following the Army Air Forces' separation from it in 1947. The Bird Dog had a lengthy career in the U.S. military, as well as in other countries.

L-19/O-1 Bird Dog
Cessna O-1A Bird Dog US Army in flight
An O-1A Bird Dog
Role Observation aircraft
National origin United States
Manufacturer Cessna
First flight 14 December 1949
Introduction 1950
Retired 1974 (US)
Status Active as a warbird
Primary users United States Army
United States Air Force
United States Marine Corps
Royal Thai Air Force
Produced 1950-1959
Number built 3,431
Developed from Cessna 170
Variants Cessna 308

Design and development

The U.S. Army was searching for an aircraft that could adjust artillery fire, as well as perform liaison duties, and preferably be constructed of all metal, as the fabric-covered liaison aircraft used during World War II (primarily Stinson and Piper products) had short service lives. The U.S. Army issued the specification for a two-seat liaison and observation monoplane, and the Cessna Aircraft Company submitted the Cessna Model 305A, a development of the Cessna 170. The Cessna 305A was a single-engined, lightweight, strut-braced, high-wing monoplane with a tailwheel landing gear. The greatest difference from the Cessna 170 was that the 305A had only two seats, in tandem configuration (the largest tandem-seat aircraft Cessna ever produced), with angled side windows to improve ground observation. Other differences included a redesigned rear fuselage, providing a view directly to the rear (a feature later dubbed "Omni-View", carried over to Cessna single-engined aircraft after 1964), and transparent panels in the wings' center-section over the cockpit (similar to those found on the Cessna 140 and the later Cessna 150 Aerobat model), which allowed the pilot to look directly overhead. A wider door was fitted to allow a stretcher to be loaded.

The U.S. Army awarded a contract to Cessna for 418 of the aircraft, which was designated the L-19A Bird Dog. The prototype Cessna 305 (registration N41694) first flew on 14 December 1949, and it now resides in the Spirit of Flight Center in Erie, Colorado. Deliveries began in December 1950, and the aircraft were soon in use fighting their first war in Korea from 1950 through 1953. An instrument trainer variant was developed in 1953, later versions had constant speed propellers, and the final version, the L-19E, had a larger gross weight. Cessna produced 3,431 aircraft; it was also built under license by Fuji in Japan.

The L-19 received the name Bird Dog as a result of a contest held with Cessna employees to name the aircraft. The winning entry, submitted by Jack A. Swayze, an industrial photographer, was selected by a U.S. Army board.[1] The name was chosen because the role of the army's new aircraft was to find the enemy and orbit overhead until artillery (or attack aircraft) could be brought to bear on the enemy. While flying low and close to the battlefield, the pilot would observe the exploding shells and adjust the fire via his radios, in the manner of a bird dog (gun dog) used by game hunters.

Operational history

L-19s VMO-6 NAN2-52
USMC OE-1s of VMO-6 during the winter of 1951/52 in Korea

Military service

The United States Department of Defense (DOD) ordered 3,200 L-19s that were built between 1950 and 1959, entering both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps inventories, initially designated as OE-1s in the Marine Corps until all US military aircraft designations were standardized in 1962. The aircraft were used in various utility roles such as artillery spotting, front line communications, medevac and training.

In 1962, the Army L-19 and Marine Corps OE-1 was redesignated the O-1 (Observation) Bird Dog and entered the Vietnam War. During the early 1960s, the Bird Dog was flown by the Republic of Vietnam Air Force (RVNAF), U.S. Army, and U.S. Marines in South Vietnam and later by clandestine forward air controllers (e.g., Ravens) in Laos and Cambodia. Because of its short takeoff and landing (STOL) and low altitude/low airspeed capabilities, the O-1 also later found its way into U.S. Air Force service as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) aircraft for vectoring faster fighter and attack aircraft and supporting combat search-and-rescue operations recovering downed aircrews.

During the Vietnam War the Bird Dog was used primarily for reconnaissance, target acquisition, artillery adjustment, radio relay, convoy escort and the forward air control of tactical aircraft, to include bombers operating in a tactical role.

Supplementing the O-1, then gradually replacing it, the USAF switched to the Cessna O-2 Skymaster and North American OV-10 Bronco, while the U.S. Marine Corps took delivery of the OV-10 to replace their aging O-1s. Both were faster twin-engined aircraft, with the OV-10 being a turboprop aircraft, but the U.S. Army retained the Bird Dog throughout the war with up to 11 Reconnaissance Airplane Companies (RACs) deployed to cover all of South Vietnam, the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the southern edge of North Vietnam. Its quieter noise footprint, lower speed, tighter maneuverability, short runway ability and better visibility (even to the rear) kept it highly valued by the ground units it supported and highly feared by enemy units it flew over. The last U.S. Army O-1 Bird Dog was officially retired in 1974.

Army L-19 FAC 1968
A U.S. Army L-19 (O-1) of the 21st Reconnaissance Airplane Company (RAC), with a fuel tanker at LZ Baldy, near Hoi An, Republic of Vietnam, late 1967 or early 1968

During the course of the Vietnam War, 469 O-1 Bird Dogs were lost to all causes. The USAF lost 178, the USMC lost 7, and 284 were lost from the U.S. Army, RVNAF, and clandestine operators. Three Bird Dogs were lost to enemy hand-held surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).[2]

Two O-1 Bird Dogs were loaned to the Australian Army's 161 Reconnaissance Flight operating out of Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province. One was lost to ground fire in May 1968, killing 161's commanding officer. Another Bird Dog was built by this unit's maintenance crew, using aircraft sections salvaged from dumps around Vietnam. It was test-flown and later smuggled back to Australia in pieces, contained in crates marked as "aircraft spares". This aircraft now resides in the Museum of Army Flying at the Army Aviation Center at Oakey, Queensland.[3]

As the USAF phased out the O-1 in favor of the O-2 and OV-10, many O-1s in the United States were sold as surplus. During the 1970s and 1980s, Ector Aircraft remanufactured many as the Ector Mountaineer with their original powerplants, and as the Ector Super Mountaineer with the Lycoming O-540-A4B5.

Civil Air Patrol service

In the early 1970s, as the O-2 Skymaster and OV-10 Bronco replaced the O-1 in frontline USAF service, several former USAF O-1s were turned over to the USAF's civilian auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), for duties such as aerial search in support of domestic search and rescue (SAR) operations. However, since very few CAP pilots had prior training and experience as professional military aviators and/or significant experience with tailwheel aircraft, many of the CAP O-1 aircraft were damaged in groundloops and other takeoff, landing or taxiing mishaps. In an effort to reduce both risk and repair costs, the USAF directed CAP that all O-1 aircraft in CAP service be eventually replaced for safety reasons by single-engined tricycle-gear civilian Cessnas common to general aviation, primarily Cessna 172 and Cessna 182 aircraft. The only O-1 remaining in the CAP inventory is a permanent static display aircraft on a pylon in front of CAP Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Civilian use

O-1A Bird Dog Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
An O-1A Bird Dog on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia

Many of former USAF and former USAF-cum-CAP O-1 and L-19 aircraft were eventually sold to private owners as recreational aircraft, while others went to museums where they are usually displayed in their military combat markings. Still others found their way to glider clubs in the U.S. as a reliable and powerful vehicle to tow gliders into the air. As with most aircraft used for glider towing, the aircraft has also been outfitted with mirrors mounted to the struts.

In Canada, the Royal Canadian Air Cadets use former CAF L-19 aircraft equipped with a towing rig to tow their Schweizer 2-33A [4] gliders for the Air Cadet gliding program.[5] These particular L-19 variants are used in the Atlantic, Eastern, and Pacific regions. They have been modified for noise reduction by the use of a smaller-diameter, four-blade Hoffman composite propeller in all regions except the Pacific Region, and exhaust modification. The fuel delivery system has also been modified from the original design, placing the fuel selector valve closer to the pilot. The L-19/O-1 is a popular ex-military "warbird" with private pilots.

In the U.S., the aircraft remains a popular "glider tow". The Franconia Soaring Association in Franconia, N.H. uses an old O-1, tail number N4796G, to tow its gliders, including Schweizer SGS 1-26 gliders and Grob G103 Twin Astir and Pilatus B4-PC11 sailplanes, as of July 2012.[6]

As of June 2009, more than 330 were registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. Others are owned and operated outside the U.S. by individuals and flying organizations.

Notable flights

Major Buang lands his Cessna O-1 on USS Midway
Major Buang of the Republic of Vietnam Air Force lands his O-1 aboard USS Midway during Operation Frequent Wind

American television personality and actor Ed McMahon was a Marine Corps aviator who piloted an O-1E during the Korean War, flying 85 combat missions and earning six air medals during 1953.[7]

On 29 April 1975, the day before the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War, Republic of Vietnam Air Force Major Buang-Ly loaded his wife and five children into a two-seat Cessna O-1 Bird Dog and took off from Con Son Island. After evading enemy ground fire, Major Buang-Ly headed out to sea and spotted the aircraft carrier Midway. With only an hour of fuel remaining, he dropped a note[8] asking that the deck be cleared so he could land.[9] Knowing there was no room for this to happen, Midway's commanding officer, Captain (later Rear Admiral) Lawrence Chambers ordered US$10 million worth of South Vietnamese Bell UH-1 Iroquois ("Huey") helicopters to be pushed overboard into the South China Sea. The Bird Dog that Major Buang-Ly landed aboard Midway is now on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.[10]


Cessna O-1F Bird Dog (305E) - 0-14591 (VH-OIE)
USAF O-1F on display at the RAAF Museum
Cessna O-1G Bird Dog (305D) - 0-12471 (VH-FXY)
O-1G Bird Dog (305D)
L-19A (Cessna 305A)
Initial production version for United States Army, redesignated O-1A in 1962, 2,486 built
L-19As converted to dual control trainers, redesignated TO-1A in 1962
L-19A with a Boeing XT-50-BO-1 210 shp turboprop engine, one built
L-19A with a Continental CAE XT51-T-1 210 shp turboprop engine, two built
TL-19D (Cessna 305B)
Instrument trainer version of the L-19A with dual controls, redesignated TO-1D in 1962, 310 built
L-19E (Cessna 305C)
Improved version of the L-19A with equipment changes and higher gross weight, became O-1E in 1962, 469 built
60 L-19As delivered to the United States Marine Corps, redesignated O-1B in 1962
OE-2 (Cessna 321)
Redesigned version of the OE-1 with Cessna 180 wings and remodified fuselage, became O-1C in 1962, 27 built
L-19A redesignated in 1962
O-1As converted as trainers
OE-1 redesignated in 1962.
OE-2 redesignated in 1962
A number of TO-1Ds converted for forward air controller duties with the USAF.
TL-19D redesignated in 1962
L-19E redesignated in 1962
O-1F (Cessna 305E)
Forward Air Controller conversions of the O-1D for the USAF
O-1G (Cessna 305D)
Forward Air Controller conversions of the O-1A for the USAF
SIAI-Marchetti SM.1019
Turboprop variant for the Italian Army
Cessna 325
Agricultural variant of the Model 305 with spraybars and a hopper in an enclosed rear cockpit, four built


Bunny II
The Australian Army's sole L-19A was 51-4883 Bunny 2, acquired and operated unofficially in Vietnam, is displayed at the Army Aviation Museum, Oakey (2007)
This L-19E was used by the Royal Canadian Air Cadets in the Atlantic region of Canada, with four-blade propeller and exhaust modifications visible
  • Australian Army – 161 Recce Flight Operated two examples during the Vietnam War. One was shot down on May 23, 1968 killing the Flights OC, Major George Constable. The aircraft was replaced and continued in service until 161 withdrew from Vietnam. Another example Bunny 2, was assembled from pieces scrounged by unit members, flown then disassembled and smuggled back to Australia as "spare parts" where it was assembled and flown.
Laos Kingdom of Laos
 South Korea
 South Vietnam
 Saudi Arabia
 United States

Specifications (O-1E)

A Forward Air Controller O1-E Bird Dog aircraft is shown here in reconnaissance role near a Special Forces Camp in the Republic of Vietnam
A Forward Air Controller O-1E "Bird Dog" aircraft is shown here in reconnaissance role near a Special Forces Camp in the Republic of Vietnam

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1962–63[24]

General characteristics

  • Crew: one/two
  • Length: 25 ft 10 in (7.87 m)
  • Wingspan: 36 ft 0 in (10.97 m)
  • Height: 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m)
  • Wing area: 174 sq ft (16.2 m2) [25]
  • Empty weight: 1,614 lb (732 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 2,430 lb (1,102 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 41 US gal (34 imp gal; 160 L)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Continental O-470-11 air-cooled flat-six, 213 hp (159 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 115 mph (185 km/h; 100 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 104 mph (167 km/h; 90 kn) at 5,000 ft (1,500 m)
  • Range: 530 mi (461 nmi; 853 km)
  • Service ceiling: 18,500 ft (5,600 m)
  • Absolute ceiling: 24,800 ft (7,600 m)
  • Rate of climb: 1,150 ft/min (5.8 m/s)
  • Take-off distance to 50 ft (15 m): 560 ft (170 m)
  • Landing distance from 50 ft (15 m): 600 ft (180 m)

See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era



  1. ^ Thompson, Minard "Naming the Bird Dog Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine". International Bird Dog Association (Retrieved 13 August 2015)
  2. ^ Page 46: Hobson, Chris. Vietnam Air Losses, USAF, NAVY, and Marine Corps Fixed-Wing Aircraft Losses in Southeast Asia 1961-1973. Hinckley UK: Midland Press, 2001. ISBN 1-85780-115-6.
  3. ^ "Bunny II". www.161recceflt.org.au. Archived from the original on 13 March 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Gliding program." Archived December 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Air Cadets. Retrieved: 7 June 2012.
  5. ^ "Gliding: gliders." Archived July 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Air Cadets. Retrieved: 7 June 2012.
  6. ^ "Blast". Blast. Archived from the original on 11 August 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  7. ^ Military.com "Famous Veteran: Ed McMahon Archived 2015-08-22 at the Wayback Machine" Paragraph 3. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  8. ^ "Permission to land" Archived 2016-04-28 at the Wayback Machine, Letters of Note
  9. ^ Heilbrunn, Sharon. "USS Midway Air Boss Remembers Heroic Bird Dog Airplane Rescue." Archived 2011-04-12 at the Wayback Machine kpbs.org, 25 April 2010.
  10. ^ Watter, Steve. "Clear the Decks." Archived 2008-05-06 at the Wayback Machine Focus on the Family, 2004. Retrieved: 9 July 2008.
  11. ^ Wheeler Flight International 15 August 1974, p. 169.
  12. ^ a b Wheeler Flight International 15 August 1974, p. 171.
  13. ^ "The Air Cadet Story, Part 4". Air Cadet League of Canada. Archived from the original on 7 January 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  14. ^ Wheeler Flight International 15 August 1974, p. 174.
  15. ^ a b Wheeler Flight International 15 August 1974, p. 178.
  16. ^ Nalty, Neufeld and Watson, An Illustrated Guide to the Air War over Vietnam (1982), pp. 46–49.
  17. ^ Brooks, Robin. "Island Air Arm". Air Pictorial, Vol. 57, No. 6. June 1995. pp. 268–269.
  18. ^ Wheeler Flight International 15 August 1974, p. 181.
  19. ^ Wheeler Flight International 15 August 1974, p. 182.
  20. ^ Wheeler Flight International 15 August 1974, p. 179.
  21. ^ Wheeler Flight International 15 August 1974, p. 190.
  22. ^ Wheeler Flight International 15 August 1974, p. 185.
  23. ^ Wheeler Flight International 15 August 1974, p. 186.
  24. ^ Taylor 1962, pp. 192–193
  25. ^ Harding 1990, p. 80.


  • Adcock, Al. 0-1 Bird Dog. (Aircraft Number 87). Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1988. ISBN 0-89747-206-3.
  • Bernard C. Nalty, Jacob Neufeld and George M. Watson, An Illustrated Guide to the Air War over Vietnam, Salamander Books Ltd, London 1982. ISBN 978-0668053464
  • Green, William and Gerald Pollinger. The Aircraft of the World. London: Macdonald, 1955.
  • Harding, Stephen. U.S. Army Aircraft Since 1947. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife, 1990. ISBN 1-85310-102-8.
  • Robbins, Christopher. The Ravens: The Men Who Flew in the Secret War in Laos. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987. ISBN 978-0-517-56612-1.
  • Taylor, John W. R. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1962–63. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Company Ltd, 1962.
  • Wheeler, Barry C. "World Air Forces 1974". Flight International, 15 August 1974, Vol. 106, No. 3414. pp. 167–190.

External links

547th Intelligence Squadron

The 547th Intelligence Squadron is an active United States Air Force (USAF) unit. It is assigned to the 365th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The squadron serves as the USAFs center for adversary tactics analysis; develops intelligence threat training programs; defines potential threats to the US, provides intelligence support to Air Combat Command's test and evaluation programs and live-fly exercises.

The unit was originally formed as the 547th Night Fighter Squadron in 1944. After training, it was deployed to Fifth Air Force and ordered to New Guinea to provide air defense interceptor protection against Japanese night air raids on Army Air Forces airfields. It later served in the Philippines Campaign where in addition to night interceptor missions it also flew day and night interdiction missions against enemy troop movements, bridges and other targets of opportunity. It later served in Okinawa and Occupied Japan and where it was inactivated in 1946.

The squadron was reactivated during the Vietnam War as a training unit of the 1st Special Operations Wing, providing training in unconventional warfare, counter-insurgency, psychological warfare, and civic actions. It began its current mission in 1991 assuming the activities of the 4513th Adversary Threat Training Group.

Bird dog (disambiguation)

A bird dog is a dog used in hunting birds.

Bird dog may also refer to:

Bird dog (exercise)

Bird Dog (album), a 1987 album by The Verlaines

"Bird Dog" (song), a 1958 song by the Everly Brothers

Bird Dog, Cessna L-19 or Cessna O-1 Bird Dog airplane

Camp Holloway

Camp Holloway is a former U.S. Army base near Pleiku in central Vietnam.

Cessna 170

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It is the predecessor of the Cessna 172, which is the most produced aircraft in history.

Counter-insurgency aircraft

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Department of Air Training

The Department of Air Training (1942–1947; 1947–1954) was originally a part of the U.S. Army Ground Force's Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. It trained Forward Observer pilots to act as organic spotter units for U.S. Army artillery battalions and brigades. The pilots were eventually not just used to adjust artillery fire, but to support naval gunfire, direct bombing missions, perform aerial reconnaissance, conduct medical evacuations, and perform liaison and command and control duties as well.

Fargo Air Museum

The Fargo Air Museum is an aviation related museum in Fargo, North Dakota. It is located at Hector International Airport in the northern part of the city. The museum includes many historic aircraft of which 90% are in flying condition. There is also a full-scale replica of a Wright brothers flyer.

Fisher Horizon

The Fisher Horizon is a family of Canadian two-seats-in-tandem, conventional landing gear, single-engined, high-wing monoplane kit aircraft designed for construction by amateur builders. The Horizon 1 was inspired by the Aeronca Champion and its later version, the Bellanca Citabria, while the Horizon 2 was inspired by the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog.Fisher Flying Products was originally based in Edgeley, North Dakota, USA but the company is now located in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada.

Flyhistorisk Museum, Sola

Flyhistorisk Museum, Sola (Sola Aviation Museum) is an aviation museum located in Stavanger Airport, Sola, near Stavanger, Norway. The museum was founded in 1984, and is run by local volunteers. Flyhistorisk Museum, Sola went into cooperation with Jærmuseet in January 2012.

Haslemoen Airport

Haslemoen Airport (Norwegian: Haslemoen flyplass) is an airport situated at Haslemoen in Våler, Norway. Since 2003 the airport only features a 585-meter (1,919 ft) grass runway used mostly by ultralight aircraft and general aviation aircraft. This is located next to a closed 1,800-meter (5,900 ft) formerly military runway.

The airport was planned by the Norwegian Army Air Service as a main air station during the late 1930s, but the plans were stopped by the break-out ofh the Second World War. Haslemoen was built as a labor camp in 1943 and then taken over by Luftwaffe, who built the airport. Opening in August 1944, its main purpose was to station a squadron of Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors. Haslemoen was rebuilt and opened as the base of the Artillery Battalion in 1955. Operation of the airport resumed in 1960 with the delivery of Cessna O-1 Bird Dog observation aircraft. They remained in service with the artillery until 1992. The grass ultralight runway was established in 1990 and was sold to Våler Municipality in 2007.

La Vang Base

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Lawrence Chambers

Lawrence Cleveland "Larry" Chambers (born June 10, 1929) was the first African American to command a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and the first African-American graduate of the Naval Academy to reach flag rank. While in command of USS Midway during Operation Frequent Wind, Chambers gave the controversial order to push overboard millions of dollars' worth of UH-1 Huey helicopters so Republic of Vietnam Air Force Major Buang-Ly could land on the aircraft carrier in a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog with his wife and five children, thereby saving their lives.

Liaison aircraft

A liaison aircraft (also called an army cooperation aircraft) is a small, usually unarmed aircraft primarily used by military forces for artillery observation or transporting commanders and messages. The concept developed before World War II and included also battlefield reconnaissance, air ambulance, column control, light cargo delivery and similar duties. Able to operate from small, unimproved fields under primitive conditions, with STOL capabilities, most liaison aircraft were developed from, or were later used as general aviation aircraft. Both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters can perform liaison duties.

List of military aircraft of France

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RAAF Museum

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Royal Saudi Air Force Museum

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SIAI-Marchetti SM.1019

The SIAI-Marchetti SM.1019 is an Italian STOL liaison monoplane built by SIAI-Marchetti for the Italian Army, and based on the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog.

Temora Aviation Museum

The Temora Aviation Museum is an Australian aviation museum located in Temora, New South Wales. The Museum was established in late 1999, based on the collection of warbird aircraft owned by David Lowy. Lowy remains the President and Founder of the Museum, which is overseen by a four-member Governing Committee.

The Museum is home to many historic ex-military aircraft that range from the World War II era to the Vietnam War era and holds Aircraft Showcase (on the 1st & 3rd Saturdays of most months) to display some of its operating aircraft.

The Museum often hosts visits from historical aircraft and Royal Australian Air Force combat aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet.

Cessna aircraft
Cessna Citation
USAAF/USAF liaison aircraft
USN observation aircraft designations, pre-1962
Observation Scout
United States tri-service observation aircraft designations post-1962
Canadian Armed Forces post-1968 unified aircraft designations

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