Military Review

An airplane for its niche. Short C-23 Sherpa


Rollout of the first serial C-23A, August 9, 1984

By the early 23s, the US Air Force had a number of military transport aircraft with different characteristics. However, new challenges arose, and none of the available samples could cope with them. The answer to this challenge was the new Short C-XNUMX Sherpa.

Supply problems

In the early eighties, US and NATO experts conducted another study of the Air Force's prospects and issued recommendations for their further development. It was found that the existing fleet of military transport aircraft is not the optimal tool for supplying air bases and deployment airfields in Western Europe. In a major war, this threatened to disrupt the combat work of tactical aviation.

The way out of this situation could be a new light military-technical cooperation. He was required to transport cargo weighing more than 2 tons the size of the turbojet engines of American aircraft, to land and take off from shortened strips, to fly in typical European weather conditions, etc.

The first aircraft in the series, side view

In 1982, the Pentagon issued preliminary requirements for a promising aircraft, and soon received the first applications. A few months later, in 1983, they launched a full-fledged development program called EDSA (European Distribution System Aircraft).

Competitive stage

Seven companies from the United States and other NATO countries applied for the EDSA competition. In accordance with the customer's requirements, all projects were based on existing equipment samples. In the future, this simplified the assessment of projects and the selection of the most successful ones, as well as subsequent construction and operation.

After examining the proposals, the Pentagon selected two finalists. They turned out to be a modification of the passenger aircraft "330" called Sherpa from the British company Short Brothers and the modernized aircraft C-12 Aviacar, created in cooperation with the Spanish company CASA and the American McDonnell Douglas.

Light C-23A and heavy C-5A

In 1982-83. two aircraft have passed factory and army tests. The British military-technical cooperation "Sherpa" was considered more successful. In March 1984, Short received its first $ 165 million order for 18 production vehicles and serviced them for 10 years. They also granted an option for 48 aircraft worth almost $ 500 million. The production aircraft were to be supplied to the US Air Force under the designation C-23A Sherpa.

Technical features

The development of the future C-23A took minimal time. The fact is that the basic Short 330 aircraft was brought to series in 1975-76, and immediately after that they began to create its specialized modifications. In particular, transport options with side doors and a stern ramp were being worked out. The last project was developed, and already in 1982 the first flight of the prototype took place.

The C-23A was a twin-engine turboprop strut-braced high-wing aircraft with an H-shaped tail assembly. The aircraft was built on the basis of a fuselage with a length of 17,7 m with a square cross section and characteristic nose and tail contours. A straight wing with a span of 22,76 m was used with developed mechanization, which simplifies takeoff and landing. The airframe was mainly made of aluminum with separate steel parts.

Working with cargo - turbojet engine, 1985

In the gondolas on the center section there were two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-45-R turboprop engines with a capacity of 1200 hp each. The motors were equipped with Hartzell five-blade variable-pitch propellers with a diameter of 2,82 m.

Inside the fuselage, it was possible to place a cargo-passenger cabin with a length of 8,85 m and a section of 1,98 x 1,98 m. In its bow, on the left side, there was a door. In the tail, a descending ramp was placed, on either side of which there were two side doors. The cabin could accommodate up to 30 people, up to 3 standard cargo pallets or other load. To simplify loading operations, three guides with rollers were installed on the cab floor.

The aircraft was operated by two pilots, the third crew member was responsible for handling cargo. During the revision of the original project "330", new devices and systems were introduced that met NATO standards and ensured full operation in the Air Force.

An empty C-23 military vehicle weighed 6,5 tons, and the maximum take-off weight reached 10,4 tons. Landing on any runway with a mass of no more than 10,25 tons was allowed. The payload was 3175 kg. The fuel supply exceeded 2 tons.

An airplane for its niche. Short C-23 Sherpa
VTS C-23B Army Aviation

An efficient propulsion system combined with a well-constructed wing made it possible to fly at a cruising speed of 350 km / h and ensure a stall speed of at least 135 km / h. The length of the takeoff run and the run, depending on the load and the type of runway, did not exceed 1000-1200 m. The flight range with the maximum load and full tanks exceeded 360 km. The maximum range is 1240 km, but the load was reduced to 2,2 tons.

Aircraft in the Air Force

The execution of the Air Force order was not difficult. Already in August 1984, the first production aircraft was rolled out at the Short plant in Belfast. In the coming years, 17 more units of the first batch were built. In 1985-86, the adopted vehicles were transferred to continental Europe. According to the plans of the Air Force, military transport aircraft were to be based at the Zweibruecken airfield in Germany and, if necessary, fly to other air bases, providing the transportation of various cargo and personnel. According to calculations, the total annual flight time of new military-technical cooperation should have reached 12 thousand hours.

Despite the high load, the received C-23A coped with the assigned tasks. As a result, the Air Force decided not to exercise the option and not to order new aircraft. Active operation of Sherpa aircraft in the "European distribution system" with constant flights between different bases continued until the end of 1990, when NATO adopted a plan to reduce forces in Europe.

C-23B in Iraq, December 2003

The entire fleet of light military-technical cooperation was withdrawn to the USA, after which it was written off and distributed to various structures. Three vehicles went to the Edwards Air Force Base Flight School, where they served until 1997 and when they were fully developed. Eight Sherpas were donated to the Army Air Force, and the remaining seven were donated to the US Forest Service.

army aviation

By the time eight C-23As were received from the Air Force, the ground forces already possessed the equipment of this family. Back in the mid-eighties, the army ordered four Short 330s to work at the Kwajalein training ground. Then they ordered ten more aircraft - for the National Guard and repair units. It is interesting that the technique of the first batch retained the previous designation "330", and the military-technical cooperation of the National Guard was renamed C-23B.

In 1990, a contract was planned for 20 newly built C-23A aircraft for the army and the National Guard, but Short had already closed their production. Instead, the army had to buy used Short 360 aircraft and deeply modernize them. The onboard equipment was updated; also replaced the tail unit and installed a ramp. These aircraft were designated C-23B + Super Sherpa. Later, two more civilian "360" were rebuilt.

Trained transport missions in the harsh conditions of Alaska, April 2011

In 2003, several C-23B / B + aircraft were transferred to Iraq to support the activities of the American contingent. They have become a convenient addition to heavier military vehicles and a cost-effective alternative for helicopters. In addition, to participate in the Constant Hawk reconnaissance operation, special equipment was installed on seven C-23Bs. Two of them collided and crashed on their way to Iraq, while the rest have been successfully operating for several years.

In the 23s, a modernization program for the C-43C project was implemented, which provided for the replacement of part of the equipment. 23 cars underwent such an update. The C-XNUMXD project was also developed, but only four aircraft were redesigned on it, after which work stopped.

Not only in the army

In 2007, the Pentagon made a fundamental decision to abandon the obsolete Short C-23B / B + and replace them with modern aircraft of a similar class. By this time, the ground forces had 43 vehicles; in the National Guard there were no more than 16 units. In the coming years, it was planned to write off Sherpa and sell it off. Instead, it was planned to purchase Italian Alenia C-27J Spartan aircraft.

Unloading an aircraft operated by the National Guard, 2013

This commercial proposal interested two American carriers. Several C-23Bs were bought by Era Aviation, which operates routes over Alaska. Another party became the property of Freedom Air and flew to about. Guam. Another civilian operator was the Philippine airline Royal Star.

By the mid-tenths, eight aircraft were transferred to the Brazilian army. The same number of vehicles were sent as support to Djibouti. In addition, it was reported about the possible supply of equipment to Estonia and the Philippines.

Two planes were handed over to museums. One of the Short 330s operated at the Kwajalein test site is now in the Millville Aviation Museum. On display at Beaver County Airport in Pennsylvania is one of the C-23Cs formerly owned by the army.

Decommissioned C-23B / B + / C based storage, March 2020

The remaining aircraft were transferred to the Davis-Monten base for long-term storage. With the appropriate solution, they can go for repairs before being sold to new operators - or they can go for disposal.

In your niche and not only

As part of full-scale serial production, Short Brothers built a total of 18 C-23A Sherpa aircraft. The option for 48 cars was never exercised. Nevertheless, the new operators needed large quantities of such equipment - and rebuilt the short 330 and Short 360 aircraft of similar design. Due to this, the C-23A / B / B + fleet increased by almost 40 units.

The Short C-23 Sherpa aircraft was created for a specific niche in the US Air Force logistics system and, as shown by the operation, was fully consistent with its role. It could remain in the ranks for decades and ensure the operation of the bases. However, in 1990 the situation changed, and the need for such equipment disappeared. Plans for further production were canceled, and soon the Air Force abandoned the no longer needed aircraft.

Subsequently, the operation of the C-23 and its versions was mastered by other structures, incl. from other countries. In all cases, the Sherpa military-technical cooperation successfully coped with the assigned tasks and received high marks. However, the positive experience did not outweigh the specific role and features of the operation. The C-23 did not become truly widespread, and now its история is approaching its completion.
Photos used:
US Department of Defense, Wikimedia Commons
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  1. Aerodrome
    Aerodrome 24 January 2021 06: 09
    a bumblebee, according to all the laws of aerodynamics, should not fly, a huge mass, small wings ... but it flies.
    1. nsm1
      nsm1 24 January 2021 07: 03
      How can?
      Старый же боян -
    2. dauria
      dauria 24 January 2021 09: 01
      bumblebee, according to all the laws of aerodynamics, should not fly

      Well, we didn't have a bumblebee, but an An14 "bee". After a thorough alteration, the Bee became An-28. Under 2 tons of cargo. But easier than the C-23.
      Not quite right, but the tasks are absolutely similar. Just with
      development of helicopters and An-14, and An-28 were "out of work"
      1. The leader of the Redskins
        The leader of the Redskins 24 January 2021 10: 51
        An-38 became a logical continuation of these aircraft and was even produced under license in Poland, but he was unlucky with the years of birth .... The collapse of the Union and the CMEA, the breakdown of ties ...
      2. Bad_gr
        Bad_gr 24 January 2021 17: 31
        Quote: dauria
        Just with
        development of helicopters and An-14, and An-28 were "out of work"

        Made as a replacement for the An-2. Done.
        Now they are again inventing a replacement for the An-2, but for some reason they have forgotten about it.
      3. Pavel57
        Pavel57 26 February 2021 18: 39
        Quote: Leader of the Redskins
        An-38 became a logical continuation of these aircraft and was even produced under license in Poland,

        An-38 did not reach the series. An-28 was launched in Poland.
    3. dauria
      dauria 24 January 2021 09: 32
      bumblebee, according to all the laws of aerodynamics, should not fly

      laughing Do not repeat this commonplace absurdity, otherwise we will never grow a new generation of aviation engineers.
      The size changes linearly with the scale, the area is the square of the scale, the strength too, the mass is a cube (for a real plane between 2 and 3).
      A similarity of flow (there are different ones - Reynolds, Froude, Mach and a bunch more). The Reynolds number for a bumblebee is so small that a real plane has to climb into the stratosphere. So there is no question of any kind of flow around.
      All "aerodynamics" is based on ordinary school physics. There is air, which "weighs" 1,2 kg per cubic meter, there are the second and third laws of Newton. Push down a mass of air per second (or just slightly deflect the flow), multiply by the speed of the "push" - you get lift. It is better to push a large mass per second, at a lower speed. Em VE square in half - fuel costs are less laughing
    4. evgen1221
      evgen1221 24 January 2021 20: 44
      As the classic of Russian aviation said, give me a suitable engine and my brick will fly!
      1. Zaurbek
        Zaurbek 25 January 2021 10: 15
        A suitable theater of operations is in progress ..... it is not yet available.
    5. The comment was deleted.
  2. Sergey M. Karasev
    Sergey M. Karasev 24 January 2021 07: 07
    The An-26 is perhaps the closest of our aircraft to the Sherpa.
    1. Bongo
      Bongo 24 January 2021 08: 45
      Quote: Sergey Mikhailovich Karasev
      The An-26 is perhaps the closest of our aircraft to the Sherpa.

      And maybe the closest are "conditionally our" L-410 and partly An-28?
      The maximum takeoff weight of the An-26 (24 tons) is more than twice the maximum takeoff weight of the Sherpa.
      1. Genry
        Genry 24 January 2021 09: 18
        Forgot about the An-38?
        True, his "perestroika" ditched him.
        1. prior
          prior 24 January 2021 13: 09
          To cross the An-38 with TV7-117ST-01 engines and modern avionics, it would be an interesting machine.
      2. Sergey M. Karasev
        Sergey M. Karasev 24 January 2021 18: 01
        And maybe the closest are "conditionally our" L-410 and partly An-28?

        IMHO, they are too small against Sherpa.
  3. OgnennyiKotik
    OgnennyiKotik 24 January 2021 09: 18

    There are 14 of them in storage. They can still serve.
  4. Graz
    Graz 24 January 2021 11: 59
    a rare freak like most American aircraft
    1. PilotS37
      PilotS37 25 January 2021 13: 22
      Quote: Graz
      a rare freak like most American aircraft

      Short is an English firm (you should know ...)!
      1. Graz
        Graz 26 January 2021 11: 38
        "- In one word - Romanian! - So he's a Bulgarian ?! - What's the difference?"
        Brother-2 (c)
  5. Evgeny Seleznev
    Evgeny Seleznev 24 January 2021 20: 46
    An-26 in the studio and for bucks.
  6. AC130 Ganship
    AC130 Ganship 25 January 2021 02: 20
    Not a bad article. I think that the author made an inaccuracy in the flight range of the Sun.
  7. LastPS
    LastPS 25 January 2021 09: 35
    C112 Aviocar is a Sherpa competitor in the competition. Author, if you mention something in the text, why not add an image - the articles will only benefit from this.
  8. PilotS37
    PilotS37 25 January 2021 13: 23
    Sorry! It was an interesting car!
  9. motorized rifle
    motorized rifle 25 January 2021 15: 19
    and ensured a stall speed of at least 135 km / h

    The meaning is of course clear, but somehow clumsy. The lower the stall speed, the better, then the text should read: "no more than 135 km / h"
  10. Eug
    Eug April 6 2021 07: 50
    It was very similar in the USSR - An-28. Production was transferred to Poland, the Poles released several aircraft called An-28 Bryza as patrol aircraft.
  11. Kruglov
    Kruglov April 16 2021 09: 18
    Quote: Aerodrome
    a bumblebee, according to all the laws of aerodynamics, should not fly, a huge mass, small wings ... but it flies.

    Chafer. It really has aerodynamic problems. But ... it flies!